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.”
When I was in college, I had a hankering for a union suit, which is essentially a long-john onesy. I was studying geology and found myself in situations where I needed additional warmth. Since a union suit would be both amusing and practical, I asked for one for Christmas. This was in the 1970’s, when outdoor technical clothing was in its infancy–down jackets were just becoming a thing–and finding a wool-blend union suit wasn’t that easy. Cotton, I feared, wouldn’t be warm enough. My mom, bless her, managed to find an bright red union suit made of a wool-cotton blend and gave it to me for Christmas. How I loved my union suit. I was the only girl I knew who owned one. I had it for 20 years before I made the error of storing it in the garage in a container that mice got into. I think you know the
rest of the story. (Insert very sad face here.)
Interestingly, even though it is common to associate union suits with men–prospectors, old west cowboys, etc–the garment was originally made for women as an alternative to restrictive clothing during the middle and late Victorian age. The union suit was created in Utica, New York in 1868, and was billed as “emancipation union under flannel”. It was a one-piece garment made of red flannel with buttons up the front and a drop-seat in the back. The union suit was so practical in terms of comfort and warmth that it soon became popular with men. Men being men, it was not uncommon for a union suit to be worn all week, or even all winter. I once read an account of one man who’s leg hair grew through his union suit and he had to be cut out of it before receiving medical attention. Uh….
The union suit continued in popularity, primarily as a working man’s garment, until the mid 20th century. As time passed, long johns–two piece thermal undergarments–gained popularity, eventually bypassing the union suit. The union suit survives, however, and is much easier to find than now than in the 1970’s when I made my Christmas request.
Do you have any experiences with or know of any anecdotes about union suits?
Hello everyone! I hope you’re having a great Wednesday! I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a little about my latest release. I usually write contemporary western romance. It’s kind of my thing. However, my most recent book is a sweet contemporary set in Marietta, Montana, and since this is my very first (official) sweet romance, I wanted to share it with you.
Originally the story, which is the last book of Tule Publishing’s Holidays at the Graff series, was supposed to take place on and around St. Patrick’s Day, which happens to be one of my favorite holidays. Previous books took place at Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s (waving at fellow filly Marin!) and Valentine’s Day. Since my book was the end of the series, a wedding was in order, so we decided to make my book Wedding at the Graff. (I still worked in St. Patrick’s Day. Yay!) The only problem was that my characters weren’t yet dating. Yikes! The only solution was to make them friends who’d always secretly been aware of the the other. But what’s going to keep them apart? A ‘stolen’ heirloom ring which the heroine has in her possession and which the hero needs to return to his boss, her former fiance.
Enter the Flanigan Stone.
Here’s the prologue:
Garrett Hawley dropped the glossy color photo on the Macassar ebony desk and leaned back in his chair. “Colleen won’t give it up. She’s convinced my great-grandfather stole the ring from her great-grandfather, even though she has no proof.”
Michael Donovan pulled the photo closer. He’d only seen the antique emerald and diamond ring a half-dozen times on Colleen Flanigan’s finger. Once she’d become engaged to Garrett, he’d removed himself from her life. It was the only way he could handle the situation. Tamp down the gut-wrenching sense of loss and move on.
“You know, the only reason I gave her that ring is because of Granddad. He suggested it.”
Michael raised his gaze. He had not been aware. The late Hugh Hawley Sr. had been both generous and business-savvy. He was the reason Michael had his education, and the reason he had a job at Hawley Enterprises. He was also the reason Michael was tied to the company for three more years.
“Yeah. When Dad found out, he came uncorked, but it was too late. Kind of hard to tell your new fiancée you want to trade out engagement rings—especially that ring.”
No doubt. The Flanigan Stone, as Colleen had called the emerald, was a Flanigan heirloom that the Hawleys had gotten possession of, either by purchasing or stealing, depending on who told the story. Colleen and Garrett’s marriage was supposed to put an end to the family feud…but things hadn’t worked out that way. If anything, their failed relationship had thrown gas on the fire.
Garrett’s jawline hardened. “Dad wants to have the emerald reset to give it to Serena as an engagement present.”
“Seems kind of a shame,” Michael said. He meant that in many senses. It was too bad that the pristine stone would be pried from its antique platinum-and-white-gold setting. Too bad that high-maintenance Barlow would be wearing it. But Serena had Hugh Hawley Jr. wrapped around her finger, and what Serena wanted, Serena would get. Which meant that Garrett would do what he could to retrieve the stone, which was why Michael was there for the late-night drink in the offices of Hawley Enterprises.
My life is going to be a nightmare until I get the ring back.”
“No way that Serena would be happy with another more expensive ring?”
Garrett leveled a speaking look at Michael.
“I’ll take that for a no.”
“What you have there is a $50,000 stone. Untreated. Colombian. Do you know how many untreated natural emeralds of that size there are in this world?”
“Not off the top of my head.”
“Point one percent.” Garrett sounded as if he’d just had the statistic hammered into him, which he probably had, since he and his father had been closeted in Hugh Jr.’s office during the latter part of the day. Michael had assumed it had something to do with procuring new financing for their latest condo project, but apparently not.
Garrett smiled the wry half-smile Michael rarely saw anymore, looking for one fleeting moment like his old fraternity friend—a guy he’d respected and liked. The smile evaporated.
“Serena is all about having what other people don’t.” Garrett snorted. “Kind of like Dad.”
And kind of like Garrett, himself. The reason Garrett had swept Colleen off her feet was because she was jaw-droppingly beautiful and Garrett collected beautiful things. Showed them off. But in addition to being beautiful, Colleen was intelligent and hardworking, witty and fun.
The perfect woman in Michael’s mind. Or she had been. Times had changed. She’d changed. But the fact that she’d changed didn’t keep Michael from feeling a stab of alarm when Garrett said, “I’m going to have to unleash .” The head of legal for Hawley Enterprises. “I’ll have to pay for his hours myself.” Garrett reached for the crystal decanter and held it up. Michael shook his head and then Garrett poured another two fingers of Oban into his glass. “No way Dad is going to let the company pay for what he calls ‘my mistake.’”
Garrett grimaced as if mentally calculating the lawyer’s fee. Not that he couldn’t afford it. Michael understood his boss didn’t like to make mistakes, and if he did, he hated his father rubbing his face in them.
“Am I here so that you can unburden yourself?” Michael asked. He doubted that was the case given the way his relationship with Garrett had evolved.
“I want you to talk to her.”
“Excuse me?” Michael now wished he had scotch in his glass.
“She’ll probably listen to you more than she’ll listen to me.” Another of those rare half-smiles. “Our relationship is acrimonious.” Garrett put his forearms on his desk and leaned forward. “If you agree to go to Nowhere, Montana, and convince Colleen to give the ring back—convince her I’m serious about a charge of grand larceny—I will make it worth your while.”
Go to Montana and meet with Colleen? The thought shook him.
“Let’s just say a big chunk of the down payment you just dropped on that condo will reappear in your bank account.”
Michael’s eyebrows lifted, even though he made it a point not to show emotion during business dealings. “That could get into some serious money.” More than the ring was worth, but quite possibly less than the lawyer would charge.
“Totally worth it to get my dad off my back, see Serena happy and…you know.” He gave a small shrug before leaning back and finishing his second scotch, which Michael read to mean that he wouldn’t mind seeing Colleen squirm. She’d hurt his pride and given Hugh Hawley Jr. the ability to say ‘I told you so’ to his son.
“I’ll need a more exact number than ‘a big chunk,’” Michael said. But even as the words left his mouth, he knew that the amount they agreed upon wouldn’t matter. He’d fly to Montana because he was concerned about Colleen doing battle with the Hawleys. She could be stubborn and headstrong, and the emerald was an emotional thing for her. Colleen Flanigan was not above cutting off her nose to spite her face, as his gran would say.
He didn’t want to see her get herself into trouble, because despite his efforts to the contrary, he still wasn’t over her.
So that’s how the story begins. I also made a Pinterest Board showing the inspirations for the story. I hope you’ll check it out!
Well, 2018 started off for me in an interesting way. My husband and went to the dump and hit a stretch where the road had drifted. Someone had made it through, so we figured we could, too. We figured wrong, because we were driving the garbage hauling truck which doesn’t have very good tread on the tires. You know how it is when the back end of the rig gets sucked toward the ditch. It just keep moving that way. My husband and I are old hands at getting unstuck–snow, bogs, mud–we’ve done it all at least once. But this time we didn’t have a shovel, because again, we were in the garbage hauling truck. So I used what was on hand–a kitty litter bucket. I’ve got to tell you, it worked better than a shovel. I have it riding in the back seat of the garbage-hauling truck now just in case.
So that was the start of 2018. Since then I’ve turned in a book–my very first Heartwarming, Her Montana Cowboy, which comes out in August. I’m very excited to be writing for Heartwarming and this is a sweet continuation of my Montana Bull Riders series that I wrote for Harlequin Western. My voice has shifted a little and I like the new fun tone. I’m also in the process of finishing up Wedding at the Graff, which is another sweet romance. It releases March 1. I adore this cover.
We brought in the cows to weigh the calves and do some vet work. As you can see, after the big snow drift-kitty litter bucket adventure, we haven’t got much snow. The cows are back out in the field on winter pasture. The plus side of very little snow is that each day they’re on pasture, they’re not eating hay, which saves a lot of money. Plus my husband just had back surgery and isn’t in tractor shape yet, so this is working out well.
And lastly, my daughter got engaged. She’s getting married in November and we’re going dress shopping next month.
That’s my January wrap up. I’ll be writing some research posts in the future, and some excerpts from my books, but this seemed like a good time to just catch up. I hope everyone reading this is well. I’ll close with a photo of a beautiful Montana in January sunset.
In 1849, California pioneer Catherine Haun wrote, “Although very tired of tent life many of us spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in our canvas houses. I do not remember ever having had happier holiday times. For Christmas we had grizzly bear steak for which we paid $2.50, one cabbage for $1.00 and oh horrors, some more dried apples! And for a Christmas present the Sacramento River rose very high and flooded the whole town!”
Now that’s a holiday to remember!
Celebrating Christmas wasn’t easy for those making their way in new territories, but upholding traditions was an important way of making these places feel like home. Often resources were limited and decorations consisted of whatever was handy—evergreen trimmings, berries, pictures clipped from magazines, popcorn garlands—and presents were often handmade, or ordered from catalogs, if mail service of that kind was available.
In Boise, Idaho, the community shared a tree in the 1860s and residents were invited to “communicate through it with their friends,” according to the Idaho Statesman. People could exchange gifts and there was a Christmas Eve party at the tree.
But what about those people who were truly in the wilderness on Christmas Day? Well, some of them couldn’t take time off from the important business of staying alive as this journal quote from fur trapper David Thompson attests: “Christmas and News Years day came and passed. We could not honor them, the occupations of every day demanded our attentions; and time passed on, employed in hunting for a livelihood.”
Lewis and Clark and spent several Christmases on the trail during their famous expedition. Christmas of 1804 was spent in Fort Mandan, North Dakota where the men were issued flour, dried apples and pepper to help celebrate the holiday. Clark wrote of this Christmas: “I was awakened before Day by a discharge of 3 platoonsfrom the Party and the french, the men merrily Disposed, I give them all a little Taffia and permited 3 Cannon fired, at raising Our flag, Some men went out to hunt & the Others to Danceing and Continued untill 9 oClock P, M, when the frolick ended.”
In 1806, the expedition was stranded at Fort Clatsop on the Pacific Coast. This was more of a gift giving occasion, according to Clark: “Our Diner to day Consisted of pore Elk boiled, Spoilt fish & Some roots, a bad Christmass diner. I recved a presnt of Capt L. of a fleece hosrie Shirt Draws and Socks—, a pr. mockersons of Whitehouse a Small Indian basket of Gutherich, two Dozen white weazils tails of the Indian woman, & Some black root of the Indians before their departure.”
That “Indian Woman” was Sacagawea.
If you’re interested in learning more about Christmas in the Old West, check out Christmas in the Old West: A Historical Scrapbook, by Sam Travers. The information in this blog was adapted from that book.
Have a Wonderful Holiday Season and a Very Merry Christmas! I’ve loved spending 2017 with you, and look forward to 2018!