Category: Texas History

El Muerto: The Headless Horseman of Texas

Kathleen Rice Adams header

First published in 1820, Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” has been terrifying children for almost 200 years. Though the tale of a hapless schoolmaster’s midnight gallop through the New York woods made the phrase “headless horseman” a household term in America, by the time Irving’s story appeared headless horsemen had been staples of European folklore for centuries. German, Irish, Scandinavian, and English legends all offered versions of the ghoulish phantoms, who usually were said to appear to proud, arrogant people as a warning.

headless horsemanTexas has its own gruesome headless horseman legend. Unlike Irving’s unforgettable spook, though, Texas’s headless horseman rode among the living once upon a time.

Some say he still does.

In the summer of 1850, a Mexican bandido by the name of Vidal made an egregious error: He and several compadres rustled a sizable herd of horses from several ranches south of San Antonio. One of the ranches belonged to Texas Ranger Creed Taylor, a veteran of the Texas War for Independence and a man not inclined to forgive his enemies. (Taylor later would be one of the participants in the Sutton-Taylor Feud, a bloody, years-long running gun battle that resulted in four times as many deaths as the better-known fracas between the Hatfields and McCoys.)

Rustling cattle already had earned Vidal’s head a dead-or-alive bounty. Stealing a Texas Ranger’s horses was the proverbial last straw. Together with fellow Ranger William A.A. “Big Foot” Wallace and another local rancher, Taylor set out to put a stop to Vidal’s unbearable insolence.

The Headless Horseman: A Strange Tale of Texas, 1865

Capt. Mayne Reid’s version of a Texas Legend, published in 1865, received a mention in Charles Dickens’s final novel, Our Mutual Friend.

As a group, the early Texas Rangers were hard men. Tasked with protecting an enormous patch of land rife with outlaws and Indians, the early Rangers were expert trackers, accomplished gunmen, and not opposed to meting out immediate — and often brutal — “frontier justice.” Vidal was about to discover that in a very personal way.

After tracking the bandidos to their camp, Taylor, Wallace, and the third man mounted a surprise attack while the outlaws were asleep. Killing the desperados was not enough for Taylor and Wallace, though. The entire Ranger force was fed up with the rash of rustling plaguing Texas at the time. Not even leaving bodies hanging from trees or hacking them to pieces and using the bits for predator bait had made a strong enough statement.

So, Wallace got creative. After beheading Vidal, he secured the corpse upright on the back of the wildest of the rustled horses, lashed the bandido’s hands to the saddle horn and his feet to the stirrups, and tied the stirrups beneath the animal’s belly. Just to make sure anyone who saw the ghoulish specter got the message, he looped a rawhide thong through the head’s jaws and around Vidal’s sombrero, and slung the bloody bundle from the saddle’s pommel. Then Wallace and his friends sent the terrified mustang galloping off into the night.

William A.A. "Big Foot" Wallace, ca. 1872

Big Foot Wallace, ca. 1872

Not long thereafter, vaqueros began to report seeing a headless horseman rampaging through the scrub on a dark, wild horse. As sightings spread, some claimed flames shot from the animal’s nostrils and lightning bolts from its hooves. Bullets seemed to have no effect on the grisly marauder. They dubbed the apparition el Muerto — the dead man — and attributed all sorts of evil and misfortune to the mysterious rider.

Eventually, a posse of cowboys brought down the horse at a watering hole near Ben Bolt, Texas. By then the dried-up body had been riddled with bullets and arrows, and the head had shriveled in the sun. The posse laid Vidal’s remains to rest in an unmarked grave on the La Trinidad Ranch. Only then did Wallace and Taylor take public credit for the deed. The episode contributed to Wallace’s reputation and had the intended effect on rustling.

Even the revelation of the truth behind the legend did not end el Muerto’s reign of terror. Until nearby Fort Inge was decommissioned in 1869, soldiers reported seeing a headless rider roaming the countryside around Uvalde, near Taylor’s ranch. Thirty years later, a rise in the ground 250 miles to the southeast, near San Patricio, Texas, was christened Headless Horseman Hill after a wagon train reported an encounter with el Muerto. A sighting occurred in 1917 outside San Diego, Texas, and another near Freer in 1969.

El Muerto reportedly still roams the mesquite-covered range in Duval, Jim Wells, and Live Oak counties — still fearsome, still headless, and still reminding those who see him that Texas Rangers didn’t come by their tough-hombre reputation by accident.

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Robbing Banks Stealing HeartsI haven’t written any tales about headless horsemen — yet — but ghosts play a significant role in one of my short novellas. Family Tradition is one of two stories that compose Robbing Banks, Stealing Hearts.

Everyone should have career at which they excel. At failing to commit crimes, nobody is better than Laredo and Tombstone Hawkins. Maybe they can bumble their way into love.

Family Tradition
Haunted by his kin’s tradition of spectacular failure, bank robber Tombstone Hawkins is honor-bound to prove his family tree produced at least one bad apple. When carnival fortuneteller Pansy Gilchrist tries to help, she accidentally summons a pair of dishonest-to-goodness ghosts. Getting into the spirit of a crime is one thing…but how do you get the spirits out?

 

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Stone blinked at the apparitions. If not for Madame Minerva’s confirmation, he’d have sworn he was seeing things—and he hadn’t touched a drop of whiskey in weeks.

He eased backward a step.

So did she, sidling up next to him until her hipbone collided with his leg.

The two ghosts floated around the table, one on each side, and planted themselves close enough for Stone to poke a hand through either misty shape. Forcing a swallow down his throat, he squinted at the nearest. He’d been on the receiving end of that old man’s irritated glare far too often.

Heart racing fast enough to outrun a mule with a butt full of buckshot, Stone faded back another step.

The fake gypsy stayed with him, as though she were glued to his side.

The gauzy forms kept pace.

“Emile?” Madame Minerva’s voice squeaked like a schoolgirl’s.

Even on a ghost, disappointment was easy to spot. A pained frown gripped one apparition’s face. “I’m not part of the con any longer, Pansy. You can’t call me father just once?”

Stone ducked his head and tossed the woman a sidelong glance. “Pansy?”

“Said Tombstone,” she hissed.

The second ghost spoke up, his voice strangely hollow but recognizable. “Boy, you got nothin’ to say to your ol’ pop?”

“I uh… I…” Stone’s tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth.

Thank God, Emile picked up the conversation. “I see my little girl is keeping the family tradition alive.”

“I am.” Pansy’s breathy whisper carried a hint of tears. “Oh, Emile, I wish you had stayed.”

“I’ve been here all along. You just haven’t looked for me before.” Emile’s specter extended a hand to cup his daughter’s cheek. Pansy leaned into the phantom caress.

Stone snatched her before she toppled over. Too late, he discovered she weighed little more than a ghost herself. His grab yanked her off her feet and slammed her into his chest.

He exercised quite a bit more care setting her back on the dirt floor.

 

 

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Tattoos in the American West

 

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I don’t think anyone will disagree that often research takes us to some very interesting places. When I wrote my new release To Love a Texas Ranger, I needed to know just how prevalent tattoos were among the people who lived in 1877 and I found out some surprising things.

The earliest recorded tattoos were in 12,000 BC in Egypt. The workers building the pyramids wore them. Later the Romans adopted tattooing to mark criminals and slaves.

Interestingly enough, the Greeks used tattoos as a form of communication among spies. Bet you didn’t know that. And other nationalities utilized tattoos in ceremonies.

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OLIVE OATMAN

Borneo had a rather odd practice of tattooing. And maybe they still do. It was customary for a young woman to get a tattoo to advertise a particular skill and that increased her marriageability status. I just wonder what kind of tattoo indicated being a good housekeeper? A broom? A mop?

The American Indians also were big on tattooing. One of their most famous captives—Olive Oatman—was captured in 1851 and then sold to the Mojave tribe where they tattooed her chin with blue dye of some sort. There’s conflicting stories about what the tattoo meant. Some say it marked Olive as a captive and others claim it was a mark of esteem. The western TV series, Hell on Wheels, portrayed her in the show only they named her character Eva.

Love a Texas Ranger smallerIn my new book, a horrible bad guy wears a black widow spider tattoo on his hand. Sam Legend keeps his eyes peeled throughout the book for a man with that spider tattoo. The scene where he finally finds him is pretty gripping.

In Texas, some Legends are born, some are made, and some are created by destiny.

This Legend family has carved their name in blood on the raw Texas land. Sam is tested in ways he couldn’t have expected as secrets are exposed and he finds the love of a lifetime. Only the path is a rocky one. He can’t bear the thought of waking up in the same place every morning for the rest of his life so feels he can’t ask her to marry him. Sierra Hunt has never had a home and dreams of owning one where she can plunk down deep, lasting roots and she won’t give that up—not even for Sam.

I’m giving away one copy of my new book (if you already have it, I can do something else) to one person who can tell me either about their tattoo or one they saw on someone else. This is going to be fun!

Buy Links:  AMAZON  |   B&N   |   iBOOKS

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Lottie Deno, Lady Gambler

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Did you know who Miss Kitty of Gunsmoke was created from? If you said the lady gambler, Lottie Deno, you’d be correct. She was one of the most interesting women on the American frontier. She was born Carlotta Thompkins on April 21, 1844 on a Kentucky plantation.

Her parents were very well-to-do and Lottie didn’t want for anything. At her birth, she was assigned a nanny from among the slaves—Mary Poindexter. She was a giant of a woman—7 ft. tall—and she accompanied Lottie everywhere she went. Nobody messed with big Mary.

lottie_denoLottie’s father taught her to play cards and she became an expert. When he was killed in the Civil War, Lottie played cards to support her mother and younger sister. For a while, Lottie worked on the riverboats and gambling houses along the Mississippi. She was a vivacious redhead with sparkling brown eyes and could charm the pants off any man—and his wallet too. LOL Which she did every chance she got.

In 1865 Lottie arrived in San Antonio and a year later was offered a job dealing cards at the University Club. She fell in love there with a half-Cherokee gambler named Frank Thurmond. He left town suddenly after killing a man and Lottie soon followed. I don’t know about you, but he sure wasn’t anything to look at. She could’ve done far better.

She was a bold woman and rode into the rough, lawless town of Fort Griffin, Texas on the top of a stagecoach like a fairy princess. She sat out in the open right on the very top like a fairy princess where she could see everything. With her flame-colored hair shining in the sun and a wide smile flashing, she caused quite a stir. It didn’t take long to get a job at the Bee Hive Saloon. One night she and Doc Holliday played cards all night long and by morning she’d won thirty thousand dollars of Doc’s money. She also played with legendary Wyatt Earp and many other notables of the old West.

frankthurmondIt was in Fort Griffin where Lottie got the Deno part of her name. One of the gamblers who’d lost to her hollered out, “Honey, the way you play your name should be Lotta Dinero.”

During a gunfight when all the others fled the saloon, she got under a table and stayed. When they asked why, she said she wasn’t about to leave her money and besides they weren’t shooting very straight.

She separated herself from the violent population of Ft. Griffin by taking a shanty in what they called The Flats on the Clear Fork of the Brazos. She only left it only to visit the local mercantile and to go to work. But Lottie lost her heart to Frank Thurmond and followed him to Silver City, New Mexico where they married and opened two saloons, a restaurant and a hotel.

lottie-denoLottie got involved in charity work, feeding newly released prisoners and giving them a place to stay.

She and Frank eventually moved on to Deming, New Mexico where they got out of the gambling business and settled down to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Frank became vice president of the Deming National Bank and helped found the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

In 1908, after forty years of marriage, Frank passed away. Lottie outlived him by 26 years until she, too, died and was buried next to Frank. Those who knew her said she maintained her laugh and good cheer to the end. I’d love to have met her. She was a colorful character.

She and Frank became models for characters in a series of books by Alfred Henry Lewis. Miss Kitty of Gunsmoke fame owed everything about her characterization to Lottie Deno. 

Okay, how many of you watched Gunsmoke? Do you think Matt and Miss Kitty should’ve gotten hitched? If you can remember that far back, did you have a favorite episode? I liked the one where Miss Kitty got kidnapped and Matt searched everywhere for her.

The Devil’s Rope Comes to Texas — and a Giveaway

Kathleen Rice Adams header

young longhorn

Longhorn cattle in the Texas Hill Country

Texas has seen a number of mass migrations since the Mexican government opened the territory to Anglo settlers in the 1820s, but perhaps none were as transformative as the influx that took place immediately following the Civil War. Carpetbaggers, footloose former Union soldiers, and dispossessed former Confederates all found attractive the state’s untamed rangeland brimming with feral cattle called longhorns. Many a man with nothing more than guts and grit built a fortune and a legacy by shagging longhorns from deep scrub and driving the tough, stubborn, nasty-tempered critters north to the railheads in Kansas and Nebraska. Others pushed herds to Montana and Wyoming to begin new lives where the West was even wilder.

Between 1866 and 1890, cowboys drove an estimated twelve million longhorns and one million horses north. A crew of twelve to twenty men could push a herd of 2,000 to 3,000 beeves about ten to fifteen miles a day, reaching Kansas railheads in three to four months.

The development of barbed wire in the mid-1870s — along with an incursion of sheepmen and farmers — put a crimp in the cattle drives by crisscrossing Texas’s wide-open spaces with miles and miles and miles of fence. To protect themselves and their herds from the yahoos who would use Texas range for something besides Texas cattle, wealthy ranchers strung wire around the land they owned or leased, often extending their fences across public land, as well. What once had been open range across which cowboys drove enormous herds of steak on the hoof became parceled off, causing no end of frustration and unfriendly behavior.

Fence-cutting began almost as soon as the first of the wire went up. Small confrontations over “the Devil’s rope” happened frequently, with wire-nipping taking place in more than half of Texas counties.

barbed wireIn 1883, the conflict turned bloody. Instead of merely cutting fences that got in the way during trail drives, bands of armed cowboy vigilantes calling themselves names like Owls, Javelinas, and Blue Devils destroyed fences simply because the fences existed. Fence-cutting raids usually occurred at night, and often the vigilantes left messages warning the fence’s owner not to rebuild. Some went so far as to leave coffins nailed to fenceposts or on ranchers’ porches. During one sortie, vigilantes pulled down nineteen miles of fence, piled the wire on a stack of cedar posts, and lit a $6,000 bonfire.

In response, cattlemen hired armed men to guard their wire…with predictable results. Clashes became more violent, more frequent, and deadlier. In 1883 alone, at least three men were killed in Brown County, a hotspot of fence-cutting activity, during what came to be known as the Texas Fence-Cutter War.

The bloodiest period of the Fence-Cutter War lasted for only about a year, but in that period damages from fence-cutting and range fires totaled an estimated $20 million — $1 million in Brown County alone.

Although politicians stayed well away from the hot-button issue for about a decade, in early 1884 the Texas legislature declared fence-cutting a felony punishable by a prison term of one to five years. The following year, the U.S. Congress outlawed stringing fence across public land. Together, the new laws ended the worst of the clashes, although the occasional fracas broke out in the far western portion of Texas into the early part of the 20th Century.

Texas Ranger Ira Aten

Texas Ranger Ira Aten

The Texas Rangers were assigned to stop several fence-cutting outbreaks, and being the Texas Rangers, they proved remarkably effective…with one notable exception. In February 1885, Texas Ranger Ben Warren was shot and killed outside Sweetwater while trying to serve a warrant for three suspected fence-cutters. Two of the three were convicted of Warren’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.

In 1888, a brief resurgence of fence-cutting violence erupted in Navarro County, prompting famed Texas Ranger Ira Aten to place dynamite charges at intervals along one fence line. Aten’s method was a mite too extreme for the Texas Adjutant General, who ordered the dynamite removed. The mere rumor of the explosive’s presence brought fence-cutting to a rapid halt in the area, though.

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Though Civil War battles left few scars on Texas, the war’s aftermath was devastating — and not just because barbed-wire fence appeared. Texas existed under federal martial law for five long years after the war ended, becoming the final member of the Confederacy to repatriate only under duress. During Reconstruction, lingering animosity led some of the occupation forces to plunder and terrorize their jurisdictions. Bearing their own grudges and determined to become an independent republic again, Texans demanded “the invading foreign army” remove its boots from sovereign soil. A U.S. Supreme Court decision finally ran the rebellious Lone Star State back in with the rest of the herd in 1870, at last reunifying a divided nation.

A Kiss to Remember

 

My newest story, The Trouble with Honey, takes place during Reconstruction in Texas: A marshal’s widow can escape a Union Army manhunt only with the help of an outlaw condemned to hang. The novella is part of the trilogy The Dumont Way, which begins a saga chronicling the lives and loves of a Texas ranching dynasty from before the Civil War to the turn of the 20th Century.

The Dumont Way is available in the five-author boxed set A Kiss to Remember. Three other Petticoats and Pistols fillies also contributed to the collection: Cheryl Pierson, Tanya Hanson, and Tracy Garrett.

 

Excerpt:

Boots meandered across the stone floor. The marshal’s snicker slapped Daniel between the shoulder blades. “Injun Creek hasn’t seen this much excitement in a month of Sundays. We’re planning quite a celebration for you.”

One of life’s great mysteries: Had Halverson been born arrogant, or had the skill required practice? “Always did fancy a crowd of folks looking up to me.”

Whistling, the marshal moved away. Daniel stared at the dingy clapboard across the alley. That wall wouldn’t present much challenge. This wall, on the other hand… A barrel of black powder and a lucifer would come in handy right about now.

He rested his forehead against the bars. Daisy would dig up his body and throw a second hemp party if he didn’t show up for the wedding.

The jailhouse door scraped open, and a swirl of fresh air tapped him on the shoulder. Fingering the tender crease running from his eyebrow to his hairline, he pivoted. If Halverson’s lucky shot hadn’t dropped him—

His fingertips stilled. So did his breath.

The marshal ushered in a voluptuous vision and lifted a tin plate from her hands. An abundance of golden hair, gathered in soft swirls at the crown, framed her head like a halo. Curls fell beside rounded cheeks.

“What’re you doing here?” Judging by the pucker in his tone, Halverson had eaten one too many sour apples. “Where’s that old drunk you insist on keeping around?”

“Henry hasn’t touched a drop in—”

“What? Twenty-four hours?”

The angel raised her chin. “He isn’t feeling well.”

Daniel drifted to the front of the cell and slouched onto the forearms he draped over a horizontal bar. The familiar voice… Nectar, fresh from a hive.

Gracing Halverson with a shallow smile, the buxom beauty tipped her head toward the plate. “Chicken and dumplings for your prisoner’s supper.”

Steam rising from the lump meant to be his meal carried a whiff of old socks. Daniel’s thoughts churned right along with his stomach. High point of the day: bad vittles. Now, the lady… She was downright mouthwatering.

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A Kiss to Remember is available exclusively on Amazon (free for those who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited). I’ll give an e-copy to one of today’s commenters who answers this question: If you had migrated to Texas after the Civil War, would you have settled in town or on a ranch or farm? Why?

Thanks for stopping by today! I’m looking forward to your comments. 🙂

 

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Welcome Guest – Jacqui Nelson

J Nelson 10_139-Crop-FlipLOUD & QUIET PERSONALITIES – BRINGING LIFE TO THE WILD WEST

While doing research for my upcoming late-August release BETWEEN HOME & HEARTBREAK (book 2 in my Gambling Hearts series) about a Texas horseman and a Wild West trick-riding superstar, I was eager to delve into everything about 1800s show people including Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley who were the first American entertainers to gain superstardom.

BUFFALO BILL’S WILD WEST: the Greatest Show on Earth

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West ran from 1883 to 1913 and toured all across America including summer seasons on Stanton Island and winter ones at Madison Square Garden. The show also spent four years touring Europe and gave a command performance at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 at Windsor Castle.

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THE PERSONALITIES/PERFORMERS: the Colonel and Little Missie

Colonel was an honorary title given to Cody by his many admirers including the top military men of his time. Little Missie was Cody’s name for Annie.

I struck research gold when I read a fantastic non-fiction book by Lonesome Dove author Larry McMurtry called The Colonel and Little Missie and found the following descriptions…

1. HOW THEY DIFFER: the Loud and the Quiet

Cody: “generous, gushing, in a hurry, incautious, often drunk, and almost always optimistic.”

Annie: “in manner Cody’s polar opposite…reserved, modest to the point of requiring a female embalmer (that she organized in advance of her death), so frugal that many of the troupers believed she lived off the lemonade that Cody and [show manager] Salsbury served free to all workers.”

2. HOW THEY’RE SIMILAR: for the Love of the Show

Cody and Annie were show people “through and through. Even after a bad car wreck, rather late in life, Annie once got onstage and danced a jig in her leg brace.”

ON WITH THE SHOW: History + Personality = Wild West Life

For book 2, BETWEEN HOME & HEARTBREAK, I wanted to write about a character from book 1 in my series. In BETWEEN LOVE & LIES, my hero Noah Ballantyne is a Texas drover who arrives in Dodge City after completing a cattle drive with his friend and neighbor Lewis Adams.

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THE QUIET (OR EASY-GOING) PERSONALITY: Lewis Adams – an honest Texas horseman

Buried deep beneath Lewis happy-go-lucky temperament was a territorial streak as wide as it was long. The only time Noah had witnessed Lewis’ anger was when someone threatened to take what belonged to him or those he cared about. (Noah describing Lewis in Book 1)

Who would be the most challenging woman for Lewis?

  • A woman who’s come to steal his land and add a lot of excitement to his easy-going life.

How could this woman steal his land?

  • She has a claim to it. She says she’s the previous owners’ long-lost daughter, Jane Dority, who vanished eighteen years ago while riding in a storm with her childhood best friend Lewis – who’s always felt responsible for Jane’s disappearance.

Why were they riding in a storm?

  • A medicine show with elixirs and acrobatic riders had entertained their community. Jane wanted to replicate one of their acts. Lewis wanted to learn to ride as well as Jane and impress his father so he’d let him join the ranch roundup.

THE LOUD (OR DAREDEVIL) PERSONALITY: Eldora Calhoun – a famous trick-riding superstar

So who is this woman who’s come to claim or steal (depending on your perspective) Lewis’ land?

  • A confident, well-travel, talented trick-riding superstar in the nation’s most popular Wild West show. She calls herself Eldorado Jane. Is she the long-lost Jane Dority? She might be something even better.

BETWEEN LOVE & LIES (Gambling Hearts Series, Book 1)

In a town ruled by sin, will he earn her love or her lies?

JacquiNelson_BetweenLoveandLies_800pxDodge City, Kansas – 1877

Sadie Sullivan lost everything when a herd of longhorn cattle bound for Dodge City trampled and destroyed her farm. Now she works in Dodge—one of the most wicked and lawless towns in the West—at the Northern Star saloon. But her survival in this new world of sin and violence depends on maintaining a lie so deadly it could end her life before the town of Dodge can.

The one man capable of unraveling all of Sadie’s secrets is Noah Ballantyne, the Texan rancher whose herd destroyed her home. Back in town and taking up the role of deputy alongside legendary lawman Bat Masterson, Noah vows he won’t leave until he’s made things right. But with the saloon’s madam unwilling to release Sadie and a rich cattle baron wanting her as well, the odds aren’t in favor of finding love…or leaving town alive.

BETWEEN HOME & HEARTBREAK (Gambling Hearts Series, Book 2)

Who is Eldorado Jane? Long-lost friend or scheming superstar?

JacquiNelson_BetweenHomeAndHeartbreak_eCover_800Texas Hill Country — 1879

Plain Jane Dority vanished while riding in a storm beside her childhood best friend. Eighteen years later, Wild West trick-riding superstar Eldorado Jane returns to claim her birthright: the Dority homestead now owned by the steadfast Texan who never forgot Jane or forgave himself for her disappearance.

Lewis Adams would give anything to see his friend come home, but he’s certain Eldorado Jane isn’t his Jane. So why does this mesmerizing woman—with the talent and fame to have anything she desires—want the small patch of land that he loves? There’s only one way to find out: accept a wager with a deceiver who holds the power to bring back his friend or break his heart. The outcome rests in her hands. Or does it?

Friendship. Betrayal. Blackmail. Eldorado Jane holds every card…except the one that matters most.

Giveaway! – Jacqui has three digital prizes lined up for our readers!  Leave a comment for Jacqui and you’ll be entered to win. One winner will receive an e-copy of BETWEEN LOVE & LIES (Gambling Hearts series, book 1) and when it releases, two winners will each get an e-copy of BETWEEN HOME & HEARTBREAK (Gambling Hearts series, book 2).

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Look for Jacqui online at:
Website: http://www.JacquiNelson.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/JacquiNelson
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/JacquiNelsonBooks
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Jacqui_Nelson

Surprises in History (and a Boxed-Set Giveaway)

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Research is one of the most important tools of the fiction author’s trade. Regardless what an author writes—historical, contemporary, fantasy, science fiction—he or she must have some knowledge of the real world in order to create a world in which characters live and breathe.

A Kiss to RememberGood authors don’t beat readers over the head with their research, but what they dig up informs every aspect of their stories. Much of what we discover doesn’t make it into our books. Instead, the information clutters up our heads and trickles out at odd times.

This is one of those times.

Each of the five authors who contributed to Prairie Rose Publications’s new release, the boxed set A Kiss to Remember, uncovered historical tidbits that surprised, charmed, or saddened her. Since all of us are good authors and would never dream of beating readers over the head with our research in our books, we’re taking the opportunity to beat readers over the head with our research in a blog post. We can be sneaky that way.

Without further ado…

 

Her SanctuaryHer Sanctuary by Tracy Garrett

Beautiful Maggie Flanaghan’s heart is broken when her father dies suddenly and the westward-bound wagon train moves on without her, leaving her stranded in River’s Bend. But Reverend Kristoph Oltmann discovers the tender beginnings of love as he comforts Maggie, only to find she harbors a secret that could make their relationship impossible.

Tracy: I’m a “cradle Lutheran,” meaning I was born into a Lutheran family, baptized in the Lutheran church… You get the idea. Imagine my surprise when I began researching the history of the church in Missouri and found they’d been in the state a lot longer than I thought. It was fun, though.

 

Gabriels LawGabriel’s Law by Cheryl Pierson

Brandon Gabriel is hired by the citizens of Spring Branch to hunt down the notorious Clayton Gang, never suspecting a double-cross. When Allison Taylor rides into town for supplies, she doesn’t expect to be sickened by the sight of a man being beaten to death by a mob—a man she recognizes from her past. Spring Branch’s upstanding citizens gather round to see a murder, but everything changes with the click of a gun—and Gabriel’s Law.

Cheryl: Orphanages of the 1800s and early 1900s were mainly what I needed to research. And what sad research it was! The Indian orphanages and “schools” were the worst. The Indian children were forced to “assimilate”: cut their hair, wear white man’s clothing, and speak only English. Punishment was swift and sure if they were caught speaking their native tongues. In essence, they were taught they had to forget everything they knew—even their families—and adopt the ways of the whites completely. This only ensured they would never be wholly at ease in either world, white or Indian.

 

Outlaw HeartOutlaw Heart, by Tanya Hanson

Making a new start has never been harder! Bronx Sanderson is determined to leave his old outlaw ways behind and become a decent man. Lila Brewster is certain that her destiny lies in keeping her late husband’s dream alive: a mission house for the down-and-out of Leadville, Colorado. But dreams change when love flares between an angel and a man with an Outlaw Heart.

Tanya: The research that fascinated me the most was meeting and getting to know Dr. John Henry Holliday. What a guy. I’ve quite fallen in love with him. This handsome, soft-spoken, peaches-n-cream Southern gentleman can bring me to tears. He died slowly from tuberculosis for fifteen years after losing his beloved mother to the disease when he was 15. Talented pianist, multilingual, skilled surgeon who won awards for denture design… Most of his “deadly dentist” stuff was contrived. He needed a bad reputation to keep himself safe from angry gamblers. I was thrilled and honored both when he asked to be a character in Outlaw Heart.

 

The Dumont WayThe Dumont Way by Kathleen Rice Adams

The biggest ranch in Texas will give her all to save her children…but only the right woman’s love can save a man’s tortured soul. This trilogy of stories about the Dumont family contains The Trouble with Honey, a new, never-before-published novella. Nothing will stop this powerful family from doing things The Dumont Way.

Kathleen: Did you realize George Armstrong Custer was part of the Union occupation force in Texas after the Civil War? Neither did I. While I was double-checking my facts about Reconstruction-era Texas, I ran across that little tidbit. Texans may not have liked him any better than any other Yankee, but they were grateful for his kindness. During his five months in Texas, Custer was disliked by his own men because he strictly enforced Army regulations about “foraging” (read “stealing”) and poor treatment of civilians. I must admit I’m one of those who tended to view Custer as one of history’s real-life bad guys, but that one tidbit softened my impression. Funny how little things can make a big difference, isn’t it?

 

YESTERDAYS FLAMEYesterday’s Flame by Livia J. Washburn

When smoke jumper Annabel Lowell’s duties propel her from San Francisco in 2000 back to 1906, she faces one of the worst earthquakes in history. But she also finds the passion of a lifetime in fellow fireman Cole Brady. Now she must choose between a future of certain danger and a present of certain love—no matter how short-lived it may be. “A timeless and haunting tale of love.” ~ The Literary Times

Livia: I really enjoyed learning about the firefighting companies in San Francisco. The massive earthquake in 1906 was followed by an equally devastating fire, and there were a lot of heroes among those early firefighters.

 

Have you ever been surprised, charmed, alarmed, or vexed by something you’ve read—in either fiction or non-fiction? What was it? We’d love to hear! One brave soul who shares her or his discovery in the comments will win a digital copy of the brand-new boxed set A Kiss to Remember before it’s available to the public! The five books comprise more than 1,000 pages of heart-melting western historical romance…and that’s a fact.

 

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Big Ranches, Big Story

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The state of Texas has 268,597 square miles so it’s no wonder we have huge ranches to match the size. Some are simply too enormous to comprehend. So I had no trouble setting a big ranch here for my latest Men of Legend series. I wanted it as big and bold as the father and sons who owned it, so Texas was perfect. (It’s rumored that the state produces people with big personalities.) Strictly rumor of course. I’m laughing here.

My fictional Lone Star Ranch is a little on the puny side at 480,000 acres. I modeled it to some degree after the Waggoner Ranch which was 510,000 acres in 1954. When it sold in 2016, it had grown. The Waggoner Ranch also fit the location of mine in North Texas.

XITbrandThe largest ranch in the world in 1880 was the XIT Ranch (stands for Ten in Texas) at a whopping three million acres in West Texas and the Panhandle. To put this in perspective, that’s roughly 4,687 square miles. Just think how long it would take to ride over it by horseback. All that land was owned by a syndicate of English investors. It was simply too big for words.

The mighty King Ranch down at the far end of the state was and still is one of the largest ranches in the world. It has well over a million acres. It was established in 1854 by partners Richard King and Gideon Lewis.

King RanchNorth Texas certainly has a lion share of ranching land. That’s mostly because the rugged, rocky, dry landscape is fit for little else. The Matador Land and Cattle Company (purchased by Scottish investors) is another large one at a million and half acres in the beginning. It has shrunk now but still going strong.

Four sixesThe 6666 Ranch is an interesting one that keeps on thriving. Captain Samuel Burk Burnett bought 350,000 acres in 1870 and started raising cattle. Rumors have swirled for decades that he named it this unusual name because he won it in a poker game with a hand of four sixes. Descendants swear that’s not true. It’s still a huge ranch at 275,000 acres. I always love driving past it and looking at the large herds of horses. Their buildings are always pristine and they even have an airstrip. It’s pretty.

Love a Texas Ranger smallerOkay, back to my Lone Star Ranch. The patriarch, Stoker Legend, acquired 100 acres as payment for fighting in the Texas War for Independence. Everyone scoffed and said he had little chance of making the ranch thrive what with Indians, outlaws, drought, and the fact the land was extremely inhospitable. He paid them no mind and carved out the mighty ranch that serves as a legacy for his sons—Sam, Houston, and Luke.

Sam Legend joined the Texas Rangers as soon as he could because ranching just doesn’t interest him. He has restless feet and is driven with a need to see what’s over the next hill. Book #1 of this Men of Legend series is TO LOVE A TEXAS RANGER. Sam runs across a desperate woman named Sierra Hunt who has been dragged from pillar to post. She burns with a dream of permanence—a little white house with a picket fence around it, flowers in front and a garden in back. She’s not going to settle for anything less…not even for Sam.

There are lots of twists and turns in this story as they seek to find common ground and protect the fragile love that forms as they run from a ruthless band of outlaws.

Think the western series Bonanza. This series is every bit as big and bold as the Cartwrights. I’m enjoying writing this so much.

Release day is October 4th! You can preorder at these links:  AMAZON  |    B&N    |    iTUNES

There are still one million acre ranches today in the United States. What do you think the biggest challenge would be to owning such a huge amount of land?

By the way…Did you know July 23rd is the National Day of the Cowboy?

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Into the Valley of Death: Texas’s Immortal 32

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Bejar, Feby. 24th. 1836

To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World—

Fellow Citizens & compatriots—

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna — I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man — The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken — I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls — I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch — The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country — Victory or Death.

William Barrett Travis.

Lt.  Col. comdt.

 

The Alamo, 1854

The Alamo, 1854

At dawn on March 1, 1836, the only reinforcements to respond to Travis’s urgent appeal fought their way into the Alamo. The Gonzales Ranging Company of Mounted Volunteers, a hastily organized cadre of boys and men ages 16 to 54, forged through a line of 4,000 to 6,000 Mexican soldados, dodging fire from their compatriots atop the mission’s walls.

All but three of the Rangers rode into history as the Immortal 32.

The story started months earlier in Gonzales, a town in DeWitt’s Colony. Established in 1825, Gonzales became known as “the Lexington of Texas” when the first shot in the Texas Revolution was fired there Oct. 2, 1835. The Battle of Gonzales began over a cannon the Mexican government had given to the Texians in 1831 so they could protect themselves from frequent Indian attacks. In September 1835, as disputes between the Texians and the Mexican government heated up, the governor of Coahuila y Tejas sent 100 Mexican soldiers to retrieve the cannon.

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This cannon, displayed at the Gonzales Memorial Museum, may be the disputed artillery. (photo by Larry D. Moore)

The men of Gonzales — all eighteen of them — refused to give up the artillery. Defiant to the core, they told the soldados  “Come and take it.” The Mexicans tried, the men of Gonzales — later known as the Old Eighteen — held their ground until reinforcements arrived, and the resulting skirmish went to the Texians.

The Mexican Army did not take the defeat well.

Four months later, when Travis, already besieged, sent his final appeal, the men of Gonzales and the surrounding area felt honor-bound to go to the defense of the Alamo defenders. Twenty-five men left Gonzales on the evening of February 27. More joined the group as it traveled. When they reached San Antonio de Béxar, they spent two days trying to figure a way past the sea of Mexican troops. At 3 a.m. on March 1 — knowing their chances of survival were slim — the Rangers made a mad dash for the mission gates, braving the fire of Alamo sentries who mistook them for enemy combatants.

Alamo Defenders Ashes

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The Immortal 32 fell with the Alamo on March 6. They composed about 20 percent of the Anglo casualties. Mexican troops burned the bodies of all the Alamo defenders, whom they considered traitors.

A crypt in the San Fernando Cathedral purports to hold the ashes of the Alamo defenders. Historians believe it is more likely the ashes were buried near the Alamo.

The majority of the Immortal 32 were husbands, fathers, and landowners. Five had been among the Old Eighteen, and one was the younger brother of an Old Eighteen member.

 

The Immortal 32:

Isaac G. Baker, 21

John Cain, 34

George Washington “Wash” Cottle, 25 (brother of an Old Eighteen)

David P. Cummins, 27

Jacob C. Darst (Old Eighteen), 42

John Davis

Squire Daymon, 28

William Dearduff , 25

Charles Despallier, 24

Almaron Dickinson (Old Eighteen)

William Fishbaugh

John Flanders, 36

Dolphin Ward Floyd, 32

Galba Fuqua, 16

John E. Garvin, about 40

John E. Gaston, 17

James George, 34

Thomas Jackson (Old Eighteen)

John Benjamin Kellogg II, 19

Andrew Kent, 44

George C. Kimble, 33

William Philip King, 16

Jonathan L. Lindley, 22

Albert Martin (Old Eighteen), 28

Jesse McCoy, 32

Thomas R. Miller (Old Eighteen), 40

Isaac Millsaps, 41

George Neggan, 28

William E. Summers, 24

George W. Tumlinson, 22

Robert White, 30

Claiborne Wright, 26

Three men who rode in with the Immortal 32 survived because they were sent out March 3 as couriers or foragers. All three were attempting to return to the Alamo when it fell.

Byrd Lockhart, 54, later served in the Texas army.

John William Smith, 44, became the first mayor of San Antonio.

Andrew Jackson Sowell, 21, became a Texas Ranger.

A monument in the Alamo Shrine commemorates the valor of the Immortal 32, as does an entire cemetery in Gonzales’s Pioneer Village.

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A stone memorial on the Alamo grounds honors the Immortal 32. (photo by TheConduqtor)

“Remember the Alamo.”

 

The Historic Trammel’s Trace

Back when Texas was in the hands of Mexico and then later when we won independence and became a republic, there was only one entrance to the state from the north—Trammel’s Trace.

The path was located in far East Texas where the land is very rugged, wet and heavily wooded.

Trammel's Trace Marker2

Arkansas trader and horse smuggler, Nicholas Trammel, used the old Native American footpath that was hundreds of years old for his smuggling operations beginning in 1813. Trammel was a bit of a scoundrel by all accounts. He was accused of murder, plunder and thievery but was never caught.

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The trace ran 180 miles north from Nacogdoches, TX to Fulton, Arkansas. Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, James Bowie and countless others used the route. And it was very crucial to the War for Independence and later during the Spanish-American War.

Road Ruts

Road Ruts

Trammel’s Trace was printed on maps of the 19th century and provided an important immigration route into Texas for waves of settlers from Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Kentucky.

After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 to 1813, the route was known as Robber’s Road. That name came about because (1) it was heavily forested and (2) it became a haven for outlaws of all sorts.

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The reason Trammel’s Trace ended at Nacogdoches—the route connected with El Camino Real (or Old San Antonio Road) and there was no need to move farther south.

I’ve walked on portions of this vital road and felt as though I trod in the footsteps of so many brave people who came to settle this wild land. Without them I wouldn’t be here.

Do you think you’d have been brave enough to travel this road? I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to one person who comments.

(Credit for the first two of these amazing photos goes to Gary Pinkerton – Visit him: www.trammelstrace.org )

The Alamo Wheelmen

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One of my favorite moments as a writer is when I stop to research some historical possibility and come away with a fascinating discovery. That happened to me just last week.

I’m currently about 1/3 of the way into a new full-length manuscript and instead of my usual cowboy hero, I decided to go in a slightly different direction. Instead of riding a horse, my hero prefers a bicycle. Seeing as how I’m married to a computer nerd and am busy raising two more males of that variety, I thought it was time I showed the world just how hunky and sigh-worthy the atypical romance hero could be.

Murdoch Mysteries

Murdock Mysteries – Great turn of the century Canadian mystery series I’ve been watching on Netflix.

Amos Bledsoe is slim and fit (from all his cycling), has a wonderful sense of humor, is loyal, intelligent, sensitive, and thanks to his great relationship with his sister and mother, insightful when it comes to appreciating a woman’s independence. Yet, his finer qualities are often overlooked because he’s not the rugged outdoorsman with tanned skin and broad shoulders. Even though I love my alpha male heroes, when it comes to a lifetime commitment, I’d much rather have the intelligent, funny, sensitive man than the arrogant, bull-headed fella. So I decided it was past time for me to write one.

Loosely inspired by Detective William Murdoch from the Murdoch Mysteries series, Amos is an avid wheelman. However, when he travels to Harper’s Station to help the heroine, he leaves his velocipede behind. Now, seeing as how Harper’s Station is a women’s colony full of suffrage-minded women, and bicycling in the 1890’s was a great symbol of women’s increasing freedom and independence, I knew my ladies would want to take advantage of Amos’s skills and have him give them a few riding lessons. Only problem was, safety bicycles were still so new at this time, they were terribly expensive. So I needed a way for them to get hold of some used machines. Enter, the Alamo Wheelmen.

alamo-wheelmen-crestalamo-racing-teamThanks to the wonderful website of the Texas Transportation Museum, I discovered that bicycles were not only popular back east, but were in use in Texas as well. The Alamo Wheelmen was a cycling club in San Antonio founded in 1891. It was a chapter of the national organization – League of American Wheelmen – of which my hero was also a member.They had their own racing team and had numerous owners of bicycle shops as members as well. The perfect contact for my hero.

 

Women on BikesSo he used his connections to contact the Alamo group and find a selection of used female-style cycles as well as a more masculine style for himself. And all at a bargain price!

So what do you think?

Can a western hero ride a bicycle instead of a horse?

Do you enjoy a variety of hero types in your romances, or do you have a strong preference for the alpha males?

Petticoats & Pistols © 2015