Undertaking on the frontier was a crucial business. After all, life expectancy was only 37 years of age. So lots of folks were dying and they needed someone to take care of the nasty business of death.
Funeral customs depended on whether the deceased was a city dweller or one who lived on a farm or ranch. People who lived outside of town placed the care of their remains in the hands of those who loved them. After a loved one died, the family lovingly washed their bodies and dressed him or her in their best clothes. Sometimes they made their own coffins if they had the tools. If not, they’d buy a coffin from the undertaker in town. They’d lay the person out in their parlor at home and sit beside the coffin. They called this custom a wake. Then, after no more than a day or two, they’d bury the deceased in a plot on their land. Simple and without fanfare.
(Embalming was unheard of until the early 1900’s. That’s why they had to hurry and get the dead into the ground. They got pretty ripe after a while.)
But if the deceased lived in town, all the needs were seen to by the undertaker. Hearses were horse-drawn and most of the time ornate, some with black feathery plumes, and a glass window on each side from which viewers could see the coffin. Mourners walked on foot behind the hearse to the cemetery which was generally near the church.
The heroine in my story called UNDERTAKING TEXAS in the newest anthology “Give Me a Texas Ranger” with Jodi Thomas, Phyliss Miranda and DeWanna Pace is the town’s undertaker, dentist and barber. Texanna Wilder took over the businesses after her husband, Sam, was gunned down. My story takes place a year after she buried her husband. Texanna and her son are having a very difficult time of things. Her disgusting step-brother-in-law is making life miserable by threatening to take her business from her if she doesn’t marry him.
Then in rides Texas Ranger Stoney Burke. Stoney was Texanna’s husband’s best friend. Stoney promised Sam on his wedding day that he’d look after Texanna if anything happened to Sam.
When Texanna and Stoney are thrust together, he’s forced to face his secret feelings for Texanna. On the one hand, he’s mad as all get-out at her for making Sam give up his job on the Texas Rangers. But on the other hand, Stoney has worshipped Texanna from afar all these years. Memories of her and the kisses they shared long ago keep him awake at night.
There’s also the matter of dealing with Texanna’s six year old son who’s developed a bad habit of stealing, a jail break, and a fire that consumes the town.
Locked in a fight to keep Texanna safe, Stoney comes to see that old grudges have no place in the future and that love can survive past secrets if only he gives it a chance.
GIVE ME A TEXAS RANGER will be in bookstores on July 1st. I hope you’ll pick up a copy.
But today I’m giving away three copies of Give Me a Texas Ranger to visitors who leave a comment. So, come on and put your two cents in. I’d love to hear from you.