Category: Trivia

Loony Laws Revisited

Hello everyone – Winnie Griggs here.  This past weekend, my local chapter of Romance Writers of America held our annual conference so I’m a bit wiped out from all the prep work leading up to it and the non-stop activity of the event itself. So I hope you’ll excuse me if I reprise an older post. This is one from back in 2009 and I hope you’ll enjoy giving it another look.

I came across a fun little book the other day called “Loony Laws…That You Never Knew You Were Breaking”.  Of course I had to purchase it – how can you pass up a book with a title like that?  And the book did not disappoint.

The book, which has a copyright date of 1990, states that all the laws cited are “still around – unless they’ve been repealed indirectly by blanket or collective legislation.”

Here are just a sampling of the laws cited:

Some fall into the category of impossible to comply with.  For instance, Texas once passed a law that read “When two railroad trains meet at a crossing, each shall stop and neither shall proceed until the other has passed.”

A few fall into the category of bad wording that plants them in the realm of the absurd.  For example, in Belvedere, California, there is an ordinance that states  “No dog shall be in a public place without its master on a leash.”  Just think about that one for a minute!

Some are just plain humorous.

  • In Berea Kentucky horses are prohibited from being out on the streets at night unless the equine has a bright red taillight attached to its rear end.
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida has a similar ordinance, but has added that the animal must also have a horn attached.

A number of entries fall into the category of attempting to legislate animal behavior:

  • California passed a law that prohibits animals from mating publicly within fifteen hundred feet of any tavern, place of worship or school.  It carries a penalty of five hundred dollars and/or up to six months in prison.
  • In International Falls, Minnesota cats aren’t permitted to chase dogs up utility poles.
  • In Shawnee, Oklahoma, three or more dogs must obtain written permission to congregate together on private property.

  • Oak Park, Illinois prohibits roosters from crowing before six A.M.
  • In Norfolk Virginia, chickens are not allowed to lay eggs between the hours of 4 PM and 8 AM.

One wonders how any of these lawmakers expect to enforce these laws and just who gets penalized if the law is broken.

Then there are those that are obviously from a bygone era:

  • Omaha, Nebraska requires that every home within the city limits have a wooden hitching post in its front yard.
  • The state of Oregon and the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota prohibit the practice of wiping dishes – they must be left to drip dry after washing.
  • Both the state of Virginia and the city of Topeka, Kansas have laws banning the installation of bathtubs in the home.  Tubs can only be kept in the yard or in a public bathhouse erected for that specific purpose.
  • In Clarendon, Texas a lawyer can be disbarred if he refuses to accept farm produce in lieu of payment for his legal fees.
  • In Oxford, Ohio women are forbidden from taking off their clothing while standing in front of a man’s picture.

And finally you have the ones I call ‘head scratchers’, raising questions as to what brought the issue up to start with:

  • Normal Oklahoma has a law that prohibits individuals from making ugly faces at a dog – penalties range from fines to jail time.
  • In Minnesota it is illegal for a woman to try to impersonate Santa Claus on a city street.

  • Saco, Missouri has made it illegal for women to wear hats that “might frighten timid persons, children, or animals.”
  • North Carolina has a law prohibiting the use of elephants to plow a cotton field.

  • In New Orleans it is against the law to kick a garbage can and in Lubbock, Texas you are forbidden to sleep in one. (Good thing Oscar the Grouch doesn’t live there!)
  • Tennessee prohibits the use of a lasso to catch fish

The above are just a sampling of the Looney Laws outlined in this book.

So have you ever run into any strange or outlandish laws you’d care to share?

Updated: March 6, 2017 — 4:02 pm

Wild West Words: Ladies’ Night

Kathleen Rice Adams: classic tales of the Old West...that never forget the power of love.March is Women’s History Month in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. (Canada celebrates Women’s History Month in October.) Setting aside a special month to celebrate women’s history always has struck me as a mite amusing, because without women there would be no human history.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Women’s History Month traces its origins to the original International Women’s Day, March 8, 1911. In 1980, Jimmy Carter, then President of the United States, expanded the recognition of women’s roles in society to a week. In 1987, the U.S. Congress declared all of March Women’s History Month, but they didn’t make the designation permanent. Each year since (until 2017), the President has proclaimed March Women’s History Month.

Regardless whether Women’s History Month continues in an official capacity or becomes an informal observance, there is no doubt women have changed the world in ways too numerous to mention. Most of us would rather be called “the fairer sex” than “the weaker sex” — but we’ll let men call us whatever (polite) term they desire, because we know who’s really in charge.  😉

Women in 19th Century America knew who was in charge, too. Perhaps nowhere was that more evident than in new vocabulary that entered the lexicon during the period. (How’s that for a segue?) Here are some of the more colorful terms.

Women with "safety bicycles," 1890s

Women with “safety bicycles,” 1890s

California widow: a woman whose husband is away from her for an extended period. Americanism; arose c. 1849 during the California Gold Rush.

Call girl: prostitute who makes appointments by phone; arose c. 1900. To call someone, meaning to use a phone for conversation, arose in 1889 along with the telephone.

Catty: devious and spiteful; c. 1886 from the previous “cattish.” The meaning “pertaining to cats” dates to 1902.

Cute: pretty, 1834 from American English student slang. Previously (1731), as a shortened form of acute, the word meant “clever.”

Drag: women’s clothing worn by a man. 1870s theater slang from the sensation of long skirts trailing on the floor.

A working girl of the late 1800s

A working girl of the late 1800s

Fancy woman: high-dollar whore or a kept woman; possibly from the 1751 use of “fancy” to mean “ornamental.”

Fast trick: loose woman. Of unknown origin, but possibly related to the 15th Century use of the noun “trick” to mean “trifles,” or pretty things with little value. By 1915, “trick” had come to mean a prostitute’s client.

Feathered out: dressed up.

Filly: a young, unmarried woman (literally, a young mare).

Frump, frumpy: cross, unstylish person; sour-looking, unfashionable. The noun arose c. 1817, possibly imitative of a derisive snort. The adverb followed c. 1825. The slang etymology is a bit obscure, although earlier uses of the noun frump meant “bad temper” (1660s) and “cross-tempered” (1746), both of which may have derived from the verb frump, which in the 1550s meant “to mock or browbeat.” All senses may have descended from the late-14th-Century verb frumple, “to wrinkle; crumple.”

Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young's 19th wife. She divorced him.

Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young’s 19th wife. She divorced him.

Grass widow: divorcee

Gyp: female dog; more polite form of “bitch.” American slang from about 1840 as a shortened form of gypsy, presumably in reference to stray dogs’ wandering nature. By 1889, gyp’s meaning had shifted to “cheat or swindle,” also based on gypsies’ perceived behavior.

High-strung: temperamental, excitable, nervous; c. 1848. Evidently based on earlier (1748) musical term referring to stringed instruments.

Hot flashes: in the menopausal sense, attested from 1887.

Hysteria: mental disorder characterized by volatile emotions and overly dramatic or attention-seeking behavior. When the word arose in 1801 (based on the Latin medical term hysteric), it was applied solely to women and often resulted in their confinement to an asylum. In 1866, clitoridectomy was proposed as a cure.

Lightskirt: woman of questionable virtue. American slang. Date unknown, but most likely from the notion loose women’s skirts lay over fewer petticoats than traditional skirts of the time and therefor were easier to raise.

Dolly Adams, exotic dancer in San Francisco, 1890s

Dolly Adams, exotic dancer in San Francisco, 1890s

Painted lady: any woman who wore obvious makeup, primarily entertainers and prostitutes. From the 1650s use of “paint” to mean makeup or rouge.

Scarlet woman, scarlet lady: prostitute. From the 13th Century use of scarlet to mean “red with shame.”

Soiled dove: prostitute; generally considered the kindest of such terms. Most likely a conflation of the 13th Century definition of “soil” (to defile or pollute with sin) and the Christian use of “dove” to indicate gentleness or deliverance.

Sporting house: brothel. Arose latter half of the 19th Century as a combination of “sporting” (early 1600s for “playful”) and “house.”

Sporting ladies, sporting women: prostitutes. Shortening and modification of 1640s “lady of pleasure” by substitution of early 1600s “sporting” (playful). Arose in America during the latter half of the 19th Century in conjunction with “sporting house.”

Vaulting house: brothel. Conflation of “vault,” meaning a vigorous leap (mid-15th Century), and “house.”

 

Save

Save

True Facts of the Old West

Though it’s hard to imagine the likes of Wyatt Earp or Bat Masterson bowling, this was actually a popular sport in the Old West.  According to True West magazine, one of the strangest bowling alleys was built in California in 1866. After felling a majestic Redwood, miners turned the flat, heavily-waxed surface into a bowling alley.

Speaking of sports, baseball was also a popular sport in the Old West. Even Wild Bill Hickok was a baseball fan and reportedly umpired a game wearing a pair of six-shooters.

We think of the old West as wild, but it pales in comparison to what’s going on in some cities today. From the 1850s to the 1890s, Texas held the title as the most gun-fighting state. But during that forty-year span, the state logged in only 160 shootouts.

The number of Old West bank robberies were also greatly exaggerated. During this same forty-year period, only eight bank robberies were recorded in the entire frontier. Today, yearly bank robberies number in the thousands.  California and Texas have the highest number of bank robberies. At long last, the west lives up to its reputation.

Some cowboys were real swingers. Yep, they even played golf.

It breaks my heart to say this, but some of the phrases associated with the Old West weren’t actually coined until the 1900s, which means I can’t use them in a book.  These include “Stick em up” and “hightail.”

The one thing outlaws feared was dying with their boots on.  To “die with your boots on” was a term that meant “to be hanged.”  Outlaws often pleaded with the sheriff to take their boots off so their mothers would never know the truth of how they died.

Before the days of GPS, it was the chuck wagon cook’s job to keep the cattle drives heading in the right direction. Before retiring, his last chore of the day was to place the tongue of the chuck wagon facing the North Star. This was so the trail master would know which direction to move the herd in the morning.

It might be hard to believe, but most cowboys didn’t carry guns while riding. Carrying a gun was a nuisance to the riders and firing it would scare cattle and horses.

Of the 45000 cowboys working during the heyday of cattle drives, some 5000 were African-American.

The tradition of spreading sawdust on saloon floors supposedly started in Deadwood, South Dakota. The sawdust was used to hide the gold dust that fell out of customer pockets, and was swept up at the end of the night.

So what Old West fact did you find most surprising or interesting?

 

 

There’s a new sheriff in town and she almost always gets her man!

A Match Made in Texas

Available for pre-order

Amazon

B&N

iTunes

 

Updated: February 23, 2017 — 6:54 am

Happy National Handbag Day!

WG Logo 2015-04

Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here. First an apology – I’m just off of a series of all nighters as I worked to meet my deadline on my latest work in progress (which I made by a hair) and then a weekend of fun at a family reunion. So this post will be a bit shorter than normal.

That being said, when I looked up Oct 10 on my National Day Of calendar, I noticed that in addition to it being Columbus Day this year, it is also National Handbag Day. So I thought it would be fun to share a little bit of handbag trivia with you and then share some pictures of some of my own handbags.

Handbag Fun Facts:

  • In the 15th century it was traditional for a bridegroom to give his bride a purse with embroidered pictures of love stories.
  • Shoulder bags first became popular during WW II
  • The 1923 Hermes Bolide Bag was the first handbag to feature a zipper
  • According to a 2008 study done in England, the average 30 year old woman owns 21 handbags and purchases a new one every 3 months
  • The average weight of a woman’s handbag is over 5 pounds.
  • A Japanese designer created a handbag in 2008 that is wort more than $2 million. It was crafted of platinum and decorated with over 2,000 diamonds.
  • This was topped in 2010 by the Mouawad 1001 Nights Diamond Purse, valued at almost $4 million

And as promised, here are a few of my favorite purses from my own collection. I’m a big fan of vintage so most of those pictured here were acquired from thrift shops or estate sales

purses-01

purses-03

purses-02

 

I also happen to be a Winnie The Pooh fan – here are two that reflect that, one was a gift from a good friend who knows me well, and the other was a spur of the moment purchase

purses-04

 

So what about you? Do you have a large collection of handbags or just a few? Do you tend toward the large or the small, the designer bags or more utilitarian?

Updated: October 9, 2016 — 11:44 pm

The Capitals of Texas

Kathleen Rice Adams, author

I spend a lot of time talking and writing about Texas history—all the people, places, and things that have made Texas a larger-than-life state. Every once in a while it’s interesting to reflect on what modern-day Texans have done with the legacy of ancestors who sacrificed, struggled, and bled .

Texas FlagIt’s true what they say, you know: “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” Texans take a great deal of pride in that statement, having been devoted to “big” since the state was an independent republic. From its admission to the Union in 1845 until someone exhibited extremely poor judgment and granted statehood to Alaska in 1959, Texas was the biggest U.S. state by far. Ever since that unfortunate dethroning, Texans have felt compelled to prove we can out-big the best of ’em by conspicuously displaying big houses, big vehicles, big fortunes, and big hair.

Sometimes, though, even Texans think this “big” thing has gotten out of hand. Take, for example, the list of Official State Capital Designations. Who in their right mind thinks any state needs sixty-nine official state capitals? Texas has seventy, actually, if one counts Austin.

Texas Bluebonnets

Texas Bluebonnets outside Ennis. (photo by Jeffrey Pang)

Austin, as it turns out, lies at the heart of the ridiculously big list. In 1981, probably in an effort to head off a county-line war, the legislature passed a joint resolution naming Burnet County and Llano County the Bluebonnet Co-capitals of Texas. The Bluebonnet City is Ennis, which is in neither county but probably got its feelings hurt because it does put on quite a show during bluebonnet season.

From there, the legislature got the bit in its teeth and went hog wild. The official representatives in the official Official State Capital in Austin went on a designating binge from which the state has yet to emerge.

Texas crape myrtle

Yes, crape myrtles are pretty. Evidently, they’re pretty enough to fight over in Texas. (photo by Atamari)

Evidently another botanical fight erupted in 1997, this one over crape myrtles. Waxahachie, Paris, and Lamar County all got a part of that designation, as Crape Myrtle Capital, Crape Myrtle City, and Crape Myrtle County, respectively. It should be noted that the Crape Myrtle City is in the Crape Myrtle County, about as far north and east as one can go in Texas. Why Waxahachie, which is south of Dallas, insisted on a piece of the action is anybody’s guess.

Wildflowers evidently caused yet another set-to, because the legislature named both the City of Temple and DeWitt County, about 162 miles apart, the Official Wildflower Capital of Texas. Both probably remain dismayed they have to share the honor.

Resistol Hat

“King George” Strait is a Resistol fan.

The legislature named Garland the Cowboy Hat Capital of Texas in 2013, which makes sense because that’s where Resistol Hats got their start. The designation Dinosaur Capital of Texas also makes sense for Glen Rose, since a plethora of dinosaur tracks—including some that had never been seen before—were discovered in the area at the turn of the 20th Century. But the Hippo Capital of Texas (Hutto)? The Jackrabbit-Roping Capital of Texas (Odessa)? Even Texans wonder who had gotten into the mescal when those ideas were trotted out.

Texas horned lizard

A Texas horny toad. Cute li’l feller, ain’t he? (photo by Steve Hillebrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Since the Official Texas State Reptile is the horned lizard—horny toad to Texans, and found only in our state—it’s only right the little critter have its own capital. The legislature went wild on this one, in 2001 designating Kenedy the Texas Horned Lizard Capital of the World. That may be justified, though, because Kenedy’s human population of about 3,000 is probably outnumbered by the reptiles.

Caldwell is the Kolache Capital of Texas, but the Official Kolache of the Texas Legislature resides 100 miles away in West. Yep—must’ve been another fight.

Quite a few of Texas’s Official Capitals are associated with food:

  • Texas crawfish

    In Texas, we call crawfish “crawdads.” They look like miniature lobsters, and they’re the only thing in Texas that looks miniature. (photo by Jon Sullivan)

    Elgin is the Sausage Capital.

  • Floydada is the Pumpkin Capital.
  • Friona is the Cheeseburger Capital.
  • Hawkins is the Pancake Capital.
  • Lockhart is the Barbecue Capital.
  • Madisonville is the Mushroom Capital.
  • Mansfield is the Pickle Capital.
  • Mauriceville is the Crawfish Capital.
  • Parker County is the Peach Capital.
  • Weslaco is the Citrus Capital.
  • West Tawakoni is the Catfish Capital.
  • Knox City is the Seedless Watermelon Capital. (There appears to be no Seeded Watermelon Capital, but I’m sure the legislature will remedy that oversight soon.)

In case anyone isn’t completely fed up by now with Texas’s determination to out-big everyone else (Sixty-nine official state capitals? Seriously?), the complete list of Texas Official State Capital Designations is here.

 

The Outlaw Kathleen Rice Adams Confesses

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Why do so many women named Kathleen become romance authors? They’re everywhere.

Filly Fun 2016Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Kathleen Kane, Kathleen O’Brien, Kathleen Baldwin, Kathleen Eagle, Kathleen Kellow, Kathleen Maxwell, Kathleen Bittner Roth, Kathleen M. Rodgers, Kathleen Ball, Kathleen Y’Barbo, Kathleen Winsor… They’re all somewhat celebrated, and some are still writing today.

Then there’s that other Kathleen—the one who finds humor in the most inappropriate places at the worst possible times. The Kathleen whose wardrobe consists primarily of egg on her face and the taste of shoe leather on her tongue. The Kathleen who encourages fictional characters to cuss and steal and murder and commit all manner of other dastardly deeds because they can get away with it and she can’t.

The troublemaking one. The one who reveres sarcasm as high art. The one who should be rich and famous by now if for no other reason than name association.

The Hideout

My current hideout. Forget you saw it.

To tell you the truth, I find it more satisfying to be poor and infamous—which is a good thing, since I’m a pro at both pursuits.

Here are a few more truths:

1)  I’m the eldest of four siblings: two girls and two boys. (Yes, four middle-aged hooligans with similar DNA remain at large. Be afraid.) Three of us are overachievers: My sister is a retired judge, the eldest of the boys is literally a rocket scientist, and the baby of the family is a computer systems engineer. And then there’s me.

2) My sister, brothers, and I played cowboys and Indians a lot when we were kids. I was always the outlaw. Why no one saw that as a warning remains a mystery.

3) I retired from the U.S. Air Force at the ripe old age of 22. No, I was not mustered out on a Section 8, although that would’ve surprised no one.

4) I still have my wisdom teeth, my appendix, and my tonsils. My mind, on the other hand, hasn’t been seen in years.

Hole in the Web Gang

The Hole in the Web Gang, clockwise from top left: Dog, age 12; Underdog, 7; Little Ol’ Biddy, 15; Mr. Ed, 4.

5) As a journalist, I’ve worked the scene of a major airline disaster, covered political scandals, written columns about poltergeist-infested commodes and human kindness, won awards…and found myself staring at the wrong end of a gun—twice. Thankfully, I’ve yet to be ventilated. (A more astute individual might have realized it’s unwise to antagonize crazy people.)

6) My author bio says I come from “a long line of ranchers, preachers, and teachers on one side and horse thieves and moonshiners on the other.” I did not make any of that up. Some of my relatives still ranch, preach, and teach. The horse thieves and moonshiners found other lines of work.

7) My paternal grandmother’s mother was American Indian. Grandma never knew what tribe; consequently, neither do I. In the late 1800s, Kentucky hillbillies considered marrying an Indian shameful, so no one talked about great-grandma’s heritage. My grandmother never met her mother’s relatives. (My dad, who as a child helped his father run moonshine, was the first in his family’s history to earn a college degree. He referred to himself as a “hillwilliam.”)

Peaches by Kathleen Rice Adams8) My short story “Peaches” was based on my maternal grandparents’ courtship. Granny, a young widow who taught in a one-room Texas schoolhouse and had her hands full with three rowdy boys, took a peach pie to a church social. The man who was to become my grandfather, a bachelor rancher in his 50s, won the accidentally over-seasoned pie at auction. He nearly choked to death on the first bite. His response? “I s’pose I ought to marry that little woman ‘fore she kills somebody.”

9) My house celebrated its 100th birthday last year. Compared to some of the other homes on Galveston Island, it’s a youg’un. The Capt. H.H. Hadley House (yes, it has a name) was completed in August 1915…two weeks before a deadly Category 4 hurricane struck. More than three dozen big blows later, it’s still standing.

The Dumont Brand by Kathleen Rice Adams10) Four Chihuahuas ranging in age from four to fifteen live in this house. Whatever they’ve told you about the intractability of their servant, don’t believe them. If they didn’t want to be deviled by a spoiled-rotten delinquent, they shouldn’t have rescued me.

There. Now you know all of my deep, dark secrets. Before you decide to pursue blackmail, read “The Ransom of Red Chief.”

To compensate for the loss of financial opportunity, I’ll give away a copy of The Dumont Brand, which contains the first two stories in a series about a Texas ranching dynasty with more skeletons in its closets than there are in a graveyard. “The Trouble with Honey,” a new story in the series, will be published this summer.

To enter the drawing, leave a comment revealing something about you. Oh, c’mon. It’ll be fun! Your life can’t be any more embarrassing than mine.  😉

 

Horseshoes and Superstitions

WG Logo 2015-04

Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I hope everyone is having a wonderful March so far.

Did you ever wonder where the superstitions around horseshoes as a good luck charm came from? I did, so I thought I’d do a little digging.

horseshoe-1Many people believe that the concept of a lucky horseshoe originated from a myth about a man named Dunstan and his encounter with the Devil in the tenth century AD. Dunstan was a blacksmith and when he was asked to re-shoe the Devil’s horse, he nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s hoof instead. This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after the Devil promised never again to enter a place where a horseshoe is hung over the door. Thus, hanging a horseshoe over your door is said to ward off the Devil. As a side note here, Dunstan the blacksmith eventually became the Archbishop of Canterbury and was later canonized to become Saint Dunstan.horseshoe-3

There are two different schools of thought among the superstitious about how to hang a horseshoe to ensure you receive the coveted good luck. Some believe that the charm should be hung in the upward or “U-shaped” position so that all of the luck can’t fall out.  Others believe just the opposite, that if it is hung in the downward position, it allows the luck to rain down on you. So take your pick. Or maybe hedge your bets and do both! 🙂

 

Did you know that, originally, horseshoes were affixed to the animal’s hoof with seven iron nails? That’s because seven was considered to be an extremely lucky number. And that’s why many of the horseshoe good-luck tokens today are made with seven “nail hole” impressions.

 

Of course, I’m not superstitious by nature and don’t set much store by good luck charms.  However, I do have a few tokens I carry with me, but these are sentimental in nature rather than based on the belief that they will bring me luck.

 

What about you? Do you have a good luck charm, a token of some sort, that you like to carry around?  Care to share?

Updated: March 7, 2016 — 10:01 pm

A Horse is a Horse: Breeds Common in the Old West

Kathleen Rice Adams headerIn the Old West, a horse was a horse, right? As long as it had four hooves and a modicum of “horse sense,” nobody really cared about its pedigree, did they?

Wild horses in Arizona

wild horses in Arizona (photo by John Harwood)

Yes and no. Just as in the modern world, folks used different horse breeds for different purposes—and a broader spectrum of horse breeds and purposes existed than most people realize.

Without considering draft horses, ponies, and mules (which are fodder for other posts), here are some of the more common horse breeds found west of the Mississippi River. This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination—just an accounting of the breeds most folks would have recognized.

 

American Quarter Horse mare

Mara, an American Quarter Horse mare (photo by Derrick Coetzee)

American Quarter Horse

A truly American breed, the Quarter Horse was essential to life on the frontier for very good reasons: They could do almost everything. Heavily muscled, hardy, and acutely intelligent, Quarter Horses were the horses that won the West.

Steel Dust, the first recognized Quarter Horse, was foaled in Kentucky from stock developed in the Colonies by crossing English stock with animals left behind by the Spanish conquistadors. After his arrival in Texas in 1844, the breed came into its own. Originally called “Steeldusts,” the horses quickly became a favorite of Texas ranchers, who admired their “cow sense,” calm disposition, and the short-coupled bodies that made them maneuverable in a variety of terrain. Found in every remuda and pasture from the southern tip of Texas to Canada and from the East Coast to California, the horses worked cattle, broke sod, pulled wagons and buggies…and raced. Racing was as common in the old west as cattle drives and quilting bees. Quarter Horses came by their enduring breed name because on a straight, level quarter-mile track, they can outrun any other horse on the planet—including Thoroughbreds.

American Saddlebred yearling horses

American Saddlebred yearlings (photo by Heather Moreton)

American Saddlebred

A cross between the now-extinct Narragansett Pacer and Thoroughbreds, American Saddlebreds were common by the time of the American Revolution, when they were called simply American horses. Tall and graceful like Thoroughbreds, they also exhibited the Pacer’s easy-to-ride gait. Known as Kentucky Saddlers by the early 1800s, owners and breeders prized the animals for their beauty, pleasant temperament, eagerness, strength, and stamina. Although used in the West primarily to pull carriages and provide snazzy mounts for the wealthy, they also did their share of hard work on ranches and farms.

Nez-Perce men with Appaloosa horse

Nez-Perce men with an Appaloosa, 1895

Appaloosa

The Appaloosa arose among the Nez-Perce Indians of the Pacific Northwest. The Nez-Perce were skilled horse breeders, and by selecting the best animals from among the wild herds, they produced equines especially suited to war and hunting. The horses were practical, hardy, and versatile with the additional advantages of tractability, good sense, and almost endless stamina.

Unfortunately, the color pattern that made the horses distinctive also led to the downfall of their creators. To escape continuously broken treaties and the U.S. government’s Indian extermination policies, the Nez-Perce headed for Canada under relentless pursuit, only to surrender several miles from the border when starvation and ceaseless battle prevented their continued flight. The government confiscated their horses—a symbol of the people—and sold them to local settlers, hunting and killing the animals that got away. Today, the annual Chief Joseph ride, open only to Appaloosas, travels the last 100 miles of the Nez-Perce trail marking the battles of Chief Joseph’s band with the U.S. Cavalry nearly 140 years ago.

Arabian horse

Mirage, an Arabian stallion (photo by Trescastillos)

Arabian

Prior to the first Arabian’s arrival in the U.S. as a gift to President George Washington, the world’s oldest true breed enjoyed a long and storied history as prized mounts of royalty and European war horses. In 1877, the Sultan of Turkey presented a pair of stallions to General Ulysses S. Grant, who bred them to Arabian mares imported from England. Celebrated for their beauty, intelligence, loyalty, and stamina, a few were used as cavalry mounts in the Civil War but the majority saw lives of leisure among the wealthy in the Old West.

Missouri Fox Trotter Horse

Quick Trigger, a Missouri Fox Trotter (photo by Kayla Oakes)

Missouri Fox Trotter

Developed around 1821 in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and Missouri, the Fox Trotting Horse comprised a mixture of Morgan, Thoroughbred, and Arabian bloodlines. The horses excelled at plowing, hauling logs, and working cattle in the rugged, rocky terrain. After adding Tennessee Walker and Standardbred blood, the horses became known as Missouri Fox Trotters and went West as stylish buggy and riding horses. Because of the breed’s ability to travel long distances at a speed of five to eight miles an hour, Missouri Fox Trotters quickly became a favorite of sheriffs and marshals, country doctors, and others who needed a quick, comfortable ride.

Known for their surefootedness, sweet nature, and comfortable seat, today Missouri Fox Trotters are the horse of choice for the National Park Service.

Morgan horse

Morgan colt (photo by Laura Behning)

Morgan

America’s first recognized horse breed descended from a two-year-old stallion of unknown ancestry acquired by a teacher in 1791 as settlement of a debt. The horse famously passed along his extraordinary traits, including sweet disposition, cobby and well-muscled body, and hardiness. Morgans were official cavalry mounts on both sides during the American Civil War. Confederate General Stonewall Jackson and Union General Philip Sheridan both rode Morgans they personally owned.

Both before and after the war, Morgans served as draft horses, stock horses, and speedy, durable mounts, playing roles on farms and ranches, among the miners during the California Gold Rush, as favored mounts of the Pony Express, and racing horses. Morgan blood heavily influenced the development of Quarter Horses in Texas. Although the breed almost died out in the 1870s, a few diligent breeders revived the bloodlines that continue today.

Mustang horses in Nevada

Mustangs in Nevada (Bureau of Land Management photo)

Mustang

America’s feral horses are living history and an enduring reminder of the country’s Wild West past. Descended from escaped and abandoned horses brought to the New World by the Spanish in the 1500s, Mustangs claim Barb, Sorraia, and Andalusian blood, along with traits inherited from all other American breeds. “Hot” horses (meaning they love to run), their intelligence and intuition made them notoriously difficult to catch, contain, and tame, but once domesticated, Mustangs became strong, loyal, reliable, and sturdy mounts and draft animals, performing all sorts of tasks in the American West.

In 1900, approximately 2 million Mustangs roamed 17 western states; by 1970, thanks to an extermination program undertaken by stockmen who considered the wild horses a threat to their range and purebred herds, fewer than 17,000 remained. The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 protects the animals now. Under the auspices of the Bureau of Land Management, herds thrive on open rangeland in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, and several other western states. Without natural predators, herds can double in four years, so the BLM periodically conducts roundups and places the detainees up for adoption. Those not adopted are re-released. (The BLM program is controversial and way beyond the scope of this post.)

Paint Horse

Paints, also called pintos during the period, were favored by the Comanche Indians not only for their speed and endurance, but also because their “loud” color patterns gave the horses and their riders “magic” in battle. Reportedly brought to the New World by Hernando Cortés, the first “horses with white splotches” appeared on the American continent in 1519. Some escaped, others were left behind when the explorers returned to Spain, but eventually the animals interbred with other wild horses and produced entire herds with paint markings.

Similar to American Quarter Horses in body type, appearance, and versatility, modern Paints also are considered quintessential stock and rodeo horses.

Rocky Mountain Horse

Rocky Mountain Horse (photo by Heather Moreton)

Rocky Mountain Horse

Somewhat of a latecomer, the Rocky Mountain horse originated in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. Largely a secret outside that area until about 1880, the horses were surefooted, easy-gaited, and versatile. In the Old West, postmen, doctors, and traveling preachers favored the horses. Because the breed also is strong and tough, Rocky Mountain Horses were used to plow fields, herd cattle, and pull buggies and wagons.

Tennessee Walking Horse

Tennessee Walking Horse (photo by Jean)

Tennessee Walking Horse

Known today primarily for its “running walk” gait and flashy, high-stepping movement, the original Tennessee Walking Horses were developed in the American South for use on plantations in all sorts of capacities. The breed’s ancestors include Narrgansett Pacers, Canadian Pacers, and Spanish Mustangs from Texas. Today’s breed arose in the late 1800s after interbreeding with Morgan stock.

Primarily a pleasure-riding horse for well-to-do city dwellers, a few Tennessee Walkers were employed by Old West doctors and others who required a mount that wouldn’t jar all their bones loose during lengthy trips.

Canadian Horse

Canadian Horse (photo: Rare Breeds Canada)

Canadian Horse

One last breed deserves mention, not because people would have encountered it in the Old West, but because it contributed a great deal to other breeds. Descended from draft and riding horses imported to Canada in the late 1600s, the Canadian Horse became popular in the American Northeast during the late 1700s. Due to massive exportation to the U.S. and Caribbean, along with extensive and often fatal service during the American Civil War, the breed nearly became extinct in the mid-19th Century. In the mid-20th Century, a group of dedicated breeders began a repopulation program, but the horse remains a rare breed.

 

 

Are you especially fond of a particular horse breed? Which one? Why? Share with us in the comments, and you just might win a KINDLE copy of the four-novel boxed set A Cowboy’s Touch. The set includes Cheryl Pierson’s The Half-Breed’s Woman, Livia J. Washburn’s Spirit Catcher, Kit Prate’s Wild Texas Winds, and Kathleen Rice Adams’s Prodigal Gun. (All Petticoats and Pistols sweepstakes rules apply to this giveaway.)

 

Jane Porter: The Cowboys of Cholame Valley

IMG_3768When I first submitted my cowboy romances to Harlequin—back in the early 1990’s—I was told that my setting of a California ranch wouldn’t work, that California was not known for its cowboys and ranchers.

This was news to me. I’d grown up in Central California and my high school was a school with a strong Ag program. One of my best friends lived on her family’s ranch twenty minutes outside town. Everyone I knew drove a truck of some sort and half the football team had little cans of SKOAL in the back pocket of their Wranglers.

And then there was the family ranch. My grandfather’s ranch.

This last Fall I shared that my Texas grandfather, William M Lyles, once had three cattle ranches in California, his favorite being the Lazy L Ranch in Parkfield, California.

Just where is Parkfield?

IMG_3626It’s in the middle of the Central California, 40 miles east of Paso Robles. The land is beautiful—rolling hills, gold fields and green pastures, ancient oak trees, cattle, wildlife.

My grandfather died in 1965 in a ranching accident on the Parkfield property when I was just a year old.

In fact, the picture of me in a red romper as an 11 month old with my brother Thom on Dixie, was one of the last times I was with him. We were all at the ranch and Grandpa had put his four grandkids on Dixie for the picture, but the saddle slipped and we all went down. There was much crying following the fall, but Grandpa wouldn’t have any of it. He told my mom to put us back on the horse and that’s what she did (to be fair, she doesn’t look very happy in the pic, either) but Grandpa was tough, and we were raised to be tough, too.

Baby Jane on Dixie

Baby Jane on Dixie

After he died, my grandmother sold the other two ranches but kept the Lazy L and continued to run grandpa’s Black Angus cattle until later she leased the grazing rights to a neighbor. We always spent a lot of time on the ranch. Some families would visit Pismo Beach or even exotic Hawaii, but we went to the ranch, visiting every year for the entire Easter week.

Kat, Jane Rob on Sunny

Jane with sister Kat and brother Rob on Sunny

Growing up the population of Parkfield was small. Really small. 21 People. Imagine my shock when as an adult I discovered it had shrunk to 18.   Not a bustling place, unless you happen to be in Parkfield for its annual Bluegrass Festival or the Memorial Day weekend rodeo.

Cooling off in Horse Trough

Cooling off in Horse Trough

Jane Rob on Unbroken Horse

Jane with brother Rob and Mom

Today Parkfield’s population might be smaller than when I was growing up in the 70’s, but our neighbors in Cholame Valley, the owners of the big V-6 ranch, have turned Parkfield into a very appealing western destination with activities for the whole family year round.   Interested in a stay on a dude ranch? Feel like participating in a cattle drive or attending a rodeo? Check out some of the activites in charming little Parkfield http://www.parkfield.com.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 10.28.44 PM

IMG_3753

Son Jake at the San Andrea fault

I only knew a couple things about our ranch when I was growing up. The turnoff for our ranch is where James Dean crashed his car and died. At twilight you’d go driving and see deer everywhere. And then there was the little fact that Parkfield is the self-proclaimed “earthquake capital of the world.”Where-the-old-west-still-hangs-around

It wasn’t until I read WHERE THE OLD WEST STILL HANGS AROUND last year that I discovered there is a lot more to Parkfield’s history than earthquakes and cattle. Robert Flood grew up in Parkfield and writes of a California few people know. My favorite stories were those set in and around Parkfield, including the influence of the Jack Ranch and the William Hearst families, as well as the outlaws who spent time in Cholame Valley: Jesse James and the Dalton gang.

The only outlaws causing trouble in the rolling hills around Parkfield now are probably my boys when I take them for a long weekend to spend time in our little ranch house. There isn’t a lot to do at the Lazy L but relax, build puzzles, ride horses, go out looking for deer at dusk, and then drive another ten miles to the Parkfield Café for some great beef brisket and BBQ.

IMG_3625

Son Mac and his first ride at the ranch

Have you spent time on a ranch?  Leave a comment for a chance to win a $15 giftcard from Amazon!  Contest ends Friday with winner announced on Saturday!

PS  There is a funny story about one of the pictures above.  Did you see the picture of me sitting on a dark brown horse with my little brother Rob?  In the photo, my mom is holding the lead.   You see, my mom is a very determined woman.  There is nothing she can’t do once she puts her mind to it, and whenever we visited the ranch, she’d chase down the horses, saddle them, help us ride…in general, she was pretty confident that she could handle her kids, and the horses.   My mom had so much confidence that one Easter when we reached the ranch, the horses weren’t in the corral by the ranch house, but below the cattle crossing guard in a lower pasture.  Mom marched down to the lower pasture and  spent considerable time cornering a most unwilling dark brown horse, but she did it.  She got a lead on him, then bridled him, and saddled him, too.  And then finally, she put my toddler brother and me on “Sunny’s” back.  The horse was not happy.  He was really unhappy.  But my mom wasn’t having it, determined to show us kids how it was done.  We had just finished taking the picture you see above when the neighbor came careening up the road in his truck, all upset because that wasn’t Sunny.  That wasn’t our horse at all, but a wild horse that wasn’t yet broken.  He couldn’t believe Mom had got a bridle and saddle on him.  Personally, I wasn’t that surprised.  My mom is a woman who knows how to get things done.  Thanks, Mom, for teaching me that anything is possible! 

 

 

Updated: January 5, 2016 — 2:41 am

Gingerbread History and Fun Facts

WG Logo 2015-04

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. As I mentioned in my post last month, I have a new book out right now, The Holiday Courtship. In one of the scenes in the book, my heroine and several other characters are constructing and decorating gingerbread houses. So for today’s post I thought I’d share a little history and trivia surrounding gingerbread and gingerbread creations.

  • In ancient times, Greeks and Egyptians utilized gingerbread for various ceremonial purposes.
  • Gingerbread is thought to have been brought to Europe from the East in the late 10th century by a monk for medicinal purposes.  He promoted its use to treat indigestion and other stomach ailments. For a time, monks were the only people in Europe who made gingerbread, and they often created them in the shapes of saints and angels.
    medieval
  • Responsibility for the first gingerbread men has been credited to Queen Elizabeth I. In preparation for a state event, she had her bakers shape them to resemble visiting dignitaries and then she  presented the treat to them as gifts.
  • Gingerbread houses became overwhelmingly popular in Germany in the 19th century as a direct result of the Brothers Grimm publishing the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. In fact, it was the early German settlers who brought this tradition to America.house

 

  • The hallmark of a true gingerbread is not only that ginger is the dominant flavor, but it must use either honey or molasses as the sweetener. Other than that, there is no one standard recipe for gingerbread.  In fact, according to one statistic, if you search Google for gingerbread cookie recipe, you will find over a million versions.
  • There is a town in Norway, where every year the citizens create an entire city made from gingerbread houses .
  • The world’s largest gingerbread house was constructed in 2001 and stood approximately 67 feet high. It utilized 1,800 Hershey bars, 1,200 feet of Twizzlers, 100 pounds of tootsie rolls, and thousands of other pieces of candy as decorations. The construction took nine days to complete and it and was housed at the Mall of America in Minnesota.
  • There are a number of superstitions involving gingerbread. Here are just a couple of them:
    • Swedish tradition says that if you put the gingerbread in your palm, make a wish and then break the gingerbread with your other hand, if it breaks into exactly three pieces, then the wish will come true.
    • In England, single women have been known to eat gingerbread “husbands”, hoping it will bring them luck in meeting their future spouse.

man

There you have it, just a little of the history and lore surrounding this yummy treat.

So do you like gingerbread? Do you have any hands-on experience constructing gingerbread houses or making gingerbread men?

Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for a copy of my new book or any book from my backlist.

20 THC smallTHE HOLIDAY COURTSHIP

He Wanted A Wife by Christmas… 

As Christmas approaches, Hank Chandler is determined to find a wife to mother his sister’s orphaned children. When schoolteacher Janell Whitman offers to help him with his niece and nephew, she seems to be the perfect match—but she won’t accept his proposal. Instead, she insists she’ll find him another bride before the holidays. 

Janell moved to Turnabout, Texas, to put her past behind her and focus on her future—one that doesn’t include marriage. But while she plays matchmaker and cares for Hank’s children, she loses her heart to the two youngsters…and their adoptive father. If Janell reveals her secrets to Hank, will he still want her to be his Christmas bride?

 

 

Updated: December 7, 2015 — 1:54 am
Petticoats & Pistols © 2015