Neither sleet nor snow…the first Mailman of the West

marryingminda-crop-to-useOkay, I was going to wait but I’m excited! I just learned yesterday my first effort at not only writing a contemporary Western but also an inspirational one will be published! (details will follow.) I’m kind of on Cloud Nine so to celebrate, I’ll draw a name from today’s commenters for a copy of my current release, Marrying Minda

Well, that said, after watching the Olympics, I’ve kind of got skiing on the brain, especially since our three-year-old grandson saw the mogul run and said, I want to do that. I know I can manage a bunny hill after all these years…I know how to get off a ski lift without crashing and down a slope without major havoc upon my person or anybody else’s, but what else do I really know about skiing?

I found out some stuff. 

Skiing developed in Scandinavian countries centuries ago for transportation, not for fun or sport. Emigrants from Norway and Sweden brought skis with them to America, and in 1841, skis were used for the first time in the United States in Beloit, Wisconsin. During the California Gold Rush of 1849, Norwegian pioneers took skis, and snowshoes, to the West. Although no documentation exists, it is believed that the first ski races in America were held by California miners as early as 1860.                                                                                        

The first skier recorded in America history is the legendary “Snowshow” John A. Thompson, who was the first mailman of the West.Snow Shoe Thompson Born Jon Torsteinson-Rue in Telemarken, Norway, he came to Illinois in 1837 with his family at the age of ten. Although the family eventually moved to Iowa via Missouri, Jon was living with a brother in Wisconsin when Gold Fever struck.  In 1851 when Thompson was 24, he drove a herd of dairy cows to California and settled in Placerville, California, down the mountain from Lake Tahoe. He mined for a little while in Kelsey Diggins and Coon Hollow, saved some money and bought a small ranch at  Putah Creek.


At this time, despite snowshoes woven by Native Americans, all attempts by mail deliverers to cross the Sierra had failed. Johnson himself personally suffered by the lack of reliable mail—the letter explaining the flu epidemic that had claimed his mother’s life had been long delayed. When he saw an ad in late 1855 in the Sacramento Union titled “People Lost to the World; Uncle Sam Needs a Mail Carrier,” he quickly applied for the job. snowshoecoin

For 20 consecutive winters, he used skis to bring mail to and from the Placerville area to Genoa, Nevada, and later to Virginia City. Although his nickname was “Snowshoe,” he used ten-foot skis and a single pole held by both hands at once. Never lost even in blizzards, he never carried a gun or took a blanket. And he was never paid!

snowshoe-thompson6 His trips east took three days uphill, two days to get home. He followed what is today’s U.S. Highway 50 from Placerville to South Lake Tahoe. The 90-mile distances also included snowdrifts up to 50 feet high and blizzards with 80 miles per winds. For the long winter months, he was the sole link between California and states to the east.

Off duty, he taught settlers how to make skis. Married with one son, Snowshoe died on May 15, 1876, from complications to appendicitis and pneumonia. He is buried in the Carson Valley and honored there in bronze. statue








Within ten years of his death, ski contests were held among the Norwegian and Swedish settlers in Wisconsin and Minnesota. On Feb. 21, 1904, at Ishpeming, Michigan., a small group of skiers organized the National Ski Association.


(This photo courtesy of

America’s first ski lift, a simple rope tow, was constructed in 1913 in Truckee, California, near Lake Tahoe. In the 1920’s, similar rope tows appeared throughout the West, and resort skiing began to be a popular recreation about 1930. Sun Valley, Idaho built the first world’s first overhead chairlift in 1936, followed by Loveland, Colorado and Berthoud Pass, Colorado in 1937.  Ski resorts followed at Alta, Utah in 1937; Mammoth Mountain, California in 1938; Monarch, Colorado and Sugar Bowl, California 1939; Winter Park, Colorado in 1940. Understandably, ski resort development slowed during World War II.

hhistoric ski 1









 Of course, Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe was the site of the Winter Olympic Games in 1960 and still proudly wears the Olympic Rings.  Kenneth Henry carries torch at Squaw Valley OlympicsIn 1961, the National Ski Association was renamed the United States Ski Association. Known today as the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, it now includes freestyle and disabled skiing.

It’s been a while since I hit the slopes, but I learned quickly at Loveland during my student-teaching months in Denver, Colorado, and the lmarryingminda_w2706_120ast time I performed on a family trip, I was still hanging in.  How about ya’ll? Who of you skis?  What winter sports blow your hair back? What’s your favorite winter Olympic competition?


(to order a copy, click on cover.)

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60 thoughts on “Neither sleet nor snow…the first Mailman of the West”

  1. Congratulations Tanya! How very exciting!! I’ve not read a contemporary western…sounds like fun to me!

    Very interesting information about “Snowshoe”. I can’t believe he was never paid.
    I hate being cold so that sounds like torture to me!
    I’m pleased to hear he settled in Iowa…what a lovely place 🙂
    I might be a bit partial!

    Favorite winter sport…probably couples figure skating….I have to admit I don’t watch much TV…with three little girls I spend “my” time reading western romances instead!

    Thanks for the chance at your book!

  2. Tanya, What wonderful news for you,Congratulations! I cant wait to read it!,thanks for such a interesting post,weve been watching the winter games an its been fun,keeping fingers crossed to win the book,I love reading an have since a child,the best way to relax

    • Hi Vickie, we’re really enjoying the Games, too. But like you, I’m a reader, not really an outdoors person. Little Women was my first big love! Thanks for the good wishes!

    • Hi Jeannene, thanks for the good wishes. Oh, I know how it is to be busy. I can’t believe it’s already Ash Wednesday. Seems it was just Christmas. I’m so glad you visited the Junction today.

  3. Hi Tanya, Can’t wait to hear more about your news! Congratulations!

    I’m watching the Olympics, too. I like skating and snowboarding. My one personal ski experience was awesomely bad. It was in New Hampshire when I was in college. Two friends took me (a total novice) to the top of the mountain thinking I could handle a beginning slope. Well, the beginning slope was closed. I pretty much fell all the way down the mountain. Went to the bunny slopes later and really enjoyed it.

    • Hi Vicki, filly sister! thanks for your good wishes. I’ll have more to report soon 🙂 Oooh, I remember getting stuck on an advanced slope ones in Colorado. I made it down just fine, but oh, the terror. I’m glad you made it down okay. The snowboarders do inspire me. I actually think if I was young again, I’d give it a try. Or not LOL. oxoxoxox

  4. Congrats on your new book printing! How exciting!
    This was particularly interesting since my in-laws recently moved to Reno NV. I am such a sucker for history, and now I can’t wait to go back to visit. They are just minutes from the entire Lake Tahoe area.
    I’ve never tried skiing myself. Even after living in Colorado Springs and Denver for over 10 years. I’m not very coordinated and always figured I’d break an arm or leg. Plus, I am NOT a fan of the freezing cold. LOL!

    • Hi Stephanie, thank you very much! Yeah, “Snowshoe” totally intrigued me. As does everything about the Reno-Tahoe area. Our niece and her hubby now live in the Reno area (my first and only “out-of-town” relatives) and I so love visiting them and seeing all the sites. The history is incredible, and Tahoe is one of those magical places for me. I’m not a cold person much myself…I want perfect conditions LOL. Thanks for visiting the Junction today!

  5. Congrats Tanya! Love historical westerns, only started reading a few contemporary, did you find a difference in writing about the two eras?
    Great post, man, I learn so much coming here!
    Being from Canada, I love Curling, I know the Scots invented it, but we Canadians perfected it. And I wouldn’t be Canadian if I did not mention Hockey. I have never skied, I would be scared to death, though I do like watching the downhill!

    • Hi Karen, thanks for the congrats. I set the story on a modern-day city-slicker wagon train trip LOL. We’re going on one in August so I pretty much jumped the gun but loved the idea. It was different in many ways, especially dialogue. I did manage to throw in “Arbuckle’s” coffee though.

      Curling is so interesting! And after watching the TV promos, hubby and I are definitely Canada-bound, and soon! What a terrific country.

  6. Great blog, Tanya. Even with my deadline I take time to watch the figure skating events. Magical. I don’t ski (my son and his kids do, however, and they live for snow. My boarder grandson wants to be Shaun White). But I do snowshoe. I’ve tried the old flat snowshoes and have a pair of the new high-tech ones. No comparison!

    • Hi Elizabeth, thanks for stopping by. I totally adore the figure skating, the way they side and glide. And I confess to being a vigorous critic of their outfits LOL. I suspect my little grandson is going to want to try snowboarding! Last night they said Shaun started at four…so I better get ready 🙂 Snowshoeing does sound like fun, and I always like to see old-style ones hanging as wall decor. oxoxoxoxoxox

  7. Great post, Tanya. I used to cross-country ski a little, but I’m hopeless at downhill – no balance. It’s awe-inspiring to watch what the Olympic skiers and snowboarders do. And congratulations on your sale!

    • hi Jennie, always so good to see you at the Junction! Cross-country looks like such hard work 🙂 I am working on balance now with my Wii Fit LOL. I just love the Olympics all around. Thanks for your good wishes! oxoxoxxo

  8. Congratulations on your inspiriational sale! Yay!

    Fun information on skiing. I love watching the Olympics. Such great athletes, and they always highlight the poignant personal stories as well.

    Keep up the good work!

    • HI Karen, oh, I love the poignant stories. The one with Alexandre Bilodeau, the Canadian mogul gold medalist, and his brother Frederick absolutely had me in tears. What love and admiration between them. Sigh. Thanks for your good wishes! Good to see you here.

  9. Congratulations! I enjoyed this fascinating post and loved the information. I skied many years ago but I prefer sunshine and warmth.

    • Hi Ruth, it’s been a while for me too, but I think I’m game again. I’ll have to let you know if it ever transpires, though 🙂 Thanks for stopping by today and for the good wishes. I’m also a sunshine girl myself, but once in a while I long for four seasons. A trip to New England to see the leaves turning took myu breath way. Wow.

  10. Hi Tabitha, thanks for joining me today. I live where we’re currently having about 70 degree days and where a night in the forties is “freezing.” I remember those Midwestern winters from my college days. Brrrrrr.

    Give those sweet little girls a hug! I’m not much of an athlete. All of the Olympics inspire me, but I agree the figure skating is probably my favorite, the way they glide and spin. Have a good day!

  11. Congrats on getting your book published, sounds good! I love a good western!

    I have never skied before in my life and I won’t start now! I can’t even stand of roller skates anymore much less on a pair of skis I envy anyone that can because it looks like a lot of fun!

  12. Congratulations on your release, Tanya!
    Thank you for your post. I love “stuff” like this: historical bits and pieces and fascinating facts.
    I like watching the Winter Olympics, especially the ice skating and ice dancing, but have also enjoyed the bobsledding, speed skating, and the ski moguls. I’ve never skied, but did ice skate a lot on a creek near our house and at the rink when I was a kid.
    Thanks again and best wishes!

  13. Hi Quilt Lady, thanks for your congrats. It’s always good to see you here at Wildflower Junction. I haven’t skated in years either…our kids’ school always had a couple of Skate Night fundraisers at the local rink, and hubby and I would actually tag along and skate. Great fun!

  14. Good morning, Deb. I too just love historical minutae…so many interesting regular folks out there who did wonderful things or made changes that helped out other regular folks. How fun to live near your own creek! I think deep down inside this suburbanite is a true country girl!

    Good to see you here, and thanks for the good wishes as well! 🙂

  15. Wonderful News Tanya, Congrats!!! 😀
    I have been watching bits and pieces of the Olympics… I ususally watch more of the Summer Olympic sports, but have enjoyed the speed skating… yesterday watched the Men’s Curling… still do not understand the rules though… 😀

  16. I’ve never attempted skiing, but several of my sons have. We watched the mogels the other night, it hurt my knees just viewing it on TV. I think my fav Olympic sport is gymnastics and the equetrian events.

    Thanks for the fascinating post.

  17. Hi Colleen, yes, speed skating is something to see…those giant blades! Wow. I don’t get curling either, especially the broom thing, but it is such a fun sport to watch because crazy speed is replaced somehow by finesse 🙂 Thanks for your good wishes today, and for stopping by the junction.

  18. Hello Vicki, the moguls were something, weren’t they? Their knees do take a beating…the torso doesn’t move at all. I remember in my skiing days how annoying moguls were LOL. Guess that means I never as much of a skiier.

    Glad you enjoyed reading about Snowshoe!

  19. Wow, Tanya, I probably gasped like…five times in your post.

    Three Days UPHILL? Yeesh.
    No blanket? He had to sleep, didn’t he?? This is one tough guy.
    The gun I actually get. Who’s gonna be out there to hurt him? Robbers? I’ll bet even the mountain lions didn’t go where he went.
    20 years he did this? For no pay?

    Sounds like me and my journey to publication.

  20. Hi Mary, as always, I’m laughing out loud. I gasped myself because I’ve ridden up Highway 50 on perfect pavement. Whew. And without any of the fancy Gortex insulated clothes and boots and gloves. Yikes.

    The road to pulication parallel cracked me up and is so, so fitting LOL. Thanks for the good wishes! 0oxoxoxoxoxox

  21. Tanya!

    Congratulations, girl! YOU GO!!! That’s wonderful about your new contract! Boy, I don’t know how you do it–I don’t think I could tackle an inspirational romance–wouldn’t know where to begin! LOL That’s great news.

    I LOVE YOUR POST! I never knew about Snowshoe Thompson–what a GUY! Very informative and interesting.


    • hi Cheryl, thanks so much for visiting the Junction today! I notice you’re going to be a featured blogger soon…yay. Thanks for the congrats, too. Well, I have a couple of friends who write inspirationals and said I might have the chops for it…so I entered a novella-length contest. So if it stank, at least I didn’t have to write a giant novel LOL. But I am thrilled they like it. I’ll be posting the details soon.

      I too didn’t know a thing about Snowshoe, and I’ve even recently visited the Tahoe area and Placerville! I actually set out researching a generic history of skiing in America with cool old pix, and stumbled upon him. I couldn’t believe it! What a guy!

      Hugs back!~ oxoxoxox

  22. I love contemporary westerns!
    Very interesting post. I don’t ski, but have a son that does.
    My favorite Olympic event is speedskating—men’s and women’s.

    • Hi Estella, I love the speedskating too. I have never even skated on inline skates! My skating days were the antique LOL ones that grabbed your shoe and you tightened with a skate key! Remember that, anybody? You couldn’t ever wear sneakers because the hooks didn’t work on the soft material. What, now that’s a hobble down Memory Lane. Our son’s a snowboarder too but with a three-year old little boy now he doesn’t get there much LOL.

      Thanks for coming by today.

    • Hi Pam, your good wishes mean the world. Your works have sooo inspired me, as well as your personal hero. You’re name is definitely being placed in the Stetson for a shakearound. God bless you back. Love ya…..

  23. Tanya,

    Wonderful news!!! No surprise because you are a great storyteller.

    Be sure to put my name in the drawing I really hope to win for I know your writing

    Walk in harmony,

    • Hi Melinda, I knew you’d like this guy, all that ourdoor- all natural stuff. I can’t even imagine being out in the cold like that. Whew. Thanks so much for stopping by today. It’s always good to have you here. And I so appreciate your good wishes! oxoxox

  24. Congratulations on your new book. I do watch a lot of the Olympics but I don’t ski. I even lived in Colorado and worked at a resort but never learned to ski. I don’t like heights so I figured skiing was not a good idea for me. That and I valued my life and limbs too much. Now I have severe RA so I couldn’t now if I wanted to. I do admire anyone who can.

    • Hi Linda, welcome to the Junction. I totally love watching the Olympics, both summer and winter. Because I’m not athletic one single bit, those performances both amaze and inspire me. (I took to skiing pretty easily because, the instructor said, I’m mid-height and mid-size. WEll, at least I was back then LOL).
      I spent several months student teaching in Denver in the winter and didn’t care go back to college in Nebraska without attempting to hit the slopes LOL.

      Not a height person myself. The thing that creeps me out is the chair lift! Once I’m on terra-firma, I seem to be okay. Allthough Charlene will attest to my pathological fear of down-escalators. Go figure. (I always make her go in front of me on our rambles.)

    • Hi Winnie, well, you’re one of the writers who inspire me. Way back when at Dorchester, one of your books is the first of theirs I read after getting contracted. Thanks so much foryour congrats. It means a ton!

      Glad you liked Snowshoe. How about a fictionalized version of him as a Wild West hero, authors?

  25. Hi Tanya — Yay, you! Happy you sold your first inspirational! Great info on skiing. I cannot. I hate cold weather, but I’m a new fan of snowboarding at the Olympics. It’s a cool sport. And I watch Apollo Anton Ono in short track skating. I really love all the winter games, not that I can do any of them!!

    • Hi Charlene, I know you love the warmth. We’re so spoiled out here, aren’t we? Sandals again today. I too am a new fan of snowboarding. In fact, we discussed it last night, watching, that if we were younger, we would sure give it a try. And Apollo is dreamy, isn’t he? Last week Carter loved watching the speed skating, and next morning in the paper, he pointed to a picture and said, “There’s ‘Pollo.” (he was right.)

      Thanks for your good wishes, past present and future! oxoxoxxoxoxo

  26. Congrats Tanya on the book that is so neat especially since it is an inspirational.
    I have never skied and I don’t see me trying it anytime soon I have a hard enough time standing on 2 legs.LOL I used to skate all the time can’t do that either. Very interesting stuff I learned here today.

    • Thanks, Brenda, for your kind words. Yes, I am sooooo excited. As for standing on two legs LOL, I got Wii Fit for Christmas and am truly enjoying the yoga positions that are SUPPOSED to improve my balance and posture. We’ll see. I’m having fun, though.

  27. Congratulations on your Contemporary Western. Know it will be good.

    Thanks for an interesting post. My husband works for the Post Office and used to be a skier. He learned at White Face, Lake Placid, New York, another Olympic Center. When he was stationed in California, he did a lot of skiing. He taught our girls to ski when we lived in Colorado Springs (Monarch). I never even tried. I would probably have killed myself. I know he loved it, but he hasn’t been in many years and is probably not in good enough shape to try at the moment.
    You have to admire the dedications and stamina of Mr. Thompson. I can’t believe he was expected to do it without being paid.

    • Patricia, thanks for visiting with me here today. I wonder if your hubby ever heard about Snowshoe. I too can’t believe how he did it year after year for sooooo long. But he either must have liked the solitude or have really been affected about not knowing about his mom. What a guy, huh?

  28. I love watching the Winter Olympics–especially the figure skating and speedskating. Wow, what some people can do on ice is amazing to watch!

    Congrats on your new book!!

  29. Hi Amy T., those skaters are truly incredible. It’s enough to be able to move around on blades 1/2 inch thick but they have to twirl and jump and catch partners. Whew. Thank you for your congratulations! I mean it. See you again soon.

  30. Well, I’m off to my Zumba class right now. The girls of my cul-de-sac join together on Wednesday nights when one of us (a pro) teaches us Latin American aerobics. Zumba means “keep moving and have fun.”

    I have no rhythm at all but I do have fun! I’ll draw the name about midnight Pacific Time…so keep on posting if you haven’t already. Thanks to everything for blogging with me today!

  31. Congratulations, Tanya, on your good news!

    No skiing for me, no snow in Houston today or any
    day! (OK, we had snow for 24 hours a month or so
    ago, but only enough to make a few snowballs!
    My favorite winter Olympic sports: all the skating
    and Apollo Ohno’s short track racing.

    Pat Cochran

  32. Very interesting blog! Probably not going to get me to try skiing but I love watching others.

    Will be looking for your books. Congrats on the newest ones.

  33. Laughing as I remember watching the 1st Bobsled Jamaican team compete in the Olympics over 20 years ago and rooting for them because they were the underdogs and seemed so out of control…Hehehe.

    My 1st time skiing (or trying to ski) was with my newly married hubby whom told me 1)I didn’t need lessons…just put on his sister’s skis and boots (that were to small), 2)coat my levi’s with scotch guard to keep the wet out (which did not work) and 3)trust him to get me down the bunny hill.

    Getting on the chair lift was easy….getting off wasn’t. Relying on him to help, he simply put his hand on my lower back and said just stand up…I did and glided straight into a group of people and knocked them all down like a bowling ball.

    Needless to say the day was not fun….I did make it down the hill about 2 hours later (frozen stiff) and swore spent the rest of the day in the bar talking to a guy in a splint in front of the huge fireplace.

    Years later (when our kids were about 8/10) my hubby once again took them…and me…skiing, but this time he bought us all the proper boots, clothes, lessons and we had a blast. Been doing it ever since!!!

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