I lived in rural Nevada for thirty years and because my husband and I were originally geologists, we spent a lot of time beating around the state before settling down. The northern and middle part of Nevada can be either blazing hot or bone numbing cold, depending on the season—as near as I could tell, there were two: summer and winter, with three or four days of spring and fall between them. But don’t get me wrong, I love Nevada and its outback, and have so much respect for the early citizens—those that stayed and those that were there to do a job. The riders of the Pony Express were there to do a job. I’ve experienced the country that they crossed, and these guys were amazing.
So how did the Pony Express come about?
Ruby Valley Nevada station. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
In brief, Senator William Gwin of California wanted a faster mail service between the eastern part of the country and California. He conferred with the operators of Overland Stage Line of Leavenworth, Kansas, which ran a stage between the Missouri River and Salt Lake City, asking them to develop a mail system. Reluctantly, due to the costs, the owners of the stage line agreed and began developing the Pony Express. On April 3, 1860, less than two months after promising the senator to develop a faster mail system, the first express was ready to run between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento.
In those two months, the organizers found 80 riders and 500 horses, and stations were built along the route through Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. The riders received $25 per week, two revolvers, a rifle, a bowie knife and a bible. The ponies were sturdy stock, many of them carrying California mustang blood.
The mail was carried in a leather mochila with four locked boxes sewn to it to carry the mail. The mochila fit over the saddle horn, and when the rider arrived at the station, he threw the mochila to the next rider, who would then be on his way. The Pony Express carried mail 2,000 miles in 10 days.
The Pony Express lasted only 18 months, but even in that short amount of time, it left an indelible mark on the history of the county and the region. Finances were part of the reason for the demise of the express. Mail carried by the express cost the sender between $1 to $5 dollars per ounce, but despite the high prices, the Pony Express failed financially, as its organizers had feared. Congress offered no financial subsidies to help the express, despite the fact that it helped keep California in the Union.
Ultimately, however, it was technology that ended the Pony Express. When the transcontinental telegraph system was completed on October 24, 1861, there was no more need for the Pony Express. Four days later, the Pony Express officially ended.
Do you remember the excitement of getting the Wish Book in the mail? To me, that event marked the beginning of the Christmas season. My brother and I would pore over the pages, marking the things we wanted. One of my most fervent wishes was to receive a full-on cowgirl outfit, so those pages of the Wish Book were always well worn by the time Christmas rolled around.
Because of my Wish Book cowgirl outfit mania, I thought I’d share some catalog pages showing western wear from bygone eras. Do these bring back memories for any of you? And was anyone lucky enough to actually get one of these outfits? (If so, I’m officially jealous.)
Aren’t these outfits great? Playing the game I played as a kid, I would have wanted either the boy outfit with the rearing horses on the chaps, or the red girl outfit.
Roy Rogers was such a huge influence on me–and everyone else, it seems–back in the day. I didn’t know anyone who tucked their pants into their boots back then, but Roy carries it off well. And, now that I have fancy boots, I’ve been known to do the same!
I always thought that boys got the best western clothing. Look at the cool fringe jacket hidden in the lower corner. One thing that I really like is the fake boot tops in the lower left of the picture above. What a great way to handle not needing or being able to buy cowboy boots. I was one of the lucky ones in that regard. While growing up, I had four pairs of shoes for the year–school shoes, dress shoes, sneakers and…yes…cowboy boots. But if I hadn’t had cowboy boots, I would have had the tops to make my school shoes into cowboy boots.
Oh my goodness! Leopard print cowboy wear! Does it get any better than that?
Okay–I can’t help myself. I still want a full-on 1950s cowgirl outfit. I wonder if I have time to shoot off a quick letter to Santa?
Now the give away part! I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate, that you can put toward a cowboy outfit or something else of your choosing. Just leave a comment to be entered. The winner will be announced in the comments on Wednesday, so check back tomorrow afternoon.
One caveat–I am going to the dentist today, so my replies will be a little late, but I’m excited to check in with everyone.
I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!
Lonely Sonja Kaplan doesn’t want to spend another Christmas alone. While she has her secret government work to fill her days, she longs for a husband to fill her nights.
Chet Lattimer doesn’t know the first thing about being a father when the six-year-old son he didn’t realize he had bursts into his life. Worse, it’s Christmas, and there’s no one to help him celebrate except the mysterious woman the gossips call the Bird Lady.
But a little boy hungry for love helps them all find truth and peace, and together they revel in the magic of Christmas.
After Allethaire Gibson was kidnapped several years earlier in the wilds of Montana Territory, she tries hard to put her life back together in civilized Minnesota. She almost succeeds—until she’s framed for a crime she didn’t commit. With her reputation in shreds, she flees back to Montana to seek her father’s help in proving her innocence.
Mick Vasco never expects to see Allethaire again, but when he finds her in the middle of a train-robbery-in-progress, he has no choice but to kidnap her—again.
Together they race against time to find crucial answers. But during the blessed season of Christmas, they find wondrous gifts of forgiveness and love instead.
I’m giving away a $10 GIFT CARD TO AMAZON! Who can’t use one of those at Christmastime, eh?
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THE CHRISTMAS STRANGER
Alone in a blinding snowstorm, no shelter in sight, Hank Destry pushes in all his chips and comes up losing. Half-frozen and unable to go any farther, he falls from the saddle into a snowbank. On a return visit from a sick friend, Pretty Sidalee King’s path is blocked by a barking dog. The pet leads her to Hank. She digs him from the snow and manages to get him into her wagon and take him to her home on the Lone Star Ranch.
With no family of her own, she feels for the drifter’s plight. Could he be Miss Mamie’s lost son that she speaks of? And what are the rocks Miss Mamie gives as payment for kindnesses? Mystery and love abound this Christmas season as two lonely people receive an unexpected gift.
I‘m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card and a 2019 calendar I put together!
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Brylee Barton has just one goal in mind: win the barrel racing world championship. Not for the glory, but for the attached cash prize that could save her family’s ranch. When an injury leaves her at the mercy of the very same copper-headed, silver-tongued cowboy she once vowed to loathe forever, she has no choice but to swallow her pride and accept his help.
Fun-loving, easy-going Shaun Price has a million dollar smile, more charm than he can channel, and a string of ex-girlfriends rumored to have started their own support group. When the one woman he’s never quite managed to get out of his head or heart needs his assistance, he jumps at the chance to help. Little does he realize how challenging it will be to keep from falling for her all over again.
With the holiday season fast approaching, will Shaun and Brylee discover the gift of forgiveness, and experience their own happily-ever-after?
Consider reading all the Rodeo Romance series, available on Amazon.
SLEIGH BELLS RING IN ROMANCE
You’re never too old to fall in love . . .
Rancher Jess Milne lost his wife years ago, but he’s finally ready to give love a second chance. It’s a shame the one woman in Romance who captures his interest is a prickly, wasp-tongued she-devil. She used to be one of his closest friends until he asked her out. Her vocal, vehement refusal made her thoughts on dating him crystal clear. Despite her animosity, Jess can’t help but be attracted to her fire and spirit.
Widowed more than ten years, Doris Grundy tries to convince herself she’s content with her life. Her recently married grandson and his wife bring her joy. The ranch she’s lived on since she was a young bride gives her purpose. She’s an active member of their close-knit community. But the old coot who lives down the road continually invades her thoughts, keeping her from having any peace. Doris will be the last to admit she longs for the love and affection of her handsome neighbor.
When the two of them are unexpectedly thrown together, will they find a little holiday spirit and allow the love of the season to ring in their hearts?
The death of her mother left Philamena Booth grieving and at the mercy of her drunken father. After spending more than a decade held captive on their run-down farm, she’s left speechless when her father strikes a bargain to settle a long overdue debt. In lieu of payment, a handsome cowboy agrees to take Philamena. Mortified yet relieved to leave the farm, she finds herself married to the charismatic, caring man.
Luke Granger might own Hardman’s bank and the fanciest house in the Eastern Oregon town, but he’d much rather be outside riding his horses or wrangling his herd of cattle than keeping his account books straight. In a strange, unsettling turn of events, he finds himself accepting a farmer’s daughter instead of money to cover a loan. If the man hadn’t threatened to sell her to the saloon owner, Luke might have refused. He has no idea what to do with the beautiful Filly or their marriage of convenience, but he’s about to get far more than he bargained for.
That’s right. I’m joining the fun and giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card!
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Murphy Anderson is coming home for Christmas…
And as soon as she arrives, she’s putting the family ranch on the market. Her plan is to get in, get out, and head back to the city, where she belongs. Growing up on the hardscrabble property next door to the prosperous Marvell Ranch, and being constantly reminded of everything she didn’t have, left her with no love for ranching, or her handsome neighbors—especially Cody Marvell, who always rubbed her the wrong way. And maybe that’s why, when Cody shows an interest in the ranch, she hesitates to sell.
Cody Marvell has a way with people…unless that person is Murphy Anderson. Cody never understood what she was dealing with when they were younger. Murphy had a hard time while growing up, with no mom and a cold-hearted father. He made some mistakes, which he now regrets. He wants her ranch, and more than that, he wants her.
When a Christmas flood makes Murphy’s home uninhabitable, he invites her to stay at the Marvell Ranch. With the help of country Christmas magic, Cody hopes she’ll start to see him with new eyes.
I hope this finds everyone well! This is the beginning of the long slide into the holiday season and I want to take a minute to thank each and everyone of you for reading our blog and being part of our family here at Wildflower Junction.
This is will a different Thanksgiving for me. When my daughter was a freshman in college, her boyfriend’s family invited our family to dinner. It meant a drive and an overnight stay in Reno and breaking our own holiday traditions, which was me cooking a huge dinner for the family. Long story short, we said yes to the invitation and it was the beginning of a very good thing. I discovered that bringing a pie instead of cooking the entire meal was an amazingly freeing experience. We discovered that we liked spending Thanksgiving in a hotel and shopping Black Friday the next day in a city–something we’d never done before.
My mother, who at the time lived too far away to travel to our family Thanksgivings (and vice versa), was horrified. Not cook dinner? Eat it out? Break tradition?
Yes, Mom. It’s amazing!!!!
Thus started our tradition for the past fifteen years. Eventually Reno became San Francisco, and we saved all year for our stay in the big hotel in the city. We had dinner out. Our daughter-in-law joined the tradition, first as a girlfriend, then as a fiancee, and finally as our official daughter-in-law.
But this year is different. My daughter got married three days ago and is off on her honeymoon, so Thanksgiving as a family in a city simply isn’t working out. Another change. So this year I am cooking the entire dinner for the first time in almost two decades. My turkey is defrosting in the fridge. I’m baking pies today. My son and daughter will spend the holidays with their in-laws and I will cook for my parents who now live close by.
Change is good and traditions need not be carved in stone. I will miss my city Thanksgiving, but am so looking forward to bringing back the old traditions we’d carried on for years prior.
I’m a native Idahoan now living in Montana. Basically, I moved next door, after a thirty-year stint in Nevada (also next door). I love all three states and would be hard pressed to pick a favorite.
Nevada Territory 1860
The origin of Nevada’s name is straight forward—Nevada means ‘snow-covered’ and referred to the many mountain ranges in Nevada, particularly the Sierra Nevada, which often have snow year round. The origin of Idaho and Montana’s names, however, is not so straight forward. In fact, those origins involved deception.
When I learned Idaho history in the fourth grade, we were taught that the name Idaho came from the Shoshone term Ee-da-how, which means ‘sun comes up in the mountains’. Not so.
In the early 1860’s Congress was considering making a new territory in the Rocky Mountain area, which would eventually become Colorado. A (fraudulently elected) lobbyist named George M. Willing suggested the name Idaho, saying it was a Shoshone term meaning ‘gem of the mountains’ or ‘sun comes up from the mountains’. He’d made the whole thing up. Congress figured it out before the territory was named, and that territory became Colorado Territory.
By that time, however, the name Idaho was in common usage. A steam ship on the Columbia River was named Idaho, and when gold was discovered on the Clearwater river in the 1860s, the area was called the Idaho diggings. A few years later, when Washington Territory was broken into two sections, the new section was named Idaho Territory.
Idaho Territory 1863
The origin of Montana’s name also involved a touch of deception. Montana was part of Idaho Territory until 1864, when a former congressman named Sidney Edgerton brought samples of gold to Washington and suggested the creation of a new territory. The Union needed gold, so congress set to work. Ohio congressman James Ashley suggested the name Montana for the new territory, explaining that ‘montana’ was the Spanish word for mountainous, which perfectly described the area. There was one small problem—there was nothing Spanish about the area, which bordered Canada. Other names were suggested–Shoshone, Jefferson and Douglas. Senator Charles Sumner wanted an Indian name for the territory. One of the original Montana settlers, George Stuart, suggested Tay-a-be-shock-up, which is Snake for ‘the country of the mountains’. Some unknown person, however, convinced congress that the name Montana was not so much Spanish as it was Latin. Congress could accept a Latin name and Montana Territory was blessed with a name that could be easily pronounced.
I had an overdose of cute a little over a week ago when I went to the Junior Rodeo. The contestants range in age from toddlers to 18 year olds and, as you can imagine, compete in age groups. Parents of the younger children get a work out, because a lot of them lead the horse through the events, be it poles or barrels or what have you. Here’s a cowboy dad running the poles with his little girl.
And a cowgirl mom running the barrels with her little girl.
Of course, some contestants had their own mount. This one was my favorite–
Here’s another shot of this young cowboy. They run two heats at the same time, so you can see an older contestant in the background, which gives you some scale for this little guy–
Hats off to parents who go the extra mile to give their kids these special experiences, regardless of the sport.
And here, just to add some perspective, are some scenes from the Rancher’s Rodeo four days later. I wonder how many of these guys and gals started off as juniors with their parents leading them through the barrels?
My first Harlequin Heartwarming–HER MONTANA COWBOY–will be released on August 1st and I’m very excited. I’m also excited by the fact that the cowboy on my cover looks very much like Prince Harry!
HER MONTANA COWBOY is a city-girl country-guy story and was a lot of fun to write. Here’s an excerpt from a scene where Gus helps Lillie Jean get her car out of a mud hole in the long driveway leading to the ranch. It opens with them riding in the tractor:
Lillie Jean smelled like lilacs, a scent Gus knew well, due to the thick hedge near the ranch house that burst into blossom each spring, filling the air with perfume and sending old Sal’s allergies into high gear.
He hated that he noticed that Lillie Jean smelled good. Hated the way the delicate floral scent made him feel like leaning closer and taking a deeper breath. In fact, it was really annoying to find himself feeling that way, so he was very glad to finally arrive at the car.
Lillie Jean put her hand on the door handle before he’d rolled to a stop, and he automatically reached past her to keep her from opening the door. She shot him a startled look, which he met with a frown, once again doing his best to ignore the lilacs and the incredible color of her eyes.
“Never open the door until the tractor is out of gear.” He made a show of moving the gear lever. “Big tires,” he said in a clipped voice. “Very unforgiving.”
“Is it okay now?” Lillie Jean asked as she eyed the giant rear wheels.
“Yeah.” He put on the hand brake and set a hand on the back of her seat to maneuver himself out of the cab. Lillie Jean took the hint and climbed down the stairs and jumped to the ground, quickly moving out of range of those big tires. Gus followed her and then reached up to drag the chain off the floorboards under the seat.
The mud was deep and water soaked into his jeans as he crouched down to attach the chain to the frame of the big car. Once done, he motioned for Lillie Jean to get into the driver’s seat.
“What do I do?”
“You start the engine and steer. Do not step on the gas.”
“Because it’ll annoy me if you ram that big car into the tractor.”
“Oh.” She moistened her lips—a mistake in the cool weather—and then said, “You don’t have much faith in my driving ability.”
All he did was point a finger at the car in the mud then turn and walk back to the tractor. “Just put it in neutral,” he said, “and let me do the rest.”
“Why even start it?”
“So that the steering wheel works.
From the way her jaw muscles tightened, Gus deduced that she was starting to hate him a little.
“I knew that.” She abruptly turned and headed toward the car, mincing her way across the lumpy half-frozen mud next to the door.
Gus climbed into the cab and, once Lillie Jean was situated behind the wheel, he gently eased the tractor back until the chain was taut. He continued inching backward until the car jerked, then moved forward. Lillie Jean kept the wheels straight until finally the car was free, and he swore he could see her biting her full bottom lip as she concentrated, even though they were separated by twenty feet and two windshields. Once he was certain Lillie Jean wasn’t going to throw the car in gear or anything unexpected, he moved the tractor forward so that the chain sagged.
“There are no more puddles between here and the ranch house, so you should be okay,” he said as he unhooked the chain. “You should be equally okay when you leave, which will be in short order, right?”
Lillie Jean propped a hand on her hip and stuck her chin out. “Enough, okay?”
He stowed the chain back in the cab of the tractor and then turned to her. “Enough what?”
“Enough passive-aggressive stuff. And enough insinuating that I’m not who I say I am, and that I’m here to try to take advantage of your uncle. I’m not.”
“I have no way of knowing that.”
“And you have nothing to do with this situation. It’s between me and Thaddeus.”
“Thaddeus is getting up there in years. I’m his nephew, his ranch manager.”
He gave her a small, not particularly friendly smile. “Meaning that, until Thad tells me otherwise, it’ll be you and Thaddeus and me.”
HER MONTANA COWBOY is available for pre-order right now and will be officially available on August 1st.
It’s exciting to be part of Cowboy Fever week! I love small rodeos, so today I’m sharing with you some candid shots showing what happens behind the chutes before the rough stock competition begins. The time behind the chutes is surprisingly quiet, considering what happens after the gates are open and the broncs hit the arena bucking.
The cowboys tape up, put on their chaps, practice their form.
They also saddle their broncs, usually alone.
Then they wait near their chute and their horse until it’s time for their ride.
After that, of course, they ride.
Then make a graceful exit from the arena, ready to do it all over again the next chance they get.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look behind the chutes during Cowboy Fever Week!
Hello everyone! I would like to introduce my new calf Pinky.
She’s not like her brothers and sisters.
She was the result of a difficult birth and she and her mother had to be separated from the herd for several days while she recovered and learned to nurse. We had to give her her first feeding manually to make certain she got the colostrum she needed to develop her immune system. She always sticks close to her mama now.
This is Pinky getting ready to be vaccinated.
She’s not too sure about all of this.
The herd is out on summer grass now. The grass is literally shoulder high. The calves disappear into it. We feed in sections, moving the fence every couple days so that the cows have new grass and the old grass has time to recover. We’ll rotate through the pastures twice this summer if all goes well. Can you spot Pinky in the photo below?
And that’s it from me and Pinky. We hope you have an excellent day!
I’m a coffee drinker, as were many of the folks who settled the west. Pioneers, cowboys, ranchers, farmers, miners and townsfolk all loved coffee, but the process of making it wasn’t as simple as it is today. Green beans were roasted in a skillet over a fire, then put into a cloth bag and crushed with a heavy object. The grounds were dropped into a pot of water and boiled. The roasting beans had to be tended to carefully, because if one bean burnt, the flavor of it ruined the entire batch. Home roasted coffee could be quite foul if the roasting process went amiss.
Before the Civil War, real coffee was expensive, so many people drank mock coffee made of rye, okra seeds, parched corn or bran. (Parched corn is dried corn roasted over a fire.) In the mid-1860s, Jabez Burns developed a commercial coffee roaster about the same time that affordable paper bags became available. A man named John Arbuckle developed a special glazing process using egg and sugar to preserve the flavor of the beans, and then bought the rights to a patented packaging system and began selling roasted coffee beans in one-pound paper bags. By 1881, his company was operating 85 coffee roasters. His coffee was billed as the “coffee that won the west”.
Now back to cowboy coffee. While on the trail, cowboys had to stay alert during bad weather and hard times and coffee helped them do that. It also kept their insides warm and helped wash down meals. A camp cook usually kept several pots of coffee going at once, and it wasn’t uncommon to leave the old grounds in the pot and simply add new. One camp cook wrote that he used about 175 pounds of beans a month.
There are several ways to make cowboy coffee, but they all involve putting the grounds directly into the water. Some people advocate bringing the water to a boil, then throwing the grounds in (a 1 to 8 ratio — 1/8 cup coffee per cup of water). Others (including me) put the grounds in the water and bring the coffee to a full boil. Regardless of when you add the coffee, the next step in to settle the grounds. To do that, you either pour cold water through the spout, or add crushed eggshells. (I’m a water gal.) If this is done correctly, there should be very few grounds in your cup when you finish drinking.
And then there’s always this recipe from Western Words: A Dictionary of Range, Cow Camp and Trail that you might consider trying: “Take two pounds of Arbuckle’s coffee, put in enough water to wet it down, boil it for two hours, then throw in a hoss shoe. If the hoss shoe sinks, she ain’t ready.”