Tag: Regina Jennings

The Indian Agent’s Wife

Regina Jennings

Secluded from civilization, grossly outnumbered by hostile neighbors, but expected to keep up the appearance of a proper Victorian household—that was the task of an Indian Agent’s wife.

While Mrs. Daniel (Ida) Dyer’s white “verandahed” house was charming, just past her lawn was open prairie with hundreds of white tepees. In her book Picturesque Cheyenne and Arrapahoe Army Life before the Opening of Oklahoma, Mrs. Dyer notes that the village consisted of many noted warriors—warriors that were discontent with reservation life and not very fond of her husband. Also surrounding the agency town of Darlington were thousands of bleached and rotting bones that had accumulated over the years when the Indians tore apart their weekly beef rations. Not what the granddaughter of a U.S. Representative and Lieutenant Governor of Illinois was expecting out of married life, but Ida Dyer was made of stern stuff.

Even though Darlington in the 1880s included a hotel, a commissary, a mission school and a newspaper office, its population was limited to white people who had government permission to live there. Even visitors were sent away unless they had authorization. Mrs. Dyer and the agency employees did have a social life consisting of occasional parties and gatherings with the officers’ families from nearby Fort Reno, but entertainment came second to survival. While the wives of the officers at the fort could count on military protection, the agent’s wife was to offer a level of hospitality to the Indians that often left her vulnerable.

In one instance (which is included in my latest book Holding the Fort), an outlaw band of Cheyenne warriors took up arms. The agency employees and missionaries left Darlington and raced to the fort, but Ida remained at her husband’s side as he worked to get the proper reports completed before abandoning his post. Daylight disappeared and with it their hopes for safe passage to Fort Reno. The streets belonged to the Cheyenne, but the Dyer’s trusted Arapaho friends convinced the rebels that the Dyers had already fled. Understaffed and hopelessly outnumbered, the troopers at Fort Reno didn’t dare leave the fort to attempt a rescue. That left the Dyers as prisoners in their own home for two weeks, crawling past windows and unable to even light a fire for fear of being discovered.

But despite her fear, Ida found much to admire about the people she and her husband were serving. Thanks to her eye for detail and her amusing anecdotes, we can see her love for the Cheyenne and Arapaho people and her concern over the difficulties being forced upon them. Unfortunately, her husband’s ineptitude led to a short tenure as the agent in Darlington. Years later, when he read her published account of their experiences, he gathered every copy of the books he could acquire, burned them, and then divorced Ida. Thankfully, a few copies survived.

While Agent Dyer didn’t appreciate Ida’s recollections, we certainly can. Thanks to Ida Dyer’s firsthand account, we get to meet many women of the west who would’ve otherwise gone unsung.

Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for Holding the Fort, Regina’s new release.

Award-winning author Regina Jennings is a homeschooling mother of four from Oklahoma. She enjoys watching musicals with her kids, traveling with her husband and reading by herself. Regina has worked at the Mustang News and First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. Her latest release, Holding the Fort is the first book of the Fort Reno Series.

She loves to hear from readers at her website – http://www.reginajennings.com and on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Holding the Fort

Fort Reno Series Book #1

Jennings Winningly Combines Humor, History, and Romance

Louisa Bell never wanted to be a dance-hall singer, but dire circumstances force her hand. With a little help from her brother in the cavalry, she’s able to make ends meet, but lately he’s run afoul of his commanding officer, so she undertakes a visit to straighten him out. 

Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno. He can barely control his rowdy troops, much less his two adolescent daughters. If Daniel doesn’t find someone respectable to guide his children, his mother-in-law insists she’ll take them.

When Louisa arrives with some reading materials, she’s mistaken for the governess who never appeared. Major Adams is skeptical. She bears little resemblance to his idea of a governess–they’re not supposed to be so blamed pretty–but he’s left without recourse. His mother-in-law must be satisfied, which leaves him turning a blind eye to his unconventional governess’s methods. Louisa’s never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough?

Digging through the Footnotes of History

By Regina Jennings

At the library’s used book sale, I always head to the folding table covered with history books. I’m amazed by what my neighbors have had in their collections. A full-color, hard-backed encyclopedia of the Soviet Navy? A book on the history of boxing? An illustrated guide to historical cosmetics? I never know what I’ll find, but it’s guaranteed that I’ll leave with a paper sack full of resources.

When trying to think of ideas for my historical romances, it’s tempting to steer away from the old favorites. Some events in history have been so thoroughly probed and prodded, that it’d be difficult to come up with a new angle. Besides, as a writer who uses humor in her works, a lot of historical events don’t fit. A light-hearted romance about the Titantic? The Alamo? Nope. Not gonna happen. But I shouldn’t turn down books about those events too quickly. Often in studying the well-known stories, we find stray tidbits that can be quite valuable.

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Camels being loaded for the trip to America. (National Archives)

When I picked up the book titled Orphans Preferred, I didn’t have any plans to write a romance about the Pony Express. After all, no woman of the times would set out to marry one of the poor, hard-working, ultimately dispensable riders, but my reading proved beneficial. Somewhere in the discussion of the mail delivery methods that were tried before the Pony Express was organized, there was a paragraph that taught me something new. Before the Civil War, the U. S. army attempted to replace their cavalry horses with camels in the southwest desert.

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(US Camel Corps) – “A member of the legendary southwestern ‘Camel Corps’ stands at ease at the Drum Barracks military facility, near California’s San Pedro harbor.”

Wait, what? Here was some interesting fodder for a story, but the book was about the pony express, not the camel express, so nothing more was told. Rushing to my online resources, I began combing through articles and books on the U. S. Camel Corps stationed near San Antonio. After chasing down leads, and following footnotes, I found the material I needed for a fresh story that will be new to fans of the Old West. That story will be coming out next winter in a collection with Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, and Melissa Jagears.

You can never predict where you’ll find that one spark that’ll light up a whole manuscript. Sometimes you already know the event, but you are searching for the right angle to tie the story together.

That’s what happened with my new release For the Record. The Ozark Mountain Romance series is set in…(drumroll)…the Ozarks, and we’d worked our way up into the Bald Knobber era. Now for those of you who haven’t been to Branson, the Bald Knobbers were a gang of vigilantes that tried to impose justice during a time of lawlessness in the mountains. Unfortunately, the masked gang soon turned their justice into revenge and they became the feared and hunted ones.

Sounds like a fun, light-hearted romance, right?

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The Bald Knobber Gang from the 1919 movie “Shepherd of the Hills”.

So, where was the spark that could move this story away from the inherently dark history? Once again, it was just a line, perhaps an afterthought that the author decided to insert at the last moment. According to the source, because the local law enforcement officers found impartiality difficult in polarizing, post-war Missouri, Governor Marmaduke hired out-of-state sheriffs and deputies to come impose order.

Bingo! I had a handsome, young deputy from Texas from a previous book that just happened to be hero material. A “foreigner” from Texas sent in to straighten out blood feuds, how could that go wrong? There was plenty of conflict, room for misunderstandings and the perfect foil for my dear little heroine who was already convinced that she’d never meet the right man in Pine Gap, Missouri.

All from that one little mention in a Bald Knobbers book.

If writing has taught me anything, it’s to look for the stray, little-known facts that show up in well-researched history books. What someone dropped in as an aside can be the foundation for another story, because meandering down the road less traveled can lead you to the story yet to be told.

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Regina Jennings graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a history minor, and has been reading historicals ever since. Regina has worked at the Mustang News along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She makes her home outside Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with her husband and four children.

Her latest release is For the Record. She loves to hear from readers at her website – http://www.reginajennings.com and on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

For the Record

Betsy Huckabee might be a small-town girl, but she has big-city dreams. Writing for her uncle’s newspaper will never lead to independence, and the bigger newspapers don’t seem interested in the Hart County news. Trying a new approach, Betsy pens a romanticized serial for the ladies’ pages, and the new deputy provides the perfect inspiration for her submissions. She’d be horrified if he read her breathless descriptions of him, but these articles are for a newspaper far away. No one in Pine Gap will ever know.
Deputy Joel Puckett didn’t want to leave Texas, but this job in tiny Pine Gap is his only shot at keeping his badge. With masked marauders riding every night, his skills and patience are tested, but even more challenging is the sassy journalist lady chasing him.

 

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What Could Go Wrong? – A Trip Up the Cattle Trail with Regina Jennings

 

Karen here: We have a special guest with us today at Wildflower Junction. Regina Jennings is a debut novelist for Bethany House, and she’s written a fabulous western romance that  features a beautiful Mexican heroine and a handsome Texas rancher. They come from two different worlds, yet both carry secret heartaches that have dictated the paths their lives have taken. Paths that suddenly cross. (By the way – I read Sixty Acres and a Bride last week and loved it!) So without further ado . . . here’s Regina!

In my new release, Sixty Acres and a Bride, a heartsick rancher returning home from the cattle trail searches for the courage to reenter society. You’d think going to church socials and attending barn dances wouldn’t be that scary, but Weston would much rather tangle with the dangers of Old Chisholm’s trail.

Today, whether you’re in Central Texas or Oklahoma the name Chisholm is as common as windstorms, oil derricks and football stars. Seeing how the cattle trails were to 1870 ranchers what the personal computer was to Silicon Valley, it’s only natural that the name is applied to everything from churches to subdivisions. The Chisholm Trail was responsible for many fortunes—and misfortunes.

Walking cattle up a trail sounds simple enough—one cowboy for every 200 cattle or so, just moseying them northwards as they ate and sunned in the mild spring temperatures.

Of course, while the spring temperatures in Oklahoma and Texas might be mild, the weather is anything but. Thunderstorms can be a weekly occurrence capable of producing hailstones the size of grapefruits, not to mention tornadoes. The cowboys had to hide in a… um… actually shelter was scarce on the Chisholm Trail. While the flat prairie was ideal for driving cattle, it left cowboys as vulnerable as a spider in a frying pan when storms struck. And if you found a tree to huddle beneath, you risked dying of a lightning strike.

When lightning did strike there was a good chance you’d get yourself a stampede (or stompede as they sometimes called it). Herds of up to 3000 cattle could run from 5 to 10 miles, trampling each other to death and anything else that stood in their way. In good times, the trail bosses paid tolls for safe passage across Indian Territory, but some stampedes were purposely started by opportunists looking to steal a few head of cattle or horses in the confusion.

Another peril our stalwart drovers faced was river crossings. Once the cattle sidestepped any quicksand they could swim across, but a branch floating downstream was all it took to turn the high-strung longhorns. Soon the herd would be swimming in circles—called milling—growing weaker and weaker until they were swept downstream or drowned. Halting a milling herd was extremely dangerous as the cowboy and his horse could easily get pulled under by the thrashing cattle before they could lead them to the riverbank.

So why risk life and limb? Because those cattle that were stripping their pastures and trampling their gardens were worth $40 a piece at the railhead in Kansas. In Texas they’d only bring $4 a head. That 700 mile trail was all that stood between a man and his fortune. Naturally the common cowboy’s pay wasn’t that good, but he had dreams of someday driving his own herd to market.

Unless a wealthy rancher like Weston wanted to make himself scarce, he most likely would’ve hired those hapless cowboys, but our protagonist needed space and there’s plenty of space available on the trail. Fortunately for all involved, Weston couldn’t hide forever. There’s a surprise waiting at home in the lovely form of a senorita who is in desperate need of a hero.

How about y’all? Do you have any stories of animals behaving badly?

Leave a comment to be entered for a chance to win a copy of Sixty Acres and a Bride.

Sixty Acres and a Bride

She’s Finally Found a Place to Call Home . . .
How Far Will She Go to Save It?

With nothing to their names, young widow Rosa Garner and her mother-in-law return to their Texas family ranch. Only now the county is demanding back taxes and the women have just three months to pay.

Though facing eviction, Rosa falls in love with the countryside and the wonderful extended family who want only her best. They welcome her vivacious spirit and try to help her navigate puzzling American customs. She can’t help but stand out, though, and her beauty captures attention. Where some offer help with dangerous strings attached, only one man seems honorable. But when Weston Garner, still grieving his own lost love, is unprepared to give his heart, Rosa must decide to what lengths she will go to save her future.

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