My Favorite Historical Landmark and Margaritas by Charlene Sands


250px-leonis_adobe_calabasas_2008Do you have historical landmarks in your vicinity?  Do you love to visit them?  Most importantly, are they near your favorite restaurant?


That last question isn’t a joke!  Right next to the rustic Sagebrush Cantina, (they make a mean chicken tostada and great Margaritas) where I’ve been known to frequent with my hubby, friends and my critique partners on Calabasas Road, sits The Leonis Adobe. This ranch house and surroundings is one of 200 or more rancheros that once graced the San Fernando Valley.  The entire area is deemed “El Camino Real”, the famous road that linked Spanish settlements and missions up and down the California coast. 


Before the Southern Pacific Railroad connected Los Angeles to San Francisco, El Camino Real was a stop on the stage line that was operated by Flint, Bixby and Butterfield and at that time, this now upscale affluent area, had a reputation as a rough and tumble wild spot in the San Fernando Valley.  


leonis09Miguel Leonis, a Basque land settler who stood six foot four inches tall, was a shrewd and powerful man who, after amassing land and great wealth, came to be known as the “King of Calabasas”.  He married an Indian widow named Espiritu and through that marriage he acquired 1100 acres of her family’s land, cattle, sheep and horses. It was estimated that after his death in 1889, his possessions and wealth steeped to $300,000. It is said that he left Espiritu a mere $10,000 of his estate and she in turn, sued for her fair share, a court battle that lasted ten years.  I have read reports of the house being haunted by Espiritu after her death.  200px-leonis_adobe_barn_calabasas_20081


For me, The Leonis Adobe, which is open to the public, is an amazing visual form of research.  So often, I would go there, imagine my western stories, pick up details on daily life on the ranch and roam around the barn, visit the horses they have corralled, the birds walking free and other penned livestock. I’ve learned how the old windmills worked and how Miguel had managed to run water lines to his house for indoor plumbing.  The kitchen, dining room, bedrooms and parlor of the house helped me envision the furnishings in my own stories and how a big ranch house operated. 


An arbor of grapes provides entrance to the house and a small sampling of vineyards is still intact and growing next to an orchard.  A 600 hundred-year-old oak tree provides backyard shade for the house and barn. I always peek inside the bathhouse that is free standing near the house and windmill and imagine my hero washing up in there.  (Did I just write that?)


Discovering the Leonis Adobe was easy. I probably drive by it twice a week and it always warms my heart that this small street in Calabasas leonis30is still holding to old traditions with the Plummer House sitting on the property, moved from its original location and known as the oldest house in Hollywood, built in 1874. And the Calabasas Creek that is partially preserved in its natural state, just 100 yards from Leonis Adobe. All of this history in such a small area and backing up against the 101 Freeway, at times many forget it’s there. They sip margaritas on the outside patio at Sagebrush and watch the world go by.


That is, all but history buffs and writers.  We know its there. We know the legends and often think about what life was like more than one hundred years ago at The Leonis Adobe.


What about you?  Do you have historical landmarks nearby?  What’s the most unforgettable landmark or historical site you’ve visited?    





  ****Remember to follow us on Twitter and look for our new “Cowboy Under the Christmas Tree Contest” coming soon!



Cheryl St.John’s Drawing Winners Announced

her-colorado-manThanks to everyone who visited Wildflower Junction today! All of your names went into the cowboy boot and I’ve drawn three winners to receive copies of HER COLORADO MAN.

And the winners are:

Barb Peacock

Edna Tollison

Lori S (sugarandgrits)

and I went a step further and drew a FOURTH:

Karen Witemeyer

Ladies, to claim your books, please send me your addresses at:

Bobbi Smith Heads for the Junction

RunawayHello you little darlings,

This weekend we’re fortunate to have Miss Bobbi Smith in our neck of the woods.

Miss Bobbi is known far and wide as the Queen of Western Romance. She’s written a passel of books and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. The Fillies are thrilled and delighted to have Miss Bobbi visiting. She’ll tell us all about her newest release and yak about the rugged cowboys she likes to write about. Ah’m all ears when it comes to talking “man talk.” Hee-hee! One of these days ah’m gonna catch me one of the handsome devils.

RelentlessCoverWe need each one of you little darlings to join us and show Miss Bobbi a raring good time.

While you’re here you can post your two cents and get your name in the drawing for one of two books.

So get your buggies hitched and follow the trail to the Junction!

We’d love to see your smilin’ face.

Cheryl St.John: Church Ladies, Drug Dealers & Tornado Insurance

stjohn.jpgYears ago a friend from a writer’s listserv sent me a copy of a cookbook her grandmother had given her. Little did she know that all these years and books later, I would still be gleaning helpful tidbits from a booklet titled COOK BOOK compiled by THE LADIES of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Eureka Kansas, 1896.


From this little gem, I have used names, recipes and tips, and created businesses for the fictional towns in my stories. Cookbooks are pieces of history, especially those put together by the women of those early towns and cities. The advertisers who paid for space and thereby funded the ladies’ project were a diverse group. Leedy’s Dry Goods and Clothing House for example boasts the lowest prices guaranteed and quality unexcelled. Their tag line: Good cooking is most appetizing on neat linens. We have them. Chas. A. Leedy sold dry goods, boots and shoes, fancy goods, clothing, and men’s furnishing goods. I have no idea what a men’s furnishing good was, but I am confident Mr. Leedy sold only quality in that line.


Interesting that listed among the directors of the First National Bank was none other than C.A. Leedy. Seems men’s furnishings were making him a tidy profit.


1_1241462477740H. C. Hendrick called himself a dealer in pure drugs—my how the times have changed. No one admits to being a drug dealer nowadays. H.C. sold medicines, chemicals, oils, varnishes, glass, putty, fine brushes (my husband swears a little putty and a fine brush can conceal anything; he must have descended from the Kendricks). They also sold a full and complete line of fancy toilet articles, fine stationary, choice perfumes, books, dye stuffs and all other articles usually kept in a first class Drug Store. Prescriptions were accurately compounded.


Then there was H.C. Zilley, dealer in hardware, stoves and tinware who sold agricultural implements and wagons, with sidelines of furniture and undertaking. Why not get into the undertaking business? He already had the shovel and wagon.


Lewis’ Art Studio did photography in all its branches; proofs are shown and all work guaranteed. VIEWING A SPECIALTY. I don’t know what that means either, I’m just telling you how their ad reads. YOUR PATRONAGE SOLICITED. Those printers liked their capitals, and they had all kinds of fancy fonts. This place was opposite the courthouse, FYI.


1874Now, Frank B. Gregg, he sold Fire,…Lightning and Tornado… Insurance – and he liked effusive punctuation. Okay, this was Kansas, so that tornado insurance probably came in handy. Suppose Aunty Em took out a policy with Frank?


A.Frazer’s Transfer and Bus Line: Meets all Trains, All Calls Carefully Attended

Your guess is as good as mine here.


Miss Nellie Smith was pianist, teacher of piano and organ and a pupil of Rudolf King, Kansas City. Her terms were moderate.


W.W. Morris was another dealer in pure drugs and medicines. Also advertised were paints, oils, varnishes school and  miscellaneous books, stationary, window shades, wall paper, musical merchandise, jewelry, fancy and toilet articles. “We manufacture the following specialties and guarantee them to be the BEST articles for the purposes recommended: Calla Cream, Castole, Excelsior Compound.” They were located NO. 23 OPERA BLOCK


The church ladies who contributed to this publication had wonderful names like Madella Smith, Eva Downard, Katie Addison, Olive Sample, Hattie Kelley, Lydia Thrall, Cornelia Newman, Mabel Mueller, Lulu Kendrick and Lizzie Bell.


eurekaA big percent of the recipes contain lard, and many of them, like biscuits and Boston brown bread, ginger cake and ginger snaps  are items we could whip up in our kitchens today, with the exact ingredients and directions. Others—not so much. Like suet as an ingredient. I’ve only fed suet to the birds. And what is black mustard? It’d required to make cucumber catsup. Another example:


Scrapple: Scrape and clean well a pig’s head as directed in pig’s head cheese, put on to boil in plenty of water, cook 4 or 5 hours, until the bones will slip readily from the meat :::are you shuddering yet?:::  take out, remove meat, skim off the grease from the liquor in pot and return the chopped meat to it, season highly with salt and pepper and a little powdered sage if liked, and add corn meal till of the consistency of soft mush; cook slowly 1 hour or more, pour in pans and set in a cool place. This is nice sliced and fried for breakfast in winter and will answer in the place of meat on many occasions.


As you can see the Methodist Episcopal Church Ladies have given me plenty of material for my stories. Since receiving this book, I’ve lost touch with Karen McKee, but Karen, if you get a google alert for your name: THANK YOU!


Tonight I’ll draw names from the comments for THREE advance copies of my December book HER COLORADO MAN – so leave me a comment!

Flying Horses

marryingminda-crop-to-useOn our recent trip north to visit our niece Katie and hubby John in the Lake Tahoe area, we paused to take in the sites and history of Sacramento including the mansion  some-wedding-sacramento-reno-tahoe-2009-115of Leland Stanford (1824-1893). Stanford wore such hats as California governor, railroad baron, university founder…and race horse owner. One of the video displays at the mansion shows his search to settle one of the hot debates of the 1870’s: Is there a moment in a horse’s gait when all four hooves are off the ground at once?


There is a legend that Leland Stanford bet $25,000 that it was true. Common reaction at the time nixed the idea. After all, if God wanted horses to “fly”, He would have given the creature wings.  But determined to settle the question, Stanford hired celebrity photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) to prove it.


Actually Muybridge was born Edward Muggeridge in Kingston-Upon-Thames, Surrey, near London. He adopted the more dramatic moniker, believing it to be the true Anglo-Saxon spelling. eadweard-muybridgeHowever, he soon shortened it to Helios and became one of San Francisco’s most celebrated landscape photographers, taking more then 2,000 photographs with 20×24 inch negatives. His 1867 photographs of Yosemite Valley brought the valley…and himself…almost mythic status.


He accepted Stanford’s challenge in 1872 and came to “the farm” in Palo Alto. (It now is Stanford University.)  After a bit of a detour –Muybridge went on trial for killing his wife’s lover— he found it wise to spend some time in Mexico and Central America even though he was acquitted on the grounds of justifiable homicide. Here he did photography work for Union Pacific Railroad, one of Stanford’s companies. In 1877 Muybridge came back to Palo Alto and continued his experiments in motion photography, using 12 to 24 cameras and a special shutter he developed that gave an exposure of 2/1,000 of a second. stanford-horse-farm-camera

Muybridge’s first attempt indeed captured Stanford’s horse, Occident, silhouetted against white sheets with all four feet off the ground. Although these original pictures didn’t survive, Muybridge continued to work with Stanford to develop techniques in the “science of animal motion.”

In 1878, he succeeded in photographing a sequence of frames produced on wet plate with 12 cameras that proved the “flying horse.” The slow wet plate collodion process produced images that were mostly silhouettes, but they showed something never before seen by the human eye. muybridge-horse-3



iscientific-american-october-18-18781Scientific American and other prominent publications featured articles on Muybridge’s accomplishment. However, Stanford invited his close friend, horseman and medical physician  Dr. J.B.D. Stillman to produce a book analyzing the horse-in-motion. Stillman used Muybridge’s photography without crediting the photographer. Interestingly, when Muybridge sued Stanford and Stillman for copyright infringement, he lost his suit.

Eadweard migrated to the University of Pennsylvania after that where he developed sequences of human figures, both clothed and naked (including himself unclothed). This important collection helped scientists and artists study human and animal movement, and many of the sequences were published in 1887 in a portfolio,  “Animal Locomotion, An Electro-Photographic Investigation of Consecutive Phases of Animal Movement.”. To simplify, imagine the “flip books” of your childhood. And actually, Muybridge’s sequences are available for kids in just this format in the mansion gift shop.

For all these reasons, and for the big one — the zoopraxiscope—Eadweard Muybridge is often called the father of the motion picture. To illustrate his lectures, he developed the’scope; its lantern projected images in rapid succession onto a screen. The images came from his photographs, printed on a glass disc. From the rotating disc came the illusion of moving pictures. muybridge-zoopraxiscope

Muybridge’s zoopraxiscope display, an important predecessor of the modern cinema, was a sensation at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. Muybridge continued to promote his photography and publish his work until his retirement in 1900 at which time he returned to England. “Animal Locomotion” is still in demand by art students today.     flying-single-horse 

I’m always amazed at the progress and prowess of people who came before. What a debt we owe to their ingenuity, their resilience. In honor of Eadweard Muybridge’s legacy, what are your favorite motion pictures?


Jodi Thomas: Texas In My Blood

jodi-thomasWhen people say I write with a true Texas voice I always thank them and wonder how I could write any other way.  I’ve got Texas in my blood and I’ve been telling stories set in Texas for twenty years.  From Beneath the Texas Sky in 1988 to The Lone Texan released October 6, 2009, my heros belong here.

My stories are born in the soil of my memories.  I remember hearing my grandmother tell about how she was born in a covered wagon.  Her mother died that night so her aunt took the newborn to Oklahoma where they homesteaded and returned her four years later to her father.  My grandmother traveled back and forth between the two farms until she married at 16. She met my grandfather at a barn raising when they were both fifteen. They spent one day together.  He returned a year later to marry her.  He’d spent the year clearing land and building a house.  She’d spent the year filling a hope chest.  They were married almost 70 years and I can see the chest they had from my desk as I wriite.

My other grandmother was born in a dugout not much bigger than a hotel room. I have her biscuit bowl in my kitchen.  She never measured when she made bread.  She just knew how much of each ingrediant to put in that bowl.


When I began the Whispering Mountain series, I knew I wanted to write a story about a family.  Being a Texan isn’t just the hat and the boots, it’s the heart as well.  Folks say Texan’s brag.  I think I’ve figured out why.  After the Civil War, most people in Texas, and those who came around then like my relatives, had nothing.  Life was hard and when they finally had a good crop or their wife made a great pie or their horse won a race, they bragged.  Not to show anyone up, but to show what they’d done and they knew their friends and neighbors would celebrate with them.

Someone asked me where I find my heroes and I have to say, ‘I’m surrounded by them.’  Six years ago when I moved into Women’s Fiction and began writing stories taking place in today’s Texas I still felt very much at home.  With TWISTED CREEK (2008) I blended character traits of people I’d known and loved.  In REWRITING MONDAY,  I stepped into a small town modeled after the one where I spent my summers growing up.

When I began THE LONE TEXAN, I faced the challenge of writing about a younger hero than usual.  I don’t know when I’ve had so much fun.  Drum grew up in an outlaw camp with no parenting.  He’s as wild as Texas was in 1850, but when he sees what a real family is like, he knows what he has to do.  In the first Whispering Mountain story, TEXAS RAIN(2006,) he’s 15 and thinks himself in love with Sage McMurray.  In THE LONE TEXAN he’s 20 and knows she’s the woman he wants.  Only problem, besides keeping her alive, is convincing her to marry him.


Hope you read Drum and Sage’s story that is out this month and step into my Texas with me for the adventure.  If you have a minute take a look at my video.  By the way, Matt at Readerhood, who did all the videos of my books, is a sixth generation Texan and my son.  He works out of a home office where he also corrals the first seventh generation who just turned one.


So, how do you know if Texas is in your blood?
1.  If you can look out at miles and miles of open plains and marvel at how beautiful it is.
2.  If you don’t notice the wind until it slams your car door closed for you.
3.  If you can still smell the gunpower at the Alamo and cry when you walk in even though the men died over 170 years ago.
4.  If, when you’re overseas and someone asks where you’re from, you say Texas.
5.  If you know what a yankee dime is.
6.  If you know what a cow patty is.

Are there any Texans out there who want to add a few to the list?  I’d love to hear from them and everyone who loves western romance. I’m giving away a copy of THE LONE TEXAN to one lucky commentor.

And for those of you who are not from Texas, you’re welcome to ride the range with me through the books anytime. I’d love to have you join me. Also, I’m on Twitter. You can follow me there.

Jodi Thomas 

Cowboy Christmas drawing winners

Thanks for all the great posts.  Wish you could all win.  The names that came out of the hat are:

1. Colleen    2. Jennie Marsland

Please contact me at so Pam and I can mail you your books.  If I don’t hear within the next 3 days, another winner will be chosen.  Thanks again.

One More For Your Bucket List

elizname2smallTanya’s recent blog about Lake Tahoe inspired me to tell you about one of my favorite spots. Crowned by the majestic Tetons, Jackson Hole, Wyoming is a must for any bucket list. Located just south of Yellowstone National Park, the place is stunningly, mind-blowingly beautiful.

jackson-1The peaks of the Teton Range rise up from the valley floor to an altitude of 13,770 feet at the highest peak. The surrounding park area is populated by moose, bear, bison, pronghorn antelope and the world’s largest elk herd. The town of Jackson is a tourist mecca, featuring great shops and restaurants. For art lovers, a strikingly designed museum north of town features some of the world’s best wildlife art.  (Hey, that’s me in the photo, my best side.)

Jackson Hole was discovered by non-native Americans in the early 1800s, not long after the Lewis and Clark expedition.  The valley was named in 1829, after mountain man Davy Jackson, who claimed it as his favorite place to hole up. (“Hole” was the mountain man word for a valley surrounded by mountains.) The woman-hungry French trappers were also responsible for naming the peaks Les Trois Tetons-the three big breasts.

During the homesteading period, the short growing season and long, snowy, sub-zero winters kept all but the hardiesjackson-3t settlers out of the valley. One of those settlers, a rancher named Pierce Cunningham, circulated a petition to have Jackson Hole saved for the “education and enjoyment of the Nation as a whole.” That was the beginning of a decades-long battle to save the valley from exploitation. Much of that battle was fought in the halls of congress. One senator, with his own substantial interests in cattle, sheep and mining, was successful in blocking protection of Jackson Hole for years. Finally his disgusted constituency back home voted him out of office. But the preservationists still had the problem of raising money to buy enough land for a park. In 1927 philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., founded the Snake River Land Company so he and others could buy land in the area incognito and have it held until the National Park Service could administer it. The company launched a campaign to purchase more than for $1.4 million but faced 15 years of opposition by ranchers and a refusal by the Park Service to take the land. A smaller area was approved for a national park in 1929. But it wasn’t until 1950 that the Rockefeller Purchase became part of Grand Teton National Park as we know it today.

A number of celebrities have homes in Jackson Hole, including Uma Thurman, Dick Cheney and Harrison Ford, who flies his own helicopter in and out and sometimes takes part in search and rescue operations on the peaks. If you can’t see the place for yourself, I suggest you rent the classic Western movie “Shane” which was filmed there. It’s the next best thing to visiting. 

Do you have a bucket list of places you’d like to visit in your lifetime?  What’s on the top of your list (or would be if you had one)?

cowboy-christmas1Harlequin’s Western Christmas Anthology, COWBOY CHRISTMAS, with stories by Pam Crooks, Carol Finch and myself, is in stores now. Readers who post today will be entered in a drawing for two books signed by all three authors–one from me and one from Pam. Good Luck!

Don’t forget to enter our Cowboy Under the Christmas Tree Contest! 

Thrilled to Have Jodi Thomas!

the-lone-texanYippee! Ah’m not pullin’ your leg. Promise.

Miss Jodi Thomas will be here Tuesday!

Ah see her coming around the bend now. The Fillies are bustin’ their buttons with joy to have the dear talented lady.

Miss Jodi sure knows how to write those wild sexy cowboys and the women who tame ’em.  She has it in mind to tell us about her Texas roots that go back to the old West and frontier days. She also aims to share some tidbits about her new book THE LONE TEXAN.

Lord have mercy! Look at that handsome devil on the cover. Ah’m fanning myself to beat the band.

This is the fourth book of her Whispering Mountain series and it tells Sage’s and Drum’s story. Finally! I’ve been chomping at the bit to see how Miss Jodi brings the two of them together at last.

Come Tuesday head on over here. We’ll save you a seat!

Follow Petticoats and Pistols on Twitter!



 It’s getting that time of year again when we fill our stockings, sit by the fire and sing yuletide songs!   Who wouldn’t want this cowboy under  the holiday tree? And he’ll be delivering grand prizes from all the authors at Wildflower Junction! 

Your holiday gift includes signed Christmas books, handmade earrings from our own Cheryl St. John, Holiday napkins, Christmas ornaments, glitzy baubles and much more!  

 Look for this COWBOY come early November for your chance to enter!! 

Happy Trails Until Then!