Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arm will be released on October 3rd. Don’t you just love that title? I’m so excited to be part of the collection, which also includes stories by Leigh Greenwood and our very own Linda Broday!
My story is titled A Texas Ranger for Christmas and I’m giving away a copy (giveaway guidelines apply). So be sure to leave a comment.Here’s a sneak peek:
Sadie had just put Adam down for his afternoon nap that second week in December when a hammering sound drew her to the kitchen window.
“Dang that man!” Now the ranger was on the barn roof hammering down shingles. Last week, after he’d spent the day repairing the fence, he’d run a fever and had to spend two days in bed.
Now here he was at it again, overdoing it.
She pulled a woolen shawl from a peg by the back door and stepped outside. The wind was cold and angry clouds crowded in from the north like a bunch of wooly sheep.
Upon reaching the barn, she yelled up to him. “If you fall and break your neck, don’t come runnin’ to me!”
He peered over the edge of the roof. His nose was red from the cold and his hair tossed about like sails in the wind, but he sure was a sight for sore eyes. “I guess I’d just have to wait ‘till your friend Scooter comes.”
She balled her hands at her side. “I’d think you’d have a little consideration for my reputation.”
His eyebrows quirked upward. “I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”
“How do you think it looks for a woman to entertain a man that’s not her husband?”
She’d not yet told anyone of Richard’s death. She didn’t want friends and neighbors coming to her door to express condolences until after the ranger was long gone.
He shrugged. “Isn’t it a little late to worry about that? Some of your neighbors already know I’m here.”
“I told them my husband sent you here to recover from your bullet wound.”
“Your husband sent me? That might be hard to explain when the truth comes out that he’s dead.”
“That’s my problem.” She tossed her head. “I mean, it Captain.” She grabbed hold of the ladder and gave it a good shaking. “If you don’t come down, I’ll see that you’re stuck up there for good!”
“Why, Mrs. Carnes, is that a threat?”
She glared up at him. “You’ve already had one relapse and I’m not about to take care of you for another. So what’s it gonna be?”
“Okay, okay, I’ll come down, but only on one condition.”
She straightened, hands at her waist. “What?” “You stop calling me captain. My name is Cole.”
“Not gonna happen,” she said. Calling him by his given name would only strengthen the bond between them, and she couldn’t let that happen. It was hard enough trying not to like the man more than was absolutely necessary.
“Why not?” he asked.
“I never name an animal I plan on eating, and I sure don’t aim on naming a man who’ll soon be gone.”
“All right, Mrs. Carnes. Have it your way. But could you at least tell me what your Christian name is? I promise not to use it unless you say it’s okay.”
She chewed on a bottom lip. “Sadie,” she said. “And I don’t want you calling me that, you hear?”
“Nice name,” he said. “It suits you.”
She didn’t know what he meant by that and she wasn’t about to ask. “So what’s it gonna be, Captain?” She grabbed hold of the ladder and rattled it. “You coming down or ain’t you?”
“Oh, I’ll come down, Mrs. Carnes. But only because I don’t want you complaining about me to your dead husband.”
Short stories and novellas are popular around the holidays. I don’t mind writing short, but I prefer reading full-length novels. Which do you prefer? Also, has a short story ever inspired you to check out the author’s novels?
What do you call Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms?
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.
Texas 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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
In 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
A Kiss to Rememberis 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. 🙂
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.
The 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.
North 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.
The 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.
Okay, 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?
What do all these images below have in common? If you guessed the cowboy hat, you’d be right. Personally I love a man in a cowboy hat. On paper, in movies and at the rodeo, but if I see a man wearing a cowboy hat out in public, well now, that’s a different matter, since I live in the city. So seeing a city-slicker wearing a Stetson does turn my head and make me question, why? It’s intriguing to say the least and only a few can pull it off and make you believe. Not so in the Old West though.
Here are some fun facts about the cowboy hat you may not know:
We’ve all heard the term “ten-gallon hat” but did you know it’s believed to come from not the exaggerated amount of water the hat can hold, but from the Spanish term “tan galán” which translates loosely into “handsome hat” or “really fine hat”.
It is the one article of clothing that if worn in other parts of the world, is immediately associated with the American cowboy and the Old West.
The term “Mad as a hatter” came from early hatters who used mercury in the making of their felt. Their bodies absorbed mercury, and after several years of making hats, the hatters developed violent and uncontrollable muscle twitching and for some, brain damage. Their weird movements and obvious strangeness was then attributed to madness giving no blame to the toxic mercury they worked with.
John Batterson Stetson created the “Boss of the Plains” hat and because each one of his hats was embossed with his name in gold, the hat soon became known as the Stetson. Some, in the early days called the hat, the John B.
Everyone from the Texas Rangers (the first law enforcement agency to wear these hats) to the famous men and women in American history, Buffalo Bill Cody, Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, President Roosevelt and the U.S. Calvary, wore the Stetson.
If this is truly true, what a testament to the Stetson’s durability – It is said that some 14 years after the battleship USS Maine sank in 1898, the ship was raised from the Havana Harbor and a Stetson was found in the wreckage. Sitting in seawater and exposed to harsh elements, once the hat was cleaned off, it appeared undamaged. The durability and water resistant nature of the hat was heralded publicly in 1912 and only proved to the country the great product Stetson had produced.
***Take a peek at this 3 min video to see how a Stetson Hat is made today. I found it fascinating and now I know why they cost so much! http://www.stetsonhat.com/video.php
Do you or your significant other wear hats? My hubby wears ball caps all the time. He owns a cowboy hat, but doesn’t wear it, not even when we go to country western concerts. It’s not him. Takes a certain kind to wear a cowboy hat…like a real cowboy! Do you agree?
Post a comment today and you’ll be entered in a Happy New Year giveaway of am available back list book of your choice! Don’t delay! And be sure to check out my next Moonlight Beach Bachelor story…One Secret Night, One Secret Baby available now for pre-order:
Texas Ranger badges are a hot commodity in the collectibles market, but the caveat “buyer beware” applies in a big way. The vast majority of items marketed as genuine Texas Ranger badges are reproductions, facsimiles, or toys. Very few legitimate badges exist outside museums and family collections, and those that do hardly ever are sold. There’s a very good reason for that: Manufacturing, possessing, or selling Texas Ranger insignia, even fakes that are “deceptively similar” to the real thing, violates Texas law except in specific circumstances.
According to Byron A. Johnson, executive director of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum (the official historical center for the Texas Ranger law-enforcement agency), “Spurious badges and fraudulent representation or transactions connected with them date back to the 1950s and are increasing. We receive anywhere from 10 to 30 inquiries a month on badges, the majority connected with sales on eBay.”
Answer: The left-hand badge, dated 1889, is the earliest authenticated Texas Ranger insignia in the collection of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. Badges weren’t standard issue for Rangers until 1935, although from 1874 onward, individual Rangers sometimes commissioned badges from jewelers or gunsmiths, who made them from Mexican coins. Relatively few Rangers wore a badge out in the open. As for the item on the right? There’s no such thing as a “Texas Ranger Special Agent.”
Answer: On the right is an official shield-type badge issued between 1938 and 1957. Ranger captains received gold badges; the shields issued to lower ranks were silver. The badge on the left is a fake, though similar authentic badges exist.
Answer: The badge on the right was the official badge of the Rangers from July 1957 to October 1962. Called the “blue bottle cap badge,” the solid, “modernized” design was universally reviled. The left-hand badge is a fake. According to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, “No genuine Texas Ranger badges are known to exist with ‘Frontier Battalion’ engraved on them.”
Answer: The left-hand badge, called the “wagon wheel badge,” has been the official Texas Ranger badge since October 1962. Each is made from a Mexican five-peso silver coin. The badge on the right is a “fantasy badge.” According to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, the most common designation on such badges is “Co. A.”
How did you do? If you answered correctly for more than one without benefiting from a lucky guess, you did better than most people, including Texans. Give yourself extra points if you knew Rangers proved their legitimacy with Warrants of Authority, not badges, prior to 1935.
For more information about the Texas Rangers—including the history of the organization, biographical sketches of individual Rangers, and all kinds of information about badges and other insignia—visit the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum online at TexasRanger.org. The museum and its staff have my utmost gratitude for their assistance with this post. They do the Rangers proud.
While we’re on the subject of Rangers…
On June 1, Western Fictioneers, a professional organization for authors of western novels and short stories, announced the winners of the 2015 Peacemaker Awards. Presented annually, the Peacemakers recognize the best western historical fiction published during the previous calendar year.
I’m happy to say “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” received the award for Best Western Short Fiction. “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” tells the story of a washed-up Texas Ranger and a failed nun who find redemption in love.
The award marked the second time in two years a short story published by Prairie Rose Publications has been honored with a Peacemaker: Livia J. Washburn’s “Charlie’s Pie” received the Best Western Short Fiction award in 2014.
In addition, Prodigal Gun, also published by Prairie Rose, was named a finalist in the Best Western First Novel category. Prodigal Gun is the first novel-length romance ever nominated for a Peacemaker.
I don’t say any of that to brag…
Oh, heck. Who am I trying to kid? I’m bragging. (Sorry, Mom!)
There really is a larger point, though: I think the award and nomination are important, but not because the books are mine. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right stories. There’s a hint at something much broader here: At long last, it seems, romances of all lengths are being recognized as “respectable literature” outside the romance category. That’s good news for all of us who enjoy a genre too often scoffed at and snubbed by the larger community of authors and readers.
Over the past eighteen months, a number of books published by Prairie Rose Publications have been nominated for or received awards of all kinds. If that’s any indication, PRP is off to a great start. Founded in August 2013 by Livia Washburn Reasoner and Cheryl Pierson, the company is and always will be dedicated to publishing traditional westerns and western romance written by women. Nevertheless, in less than two years, PRP has expanded to include young adult, inspirational, paranormal, and medieval lines. The “little publishing company” releases some darn fine fiction. I’m proud it publishes mine.
To celebrate good fortune in so many areas of my life, I’ll gift a copy of “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” to two folks who are brave enough to tell us how many of the badges above they identified correctly. To the comments with you!
In 2010 Kensington released the fourth of our of anthologies written by sister filly, Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, the late DeWanna Pace, and me. Following in the theme of the other anthologies, six in all, the name of this book is Give Me a Texas Ranger and of course sent us all into research mode about the history of the Texas Rangers.
In 2008, Linda and I even went to the Texas Ranger Museum and Hall of Fame in Waco, Texas. This is a picture of the Writing the Ranger exhibit during our research.
Below is the same exhibit 2 years later. I bet you can see the difference. This exhibit, of course, is changed out so I doubt we’re still there along with The Lone Ranger, Lonesome Dove, and Elmer Kelton but needless to say just seeing it there regardless of how long it was on exhibit was one of our milestones.
Needless to say, I love tidbits of history, particularly the legendary Texas Rangers, so it seems fittin’ to share some of the things I’ve learned.
Since 1823, the Texas Rangers have represented the highest ideals of Texas and America to admirers around the world. Individually, they are some of the most colorful heroes in American history. Together, they brought peace to an untamed frontier, and in the process became one of the most famous and respected crime-fighting forces anywhere.
Hitler and the Texas Rangers. The name “Rangers” is synonymous with the Texas Rangers, and never was it more clear than during WWII. On August 19, 1942, three Commando units of the British 2nd Canadian Division landed in France. The purpose was to create an illusion of a major invasion and force Hitler to halt troops bound for the Russian front. However, somewhere along the line the British Commandos became the Texas Rangers. Apparently the confusion came with leaks that a special American combat unit, the legendary U.S. Army Rangers, who were modeled after the successful British Commandos, had invaded. Hitler was rumored to have watched Amerikanische westliche Filme (American westerns), and only knew of the Texas Rangers who were depicted in American movies played in European theaters during the 20’s and 30’s. As a result, the only American “Rangers” known to Hitler were heroic men in white hats, who single-handedly cleaned up entire towns with blazing guns. Ironically, the Texas Rangers did volunteer to go to Europe but were not allowed to do so by our military. For a short period of time, thanks to rumor, the legend of the Texas Rangers offered hope to the residents of occupied France, two years before the Allies successfully landed on the beaches of Normandy.
Texas Ranger uniform.Before the 1950’s there was no official uniform, although some companies tried to administer the coordination of outfits that proved unpopular. Traditionally, Texas Ranger clothing is conservative western attire, specifically with white or tan hats, cowboy boots, white western cut shirt, tie, pants and belt. But there is one requirement. A Ranger must wear an “appropriate” Texas Ranger hat, which is light-colored and shaped in a businessman’s style, commonly called the Rancher or Cattleman. Brims must not exceed 4 inches or be flat with edges rolled up. Hats excessively crushed, rolled, or dipped are not acceptable. The elite lawmen own both a quality straw and a felt hat to be worn as determined by the weather or assignment.
The Texas Rangers and the Alamo. In answer to Col. Travis’ request for assistance in defending the Alamo, a party of Texas Rangers responded. The Gonzales Ranging Company of Mounted Volunteers answered the call, fought, and died alongside the other defenders of the Alamo.
In western historical romances, Texas Rangers make a terrific hero because of the qualities they are known for. I have to admit, I love ‘um too, although my favorites to write are crusty ol’ retired Ranger sidekicks. In my newest contemporary romance, needless to say my hero and heroine have a Texas Ranger connection. “Out of a Texas Night” eBook from Kensington is due out in late summer or early fall. It’s the third in the Kasota Springs Romance series.
Whether it’s television, movies, or books, who is your favorite Texas Ranger?
To one reader who leaves a comment, I will send you the choice of a copy of Give Me a Texas Ranger signed by all four authors or a eBook copy of The Troubled Texan.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and in April 1881, El Paso, Texas, was about as desperate as a town could get. Four railroad lines had converged in the city, bringing with them gamblers, gunmen, and “ladies of questionable virtue.” Within spitting distance of Old Mexico and the lawless western territories, El Paso became a haven for vagabonds, thieves, murderers, and other criminals.
The city was not entirely without a law-and-order presence. The county sheriff’s office was only fifteen miles away — a half-day’s ride on horseback. Fort Bliss was closer, but the Army had its hands full defending settlers from Indians and cross-border marauders. Nearest of all was an entire company of the Texas Rangers Frontier Battalion, headquartered right there in town. Even a force of forty fearsome men who a few years later would adopt the motto “one riot, one Ranger” couldn’t be everywhere at once, though, especially when they had a 1,250-mile unruly border with Mexico to police.
El Paso needed a tough city marshal, and it couldn’t seem to find one. During the eight months starting in July 1880, the town employed four different men in the position. One resigned after two months in office. Another was relieved for “neglect and dereliction of duty.” A third was allowed to resign after a dispute over his pay left El Paso full of bullet holes. By April 1881, the town drunk wore the badge because he was the only man who would take the job.
City fathers thought they were in luck when, on April 11, they enticed a six-foot-four shootist with experience as a soldier, Texas Ranger, and city lawman to claim the marshal’s star. Dallas Stoudenmire, 36, was described by newspapers of the day as a temperamental, physically imposing man with an even more imposing reputation for gunplay.
El Paso leaders realized they had made a hiring mistake in only a few short days, but a total of thirteen violent, frightening months would pass before they removed the new marshal from office. Ultimately, only Stoudenmire’s untimely demise freed the city of his presence. Some called the man a criminal with a badge; others credited him with doing more than any other single individual to tame El Paso’s lawless element.
The trouble started three days after Stoudenmire pinned on the marshal’s star. In an incident that came to be known as the Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight, Stoudenmire’s twin .44 Colts dispatched three people — one an innocent bystander attempting to take cover. The other two were an accused cattle rustler and one of El Paso’s former city marshals. The fourth casualty, whose death at the hands of the alleged cattle rustler started the ruckus, was a county constable. Stoudenmire, unscathed, received a raise.
Dallas Stoudenmire had the barrel of this 1860 Colt Army revolver sawed off so the gun could be concealed. The Colt was retrieved from the El Paso street where Stoudenmire was killed in a shootout on September 18, 1882. (from The Peacemakers: Arms and Adventure in the American West by R.L. Wilson — I highly recommend the book)
Three days later, friends of the dead men hired another former El Paso city marshal to assassinate Stoudenmire. Eight or nine shots later, Stoudenmire had obliterated the would-be assassin’s privates.
The notorious gunman continued to collect enemies while he performed some aspects of his job admirably. Even his detractors credited him with a steel-nerved ability to face down miscreants, six of whom he reportedly introduced to Boot Hill. Stoudenmire collected fines and taxes with alacrity, at the same time shooting dogs whose owners neglected to pay the $2 annual license fee. He angered the local religious community by using a prominent church’s bell for target practice, usually in the middle of the night. The jail and prisoners were well tended, but the marshal’s records were a mess, and unauthorized expenditures caused friction with the city council.
Stoudenmire also drank heavily, often on duty, leading the editor of the El Paso Times to call into question his fitness as an officer of the law. When the Texas Rangers took an interest in Stoudenmire’s idiosyncratic approach to law enforcement, he called them a pack of cowards and liars and tried to get the entire force banned from El Paso, predictably without success.
The city decided it had endured enough in February 1882, when Stoudenmire and his new bride returned from their wedding trip to find her brother murdered and the accused killer absolved of charges. Vowing revenge, Stoudenmire went on a violent drinking binge. One writer called his behavior “as irresponsible and dangerous as the town hoodlums.” Right away the city council passed a resolution mandating a stiff fine for any lawman caught drinking in public. Since Stoudenmire collected the fines, the law was woefully ineffective.
Public sentiment against the marshal had reached a crescendo…and so had the city council’s fear of the monster they had created. In May the council called a meeting to fire Stoudenmire, but when the marshal showed up drunk and waving his infamous Colts, the meeting quickly adjourned. Two days later he sobered up and resigned.
Despite the public’s ill will, Stoudenmire and his wife remained in El Paso. The now ex-marshal continued to drink, get into fights, and settle arguments with his guns; nevertheless, in July he was appointed deputy U.S. marshal.
In May 2001, Dallas Stoudenmire’s Smith & Wesson American, serial number 7056, sold at auction for $143,000. His El Paso city marshal’s badge sold for $44,000 in a separate lot. (from Little John Auction Service catalog, May 2001)
Over the next few months, Stoudenmire’s feud with the man accused of his brother-in-law’s murder escalated. Stoudenmire mocked and insulted the man and his two brothers in public, daring them to fight. When other citizens ventured an opinion about his behavior, Stoudenmire cursed and threatened them. The El Paso Lone Star warned “citizens stand on a volcano,” and the streets might be “deluged with blood at any moment.”
On September 18, the volcano erupted. Stoudenmire and the three brothers met in a saloon and argued. One of the brothers and Stoudenmire drew their guns. Stoudenmire was hit twice: The first bullet broke his gun arm, and the second knocked him through the saloon’s batwing doors. Lying in the street, Stoudenmire pulled his second gun and wounded his attacker just before another of the brothers killed him with a shot to the head. The wounded brother pistol-whipped the body.
Separate trials acquitted the brothers of murder. They left El Paso and died of natural causes in 1915 and 1925.
Stoudenmire’s widow buried him in Colorado County, near Columbus, Texas, where they had been married a few months earlier. The Freemasons, of which he was a member, paid all funeral expenses for the destitute widow. No stone marks his gravesite, and all records of the grave’s location have been lost.
An obituary in the Colorado [County] Citizen called Stoudenmire “a brave and efficient officer, and very peaceable when sober.”
Sometimes when I can’t think of anything interesting to blog about, I search for inspiration on the Texas State Historical Association website on their Day-by-Day segments of “Today in Texas History.” Boy, was I glad that I had writer’s block! Because without it, I never would have run across this historical gem.
On January 28, 1891 – A man by the name Fine Gilliland got in a dispute with cattleman, Henry Harrison Powe during a roundup in Brewster County. Gilliland had been hired by the firm of Dubois and Wentworth to ensure none of the local ranchers absconded with their company cattle. A dispute arose regarding a single, unbranded yearling steer that had been separated from its mother. Powe believed the steer belonged to one of HHP brand cows. Gilliland disagreed.
Now, Gilliland must have been a hired gun, for the way he “disagreed” was to start a gunfight. Gilliland shot and killed Powe, then fled on horseback. Killed a man over ONE steer! Really???
Four Texas Rangers – Jim Putnam is standing, third from the left.
Never fear, though. Justice in the form of the Texas Rangers tracked Gilliland down. Ranger Jim Putman and Deputy Sheriff Thalis Cook tracked Gilliland through a canyon during a January snowfall. They came across a man on horseback and when Cook asked him if he was Gilliland, the hired gun responded with two shots. One hit Cook’s kneecap, the other felled his horse. Gilliland then spurred his mount into a run, but Ranger Putman kept his cool. He dismounted, aimed his rifle, then shot Gilliland’s horse out from under him. (Anyone else feeling bad for the horses?) Putman ordered Gilliland to surrender. How did Gilliland respond? You guessed it – with gunfire. Using his fallen horse as a shield, Gilliland fired at the ranger. Putman took cover and returned fire, taking Gilliland out with a shot to the head the next time the fellow raised up to shoot.
The canyon where Gilliland dies was later named Gilliland Canyon. Seems to me, it’d be more noble to name it for Putman, but whatever.
Now here’s the cool part . . . Remember that unbranded steer that started this whole mess? Well, the poor thing got branded. And not just with a little HHP. Nope. They branded the word “MURDER” one one side of his hide and “JAN 28 91” on the other. Then the steer was released into the wild to roam the countryside. For years, there were sightings of the “murder steer” and it became a thing of legend. Ghost stories were told that if you saw the murder steer (or its ghost) it meant that someone would die. Others claim that the murder steer shows up whenever there is foul play. Tales carried down through history, and they even inspired an episode of the classic western TV show, Rawhide.
Have you ever heard tales of the murder steer?
Any of you remember the Rawhide episode with this story line?
If you’re interested in the Rawhide episode, you can watch it on You Tube here.
Texas always has been a rowdy place. In 1822, the original Anglo settlers began trickling into what was then Mexico at the invitation of the Mexican government, which hoped American immigrants would do away with the out-of-control Comanches. Texans dispensed with the Comanches in the 1870s by foisting them off on Oklahoma, but long before that, the Texans ran off the Mexican government.
From 1836 to 1845, Texas looked something like the map at right. The green parts became the Republic of Texas as a result of treaties signed by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana after Sam Houston and his ragtag-but-zealous army caught the general napping at San Jacinto. The treaties set the boundary between Texas and Mexico at the Rio Grande.
This caused a bit of a fuss in the Mexican capital. No matter how embarrassing his situation, Santa Ana did not possess the authority to dispose of large chunks of land with the swipe of a pen. Mexico eventually conceded Texas could have the dark-green part of the map—bounded to the south by the Nueces River, which lies about one hundred fifty miles north of the Rio Grande—but the light-green part still belonged to Mexico.
While Texas and Mexico were studiously avoiding one another in the disputed territory, outlaws, rustlers, and other lawless types moved into the patch between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. After all, no respectable outlaw ever lets a perfectly good blind spot on the law-enforcement radar go to waste. The area, 150 miles wide by about 400 miles long, came to be known as the Nueces Strip.
In 1845, the United States annexed all of the land claimed by Texas, including the disputed territory, and came to military blows with Mexico over the insult. By the time the two countries signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 to settle once and for all (sort of) who owned what, the lawless element was firmly entrenched in the strip of cactus and scrub between the Nueces and the Rio Grande. For nearly thirty years, brigands raised havoc—robbing, looting, raping, rustling, and killing—on both sides of the border before retreating to ranchos and other hideouts in the Strip’s no-man’s land.
That began to change in 1875 when Texas Ranger Captain Leander McNelly was charged with bringing order to the southern part of Texas. Newly re-formed after being disbanded for about ten years during the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Rangers were determined to clean up the cesspool harboring notorious toughs like King Fisher and Juan Cortina. With a company of forty handpicked men known as the Special Force, McNelly accomplished his task in two years…in some cases by behaving at least as badly as the outlaws. McNelly was known for brutal—sometimes downright illegal—tactics, including torturing information out of some prisoners and hanging others. He and his men also made a number of unauthorized border crossings in pursuit of rustlers, nearly provoking international incidents.
Nevertheless, the “Little McNellys” got the job done. By the time McNelly was relieved of command and subsequently retired in 1876, the Nueces Strip was a safer place.
McNelly died of consumption in September 1877. Though he remains controversial in some circles, the residents of South Texas raised funds and erected a monument in his honor.