Category: Wildlife

My Southwestern Vacation

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

I’ve just recently returned from a week long family vacation to Arizona where we had an absolute blast.  There were twelve members in our group, though we didn’t all travel together. Me, my husband and two of our kids flew together into Flagstaff.  My oldest daughter and her husband flew into with plans to drive to the Grand Canyon from there.  And my youngest daughter and her extended family (a group of 6) decided to drive and make several stops along the way.  All through the week our groups came together in a very fluid way, different combinations breaking off on different days to do things of particular interest to them. But by mid-week we were all together at Bright Angel Lodge on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon.  For about half the group it was their first time to view this awesome wonder in person and they were blown away by the views.  For the rest of us, revisiting the place had almost as big an impact as seeing it for the first time.

Anyway, I thought I’d give you all a little taste of what we experienced by sharing just some of the many pictures we took.

Flagstaff was our home base for this trip. Our first full day there, we took the scenic drive from Flagstaff to Sedona, stopping at several points along the way to admire the scenery and take pictures.

When we returned to Flagstaff we decided to take a trip out to the nearby Lowell Observatory. We were lucky in that there was a cloudless sky and we were able to get clear views of the sun, moon, Saturn and  Jupiter through the many telescopes they had set out.  Seeing the actual rings of Saturn as well as the pencil dot moons was VERY cool.

The next day we all headed out to the Grand Canyon Notional Park.  Six of us decided to take the two hour train ride out of nearby Williams to get there. Williams is a fun place right on Route 66. They are set up to entertain tourists and there are fun little Wild West shows at the train station you can watch while waiting on departure time.  The train ride itself was fun (it was my first time on a train) and as you can see from the photo below it was quite comfy 🙂

We spent two days at the park itself, staying in cabins at the wonderful Bright Angel Lodge which is located right on the south rim itself.

Our first day there we  just enjoyed the area around the lodge and got the lay of the land. Our second day, we all headed in different directions.  Four of our group decided to hike down into the canyon along the Bright Angel Trail (it goes without saying I wasn’t one of their number!).

The rest of us went on various exploration trips. Hubby and I saw both the Desert View Watchtower and Hermit’s Rest, two structures designed in the early twentieth century by Mary Colter, one of the few females architects of her time.

We also stopped at a lot of the viewing sights along the way. At one particular spot hubby spotted a rock formation that resembled a human profile. I took a photo of it – can you make it out? We also spotted several elk along the roadside and folks in our group managed to get photos of two of them.

After two days at the Grand Canyon, we headed out, again splitting into two groups, those that were driving the whole way started home, the rest of us headed back to Flagstaff. Along the way, though, we visited a wildlife park called Bearizona.  There were lots of different kinds of animals there – mountain goats, buffalo, wolves and more – but my favorites were the bears. And we got photos of two especially enterprising ones that found a way to cool off.

Our last day out we revisited Sedona for a jeep tour of the area.  It was a teeth-rattling bumpy ride but so worth it for the views.  Here is a picture our driver took of the four of us.

When we returned to Flagstaff we decided to cap off our vacation with a trip to the Snowbowl. It’s a ski lift that operates in the off season to take tourists up to the top of the peak. It’s a thirty minute ride that carries you up to an ear-popping elevation of 11,500 feet.

And then it was time to head home.

As I said it was a wonderful vacation, one that will make me smile whenever I remember it.

What about you? Have you ever visited this part of our country? And do you have a favorite vacation you look back on fondly?

 

 

 

Honey Bees and The Westward Expansion (Again)

WG Logo 2015-04

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I’m currently bogged down trying to whittle away at a massive to-do list so I hope you’ll forgive me for recycling an older article, one I originally posted about 5 years ago. I drafted this one right before my book The Proper Wife released because it tied to a scene in that book.

Hope you enjoy the revisit!

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This book (The Proper Wife) was a lot of fun to write – the characters of Eli and Sadie were such seeming opposites that getting them to their Happily-ever-after took quite some doing.

One of the scenes in this book hinged on Sadie deciding she needed to harvest honey from a beehive whose location was a carefully guarded secret.  Since I had no experience with or knowledge of bees and honey gathering, especially from a nineteenth century perspective, this meant I had to dig in and do a bit of research.  And, as usual, my research took me down an unexpected but fascinating trail.

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One of the intriguing little tidbits I stumbled across was that, while there are many species of bees that are indigenous to the Americas, honey bees are not.  This took me completely by surprise – I’d always assumed they were a native species.  It is not known exactly when they first arrived here, but it is certain they came over with the early colonists as they were considered essential for both the wax and honey they produced.  Honey bee hives were mentioned in journals and shipping records as early as 1622.  However, it would take another 231 years for these highly prized insects to reach the west coast.

One could actually say that the journey of the honeybee across America mirrored that of the settlers.  They faced some of the same barriers – disease, harsh climates, predators, resource competitors, and geographical roadblocks – that hindered their advance.  But the human and apian settlers had a very symbiotic relationship during this westward push.  The honey bees not only provided honey and wax for the settlers, they often arrived in advance and helped to spread the white clover and other European grasses that the imported livestock favored.  In return, the humans planted countless acres of land with crops that were favorable to honey bee populations, built hives, and more importantly transported them over terrains such as treeless plains and mountain ranges that would have been difficult for the honey bees to cross on their own.

In fact, it is doubtful the honey bees could have crossed the Rocky Mountains without the help of humans.  Some settlers transported hives during their own overland travels, others had them shipped around the horn of South America.  But it was no easy task.  There is a story that tells of an 1846 attempt to bring honey bees to Oregon.  A settler who was planning a trip using the Applegate Trail was offered $500 to deliver a hive of live honey bees.  The tale goes that he loaded up two hives just to make certain he arrived with at least one intact.  Unfortunately all the bees in both hives perished of cold and disease before they made it across the mountains.

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It is reported that the first honey bees arrived in California in 1853.  These originated when 12 hives were purchased in Panama, transported across the Isthmus and then sent via ship to San Francisco.  Only one hive survived the trip but once there it flourished and eventually produced a number of swarms.

Of course, none of this history played a part in my  book.  The bee harvesting scene is quite short (but pivotal) and I really just needed to find out what a rustic hive might have looked like in the late nineteenth century and how one would go about collecting the honey.

How about you folks out there?  Any of you have experience with honey bees, either in the wild or in a man-made hive? If not, just let me know your favorite way to use honey (mine is in tea!)

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And because I cheated a bit and recycled an older post, I’m going to make it up to you all with a giveaway. I’m going to select one name from all of those who answer the above question by noon tomorrow and that person can have their choice of any book from my backlist. Just check back to discover the name of the winner.

Updated: June 7, 2016 — 12:44 am

The Legend of the Geese

Phyliss sig horse and sunset

Sometimes I like to veer from my regular format for a blog. Today is one of those days. Since many of the P&P followers are writers, thus business folks just like our regular readers, I thought I’d share with you the legend of the Geese flying in the “V” formation. Whether you are writing, in a office setting, a Scout leader or the monarch of the family you have to work together. I believe this is just a great example of what we can learn from nature.

 

I certainly want to thank Grace Ford for sharing this wisdom from our feathered friends about the importance of good team work.

I. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for others behind him. This is 71 percent more flying range in V-Flying Geeseformation than flying alone. People who share a common direction and sense of common purpose can get there quicker.

II. Whenever a goose flies out of formation, it quickly feels the drag and tries to get back in position. It’s harder to do something alone than together.

III. When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies at the head. Shared leadership and interdependence give us each a chance to lead as well as opportunities to rest.

IV. The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. We need to make sure our honking is encouraging and not discouraging.

V.  When a goose gets sick or wounded and falls, two geese fall out and stay with it until it revives or dies.  Stand by your colleagues in difficult times as well as in good.

Geese 2Now, wouldn’t it be wonderful if every group who worked together lived by the lesson of the geese?

My question to you all is simply have you ever used a lesson of nature to help you through your life’s path or an others?

 

Out of the Texas NightHere’s a sneak preview of the cover of my newest book in the Kasota Springs Series Out of a Texas Night which will be out late this summer or early fall.

To one lucky winner today who leaves a comment, I will give you an eBook of the  first Kasota Springs Romance series, The Troubled Texan.

The Troubled Texan Good

Updated: May 18, 2015 — 8:22 pm

Rue Allyn: The Spirit inside ONE NIGHT’S DESIRE

one nightLadies thank you very much for having me back to visit at Pistols and Petticoats. On my last visit I wrote about what traits define a book as being a western historical romance. Today, I want to discuss the spirit inside my newest book One Night’s Desire.

Since One Night’s Desire is a romance a huge claim could be made that the spirit of the book is love. However, there’s more to this book than romance. The words of Chief Ranger Don Sholly, speaking about Yellowstone National Park as a resource also define the spirit of One Night’s Desire. Ranger Sholly said, “The resource is not twenty thousand elk, or a million lodgpole pines, or a grizzly bear. The resource is wildness. The interplay of all the parts of the wilderness. . . .” I would paraphrase that the spirit of One Night’s Desire is not the love that grows between Ev and Kiera, nor the fires, trials, and plots that endanger and unite them, nor the time period, nor the western setting, the spirit of One Night’s Desire is wildness. A union of all the parts of the story that creates an intensity so special no limits can contain it. Hundreds of examples of this wildness exist in the novel but none illustrates my point better than the wolves. The pair of wolves appears only briefly in the story but the appearances are pivotal. They appear at the moment when Ev and Kiera first make love. The pair appears again at the moment of greatest shared danger when it looks like Ev and Kiera won’t survive a forest fire. The pair appears once more when Kiera is forced to leave a badly injured Ev in order to save another life.

Why wolves? A number of reasons, beginning with the fact that these animals are true representations of the wild—you don’t tame wolves. They do mate for life. ”These creatures do mate for life in the social sense of living together in pairs but they rarely stay strictly faithful.”* Most important for One Night’s Desire the wolf is regarded by the Shoshone (who are Kiera’s friends) as very wise. Thus the wolf is a significant representation of the wild spirit embodied in One Night’s Desire.

Here are some interesting Wolf factoids drawn from the Yellowstone Trivia book:

Wolves once had the widest distribution of any land mammal in North America.

Wolves were completely absent from Yellowstone for 70 years until they were re-introduced in 1995.

Coyotes howl more than Wolves.

Wolves do not howl at the moon. They howl to attract a mate and they never howl while hunting.

*http://www.wonderquest.com/animal-mate-for-life.htm

 

Two Chances to Win a Free E-Download of One Night’s Desire.

Leave a comment here about this post, wolves, the national parks, or any topic you prefer AND/OR 

Leave a review of one of my currently available books at Amazon. Just check my author page for book details

I’ll be collecting entries throughout the entire One Night’s Desire release tour (June 13 – July 29—find the schedule of appearances at http://rueallyn.com/4News.html). The winner will be announced July 31st on my blog http://rueallynauthorblog.com/.

If you’d like to know more about One Night’s Desire here’s the blurb followed by a link to an excerpt.

A WOMAN ON THE RUN: Rustlers, claim jumpers and fire, nothing will stop Kiera Alden from reuniting her family.  But an accusation of murder threatens her dreams and sets Marshall Evrett Quinn on her trail.  She may be able to escape prison bars and eventually prove her innocence, but she can’t escape Quinn’s love.

A LAWMAN IN HOT PURSUIT:  Marshall Evrett Quinn is relentless in pursuit of law-breakers, and pretty Kiera Alden is no exception.  Clever and courageous, she evades him until a chance encounter turns the tables.  Finally he has this elusive desperado under arrest, but success is bittersweet when she captures his heart.

EXCERPT LINK: http://rueallyn.com/2c2ONDexcerpt.html

BUY LINKS: One Night’s Desire and its sister book One Moment’s Pleasure are heavily discounted at Amazon for the entire month of July

ABOUT RUE: Author of historical, contemporary, and erotic romances, Rue Allyn fell in love with happily ever after the day she heard her first story. She is deliriously married to her sweetheart of many years and loves to hear from readers about their favorite books and real life adventures.  Learn more about Rue and her books at http://RueAllyn.com

FB: http://www.facebook.com/RueAllynAuthor?fref=ts

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/RueAllyn

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5031290.Rue_Allyn

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Rue-Allyn/e/B00AUBF3NI/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Blog:  http://rueallynauthorblog.com/

 

 

 

Updated: July 20, 2013 — 12:39 am

For Love of the Wolf

 

Wolves have always played a fascinating roll in western novels.  There is a mystique about the animals that stems as much from misinformation as information. This week I visited the St. Francis Wolf Sanctuary in Montgomery, Texas. It is less than a twenty minute drive from my house, but I felt as if I were a world away.

 

We parked at the end of a country road and then walked up a gravel path to the place where the mostly rescued animals were held. While caged, they were being tended by a host of volunteers who were also petting and playing with the animals as one would a familiar pet. My fourteen-year-old grandson was with me and he was quickly as intrigued by the animals as I.

 

The first woman we met was Reverend Jean LeFevre, the founder and the heart behind the sanctuary. As she told us a little about herself and the animals, we could feel her love for them. She has truly led a fascinating life. One of the things she didn’t tell us but which I read on the website explained a lot about her knowledge and respect for the wolves.

 

“My first hands-on experience with a wolf was White Tornado, in 1976. She was a white wolf living with Grandmother Twylah Nitsch of the Seneca -Wolf Clan- Iroquois Nation, my friend, and a mentor who has blessed my life. White Tornado was an amazing animal, full of energy and love. She showed me the gentleness of her kind and the love and spiritual learning that they can give to us. I have always been fascinated with the Indian lore of the Wolf and their mysticism and feel myself privileged to be able to experience it first hand.”

 

http://www.wolvesofsaintfrancis.org/founder-saint-francis-wolves.htm

 

 

 

While we were at the site, two volunteer handlers who obviously loved the wolfdogs (a mix of wolf and dog) had us sit still while they led the wolf dogs past us so that they could get used to our smell. Then we were allowed to pet the wolves that seemed to love the attention.  It was easy to tell from the feel of the coats which ones were predominantly wolf. Their hair was sticky, almost scratchy.

 

The mission of the sanctuary as stated on their website is: “Saint Francis Wolf Sanctuary (SFWS) is dedicated to the care of rescued, non-releasable wolves and wolfdogs. We do not breed, buy, sell, or trade them. They have often been rescued from dire circumstances. Many have suffered much at the hands of humans; others were simply discarded by their caretakers. We believe they deserve a stable home for the rest of their natural lives, with an abundance of loving and compassionate care.”

 

They also help educate the public and try to dispel the myths about wolves.  To learn more about the sanctuary, visit their website at http://wolvesofsaintfrancis.org/

 

 

 

And don’t forget that Trumped Up Charges is on the shelves now. When a mother’s love meets a father’s instinct. Read an excerpt at:

http://www.amazon.com/Trumped-Up-Charges-Harlequin-Intrigue/dp/0373696930/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1371442848&sr=1-1&keywords=trumped+up+charges+by+joanna+wayne

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wildflowers of Texas

When most people think about wildflowers of Texas they immediately go to our beautiful state flower the bluebonnet; which I must agree are absolutely one of the most beautiful wildflowers that exist.  But they don’t grow wild or even from seed very well in all parts of the state. You’ll find them in early spring in fields and along the roadsides through central and south Texas and are in abundance in the Hill Country around San Antonio. They were named for their color and resemblance of their petals to a woman’s sunbonnet. Of interest, it is against the state law for any state employee or contractor to mow down any wildflower when they are in bloom. 

Where I live in the Texas Panhandle which is also referred to as the High Plains because we’re up on “the caprock” you don’t see the bluebonnet other than in well maintained private gardens.  But we have some very beautiful wildflowers that are conducive to our weather and soil. 

The beautiful and impressive Indian blanket grows along roadsides and in pastures, covering large areas, sometimes up to forty acres or more, like the bluebonnet.  They are also good garden flowers.  Each has ten to twenty ray flowers, sometimes all red but usually marked with brilliant yellow on the ends of the rays, forming a band along the outside.  The disk, or center, is brownish.  

In West Texas they have Gyp Indian Blanket, which although they share a similar name, they are totally different.  I get them confused easily.  The Gyp Indian Blanket stands very tall at twelve to eighteen inches, has bare flower stems with leaves at the base of the plant.  The ray flowers are yellow and deeply cut into three lobes.  They have a large brown center that remains once the ray flowers fall off making it very striking in appearance. 

The yucca of the agava family, also known as Spanish dagger, flourishes over much of Texas, but is more common in our area.  It attains heights of eighteen feet or more.  A huge mass of white blossoms appears in spring and sometimes after the fall rains.  When I was in grade school, one of my favorite things to do was to draw dried yucca pods in art class.  When the blooms fall the heads turn to some of the most beautiful hues of browns, oranges, and sometimes they are tinged with purples and reds.

Last year was one of the biggest invasions of moths that we’ve had in years.  Thanks to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, I can share with you how the yucca was involved with the huge crop of moths; sometimes we call them miller bugs.

Yuccas are a wonderful illustration of how interconnected everything in nature is. Each species of yucca has a specific species of moth that pollinates it. Each depends on the other. The yucca depends on the moth to pollinate it, and the month depends on the yucca to provide food and shelter for its young.  Neither would survive without the other.

After being fertilized by the male, a female yucca moth spends her life making sure there will be enough food for her young.  When the yucca flowers open in the evening, she gathers pollen and rolls it into a ball. She lays her eggs on the pistil of the flower and rubs the pollen on the stigma. In this way, the yucca flower is pollinated and the moth makes sure that her young will have seeds to feed on when they hatch. After repeating this process several times, the yucca moth dies.

Seeds and moth larvae develop together in the ovary of the yucca flower, with the moth caterpillars eating the seeds. Since there are only two or three yucca moth caterpillars in each ovary and hundreds of seeds, there are enough seeds to feed the caterpillars and produce yucca offspring. When it is ready to form a chrysalis, the yucca caterpillar chews its way through the ovary, crawls through the hole and lowers itself to the ground on a thread it spins itself. Once on the ground, the caterpillar burrows into the soil, completes its metamorphosis, and emerges as an adult moth the following year as the yuccas begin to bloom. And, the cycle begins again. Since we had an invasion of moths last year, this circle of life seems very interesting! Perhaps just signs of God restoring our lands?

The genus name of the yucca moth is Pronuba. According to Roman mythology, Pronuba was the foundress of marriage, and a woman

who arranged marriages became known as pronuba. Yuccas were used by Native Americans medicinally. Yucca juice was used as diuretics and laxatives, and mashed and boiled roots were used to treat diabetes. Yucca roots can be used to make a good soap. Yucca is an important fiber plant and it has been used to make rope, sandals, and cloth. In my research for “Give Me a Texas Ranger” I learned that they used to make bootleg liquor from yucca.

What is your favorite wildflower?

To one lucky person who leaves a comment, I will send you a copy of our anthology, Give Me a Texas Ranger autographed by all four authors, Jodi Thomas, fellow Filly Linda Broday, DeWanna Pace and Phyliss Miranda.

 

A special thanks to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for their information on the correlation between the yucca and the moth; and to my friend Natalie Bright for sending it to me.

Updated: October 8, 2013 — 2:50 am

Wild Wonderful West Virginia!

Hi everyone! I wanted to share some beautiful pictures of my “second home” — the state of West Virginia. My dad got transferred out there with his company when I was a senior in high school. I met my husband there (and have now made an “Okie” out of him!) These pictures were taken by a friend who is a native West Virginian, Rick Burgess. These are just a sample of all the beautiful pictures he has taken all over the state. Rick has a fantastic eye for color and composition, and although I believe these pictures belong in a book devoted to his photography, he has graciously  allowed me to show you West Virginia through his eyes. Let’s have a look!

 

This is a picture of the New River Gorge Bridge. It is beautiful and I’ve been there myself–this picture really does it justice! Yes, I drove over it–it’s 3030 feet long.  876 feet high.  70 feet wide.  88 million pounds of U.S. Cor Ten steel and American cement.  Opened and dedicated on October 22, 1977, the span has since become the symbol of West Virginia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at this beautiful church, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Charleston, West Virginia.

 

Of course, there are horse lovers everywhere throughout the USA–and these beauties conjure up images of cowboys no matter where they might be!

Cooper’s Rock State Forest, at dusk… I’ve never been here, but next time we go back for a visit, I’d love to see it.

Misty morning in Pocahontas County…

I wonder where this road leads? Beautiful countryside, no matter where it goes. Thanks for joining me on this trip through West Virginia. And thanks to Rick Burgess for allowing me to show you his state through his camera lens!

Wildflowers of Texas

I had the opportunity to spend a few quiet days at a writer friend’s ranch established in 1895 here in the Texas Panhandle.  We began the day drinking coffee and watching the sunrise from the back porch and ended each day sitting on the front porch taking in the fantastic sunsets. We’ve had a lot of rain, so the wildflowers are really pretty right now.

In 1971 the bluebonnet of Texas was declared our official flower.  They aren’t native to our region of Texas, but I couldn’t start to describe any wildflower of Texas without beginning with the bluebonnet. They grow extensively over the state, primarily from the northeast to the southwest, but their greatest displays are on the limestone hillsides of Central Texas, creating large fields resembling a sea of blue. 

It’s not uncommon to see bluebonnets in fields of  impressive Indian blanket. To me they are one of the most beautiful wild flowers of Texas, especially mixed with bluebonnets.  Each has ten to twenty ray flowers, sometimes all red but usually marked with brilliant yellow on the ends of the rays, forming a yellow band along the outside.

A flower that typically gets confused with Indian blanket is Scarlet Paintbrush or Indian Paintbrush, as it’s more commonly known.  They represent one of  Texas’ most beautiful landscape displays. In the Hill Country around Austin and San Antonio large fields of red and blue, sometimes sprinkled with white prickly poppy are impressive sights.  The paintbrush plant grows between six and fifteen inches tall. Flowers with the attending floral leaves, called bracts, grow around the upper three or four inches of the stem.  The intense red-orange color is due to the bracts, which almost hide the inconspicuous cream-colored flowers. 

But the Whole Leaf Indian Paintbrush typically found in the Panhandle is about the same size as the Scarlet Paintbrush but it bears several leafy stems from a woody root.  The leaves are narrow, unlobed, and undivided.  The bracts are usually scarlet or cerise, sometimes yellow, mostly rounded on the outer edge.  Mixed with other wild flowers, it is easy to mix up the Indian blanket and the Indian Paintbrush because of the similarity in color.

To me one of the prettiest, yet oddest and deadly, plants found in Texas is the Jimsonweed.  You’ve probably heard it called devil’s trumpet, devil’s weed, thorn apple, Jamestown weed, stinkweed, locoweed, pricklyburr, devil’s cucumber, Hell’s Bells, or moonflower, just to name a few.  The large, white, trumpet-shaped flower can be found from one end of the state to the other and is always a refreshing surprise. It is a spreading, busy plant, often three feet tall and between five and eight feet across.  The branches are mainly on the upper half.  The board leaves are four to ten inches long with fine hair, especially along the vein.  The flowers somestimes have a pale pinkish cast.  The petals are united to form a funnel.  But the surprise … they open in the evening and close by mid-morning.  On still evenings, hawk moths are apt to dart from flower to flower.  The plant is poisonous, but because of its bad odor and taste, thank goodness, livestock seldom eat it.

What is your favorite wildflower?

Updated: August 5, 2012 — 2:42 pm

Growing up in Texas … Rattlesnakes Frighten Me

As the month comes to an end, I find myself getting more and more excited about my 34th book coming out and dancing faster with each day of my writing life.   We expect THE COMFORTS OF HOME to come out of the gate at a full run on November 1.  Also coming back into print this month is THE TENDER TEXAN in trade paperback (my first national bestseller) and my anthology, A TEXAS CHRISTMAS. It came out the first of this month and is on the New York Times list this week.  Adding to all that mix, I’m writing on the next historical every night until after midnight and it’s coming along great.

So, dear friends, come along with me into fiction because it promises to be a wild ride.

Also, next week is Halloween, a fun time at my house.  Last year we had over 1,ooo trick-or- treaters.  I buy a dozen big bags of candy, invite my friends who have few kids to come by and bring their candy and join us.  We pass out candy for three hours straight. So…when I thought about this blog, I thought about what frightens me. Growing up in Texas, I have to say RATTLESNAKES.  In truth, I’ve seen very few in my life that were not in cages, but whenever I walk in the country, I’m very much aware that I’m walking on their land.

My first memory of a rattlesnake was one found under my Grandmother Kirkland’s house when I was about four.  My grandmother chopped his head off with a hoe.  I don’t remember the exact words, but she said something like, ‘to get along with snakes, you got to be smarter than the snake.’  That may explain why I live in town.  I’ve never wanted to test my intelligence with my life the wager.

So, some facts about snakes:

The diamondback rattlesnake is the largest venomous snake in North America.  Sometimes easily eight feet long and can weigh as much as 10 pounds.  I thought I saw a twelve foot one on a country road one day, but it was one snake eating another snake.  Yuck!

Their bites are very painful and can be fatal.  Thanks to antivenin, they are rarely deadly.

Some things to do:

Avoid rattlesnakes!  Seems pretty simple but you wouldn’t believe the people I know who ride out on horseback to check out the rattler nest.

If you see a snake—make noise.  He’ll probably wander off.

If you do get bitten:

Relax, be calm.  Yeah, sure.  Good luck with that.

Keep bitten area at or below heart level.

Go to hospital or see doctor within five hours.

Watch where you walk as well as where you ride.  Trust me, falling off a horse is also painful.

Some things NOT TO DO IF YOU GET BITTEN:

Don’t use ice to cool bite.

Don’t cut the wound open and suck out the venom—that’s something left for heroes in books not in real life.

Don’t use a tourniquet unless you know what you are doing.  Right, if you knew what you were doing you wouldn’t be hanging out with snakes.

And last, if all else fails, hit the rattlesnake on the head with a hoe.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for live and let live, but if he’s in my backyard where my grandchildren play, I’m thinking just like my grandmother did, ‘that snake’s got a death wish.’

So, come in and tell me how you feel about snakes.

And be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Jodi

www.facebook.com/JodiThomasAuthor

www.jodithomas.com

I will give away an autographed copy of “Comforts of Home” to one lucky commenter!

 

Updated: October 26, 2011 — 1:48 pm

Honey Bees and The Westward Expansion

My next release, THE PROPER WIFE, will be hitting the shelves next month.  This book was a lot of fun to write – the characters of Eli and Sadie were such seeming opposites that getting them to their Happily-ever-after took quite some doing.

One of the scenes in this book hinged on Sadie deciding she needed to harvest honey from a beehive whose location was a carefully guarded secret.  Since I had no experience with or knowledge of bees and honey gathering, especially from a nineteenth century perspective, this meant I had to dig in and do a bit of research.  And, as usual, my research took me down an unexpected but fascinating trail.

One of the intriguing little tidbits I stumbled across was that, while there are many species of bees that are indigenous to the Americas, honey bees are not.  This took me completely by surprise – I’d always assumed they were a native species.  It is not known exactly when they first arrived here, but it is certain they came over with the early colonists as they were considered essential for both the wax and honey they produced.  Honey bee hives were mentioned in journals and shipping records as early as 1622.  However, it would take them another 231 years for these highly prized insects to reach the west coast.

In fact, one could say that the journey of the honeybee across America mirrored that of the settlers.  They faced some of the same barriers – disease, harsh climates, predators, resource competitors, and geographical roadblocks – that hindered their advance.  But the human and apian settlers had a very symbiotic relationship during this westward push.  The honey bees not only provided honey and wax for the settlers, they often arrived in advance and helped to spread the white clover and other European grasses that the imported livestock favored.  In return, the humans planted countless acres of land with crops that were favorable to honey bee populations, built hives, and more importantly transported them over terrains such as treeless plains and mountain ranges that would have been difficult for the honey bees to cross on their own.

In fact, it is doubtful the honey bees could have crossed the Rocky Mountains without the help of humans.  Some settlers transported hives during their own overland travels, others had them shipped around the horn of South America.  But it was no easy task.  There is a story that tells of an 1846 attempt to bring honey bees to Oregon.  A settler who was planning a trip using the Applegate Trail was offered $500 to deliver a hive of live honey bees.  The tale goes that he loaded up two hives just to make certain he arrived with at least one intact.  Unfortunately all the bees in both hives perished of cold and disease before they made it across the mountains.

It is reported that the first honey bees arrived in California in 1853.  These originated when 12 hives were purchased in Panama, transported across the Isthmus and then sent via ship to San Francisco.  Only one hive survived the trip but once there it flourished and eventually produced a number of swarms.

Of course, none of this history played a part in my March book.  The bee harvesting scene is quite short (but pivotal) and I really just needed to find out what a rustic hive might have looked like in the late nineteenth century and how one would go about collecting the honey.

How about you folks out there?  Any of you have experience with honey bees, either in the wild or in a manmade hive? 

 


And in honor of my upcoming release,
I will be giving away one of my advance
author copies of The Proper Wife to someone
who leaves a comment on this post today.

Updated: January 5, 2018 — 2:28 am
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