Whiskey, Ah Whiskey . . .

pat2.jpg “Whiskey, you villain, you’ve been my downfall; you’ve kicked me and cut me, but I love you for all that.” From the song “Jack of Diamonds.”

“Giving up drinking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done if thousands of times.” Mark Twain

What would a western movie do without its friendly – or sometimes unfriendly – saloon?

I could mention any number of pivotal scenes — usually shoot-outs –from favorite movies and then, of course, there’s the ever-present Long Branch from “Gunsmoke.” A saloon, it seems, is essential to a western.

I’ve used saloons in several of my westerns, my favorite being “Notorious.” It’s a battle of the sexes, a duel between the male and female owners of competing saloons in San Francisco. When she tries to have him shanghaied, he decides to even the score by putting her out of business.

“He’d been prepared for a battle of wits. Had even relished it, but his neighbor had declared war, and he could be every bit as underhanded and vicious as she.

He gives away free food, and she gives away free drinks. He hires the world-famous Lotta Crabtree and she gets Can Can dancers. The battle escalates and becomes the talk of San Francisco.

In writing the book, I did a lot of research on saloons. I think what surprised me most was the elaborate entertainment many had – even in small cattle towns. I also found it interesting that Yuppies didn’t invent happy hour. Many saloons gave away free food to lure customers into their premises.

I’m starting a new book and again my heroine owns a saloon/bawdy house, this time in a mining town in the Montana. My hero is a federal judge sent to wipe out lawlessness. He’s a easterner, a scion of a wealthy family. His father is a senator and he is being groomed to take his place.    He soon discovers that his formal experience with the law doesn’t exactly work well in the wild west.

But, as usual, I digress.  Back to researching saloons. Here’s a few new facts.

In the early days in the west, the whiskey served in many saloons was some pretty wicked stuff made with raw alcohol, burnt sugar and a little chewing tobacco. Some barkeeps would cut their cheap whiskey with pepper sauce, turpentine, ammonia, gunpowder, and even a small amount of rat poison. Names given this whiskey included Dead Dan, 6 feet Under, Tarantula Juice and Coffin Varnish for obvious reasons. Some drinks contained peyote and tequila, and the cheap “house specials” was often known as rotgut.

Later as competition increased and transportation improved, many offered established brands of whiskey along with such delicacies as oysters.  I’ve been puzzled over how they shipped oysters, but apparently they were very, veryy popular.

The majority of saloon regulars drank straight liquor – rye or bourbon. If a man ordered something fancy or sipped his drink they were sometimes forced to swallow a fifth of 100 proof at gunpoint. Beer was plentiful but served warm. Patrons had to knock back the beer in a hurry before it got too flat.

One of the most intriguing facts – at least for me – is that many had not only the obligatory piano player but orchestras and even small chamber music groups that played classics.   Never saw that in a western film.  I think I’ll add it to my tale, though.

Eventually, there was every type of saloon that one could imagine. There were gambling saloons, restaurant saloons, billiard saloons, bowling saloons (Yep, I was surprised at that, too) and, of course, the plain old “just drinking” saloons.” Almost all, however, had the long paneled bar, a gleaming foot rail with a row of spittoons spaced along the floor next to the bar. Along the ledge, the saloon patron would find towels hanging so they might wipe the beer suds from their mustaches. 

Some names: the Bull’s Head in Abilene, the Holy Moses in Creede, Colorado and the Arcade Saloon in Eldora Colorado.

Now my immediate problem is finding a name for my saloon. Any suggestions? I’ll send a signed copy of “Notorious” to the person sending the most intriguing name.

Carol Ann Didier Here Tuesday

navajo_nightBless my soul! Look who’s coming around the bend.

Miss Carol Ann Didier that’s who.

Miss Carol Ann has saddled up and come calling. It’s such a pleasure to have the dear lady. Ah don’t rightly know what she’ll blog about but bet it’ll be interesting.

Ah know one thing for sure though. That’s a sexy man on the cover of her new book! Lord have mercy, I’d like to chase him around the corral! Hee-hee!

A little bird whispered in my ear that Miss Carol Ann is giving away a prize too so don’t be late. We’ll be waitin’ for you!

Lena Nelson Dooley: Strong Women Behind the Cattle Barons


We hear a lot about the Cattle Barons, the men who made their fortune raising the beef that people back East and west in California loved. Behind many of the men were strong women who helped forge the economy right along with them. I’ll introduce you to a few:

Aubony Stuart – Along with her husband Granville, they had an unlikely, but nearly-perfect marriage during the time when Indian-white hostility was at its peak. A full-blooded Shoshone, Aubony settled easily into her mixed marriage. She and Granville had nine children and later they adopted and raised two children of his dead brother James.

Eula Kendrick – She lived and dressed stylishly even on the frontier. A friend once commented that “her trim, erect figure sets off to perfection frocks which are always the last word in smartness and elegance.” But she wasn’t just a pretty face and fashion plate. She kept her husband’s books before she shared his retirement at the Sheridan, Wyoming, home they called Trail’s End.

Elizabeth Iliff – Sold Singer sewing machines when her husband John met her trudging along a country road. She was the perfect wife for a wild-west-christmas1cattleman, handling every crisis as it arose. When he died at 48, her first thought was to telegraph his ranch foreman to double the guard on the herds before rustlers could move in.
Nellie Wibaux – had a flair that matched the one of her husband Pierre. Even though their first home was a log cabin with a sod roof, for Thanksgiving they prepared turkey, plum pudding, and mince pie. She hovered over the stove in an evening gown. He drank champagne with a flour sack over his stiff shirt and swallow-tailed coat.

Agusta Kohrs – ran the domestic half of her husband Conrad’s domain in decisive Teutonic style. She started by firing the cook and taking over his duties. Later, with the staff trained to her satisfaction, she made tours to Europe and annual visits to New York’s Metropolitan Opera, which she attended the last time in 1942 (the year I was born) at the age of 93.

Mary Ann Goodnight – We know about the Goodnight cattle trail, but we don’t often hear about his wife. She was as tough and patient as her husband. She waited until age 31 to marry, when Charlie had established his Colorado spread. Later she helped him get through his financial crash. lake-tahoeEventually, she presided over their Palo Dura spread, where she was the only white woman for hundreds of miles around.

I’ve taken this information from the Time-Life The Old West series, The Cowboys. Photographs of these women show many of them to be quite lovely.

The old West was hard on many women, but it also proved to be an avenue to wealth and a better way of life, even though it took a lot of work.

Lena Nelson Dooley

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Stop in at Bustles & Spurs

Releasing in September:

Wild West Christmas (with Kathleen Y’Barbo, Vickie McDonough, and Darlene Franklin)

Christmas Love at Lake Tahoe (with Jeanie Smith Cash, Jean Kincaid, and Jeri Odell)

I will give away a free copy of each book drawn from the list of today’s comments.  Click on the covers to purchase on Amazon

The Hat Makes The Man




As the old cowboy saying goes, ‘It’s the last thing you take off and the first thing that is noticed.’humphreybogart_fedora

Top hats, derbys, tams, fedoras, berets, bowlers – hats do more than cover a man’s head. They make a statement about the wearer.

If I say Bogart, can you see him, fedora pulled down low, collar turned up?

charlie-chaplin_bowlerOr Charlie Chaplin in his bowler?

How about President Abraham Lincoln?abraham-lincoln-top-hat

sean-connery_panamaOr Sean Connery in his Panama?

Hats say a lot about the personality of the man – and some, like President Lincoln’s black stovepipe hat, will be forever linked with the man who wore it.

I believe the most recognizable type of hat, hands down, is the cowboy hat.

Did you see John Wayne in The Quiet Man and wonder where the heck his Stetson was?john-wayne_the-quiet-man

john-wayne_stetsonThere, that’s better.

How about the hat Clint Eastwood wore in Pale Rider? clint-eastwood_pale-rider

John Stetson was the creator of what we think of today as the cowboy hat. The son of a master hatter, John made his first cowboy hat as a demonstration to his buddies about making felt from fur. The wide-brimmed hat was so useful in keeping off the sun and rain, his companions wanted one of their own. And an empire was born.

Stetsonboss-of-the-plains-hat_real started his company in 1865. By 1866, the “Hat of the West” or “Boss of the Plains” set the John B. Stetson Company on the path to becoming the most famous hat in the world. Originally sold in one grade (2 ounce feldudes-in-boss-of-the-plainst) and one color (natural), that original Stetson hat sold for five dollars. The equivalent hat today would cost close to $1,000.

Check out these two Montana dudes (1885) in their brand new Stetson ‘Boss of the Plains.’ The guy on the left is wearing Levi’s.


Made of a blend of rabbit, wild hare and beaver fur, today’s Stetson sets the mark for cowboy hats. You can get your Stetson in felt or straw, black, white, grey, tan; choose your style, for casual or dress, for outside wear or for going to church.

If you want to see how these famous hats are made, visit StetsonHats.com and click on the “The Making of a Stetson Hat” from the list on the left.

Stetson isn’t the only hat maker in the U.S. In Dallas in 1927, the Byer-Rolnick company began making the Resistol hats, so named because they were made to “resist all weather.”

But Stetson is the name most associated with the west.

Here’s some eye-candy, just because.

ed-harris_appaloosa     dean_martin_rio_bravo_1959   kenny-chesney

garth-brooks   christian-bale

russell-crowe   george-strait   tim-mcgraw


“Even after the wild aspect of the West was somewhat tamed, the cowboy hat never really lost its ability to lend that reckless and rugged aura to its wearer.”



Weekend Guest: Lena Nelson Dooley

Hello Darlings,

Miss Lena Nelson Dooley has packed up her bags and joins us for a rollicking weekend.

The Fillies are as tickled as a June bug on a pink petunia to have her come calling! Yessireee.

Miss Lena has an interesting subject too. She’s going to tell us about some of the strong women behind the cattle barons of the old West. Ah doubt those men would’ve amounted to a hill of beans without their women to see to them and tell them a thing or two.

Miss Lena’s also giving away some books. To get your name in the pot, just drop by the Junction and leave a comment.

It’s an invitation you can’t refuse. Hitch up those wagons and blaze a trail!

Don’t dally around now!


Victoria Bylin: Hero Hunt At High Altitude, or Where I Met Outlaw Pete

victoria_bylin_banner It’s good to be back on the blog. A family emergency sent me to California for close to a month.  Not an easy trip, but all is well.  I want to give a big thank you to my fellow Fillies who filled in the gap for me. Ladies, you’re the best!

Now that I’m home, I’m getting back to the business of writing.  Woooo Hoooo! I’m shopping for a hero! A lot of writing is work, but the hero hunt is just plain fun. I never know when the right man will show up. It’s usually out of the blue. This time his arrival was no exception. He came out of the Wild Blue Yonder . . . literally!  I was on an airliner, an Airbus 319 to be precise, in Seat 10B.

Has anyone here flown Virgin America? The cabin colors are purple and black. Instead of movie screens that drop down from the ceiling, each pavirgin-america-2ssenger has an individual entertainment system complete with movies, television, and music.  It’s about as far from the Old West as you can get, but somewhere over Nevada I programmed a play list and did some time-travel. Thirty-seven-thousand feet above fly-over country, Bruce Springsteen’s voice came through the headphones.

Outlaw Pete! 

Outlaw Pete!

Can you hear me?

I love this song!  It’s on Bruce’s newest album and it’s totally over the top.  It’s got outlaws, a bounty hunter, wild mustangs a Navaho girl, pistols, mountains and buckskin chaps. After a month of Los Angeles freeways, Holly-weirdness, and smog, I felt almost normal again.

The lyrics gobruce-springsteent me thinking . . . What is it about outlaws that’s so appealing? I’ve been thinking about this, because I want my next hero to be as bad as I can make him. He won’t stay that way, of course. And that’s what I think the real appeal is for an outlaw hero. By the end of the book, they’re redeemed. They might be bad to the bone, but they don’t stay that way. 

My all-time favorite outlaw hero is Johnny Cain in The Outsider by Penelope Williamson. When the story opens, he’s “a man killer.” He’s about as irredeemable as a man can be. Yet he’s the one who risks his life to save Rachel’s son. That’s another key to the outlaw hero. Bad men sometimes do good things. 


Keep in mind I’m talking about heroes in romances.  In real life, I’d have been terrified by the Wild Bunch or the Cole-Younger gang. Then again, there’s Doc Holliday. Granted, I see Val Kilmer when I picture him, but what really intrigues me is the complexity of his character.  That man was a loyal friend to Wyatt Earp. He was also highly educated, a dentist, and very good with a gun. It’s quite a mix. He may not count as a full fledged outlaw, but he captured the rebellion of thoutlaw-pete-silhouette1e West.

When I’m creating a new hero, the challenge is to balance darkness and light, good and evil. Maybe that’s why I like Outlaw Pete so much. It’s got all the highs and lows of real life.  A lot of outlaw heroes are at war with themselves. In the romance the good side always wins. I like that!

Does anyone else have a favorite “outlaw” song?  A favorite outlaw hero?  I can think of a bunch, but I’d love to have y’all add to my list.

And last . . . I’m giving away books from my backlist today. It’s good to be back at Petticoats & Pistols, so I’m celebrating.  Anyone who comments will be eligible to win a copy of either Midnight Marriage or Stay for Christmas.  These are two of my older HH titles.  Good luck!  

Christmas with a twist-and a giveaway

One of the great things about America is the melting pot.
Polish traditions, Irish traditions, Italian traditions, Native American traditions, Mexican traditions, South African traditions, all work their way into our country, blend, change, grow, mix together. In the end, the best thing about America is that we get the pick of the best things in the world, put our own spin on them and make them uniquely American.

Is there any other explanation for Mexican Pizza?
Moccasin’s in leopard prints?
Christmas trees decorated with mule deer antlers and pheasant feathers?

A nativity scene out of Russian matryoshka nesting dolls?

I know, I’m talking Christmas again, sorry. It’s on my mind because of my September release Cowboy Christmas.
If it bothers you, go to the mall, walk down the ornament aisle. You’re lucky if you find Halloween. Forget Thanksgiving. There’s probably already mistletoe hanging around, and if there isn’t, the back-to-school pens and papers are still holding sway. Give it two more weeks until the little tykes get back in school then BAM.
It may still bother you, but I think you’ll know I’m not the only one out here thinking Christmas already.

Cowboy Christmas releases September 1st but I’ve noticed that it’s already marked as Shipping on Amazon.com so that’s exciting. Go to your local bookstore and ask for it. If they don’t have it, I give you permission to throw a fit. Hold your breath. Lay on the floor and kick and scream until they promise to start stocking it.
Call the newspaper first.
Uh. . .and don’t mention this blog. Act like it’s your own idea.

Here’s a bit about Cowboy Christmas.
Annette Talbot has the voice of an angel and the devil on her trail.
Elijah Walker has been burned by a lying woman and now, pretty Annette is shaping up to be a bigger liar than his ex-fiancé.
Annette is determined to stop always being a coward. She’s growing in a backbone and she’s going to do it right now. Or well, maybe not RIGHT now. Maybe she’ll wait until it’s a little bit safer.
Annette has a knack for standing firm when she ought to bend, and bending when she ought to stand firm. She should have bent when Elijah said he’d take care of her. But Annette didn’t have the much trouble defying nice guy Elijah.
Elijah’s doing his best to ignore this little damsel in distress. But Annette gets pretty much dropped straight into Elijah’s unwilling arms. He can’t exactly toss her back in the frigid river to float on downstream, now can he?
But helping her isn’t the same as trusting her, and that he will never do. Annette decides that she’ll practice being brave by standing up to Elijah. Elijah’s getting tired of having a snippy woman in his face. And he’s really getting tired of catching himself in the midst of kissing Annette. That’s not part of his plan to protect his heart.
Winter comes on hard.
Christmas draws near.
And one squabbling couple may get a chance to forget their old hurts and follow their own star to true love.
Cowboy Christmas in bookstores now.

Tell me about your favorite family Christmas tradition, especially one you’ve turned into your very own.
Oyster stew and chili on Christmas Eve? Only your family has corn chowder and lentil soup instead?
Huge family gathering at Grandma’s house? Only grandma’s spending her winters in Boca, so you all meet in February in a motel in central Iowa somewhere.
Sledding party in the bitter cold? Only you live in Pheonix and you haven’t seen snow in a decade and have no wish to see the cold nasty stuff. So you grill steaks on the deck instead and listen to the coyotes howl.
Midnight Mass with the whole family? Only your church has eight Christmas Eve services and ‘midnight mass’ starts at 5:30.
Clam bake on the beach in Cancun. (I could live with that one)

My family, my own children, have started having an appetizer dinner on Christmas Eve. A huge improvement over getting together to watch Die Hard. (Yes, it’s a Christmas movie. So is Lethal Weapon. What can I saw, my husband is a rebel. Like – It’s a Wonderful Life would kill him. That’s a nice movie!!!!!!)
I put a stop to that when my husband realized The Long Kiss Goodnight was a Christmas movie. Gad, that movie makes Die Hard look like an episode of Little House on the Prairie. We are NOT watching Geena Davis as an assassin for our Christmas tradition.

We usually have the huge extended family gathering on Christmas Day at my mom’s house, sometimes we move it to the weekend before or after Christmas.
How about you? What’s your unique twist on Christmas. Think about it before you say you don’t have one! You probably do, even if it seems traditional to you.

Everyone who leaves a comment about their family Christmas gets their name in the drawing for a copy of Cowboy Christmas
I’m giving away a second copy from my newsletter,

Just for Laughs.

Which should go out next week. Subscribe to that by clicking on the words Just for Laughs to get your name in that drawing. If you’re already a subscriber, then you’re name’s already in, no need to subscribe again under a secret identity.