My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys – or what I learned from western movies.

Yes, I admit, my heroes have always been cowboys. My love of cowboys came from old western movies. Here were men who were larger than life, who stood up for what they believed in, who’s word was their bond, who were willing to do what had to be done. And when they fell in love, it was deep and forever — even if they fought it at first.

Nothing surprised me more when I started to write, that I chose set my stories in the American frontier. Now, it wasn’t a surprise that I chose to write historicals –after all, I have a BA and MA and a second BA in History and taught US History and Western Civilization at the college level. However, I liked teaching Western Civ more than US History and my MA had specialization in Tudor and Stuart England, and the second BA in European Studies. But when it came time to write it was the frontier and the cowboy who caught my imagination. Big surprise.

Guess Fredrick Jackson Turner was right. Turner, a historian, presented his ‘frontier thesis’ in 1893 at the American Historical Association, stating that it was the westward expansion that formed the American character, making us as Ben Franklin said a new race that was rougher, simpler, more enterprising, less refined.
I think now it was the frontier aspect that drew me, as on the edge of civilization, it took a man and a woman working together to make a home. This was the basis for my first novel, Kentucky Green, when the frontier was ‘the land beyond the mountains’, the Kentucky and Ohio territory in 1794. My hero, although he’s not a cowboy, has all those cowboy characteristics.

But for most people Turner’s westward expansion brings to mind the cowboy. Which leads me right back to my old western movies.

When I was teaching, I used to have the student watch Stagecoach (1939) and discuss how the character portrayed the values of the time. If you haven’t seen the movie (shame on you!) a group of disparate individual undertake a dangerous stagecoach trip through Indian Territory. Our hero, the Ringo Kid (John Wayne, where director John Ford gave Wayne’s character the greatest screen introduction ever) is out to get the man who killed his father and brother. There is the ‘good woman’, a military wife on the way to join her husband, and the ‘bad woman’, the dancehall girl run out of town. The Confederate and the Union veteran. And of course, our hero helps save the day when the Indian attack. Here are our cowboy values of putting the good of the group before personal advantage, care and protection for those who need it. Courage in the fact of danger (the Indian attack).

Ringo also show determination to get revenge on the man who killed his family. This is often part of the ‘man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do’ philosophy of the frontier. The average man, our hero, is forced to act as the law as either the law is absent (part of the definition of frontier) or unable or unwilling to do the job that needs to be done to protect society. And, of course, after the final shoot out, our hero and his girl ride off to start a new life together. The ‘new start’ part of the frontier standing for redemption

Stagecoach is #9 on the American Film Institute’s Top Ten Westerns.

I also used to show part of Red River (1948) to my classes also. This movie is #5 on the American Film Institute’s Top Ten Westerns. In the first part (a prologue actually), our hero, Tom Dunstan (John Wayne) leaves the wagon train heading to California and the girl he’s fallen in love with to go to Texas to start his ranch, saying he’ll send for her. She fails to convince him to let her go with him, and says she’ll come.

I liked to use this to point out to my classes, who were used to instant communication, how you have to understand the times the people lived in to understand the history of what they said and did. I used to ask the men in my class, how are you going to send for her? A letter? Who would carry the letter? How would you address it? Would you go yourself? How would you find her? Then I’d ask the women in my class – how long do you wait for this guy to send for you? A year? Two years? Forever?

Perhaps part of the pull of the western is the lack of technology that sometimes seems to overwhelm and swamp the personal and individual in today’s society. People seemed more important than things in the west. Relationship were personal. Today we can spend more time with our computer that with our family.

The main part of Red River deals with the dangerous cattle drive north many years later. Here again we see the cowboy hero in several guises. Dunston (Wayne), who willing to do what no man has done, the cattle drive to try and save not only his ranch but all the surrounding ranches. Dunston willing to step up and take responsibility. He’s helped by his surrogate son, Matthew Garth (Montgomery Clift) and a cast of great secondary characters. As the cattle drive is beset with disasters, Dunston becomes more autocratic and driven to the point that Matthew rebels and takes over the herd. Matthew standing up to and against the man he loves like a father, necessary to do what right in his mind. Matt says ‘know he (Dunstan) was wrong. Sure hope I’m right.’ The story is not only one of man against nature (taming the frontier), but of Matthew (Clift) and his conflict with Dunstan (Wayne) each man doing what he thinks is right as the central theme of the film.

And, of course, there is a romance between Matt and the girl he meets, falls in love with, but must leave to complete the cattle drive. This romance between Matt and Tess (Joanne Dru) is what help lead to the final reconciliation between the men. This is a great movie with a young and beautiful Montgomery Clift and John Wayne allowed to act before all the directors wanted him to do was be John Wayne.

The Forties and Fifties were a great time for western movies, really too many to mention. But you might recall a few with Jimmy Stewart such as Winchester ’73, or The Far Country.

Randolph Scott working with directory Bud Boetticher made several good western such as The Tall T, and don’t miss Seven Men From Now if only for the final gun fight between Scott and Lee Marin as the ‘good’ bad guy.

For lots of good cowboy heroes, there is always what’s know as director John Ford’s Cavalry trilogy, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and Rio Grande.
These three, along with Stagecoach were shot in Monument Valley and the scenery is as much a character as the actors. Especially the storm She Wore a Yellow Ribbon which blew up as they were filming, and Ford kept right on filming. No special effect, just the real thing.

I think part of the allure of the cowboy is the wide open spaces and scenery that surrounds him. It was the remember clean, clear and bright mountain scenery around Durango, Colorado that made me set Colorado Silver, Colorado Gold there. My cowboy hero is an undercover officer for Wells Fargo who, of course, is determined, brave and does the best he can. And, of course, as all western heroines, the woman he falls in love with is strong, capable and makes him realize he’s a better man than he thinks he is.

Modern westerns in the old tradition are starting to turn up on television, such as Broken Trail (2007) with Robert Duvall as the older mentor and Thomas Haden Church as his nephew. And the traditional cowboy values are showcased in Open Range (2003) with Kevin Costner teaming with Robert Duvall, as two itinerate cowboy who end up taking on a corrupt sheriff and town boss – doing what needs to be done to make the community safer and revenge their friend. Also a nice little romance between Charlie (Kevin Costner) and Sue (Annette Bening).

Even the contemporary cowboy has those values. My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys (1991) where an estranged son and father re-connect as he finds love with an old flame.

How much better would things be today, if those cowboy values – honest, true to their word, willing to sacrifice to help those who can’t help themselves, putting the good of the community before their personal needs when necessary.

Yep, my heroes have always been cowboys. I watch the old movies any chance I get, and keep a lookout to see if they are out in DVD to replace the VHS tapes I have. My current favorite is Tall In The Saddle. Did I miss mentioning one of your favorite westerns? I know I missed some of mine. Do you watch the old movies, or do you have a favorite ‘modern’ western?

Terry Irene Blain

Escape to the past with a romantic adventure



One lucky winner will be drawn to win their choice of COLORADO SILVER, COLORADO GOLD or KENTUCKY GREEN.

Leave a comment to get your name thrown in the hat.

Better Off Wed? by Charlene Sands


arborIn exactly one year from today on May 22nd, I’ll be the mother of the groom!  My son is getting married! The wedding will take place on a country club golf course and their vows will be spoken on the first tee.  My son is an avid golfer, you see, and he wanted to get married on a golf course.  No other place seemed fitting enough.


My husband and I recently celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. Since both of us worked that day, he took me to Mission Burrito for a taco salad. The entire dinner cost $12.00. We were blissfully happy anyway and will take a little trip next month to celebrate properly. But either extravagant or simple, I feel very fortunate to have spent these past 35 years in a relationship with a warm-hearted, loving man.


My daughter was married just last fall, and now we’re back in wedding mode again. As we stuffed the beautiful engagement party invitations, my husband said, “Seems like we were just doing this.”  It’s true – it was only 7 months ago when we were in full wedding swing. This party will be a summer luau with all the trimmings, including a Tiki Bar with my dh as the Mai Tai Master.  20081011-0133-r


How different weddings are now than in the past. While today young women and girls look forward to marrying their loves, forming that loving bond together with stability and compassion, back in the first half of the 1800’s, that wasn’t necessarily the case. Often, women weren’t overly enthused with the thought of marriage. For them, it meant a hard life of cooking, mending, sewing, chores and bearing children. 


I was surprised to learn that women had on average five to seven children! That’s a lot of meals to cook and clothes to clean! But more importantly, if love wasn’t the means to their marriage, wives were often subjugated to a husband’s wrath. They depended on him for monetary support and therefore, the men always had the upper hand.  Woman often spoke of their upcoming marriage with impending doom or at the very least, anxiety.


Whereas, it’s observed that in the first part of the nineteenth century men looked favorably upon marriage. They’d have good meals cooked, clean clothes and sex on a regular basis.  While women of that time enjoyed sex with a mate before marriage, often their desire waned after marriage. Statistics show this to be true today as well.


In the early part of the century a minister performed the ceremony in the bride’s home for most marriages, although church weddings became more popular later on and soon became the norm. Perhaps due to the preacher’s heavy schedule of sermons and church services, most weddings in early 1800’s were performed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays.


Women of the West tended to court and marry at a later age than those in the East and South. They also engaged in more premarital sex and often married if the woman became pregnant.


Today’s research shows from a 2008 study that the average marrying age for women is 25 and for men, 27. 


Since two of our fillies are marrying off their daughters this season, both coincidentally named Kristi/Christi, I asked them about their thoughts and family traditions that continue from generation to generation.  Both Pam Crooks and Tanya Hanson had something unique to share!


From Pam: 


“With a talent she didn’t know she had until she was in her late thirties, my sister Kim decorates beautiful cookies.  Starting with my first daughter, and continuing the tradition with my second and now my third, she makes cookies for every guest at the wedding reception. 


As you read this, Kristi is hours away from being married.  Afterward, since she and her new husband will be moving to Virginia Beach, the guests will find beach-themed cookies at their table.


Love the cookies Pam! Aren’t they adorable! Best wishes at the wedding today!


From Tanya:      


I’m a little crazy right now LOL. Christi had her first fitting on Saturday and suddenly, it’s almost here.

Some traditions, old and new:  Christi is using the cake knife and server, and silver toasting goblets from Matt and Debbie’s wedding, and the little Noritake china bridal cake plate Tim and I ate from. 

A five-generation tradition: Somewhere during the ceremony, the hymn “Let us Ever Walk with Jesus” happens. At our wedding, it was a solo. My parents walked up to the altar to it during WW II. At Matt’s and also Christi’s, it’s the song I will walk in to.


I think all of these traditions are amazing and endearing. 


What about you?  Any weddings on your horizon?  Did you have family traditions that continue on from one generation to the next?   And what wedding scene from either a book or movie stands out in your mind?  


Curious minds want to know!


Don’t forget to enter our Fillies Contest!!

Terry Blain Visits Wildflower Junction

colorado-silverHello Darlings,

Ah do declare! Miss Terry Blain comes calling this weekend.

The Fillies are plumb excited to have a chance to visit with the dear lady. Miss Terry shares our love for western romance and cowboy heroes. Not sure what subject Miss Terry will choose to talk about but she can’t go wrong with the handsome devils. Ah can listen for hours and imagine the things that could go on behind closed doors. Hee-hee!

Hitch up your buggies and shake the wrinkles out of your skirts. Follow the trail that leads to town. We’ll be watchin’ for you.

THE REST OF THE STORY: How I Got Started Writing






When I start doing interviews for a new release, I’m always asked how I got started writing. Because the real story is a long one, I give a brief version or answer that I always wrote. Here’s the rest of the story….


The first story I ever wrote was called The Pink Dress. I stapled the pages into a book and drew a cover. I don’t remember how old I was. Maybe eleven. Many years later, I wrote a short story, submitted it, and received a rejection from Redbook magazine. I was fourteen and I still have the story and the rejection slip. I still remember the feeling of rejection and disappointment when I received it. My first complete novel was titled The Rebel. I’m actually too embarrassed to tell you what it was about, but the title would have sold well to Silhouette, don’t you think? In fact it probably has. I was sixteen when I wrote it.


I wrote in notebooks for years while my children were growing up, and I started a couple of books that way. I never got serious until my youngest daughter went to first grade. I was lost without her, but instead of having another baby, going to school or getting a real job, like many women with empty nest syndrome, I decided that was the time to write the book I’d always wanted to write.


cherylAll The Tender Tomorrows. Great title, eh? Ambitious undertaking. Great characters. No plot. Passive, passive, passive writing. A totally unsellable time period. I typed it on an old manual Smith-Corona, with an “A” that struck half a line below all the other letters, and the manuscript underwent at least three or four complete rewrites.


I didn’t know it was passively written. I didn’t know it was a time period no one would buy. I thought it had a great plot—I was involved. LOL I sent it to many, many publishers—most major publishers, in fact. What they should have said in their rejection letters was: “This doesn’t fit our present needs, and if it ever does, we’ll shoot ourselves.” But they didn’t.


However, I did not receive constructive rejections; I got vague form rejections. But I did learn to persevere. I wrote the whole thing from beginning to end and rewrote it as many times and as many ways as I knew how. And if one of those publishers had told me how to change it to make it better, I’d have done that, too.


Soft Summer Magic came next, a contemporary. The pool man story. Spoiled rich girl gets her comeuppance when her father’s Midwest bank goes broke and she has to work as a nanny for the guy who maintained her pool—and she learns he is the owner of the company. A slim bit of conflict. A lot of steamy romance and sexual tension and some love scenes I still remember…not terrible. Would it sell today? Perhaps rewritten. Will I? No.


Brotherly Love a.k.a. A Kindred Oath followed that. It was another contemporary. A young man’s dying brother makes him promise to take care of his widow after he’s gone. Some conflict. Some plot. Fair characters. Not redeemable. But I sent it out, too. Both of those were rejected by all the contemporary publishers.


typewriterThrough All The Tears. This was an attempt at the inspirational market. (I also tried to sell articles and devotionals and all other kinds of projects in between these stories.) Dumb story. Dumb plot. Didn’t finish it. But it had some really well written pages in it, so I was developing something. A voice perhaps.


The Birthright was a story I loved from its very conception. I fell in love with my research on this endeavor. The first draft had page after page after page of all the fascinating details I’d learned. I included nearly my whole notebook full of notes into the story.


Mind you, this was still before I ever found a writers organization. I was reading the outdated how-to books from the library and thinking I could do this. I worked on this story for a few years. After several rewrites—and buying a second-hand IBM Selectric typewriter, I had a good thing going. I really thought I was uptown with that electric beast. Baby, I had arrived. This book would be a best seller.


I mean this typewriter even had those nifty little eraser papers you held against the paper and re-typed over—no more globs of white out all over the striker keys, or white out plastered so thick on the page, it chipped off all over my desk.


I did great—unless I took the page out of the carriage. It was not impossible to get it back just exactly the way I took it out so I could fix it, but there’s only so much time in a year, you know?


I submitted that manuscript to all the publishers. And they all rejected it. By that time I was the query letter queen. I knew just what to say to get them to ask for my entire book. Everyone asked to see it–no one wanted to buy it.


succeedAround this time I found RWA and a local chapter. And I started learning. All along I’d thought I was so prolific. I never had writer’s block. I just sat down at the keyboard and wrote and wrote and wrote. Words flew off my fingers onto the pages.


Well, then I learned about passive writing and studied Swain, and found out about motivation/reaction and feeling/action/speech and CONFLICT! And I learned why I’d blissfully written so easily for so long. Ignorance was bliss. I was writing crap. Fixing it was a monumental task.


At this point, since I’d learned so much and was now such an improved writer, I decided to start something new.


This Business of Love. (I’m still going to use this title someday.) Another contemporary attempt. I had joined a critique group by this time. Boy, was it hard learning how much work my writing really needed.


The characters wouldn’t leave me alone, so I went back to The Birthright. I rewrote it. And then I got very, very, very brave—and had it critiqued by (the late) Diane Wicker-Davis, an Avon author and member of our chapter at that time. A few weeks later, I got the critique; Diane went over her thoughts with me. She’d Xed out page after page and written “nothing happening” in the margins. I couldn’t look at it or go back to any writing for two solid months. But in my heart, I realized she knew what she was talking about.


I was never going to have a better opportunity, so I rewrote it again, using her edits and suggestions. And I submitted it again–and had it rejected by an agent who actually gave me two pages of suggestions. I rewrote it again. And she rejected it again.


I stuck it on a shelf.


rain-shadow.jpgMy next project was Rain Shadow. By that time I was taking care of my first grandchild while my daughter worked, still raising two children at home, and working 40 plus hours a week at a “job” job. When I look back, I can’t imagine how I managed it all, but I did.


I wrote every available minute. When I was writing Rain Shadow, I was working some pretty crazy hours, but whenever I wasn’t at work, I was in front of my computer. My children took turns fixing supper, and they learned to leave me alone while I was working. My husband, who’d never turned on the washer in his life, learned to do laundry. I wasn’t always happy with the results, but hey, he did it. For nearly a year, I barely attended any family gatherings. My husband took the kids and left me home, undisturbed, to work.


The first editor I sent the manuscript to was one I’d met at a conference—I spent the entire morning before the appointment in the bathroom being sick. She asked to see the complete manuscript. For months, I waited on pins and needles.


heaven-can-wait.jpgShe rejected it: Anton was unheroic and Rain Shadow was unfeminine. Well what did she know? She was just the senior editor at Big Publishing House. Being me, I had the manuscript out to other people and places, too, and soon an agent called to tell me she loved the story and she was sure she could sell it. Harlequin bought it four months later.


stjohn.jpgThen I learned about line edits and copy edits and cover art sheets, and after the dust settled, I went to the pile and thought, “Hmmm….” I pulled out The Birthright, which I had retitled Heaven Can Wait in one of the many rewrites, and mailed it to my editor, with a letter asking what I could do to get her to by it. A few weeks later, she called with the answer. “Cut a hundred pages and much of the God stuff.” I did. She cut more. I finally saw that book in print.


After selling Land of Dreams, Saint or Sinner, and Badlands Bride, my agent convinced me to test the contemporary waters, so I’ve written several contemporaries over the years as well.


The Preacher’s Wife, which will be out in just another week or so, is my thirty-second published book, and my first inspirational for Steeple Hill Love Inspired. I’ve come a along way since stapling pages and drawing my own covers, but I still enjoy the process of creating stories.


Hang ’em High


 I was thrilled recently to learn that my entry, Outlaw Bride, has finaled in the Romance Through the Ages Contest sponsored by RWA’s special interest chapter, Hearts Through History. This work-in-progress features a horse-hang-tree-barethievin’ heroine who manages to escape getting strung up on a tree outside an Arizona town. This second chance at life finds her mending her evil ways…and falling for a handsome Cavalry scout turned rancher.  All the while she’s outrunning her big bad outlaw brother and the bounty on her head. ..disguised as a nun.

Well, she’s itsy bitsy, so the hangin’ tree didn’t have to be very big…but most hanging trees, real or legendary, had to be sturdy with dramatic, stretched-out branches.  In California, oaks and sycamores were the trees of choice although juniper came in handy, too. Or should I say, necky? Many trees have been lost to age, disease, or development, but some remain, like the hanging tree in Holcomb Valley in the San Bernardino Mountains.  (shown below) 

The valley was the richest gold field in Southern California, a good dozen years after the Forty Niners up north. While miners and prospectors worked hard and honest to find their lucky strikes,  claim jumpers, gamblers, and outlaws such as Button’s Gang all the way from Salt Lake City, Utah, made harsh frontier justice necessary. In the first two years after gold was discovered in 1861, some 40, possibly 50 murders demanded a strong message of law and order.


Records claim that this lovely juniper in Holcomb Valley witnessed as many as four  hangings at a single time. When the hanged criminal was cut down, so was the branch from which he hung.

Down the mountain, in the canyon below a tollway in Orange County’s  master-planned community of Irvine, bad guys were hanged long ago from a stand of seven sycamores. A plaque reads, “Under this tree, General Andres Pico Hung Two Banditos from the Flores Gang in 1857.”

General Pico, the brother of California’s last Mexican governor, led the posse that captured and hanged at that spot Francisco Ardillero and Juan Catabo of the treacherous Juan Flores Gang. The gang had massacred a Los Angeles County sheriff and three other lawmen during a reign of terror that blazed for a hundred miles. 

Juan Flores himself was strung up in downtown Los Angeles while thousands of spectators watched, but the humbler Ardillero and Catabo were soon forgotten.

They might be nameless even today if the monument shown below hadn’t been erected forty years ago by an equestrian club. Today these sycamores symbolize life. Docents will lead hikes to O.C.’s Hangman’s Tree later in the summer only after a pair of nesting hawks have raised their young.  


 Up north, about an hour west of Lake Tahoe, Placerville, California still lays hangman-tavern-placervilleproud claim to its original moniker, Hangtown. All along historic Main Street, establishments display such names as Chuck’s Hangtown Bakery, Hangtown Grill, and even Hangtown Tattoo and Body Piercing. Without a doubt, Hangman’s Tree Tavern is the site most deserving of bragging rights, for down in its basement you can see the original stump from the white oak hangin’ tree. I’ve seen it…kind of sad, really. 

Placerville likely got its original name in January 1849 when a colorful gambler was waylaid by robbers after a particularly profitable evening at the saloon. Once captured, the thieves were unanimously declared guilty and condemned to death by hanging after a 30-minute trial and little evidence. At that time, the infamous white oak hanging tree stood in a hay yard next to the aptly-named Jackass Inn.

 Ken Gonzales-Day, an art professor at Scripps College in Claremont, California, has written an excellent book, Lynching in the West, which chronicles 350 such cases in California between 1850 and 1935. Tragically, many were racial injustices. Because he feels people tend to fictionalize the past unless they realize real people lived it, he has photographed dozens of “hang trees” in his research and describes his pictorial journey as “part pilgrimage and part memorial.” Some day, he says, the trees will be gone, and the last living pieces of this history will be lost.

Ken, who describes the trees as “witnesses standing there when the mobs walked by,” has kindly shared with us some of his hauntingly beautiful photographs, the three below and the “bare” tree at the top. It actually is very like the imaginary scene in my head where my outlaw bride almost meets her Maker. I didn’t know Ken’s work when I wrote the story.


hang-tree-twoFortunately, most of California’s native trees don’t have such  grim histories. Our state has got California live oak and palm trees (not native), groves of avocado and lemon and olive, the giant Sequoia, Generals Sherman and Grant, the coastal redwoods, ponderosa and jeffrey pines, and bristlecones thousands of years old. Not to mention hundreds of species inbetween.

Other than a Christmas tree by my fireplace in December, my favorite tree hang-treeis the lemon tree in my backyard. I raid it almost daily for slices for my iced tea. And we found a humming bird nest in a red-leaf not long ago.

What are your favorite tree stories? Did you climb them as a kid? Build a tree house? Hang a tire swing from a branch, or a hammock between two trunks? Tack a fairy door over a knothole to give the little people some privacy?

Please share!

(Many thanks to Professor Ken Gonzales-Day and the LA Times, May 7, 2009.) 


Phyliss Miranda’s Winner

blackcowboyhat.jpgThanks to everyone who stopped by today to make Phyliss welcome. You sure made her happy. She wishes she had a book to send to every single commenter. But she can’t. She did draw a winner though from the names in the hat…..

Cheryl C.

Congratulations! Cheryl please email Phyliss at with your mailing address and your choice of hardback or paperback of either Give Me a Texan or Give Me a Cowboy.

And don’t forget that I’ll be back in my regular spot to blog on June 2nd. Take care now.

Phyliss Miranda Fills in Tomorrow

As you know I’m in the middle of a major relocation to the Lubbock, Texas area. I’ve arrived at my new house and really love it. The only problem is that I’m drowning in the sea of boxes that are packed full with my belongings.

phyliss_miranda.jpgPhyliss Miranda has taken pity on me and is filling in tomorrow so that I can focus on getting my house in order. Phyliss is a sweetheart and a dear friend. Please come and read her interesting blog. She’ll give away a book to one lucky commenter.  How great is that? See, I told you how special she is.

I’ll be back in my old spot on June 2nd. I’m looking forward to climbing back in the saddle and chatting up a storm with you.

The Big Rock Candy Mountain


Oh the buzzin’ of the bees
In the cigarette trees
Near the soda water fountain
At the lemonade springs
Where the bluebird sings
 On the Big Rock Candy mountain

If you’re anywhere near as old as I am, you may recognize this song, attributed to Harry “Haywire Mac” McClintock and made famous in a 1950s recording by Burl Ives.  Not long after the release of the song in 1928, some local wags places a sign at the base if a colorful mountain in Southern Utah, naming it “Big Rock Candy Mountain.”  They also placed a sign next to a nearby spring proclaiming it “Lemonade Springs.”  The names stuck, and the mythical Big Rock Candy Mountain of the song became one of the most recognized spots in the state. 

So why am I telling you all this?  Because the Big Rock Candy Mountain was a bigrockcandy1wonderful part of my childhood.  I grew up an hour north of the mountain, and, as a kid, it was one of my favorite places to go.  Not only was the hiking fun, but they had a campground, and a restaurant connected to a store that sold little bags of honest-to-goodness rock candy—the “rocks” were jelly beans, but they were made to look like real pebbles. 

Outside there were some animal pens with a cougar named Whiffy, a pair of lynxes named Sniffy and Spiffy, and some coyotes that would howl when the lady who ran the place came out and howled with them.  Once when we were there, they had a mother porcupine with babies.  I got to hold one of the babies—their quills don’t harden until they get older.  Looking back I realize it wasn’t a good situation for the animals, but as a little girl  I was fascinated by them. 

On Easter weekend my parents and their friends would reserve a picnic area for all their families.  It was so much fun, chasing around the mountain with a big gang of kids, rolling eggs down the slope and feasting on hotdogs and watermelon while the grownups visited.   The Sevier River ran along the road, and in the winter a wide section called Horseshoe Bend froze over—Great for sledding and ice skating.  I am smiling as I write this. 

Did you have a favorite place to go as a child?  Tell us about it.

Click on the book, HIS SUBSTITUTE BRIDE to order from

The Cowgirl Behind “Cowgirl Dreams” by Heidi Thomas

In a scrapbook I have from my grandmother is a clipping from the Sunburst Sun (Montana) newspaper, Aug. 26, 1922, that reads:
1:00 Parade of cowboys and cowgirls, headed by Cut Bank brass band
2:30 Tootsie Bailey will enter competition with entire field, riding wild steers with only one hand on cirsingle

     Another clipping states “Tootsie Bailey won first and Mary (Marie) Gibson second prize in the steer riding.”
Marie Gibson was a well-known Montana cowgirl and won national awards for bronc riding.
Tootsie was my grandmother and she would have been 17 at that time. I did have the opportunity to spend time with her, ride horseback, and get to know her pretty well before she died suddenly when she was only 57 and I was 12.

     I know that she was an avid horsewomen and that she was more at home on the back of a horse than behind a dust mop. My dad told me she had competed in rodeos, riding steers, when she was young. I kept thinking how courageous that was, especially as I got older and watched bull and bronc riders. Grandma was petite—five-feet two-inches and weighed a little over 100 pounds. I was amazed that she would pit herself against an animal that weighed 900 pounds or so, one whose sole purpose was to get that pesky rider off its back and then maybe stomp on her!

While my grandmother most often dressed in men’s jeans and did a man’s job, riding horseback and working cattle, she also “cleaned up nice” and dressed very feminine and fashionably when she was in social situations.

     Following is an excerpt from Cowgirl Dreams when my character, Nettie, donned a pair of her brother’s denim pants, sneaked out of the house one morning and rode in a neighbor’s informal rodeo. She loved the freedom of riding her horse Toby, wearing pants and especially riding the steer in the rodeo. The adrenaline of staying on the back of that bucking, twisting, angry beast had her hooked and the clothing allowed her to ride unencumbered by the extra fabric of a skirt, divided or not. (I don’t know that my great-grandmother was as opposed to her daughter’s rodeo riding as my character’s mother, but I know, from research, that it was often a family issue and a social stigma.)

     When Nettie arrived home, her mother was horrified to see her daughter dressed as a man. And having heard that Nettie had ridden in the rodeo against her wishes, Mama was highly upset.

     “You.” Mama stepped forward, her face dark red with anger. “You defied me.”

     Cold dread pooled in Nettie’s belly. She’d never seen Mama so mad. “No, I—”

     “Young lady, you were supposed to stay home today. Work on that pile of darning. You know Mrs. Connors wants it done by tomorrow, otherwise we don’t get paid till next week.”

     The darning. She hadn’t given it another thought after she’d decided to sneak out. Oh dear. Icy prickles of guilt stabbed at her. “But. Lola. Why couldn’t she finish it?”

     Mama stepped closer. “And, we had to hear it from the neighbor’s hired man. You. Rode. In. A rodeo.” With each word, she jabbed her finger an inch from Nettie’s face. “You know how I feel about that.”

     “But, Mama, I stayed on. I didn’t get bucked off.”

     “Don’t you sass me, girl.” Mama’s voice shook now. “And wearing pants in public, too.” She closed her eyes a moment and sighed. “You will take that basket of socks, go to your room, and don’t come out until they’re all finished. No supper. No No riding. For a month.” She turned on her heel and stalked out of the kitchen.


     horse-earrings-smThank you, Mary, for hosting me on Petticoats and Pistols. Today is my first stop on my virtual book tour. Please leave a comment to enter a drawing for some cool gifts. today, on Petticoats and Pistols, the drawing is for a pair of horse earrings. Perfect for P & P readers.

And join me tomorrow at L. Diane Wolfe’s Circle of Friends blog

     For the itinerary of all my stops on this tour and a list of prizes, go to my blog

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