The Fillies are building on to the corral these days since we have three new ladies joining our herd at the Junction.
Miss Donna writes for Harlequin Romances, Mills and Boon, and Samhain.
Miss Phyliss has three Kensington “Give Me” anthologies under her belt with more on the way.
Miss Cheryl’s stories found a home at Wild Rose Press.
Each of these talented new Fillies will bring a passel of interesting blogs, more than you can shake a stick at in the coming months. Ah can guarantee that.
But, these ladies aren’t strangers. You already know them because they’ve blogged with us for a while now so it’ll be like seeing old friends more often and you don’t ever have to say good-bye. You don’t have to tote water and feed to them, or brush down their coats either! That’s the part ah like.
So saddle up and ride along with us.
And be sure to give these new Fillies a proper Wildflower Junction welcome!
Please join the Fillies in a big YEEHAW for Karen’s 5 Spur review of A Tailor-Made Bride from Love Western Romances
Do you ever watch those makeover shows? Perhaps a talk show host takes an audience member backstage and sics her personal stylist on her. Over the course of an hour the woman gets her hair cut, dyed, and styled; has her make-up redone by a specialist; and trades in her ho-hum duds for a chic new outfit that flatters her in all the right places. She emerges at the end of the episode to oohs and aahs and wild applause.
Or maybe you’ve seen the transformations on shows like The Biggest Loser where people spend months with personal trainers and dieticians and drastically recreate themselves into models of healthy living. They lose hundreds of pounds and metamorphose from couch potatoes into marathon runners.
I have to admit to watching these shows from time-to-time. There is something about them that inspires me. Maybe it’s the fantasy of a having a fairy godmother hiding in my closet, ready to pop out with her magic wand whenever I have a bad hair day. Or perhaps it’s the desire to rediscover that fit person inside me that I somehow lost track of after three babies and the onset of middle age. The more I got to thinking about it, the more I thought it would be fun to incorporate some of that inspiration into my stories. But how? I write historicals. Did women of the 19th century have any understanding of physical fitness?
As it turns out, they did.
In my research for A Tailor-Made Bride, I discovered that a social reformation movement regarding physical fitness for women and children swept our nation back in the mid-1800s.
After the Industrial Revolution, many people left farms and ranches to find employment in nearby cities. Because they were no longer working the fields, their lives became increasingly sedentary. This led to a great decline in women’s health, especially among the middle and upper classes. Reformers like Catharine Beecher (sister to the famous abolitionist and author, Harriet Beecher Stowe) spoke out on the need for regular exercise among women and children. She published a book in 1856 entitled Physiology and Calisthenics for Schools and Families where she describes an exercise system that could be utilized in schools or at home.
Perhaps the most influential reformer of this era, however, was a man named Dioclesian Lewis. In the 1860s he developed a system of light gymnastics for women and children and went on to found a school specifically to instruct physical education teachers, most of whom were women. He lectured extensively and wrote several books on the subject of fitness, the most notable being The New Gymnastics for Men, Women and Children, published in 1862. It is this book that my heroine, Hannah Richards, follows so diligently.
During the course of the story, Hannah employs many of the devices Professor Lewis advocated, such as small wooden dumbbells, Indian clubs, and exercise rings.
The guiding principle was to use small weights with many repetitions. In this way women and children could participate in the same manner as the men. Professor Lewis even recounts a story of how several of his young male students scoffed at the two-pound dumbbells, claiming they needed more weight to make the exercises challenging. However, after they completed the regimen with three-pound weights, they unanimously returned to the lighter ones. Hannah issues a similar challenge to Jericho Tucker at his initial mockery of her routine. After trying it for himself, the livery owner, like the young men at Professor Lewis’s academy, changed his tune.
Hannah uses her knowledge of calisthenics as well as her skill with a needle to affect a 19th century makeover for Jericho’s sister, Cordelia. But these outer changes can’t compete with the inward transformation taking place within Hannah and Jericho, themselves.
What inspires you the most about makeover stories? Have you ever experienced one yourself? Ever made a change in your own life after witnessing the effects of a similar change in someone else’s?
Karen is giving away to a copy of A Tailor-Made Bride, so pop in and join the discussion. Here’s a little taste of the book – so you know what you’ll be getting.
A Tailor-Made Bride
When a dressmaker who values beauty tangles with a liveryman who condemns vanity, the sparks begin to fly!
Jericho “J.T.” Tucker wants nothing to do with the new dressmaker in Coventry, Texas. He’s all too familiar with her kind—shallow women more devoted to fashion than true beauty. Yet, except for her well-tailored clothes, this seamstress is not at all what he expected.
Hannah Richards is confounded by the man who runs the livery. The unsmiling fellow riles her with his arrogant assumptions and gruff manner, while at the same time stirring her heart with unexpected acts of kindness. Which side of Jericho Tucker reflects the real man?
When Hannah decides to help Jericho’s sister catch a beau–leading to consequences neither could have foreseen–will Jericho and Hannah find a way to bridge the gap between them?
Best known as the place where the Pony Express began in 1860, and where Jesse James met his end in 1882, St. Joseph, Missouri, holds a place of honor in the history of westward expansion.
Situated on the bluffs of the Missouri River, St Joseph began life in 1826 as Joseph Robidoux’s first trading post. Although Missouri had become the 24th state five years earlier, in 1821, the area was still Indian territory. Lewis and Clark had passed by here on their way upriver in 1804.
When the fur trader filed the plat for the new town, he named it for his patron saint. Robidoux had only one stipulation for those wanting to buy lots of his land: no one could take possession until he had harvested his crop of marijuana. In those days, it was used in the making of hemp.
The town was destined to be successful because it’s location on the Missouri River made it easily accessable. Naturalist John James Audubon visited in May of 1843, (two months before its official incorporation) and described Robidoux’s settlement as “a delightful place for a populous city that will be here some 50 years hence.” St. Joseph celebrated its Sesquicentennial in 1993.
The settlement grew steadily, but the discovery of gold in California in 1848 turned it into a boom area. Gold seekers came across Missouri to St. Joseph by steamboat, to where the city’s location on the westward bend of the Missouri River made it one of two choice “jumping-off” points (the other was Independence, about 60 miles southwest). Gold rushers bought supplies here for the westward wagon trek. Estimates say as many as 50,000 passed through St Joseph in 1849 alone.
Another 100,000 or more pioneers would crowd the streets, bound for California and other points west, before the coming of the trains. And that’s why I chose it as a subject for today’s blog post.
Where steamboats helped established St. Joseph as the place for travelers heading west, trains kept it there. The first train from the east arrived here February 14, 1859. Until after the Civil War, St. Joseph was the westernmost point accessible by rail. That means, until around 1870, if you wanted to get to Texas–or Colorado or Montana or anyplace west–by train, you had to go through St. Joseph. By 1900, one hundred passenger trains a day came into St. Joseph. I don’t know about you, but that number boggled my mind!
And where the train tracks ended, the stage coach lines began.
If you read my blog on 11/27/09, you already know St. Joseph was the starting point of The Pony Expressin 1860. And in 1887, St. Joseph became only the second city in the U.S.–after Richmond, VA–to have electric streetcars.
Wholesale houses for things like shoes, dry goods and hardware, helped ensure St. Joseph’s prosperity during its Golden Age in the late 19th century. At one time, the town ranked fourth in the nation for dry goods sales and fifth in hardware sales.
Cowboys were familiar with St. Joseph, too, since livestock was a large part of the economy beginning in 1846. Swift and Armour were important names in town.
I’m thinking that song from the musical OKLAHOMA, “Everything’s Up To Date in Kansas City” probably should have been written about St. Joseph.
To top it off, infamous bank and train robber Jesse James, a Missouri native, tried to retire here in 1881. His wife wanted him to live a more normal life. And it was here, in a house on top of the highest hill, where, in 1882, one of his new partners, Bob Ford, decided collecting the reward for Jesse James would pay better than robbing the Platte City Bank.
St. Joseph is a town full of history. There are national parks dedicated to the Lewis & Clark expedition, museums housing collections about The Pony Express, Jesse James and westward expansion, and stunning views of the mighty Missouri River. Stop in sometime. You’re bound to learn something new. I did.
Miss Karen Witemeyer has seen fit to come for a visit and the Fillies are right glad she has.
The dear lady has taken a mind to shed some light on the subject of excercise in the 1800’s. Ah’m astounded (and you probably will be too) at the forward-thinking of early day settlers. Very interesting.
Miss Karen has published her first book, A TAILOR-MADE BRIDE. The talented lady is crowing these days and with good reason. Seems the book got a 5 Spur review from Love Western Romances! Woo-Hoo!
As if that’s not a good enough excuse to head over to the Junction come Saturday, the dear lady is giving away an autographed copy to one lucky person who leaves a comment.
The Fillies would like for you all to help us make Miss Karen welcome.
So shake the wrinkles out of your bustles and don’t forget.
I’m still in the thick of revisions for The Outlaw’s Return (LIH, February 2011), but the end is in sight. That means I’m thinking about the characters for my next book. The heroine’s easy. This is Book #4 in a four-book series, so Caroline already has a personality and a problem. She was widowed shortly after the War between the States, and she’s wanted a family of her own for years.
So who do I set her up with? Right off the bat, I’m ruling out a preacher, a lawman or an outlaw. Those are the heroes in the first three “Swan’s Nest” books. So what’s left?
A doctor? I did a lady doctor in Kansas Courtship, plus I want to get Caroline off to an isolated ranch. A newspaperman or a lawyer? Same problem as the doctor. A rancher is an obvious choice, but he has to be unique in some way.
I went through all sorts of possibilities before I settled on a character I’ve never once considered. Dear sweet Caroline is about to meet a retired British officer. It just so happens he’s settled in Wyoming with this two children and he needs a nanny for them. He also needs a nurse because he’s ill. And he’s not easy to get along with. The man is bossy. He’s exasperating. He’s accustomed to being obeyed, and he’s terrified he’ll leave this earth without providing a mother for his two not-so-adorable children. (Change that: the kids will be a little adorable…maybe “a lot” adorable by the time I’m done.)
So how does my British Army officer end up on a ranch in Wyoming in 1876? History led me right into the perfect set-up for this story. The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed settlers to claim 160 acres as their own. The Powder River basin was rich with grass, largely untouched and just waiting for vast herds of cattle. Word traveled to the eastern United States and then across the Atlantic to Great Britain. Wealthy Englishmen began arriving with big ideas. They invested in large herds that grazed freely on the open tracts of government land.
The first Englishman to run a big herd of cattle was Moreton Frewan in 1879. My book is set in 1876, but the conditions are workable for fiction. I’m going to be doing a lot of research on Moreton Frewan. He came to Wyoming at the age of 25 and immediately made himself known. He built a two-story house near Kaycee that cowboys called Frewan’s Castle, and he had a knack for convincing his wealthy friends to invest in his cattle business.
Here’s a fun bit of trivia. Frewan married a New York socialite named Clara Jerome. One of Clara’s sisters, Jennie Jerome, became the mother of Winston Churchill.
This was quite a time in Wyoming. During the 1870s and into the 1880s, this rough-and-tumble landscape was a playground for visiting Englishmen and their families. Big game hunts, fancy balls and lively parties were common.
As with all periods of history, events conspired to bring about change. More homesteaders arrived, claiming land and fencing it, so that the vast acreage was parceled out. With such large herds, the pasturage was overgrazed. Investors wanted a better return, and the beef prices didn’t cooperate. The biggest blow came with the winter of 1886-87. It was disastrous. Ranchers lost up to 80% of their stock in the worst winter Wyoming had ever experienced. By the 1890s, the British were pretty much gone from Wyoming.
I can hardly wait to get started on this book. My mind’s spinning ideas for scenes–a ball where my heroine feels insecure, a hunting trip gone awry–but first I’ve got to finish those pesky revisions. It’s frustrating, but I don’t really mind . . . Sometimes ideas are like spaghetti sauce. The longer they cook, they better they are.
Solomon D. Butcher arrived in Nebraska in 1880 to farm. Solomon, his father, his brother George, and brother-in-law J.R. Wabel took claims in Nebraska. They dug a hole and pulled their covered wagon over it to serve as temporary shelter. Such was the comfort of Butcher’s farm life. Butcher by his own admission wasn’t suited for the pioneering life. “I soon came to the conclusion,” he said, “that any man that would leave the luxuries of a boarding house, where they had hash every day, and a salary of $125 a month, to lay Nebraska sod for 75 cents a day, was a fool.”
Butcher lasted two-week.
Which lends to my theory that Nebraska is not for wimps.
In fact I’ve petitioned the governor to make that the state motto.
Nebraska-It’s Not for Wimps
Governor Heineman hasn’t gotten back to me yet.
Butcher turned his land back to the government and enrolled in medical school. He quit after a year. And thus began a five year strings of failures as his family grew. In 1886 he decided to become a photographer of pioneers. This picture of the cow on the roof (look close, it’s not REALLY on the roof) is particularly well known. And they’ve done painstaking computer studies and can see things inside the sod house through the open door. I’ve left these pictures large in an effort to not distort them by shrinking them and so you can see them better, they almost spill off the page.
His father loaned him a wagon and Butcher began his odyssey and would end up recording a legacy for the whole nation. Travel was hard. Roads barely existed. Farms were hours apart. Just study these photos for a while. The longer you look the more details you see. It’s really amazing.
This family was ashamed of their sod house, but proud of their pump organ. So they settled on this pose. Look how many cows they had. Rich people. Butcher accepted food, lodging and a stable for his horses in exchange for a picture. He supported himself with donations citizens made to the project, as well as by the sale of photographs.
It took him fifteen years to get his book published, including a fire in 1899 that burned all his pictures, but not the glass negatives.
I know how hard it is to get a book published and, as a writer, I’d just like to pause here for a moment and pity the poor man.
Okay, we’ll proceed with the story.
Look at this picture. The woman is fat. I’ll bet they were prosperous. Look at all those chickens. Dinner on the hoof, or claw…whatever. Butcher’s book, Pioneer History of Custer County and Short Sketches of Early Days in Nebraska was his single financial success until the day he sold his life’s work. In fact he was so poor he had to take his wife and child and stay at his father’s house every time it rained, because his house was so decrepit.
Along with his photographs he also collected pioneer stories that endure to this day. I love this one. Sisters who were alone in the west. They each filed a claim and ended up with their own farm. Can’t you just write that story right now? Butcher’s photographs can be found illustrating many history texts about the settlement period and are considered iconic.
After Custer County he expanded his photography to other counties but couldn’t raise the funds to publish his books. He continued to move his family and take photographs. The moves began to be massive undertakings because he had so many negatives to haul, each negative was a glass plate 6 ½ by 8 ½ inches.
In 1911 he decided to move to Texas and he couldn’t haul the plates along. He attempted to sell them to the Nebraska State Historical Society and after three years spent trying to raise the money, the Historical Society bought the entire collection for $1000 and they hired Butcher to archive the collection–I guess he’d given up on the whole Texas idea by then.
Solomon D. Butcher–shown here beside his own sod house–was a truly insightful photographer, but he died before the full impact of his photographs was realized.
Using computer technology, Butcher’s pictures have been restored and are considered among the best depictions of pioneer life in existance.
Still, I’m glad I wasn’t married to him.
Have you ever seen these pictures before? I recognized a few of them, especially the cow on the roof.
Forgive me if you will for not posting about something Western or something American Indian. Bear with me as I digress.
This is my mother-in-law, Joyce as I have known her for the 14 years that my husband and I have been married. I can’t remember when I didn’t have an independent spirit — it seems to be a part of me — and so I was leary of mother-in-laws, I must admit. But over time, I came to love an admire my mother in law as though she were my own mother. This picture was taken in 2005 at her home in Montana.
Since many of you who come to this blog are also on my email list, you probably know that I had to make an emergency cancellation of my book signing in Houston. I was happily on my way to Houston when I received word that my mother in law, who had been sick, had taken a turn for the worst. Needless to say I turned around (18 hours on the road that day) and drove home to be with my husband, who in turn, finished his work cycles in record time so we could get on the road to Montana the next day. This picture to the right I think shows the amount of affinity and love between us.
Off to the right here is a picture of my husband (on the left), Joyce and my brother in law, Bob, who passed away almost 2 years ago to the day (Bob is on the right in this pictuer). Anyway, my husband and I arrived in Montana with just enough time to see her before she passed away. She was unconscious the entire time we were there, but I still believe that she knew we were there. And my husband was with her the moment she passed away from this world in this body. She was surrounded by friends and family, and I can’t think of a better way to leave this life than to have those you love most around you toward the end of this life.
She had been fighting cancer. As an 84 year old woman, she had yet been given chemo and radiation therapy at the same time. It proved too much for her and she ended the treatments simply because they made her so sick. But damage had been done and her immune system was shot from all the chemo What she died from was an infection that her body couldn’t fight off because of her suppressed immune system. How I wish sometimes that I had a time machine so I could go back and change all that.
I will miss her. I can’t even begin to name the ways in which she helped both my husband and myself. I can’t even begin to describe what it was like to have a person there who truly cared so much about me — even though I was only the daughter-in-law. Over the years, I came to love this woman very much — just as though she were a mother. (This picture to the right by the way is Bob on the far left, Joyce and me — I don’t think I can still get into those jeans, but that’s another subject.)
I remember when my husband and I were first married and on our honeymoon, his mother and father called us. I remember thinking at the time that this was strange (my own mother passed away long ago and I had been on my own and independent for quite a while). I remember thinking, “Oh, dear, what is this all about?” But over time I came to understand that she was showing her love for my husband and that eventually this included me, as well. It was Joyce who showed me really what a mother in law can be — what is expected — what I should do — how loving I should be. I will always remember this — always remember the love she showered on me and others and I am so glad that I had the chance to get to know this incredible individual. The picture to the right is a beautiful kiss between my hsuband and my mother-in-law.
My life is better now because of her loving care. And I know that I’ll be a better mother-in-law, myself, because of the example she set. Anyway, I hope you will forgive me from straying away from my usual sort of blogs on Native America. In a way, this blog is along the line of a Western, if only because Joyce was raised in North Dakota and lived most of her life there and in Montana. It was from my visits to her home, where I had the leisure to go to the Blackfeet reservation and the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservation.
We’re back home now in southern California — and our animals were happy to see us again — after our 22-24 hour trip — do I look as tired as I felt in this picture? And of course life goes on as it was intended to do. But there are some people who touch you greatly and this is the kind of person that Joyce was.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog and that I have managed to do tribute to her properly. I know she’s okay and I know in some other time and place, she will be the source of joy to many, many people. Our elders in Native America and in our past, have always been around helping, teaching, showing the way. What would we do without them and their gentle wisdom?
I’d love to hear from you today and hear about people who have touched you greatly. So come on in and let me hear your stories, also.