Tag: Amanda Cabot

The Allure of Fort Laramie ~ by Amanda Cabot

When you picture a western fort from the nineteenth century, do you envision small, perhaps even dilapidated wooden buildings surrounded by a wooden stockade?  I did until I visited Fort Laramie.  It was the summer of 2004, only a few months after my husband and I had moved from the East Coast to Cheyenne.  We needed a break from the unpacking, picture hanging, and other tasks associated with moving into a new house, so we headed for the Fort Laramie National Historic Site.

Old Fort Laramie store foundation

Foreground: foundation of barracks; background: part of officer’s row, including the post trader’s store (the one-story building in the center back)

It was not what I expected.  There was no stockade, the buildings were far from primitive, and the way they flanked the central parade ground made it reminiscent of a New England village, not one of the military forts those old Westerns made popular.

Old Fort Laramie dining room

Nothing primitive about this dining room.

Old Fort Laramie birdbath

An in-ground birdbath.

As we entered the Visitor Center, the surprises continued, and I found myself fascinated by the elegant lifestyle the officers and their wives experienced during the last decade of the fort’s existence (the 1880s).Houses were surrounded by picket fences, many yards had flower gardens, and women strolled along the boardwalks carrying parasols.  There were even birdbaths.  Of course, since this was Wyoming with its famous winds, the birdbaths weren’t the typical basin-on-a-pedestal style that you might expect.  Instead, they were circular depressions in the ground. As I said, it was not at all what I had expected, but what I saw started my brain whirling, and I knew this would not be my only visit to the fort.

Old Fort Laramie Officers Row

Partially reconstructed officers’ housing and Old Bedlam (the two-story white frame building)

Old Fort Laramie Burt house

Andrew and Elizabeth Burt’s home. The red SUV in the background was definitely not there when they lived at the fort!

There’s a lot to see.  While many of the buildings have been destroyed, a number have been restored to their former glory to give visitors a sense of what life was like at the fort that was a major landmark on the Oregon Trail.  The most famous of those buildings is Old Bedlam, the oldest military structure in Wyoming.  Curious about the nickname?  It was originally constructed for bachelor officers’ housing, and those officers were a little … shall we say rowdy?  Later in its existence, it was used as post headquarters, and only a few years ago it was the site of a wedding.  I suspect the guests were better behaved than those bachelor officers of 150 years ago.One of the restored houses is the one where Lt. Col. Andrew Burt and his wife Elizabeth lived during their two tours of duty at the fort.  If you’ve never heard of the Burts, their story is told in Indians, Infants and Infantry: Andrew and Elizabeth Burt on the Frontier by Merrill J. Mattes, a book I highly recommend to anyone who wants an authentic view of life at nineteenth century forts.  The author used Elizabeth’s Burt’s diaries and letters to create a story filled with fascinating details of real life.

What does all this have to do with my current release?  Absolutely nothing.  A Stolen Heart is set in a charming town in the Texas Hill Country, not on a military fort.  Its hero is a sheriff, not a soldier.  Its heroine is a schoolteacher who becomes a confectioner, not a woman dealing with tasteless dried potatoes.  But Fort Laramie is such a wonderful place that I couldn’t resist taking this opportunity to tell you more about it.  If you visit Wyoming, I hope you’ll consider spending a day at Fort Laramie.  It’s well worth the detour.

And now to the highlight of the post: the giveaway.  I’m offering a signed copy of either Summer of Promise, which takes place at Fort Laramie during its elegant decade, or my new release, A Stolen Heart, to one commenter.


A stolen Heart

The future she dreamed of is gone. But perhaps a better one awaits . . .

From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners—like her. Lydia won’t let that get her down, though. All will be well when she’s reunited with her fiancé.

But when she discovers he has disappeared—and that he left behind a pregnant wife—Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring?

The book is available at Barnes & Noble, and Christian Book Distributors.


Amanda CabotBestselling author Amanda Cabot invites you into Texas’s storied past to experience adventure, mystery—and love. She more than thirty novels including the Texas Dreams trilogy, the Westward Winds series, the Texas Crossroad trilogy, and Christmas Roses. A former director of Information Technology, she has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  Amanda is delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian romances, living happily ever after with her husband in Wyoming.

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Amanda Cabot: Boom and Bust Wyoming Style


I don’t know about you, but when I hear the term “boom and bust” in the context of the American West, I think of gold, silver, maybe even oil.  Four-legged critters don’t come to mind, or they didn’t until I started the research for Waiting for Spring.  That was when I learned that cattle – the same thing that made Cheyenne the richest city per capita on earth in the late nineteenth century – had a boom and bust cycle like other get-rich-quick schemes.


Though Cheyenne was founded as a railroad town and though the Union Pacific and the territorial government were major contributors to the city’s growth, the primary source of wealth during the 1880s was cattle.  The demand for beef was high, and the presence of the railroad in Cheyenne made it easy to get meat east and to Europe.  But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.


Believe it or not, raising cattle in Wyoming came about almost by accident.  When bad timing forced one herd to remain in Wyoming rather than be driven east during the winter of 1854, the owner left, probably expecting the worst.  Instead, when he returned in the spring, he discovered that not only was his herd still intact, but the animals had thrived on the air-cured grasslands of eastern Wyoming.


If you’re from the East as I was, you may wonder about the term “air-cured grasslands.”  Eastern grasses, at least the varieties I was used to, are packed with nutrients during the growing season.  Winter’s another story.  The grass is often covered with snow, and even when it’s bare, there’s little to tempt a cow.  Wyoming’s grass is different.  The very dry climate of the high plains has the effect of curing the grass much as freeze-drying might.  The result is that the grass retains its nutrients throughout the winter, providing excellent forage for animals.  Once that first rancher discovered the secret, the word spread quickly.  I can picture the telegraphs buzzing with the news of good, year-round forage and an open range.  Who could resist the lure of free grazing?


Not many, as it turned out.  The result was an influx of ranchers and rancher-wannabes from around the world, some of whom banded together to form cattle companies.  All this culminated in what was called the “Great Grass Bonanza” of 1876 to 1886.  Some historians refer to these men as “cattle kings,” but I prefer the term “cattle baron.”  It was the cattle barons who built mansions, some of which even boasted their own ballrooms.  It was the cattle barons who frequented the opera house and who made their private club, the Cheyenne Club, the epitome of wealth and elegance in a

city that had more than its share of both.  It was the cattle barons who dominated the city’s social events.


But all things end.  This is, after all, a story of boom and bust.  The result of all those cattle barons and cattle companies coming to Wyoming Territory, determined that they too would become millionaires, led to overgrazing.  Quite simply, there were too many head of cattle on the prairie.  That would have been bad enough, even if there had been normal weather conditions.  As it turned out, the summer of 1886 was particularly dry, resulting in less than normal growth of the grass.  The cattle might have survived that, had it not been for a particularly brutal winter.  The snow started early, blanketing the ground with huge drifts.


Though it takes effort they can’t afford to expend, cattle can paw their way through snow to find the grass underneath.  But what if there’s a thick coating of ice?  That’s exactly what happened in January 1887.  The warm winds of a Chinook melted the snow, causing deep puddles.  That was followed immediately by a deep freeze.  You don’t need to be a meteorologist to know what happened next.  The ponds froze, leaving the cattle without water.  The grass was covered by ice so thick they couldn’t reach the grass.  Those poor animals died from hunger and thirst.  By the time spring came, the herds were destroyed, and so were the cattle barons’ fortunes.  The boom had ended.


It sounds pretty depressing, doesn’t it?  That might make you wonder why I chose this timeframe as the background for Waiting for Spring.  The truth is, I believe we can find hope in even the most dismal of circumstances, and so I made my hero a cattle baron.  And, yes, I gave him a happily-ever-after.


About Amanda

From the time that she was seven, Amanda Cabot dreamed of becoming a published author, but it was only when she set herself the goal of selling a book by her thirtieth birthday that the dream came true.  A former director of Information Technology, Amanda has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  She’s delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian historical romances.  Her Texas Dreams trilogy received critical acclaim, and Waiting for Spring, the second in her Westward Winds series, was released in January.

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