Tag: St. Elmo’s Fire

Research Nugget: St. Elmo’s Fire

Some authors hate research and find it tedious, but I love it. I’m always surprised by something I find and it’s a little gift to me when I run across tidbits that deepen my story. They don’t have to be earth-shattering either. Small details can add another layer of realism.

In THE HEART OF A TEXAS COWBOY it was St. Elmo’s Fire. I’d heard about it for a long time but never knew exactly what it was. This is a weather phenomenon that occurs during thunderstorms. It’s a plasma discharge similar to lightning and forms a blue or purple glow that attaches and hangs onto the tip of sharp objects. Even blades of grass have been known to attract this strange glow. Often, but not always, a hissing sound can be heard.

The occurrence was recorded as far back as the 14th century when an eerie glow formed on the tall masts of ships. It’s the patron saint of sailors and to see the phenomenon is viewed as a good omen.

Cattleman Charles Goodnight wrote about the experience during one of his cattle drives and how the glow formed on the tips of the long horns and jumped from animal to animal. It never hurt the cows one bit.

The Heart of a Texas Cowboy that came out on May 2nd takes place during a cattle drive up the Great Western Trail. Houston Legend is trying to save the Lone Star Ranch by selling off two thousand of his herd. But first he has to get them to Dodge City. The woman he marries in order to give her child a name, Lara Boone, volunteers to come along as cook. Two days out, he sees riders trailing them. He doesn’t know what they want but he’s determined to protect his wife and child, his drovers, and his herd. It soon turns into an all-out fight with love blossoming along the way in this marriage of convenience story.

One night, during a huge thunderstorm, Houston sees St. Elmo’s Fire jumping from tip to tip of the cows’ long horns. He doesn’t know exactly what to call it and is amazed that it doesn’t affect the animals.

Here’s a short excerpt of that scene:

Lightning flashed around Houston as he moved amongst the herd around midnight. An eerie glow danced along the six to nine foot horns of the frightened animals leaping from one to another. It was strange how it never hurt the cows. Or didn’t seem to anyway.

In the midst of the summer rain, he scanned the herd, looking for signs of a possible stampede. So far, they were just restless. The biggest threat for a stampede was at the beginning of trail drive. After a few weeks, the jumpy cattle settled into the routine and became acclimated to the noises. Thank goodness for that or this storm would send them into a panic.

His thoughts tried to return to Lara and he kept reeling them back in. Lives depended on him focusing on this right now. Everything else would have to wait. He rode around the fringes speaking soothing words, keeping the animals in a tight bunch.

Harmonica music drifted in the air as Joe rode alongside him. The song, Beautiful Dreamer, had a calming effect on the herd. One by one they laid down, lulled by the music. Houston breathed a sigh of relief that the danger had passed. He watched the steady drip of water off his hat brim onto his oilskin slicker, wishing he was in a Dodge hotel. After a hot bath with his lady, Lara would curl up next to him with nothing between them but skin.

With what had happened tonight, he had high hopes that they would in the near future. He still felt her hand brushing his chest and sneaking up under his jacket. She seemed to like touching him and he certainly didn’t mind a bit. Whatever she fancied to do was fine with him.

But teach her how to love?

Not a chance. What did he know? He was raised with little softness. Stoker was a hard man and he’d instilled that sharp-edged toughness into his sons that had squeezed out affection and sentiment. Still, he’d try. He wanted more than anything for Lara to know a true husband’s love.

* * *

The book released on May 2. This is #2 Men of Legend series and will be followed by #3 (To Marry a Texas Outlaw) in November this year.

Come along and take this journey with me. Meet the Legend family—the tough father and his three sons—and help them tame the West.

As far as I know I’ve never seen St. Elmo’s Fire but maybe you have. If not, tell me about the scariest thunderstorm you’ve ever witnessed. Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for one of two copies (print or ebook) of this.

Petticoats & Pistols © 2015