The Colonel, the Calf Wagon and the Chuckwagon

I’ve heard it said that you learn something new every day … and today was certainly one of them.  To my surprise, when I was reviewing my research for today’s blog, I discovered something new … the chuckwagon wasn’t named for its inventor, Colonel Charles Goodnight!

Colonel Goodnight was the first permanent rancher in the Texas Panhandle. Although he wasn’t a native Texan, he got here as quick as he could. At the age of nine, Charlie traveled with his family 800 miles from his home in Illinois to Waco, Texas, riding bareback on a mare called Blaze. As a youth he was a fairly good horse jockey, bull whacker, rail splitter and herded cattle.  He served during the Civil War and was a Scout and Guide with the infamous Texas Rangers. After the war, he devoted his career almost exclusively to cattle. 

At the age of thirty, he blazed his first famous cattle trail … the Goodnight-Loving Trail. He was one of the first cattlemen who recognized that the same head worth $4.00 in the Texas Panhandle was worth ten times that in the markets farther north.  Goodnight also was the first to recognize that calves born on the trail were money at the end of the drive…but only if they survived and gained weight. The early practice was to kill calves because they could not keep up with the herd on their own.  Cattleman Goodnight resolved that issue by contracting to have special wagons made that held 30 to 40 calves.  Any calves born on the trail werepicked up by the drovers and put on the “calf wagon” for the day’s drive.  When nightfall came, the calves were turned out with their mothers to nurse.

Goodnight soon discovered he had another problem on his hands. A cow knows her own calf by its smell and The Colonel found that when he put different calves together in the “calf wagon” during the day, their scents mixed. Thus, they were rejected by their mamas and would eventually starve to death. He then ordered his drovers to place each calf in its own separate sack, leaving the calf’s head out and tying the sack around its neck. The sacks were numbered so that the same calf went into the same sack each morning after being with its mother at night. The calves rode safely in the calf wagon during the day and spend the night with their mamas. The calves arrived at market healthy and in good shape. That meant increased profits at the end of the drive. I can only imagine what his cattle drives looked like. 

Cattle typically follow a lead steer and for many of his drives, Goodnight’s lead steer was “Old Blue”. According to legend, this famous steer helped lead a thousand head 250 miles up to Dodge City. That accomplished, Old Blue then turned around and trotted back home with the cowboys.

Known as the “Pulse of the Panhandle,” Goodnight helped organize the Panhandle Stock Association of Texas to fight rustling.   In the 1870’s when it became apparent that the hide hunters would eventually exterminate the buffalo, with the encouragement of his wife, he started his own herd of domestic buffalo.  When buffalo products became exceedingly scarce such things as hides, robes, mounted heads and horns became a hot commodity. Buffalo meat was a high-priced luxury.

As time went on, friends began to comment that Goodnight with his mop of shaggy hair over bright dark eyes topped a massive, strong body, which with age, showed a hump rounding his shoulders … became increasing likened to his beloved buffalo.  You can decide for yourself from the undoctored, certainly not Photoshopped, picture of Goodnight and a buffalo. He attracted international attention with his breed of “cattalo”, a crossbreed with a buffalo bull and Angus heifer. They could handle the high altitude and sever winters of a buffalo and resulted in a meatier animal.  For me personally, a hundred and fifty years later, I’d say they had a buffalo body with the face and horns of a longhorn.

Up to this point, I could have written most of this with very little research. I was born and raised in the Texas Panhandle, so I’ve spent all of my life knowing about Goodnight and his innovative ways of ranching. I’ve visited the town named after him. My upcoming novella in “Give Me a Texas Outlaw” is set in his dugout in Palo Duro Canyon, and I’ve visited his grave many times.  But, the one thing he created that I presumed was named from him … the chuckwagon, wasn’t!

Prior to the chuckwagon, Cowboys often relied on eating what they carried in their saddle bags such as dried beef, corn fitters or biscuits. It didn’t take Goodnight long to discover that a well-fed cowboy is a happy one. 

Traveling the trail everyday carrying minimal baggage in hot, uncomfortable weather was tough on a cowboy.  In 1866, Charles saw his opportunity and began on his new invention – the chuckwagon.  He basically redesigned a Studebaker wagon to fit a cowboy’s needs.  The Studebaker was a tough Army surplus wagon that could last months of hard driving on the trails.  Goodnight designed his very own chuck box, containing a number of shelves and drawers.  He fitted this to the back of the wagon and it served to keep the cook’s things in order.  The box had a hinged lid, and when the cook (nicknamed “cookie”) shut it, he would have a perfect surface to fix meals on.  A water barrel holding a two days’ water supply was also attached to the wagon alongside a row of hooks, boxes, brackets, and a coffee grinder.  Goodnight also hung hammock-style canvas under the wagon to carry wood and kindling, which was scarce on the prairies.  An additional wagon box was used to carry the cowboys’ bedrolls, personal items, and food supplies.  Goodnight’s genius invention is used in cattle drives to this day. By 1880, Studebaker had created a model called the “Round – Up” wagon.

The chuckwagon was equipped with all kinds of supplies needed along the trail.  We typically think of a chuckwagon being used for food and cooking gear, but the supplies would also include ferrier and blacksmith tools for horseshoeing or making repairs to the wagon and horse tack. Sewing needles for mending clothing or saddles, first aid and alcohol tonics used for medicinal purposes. Bedrolls and rain slickers for the drovers. One side was equipped with a large wooden barrel to carry a two day supply of water. The other side often had a tool box, as well a smaller attached wooden box in front called the jockey box. Additionally, the wagon would have a canvas cover called a bonnet that had been treated in linseed oil to repel rain keeping items in the wagon dry. To allow headroom in the wagon, bows where added raising the canvas and providing securing points.

Now you know why I figured the chuckwagon was named for Chuck Goodnight, although I have to admit I’ve heard him called “The Colonel”, Charles, and Charlie, but never Chuck.

To my surprise, the name chuckwagon wasn’t derived from Goodnight’s given name, but came from 17th Century England as meat merchants who referred to their lower priced goods as “Chuck”. By the 18th Century, the term “chuck” was communicated towards good hearty food. It is of no wonder to take the name chuck for Goodnight’s simple creativity that revolutionized the cattle industry. I’m presuming here but figure that’s where a Chuck Roast and Ground Chuck got its name.

I couldn’t talk about Charles Goodnight without showing you all a picture of his gravesite as it is today.  Some of my writer friends, and my coauthors, never miss an opportunity to visit his grave when we’re near it. The Goodnight Cemetery is on the edge of the Caprock about five miles off the beaten track. It overlooks what was his land and it’s truly one of the most beautiful sights one could imagine.  You’d really have to know what you’re looking for to find it. 

On a visit about two years ago, we discovered that there were bandanas tied all over the fence surrounding his grave.  All kinds, some we could recognize by the markings; commemorative bandanas and organizations, but most were just plain everyday bandanas like those worn by cowboys for centuries, so those who have gone there to tie a bandana to honor the “Father of the Texas Panhandle” didn’t drop in by accident. I’ve tried to research how the practice got started, but could find little about who started it, but thank them.

Do you have any traditions that you’ve observed, but don’t know its origin?  I’d love to have you share them with everyone.  When the day is done, I’ll pick a reader to receive a copy of our latest anthology, “Give Me a Texas Ranger”.

 Give Me A Texas Ranger

Vigilantes — The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

When I was researching a proposed book, I became interested in vigilante justice – or lack of  justice part  – in Montana. But I started wandering elsewhere when I found a great website called “Legends of America,” a treasure lode of information about vigilante groups throughout the old west.

As in Montana, such groups were usually formed to protect honest citizens in areas where law was non-existent, or in places were the law itself was corrupt. But in many instances the groups became what they once hunted. The classic film, “The Oxbow Incident,” is a vivid example of what sometimes happened.

The term vigilante stems from its Spanish equivalent, meaning private security agent. They were most common in mining communities but were also known to exist in cow towns and farming settlements. They range from the Anti Horse Thief Association (A.H.T.A.), which still exists today as a fraternal organization, to the Bald Knobbers which had a brief run in Missouri.

One of the first groups was the San Francisco Vigilantes of 1851. The Gold Rush had transformed the small Spanish settlement into a boom town as thousands of men flocked to California to make their fortunes. The town grew from approximately 800 residents in 1848 to nearly 25,000 three years later, “including murderers, swindlers, thieves, sporting girls and carpetbagger politicians.”

When the city was incapable of handling the lawlessness, the city’s merchants established the “Committee of Vigilance” in 1851. Some 700 members met in secret and drew up bylaws and announced that the elected government was incapable of protecting the lire and property of the city’s citizens and claimed that role for itself.

The committee believed that Australian immigrants were mostly responsible for the city’s crime and immediately began to prevent them from landing in San Francisco and deporting several dozen men. Their justice was swift and certain, hanging four men accused of murder. Word of lynching and exiling criminals had the desired effect. Crime dropped swiftly, and the committee’s success spurred the establishment of other vigilante groups throughout the west. Having accomplished its purpose, the San Francisco group disbanded in 1852 and turned to city back over to the elected officials.

A new group, however, was formed in San Francisco in 1856 when the city was taken over by a gang of “organized political plunderers,” according to “Legends of the West.” Some of the worst elements of San Francisco had taken control of the city government, stuffing ballot boxes, bribing voters, intimidating those that couldn’t be paid off and electing their own judges. When the editor of one of the city’s papers exposed the graft, he was murdered “by a low life politician and known ballot box stuffer named James Casey.” Thinking he would be protected by his friends, he turned himself in.

The response was immediate. A new vigilante group was formed, including one of leaders of the first group. The group took over a commercial warehouse which was converted into an armory and drill hall. The crooked politicians appealed to the governor and federal authorities who refused to help, and the committee “purified” the government by exiling politicians, and criminals. It then disbanded for a second time.

Then there was the longer lasting Anti Horse Thief Association (A.H.T.A.) that was organized in 1859 to provide protection for Kansas stock owners during the days of the Kansas-Missouri border war. The group was so successful in catching horse thieves that it soon expanded into stopping other illegal activities as well, and additional branches were formed throughout Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, and the Indian Territory which was particularly rife with crime. Before long, courts were recognizing their value and gave them approval.

In 1905, a spokesman for the organization stated the A.H.T.A. “uses only strictly honorable, legal methods. It opposes lawlessness in any and all forms, yet does its work so systematically and efficiently that few criminals are able to escape when it takes the trial.” At this time, the national organization numbered over 30,000 members.

Once the outlaw days had come to an end, the organization continued to exist as a fraternal organization, eventually having groups in 16 states. It still exists today.

A third group was the Dodge City Vigilantes (1873). Dodge City, established in 1872, was teeming with buffalo hunters, railroad men, soldiers and desperadoes. In its first year as a town, fifteen men were buried in Boot Hill. 

Local businessmen hired a gunfighter named Billy Brooks to tame the town, but when he did little to stop the violence they formed a vigilante committee. The committee warned the six most violent offenders to leave town immediately. Four went. Two stayed and were hunted down and killed.

However this group did not disband and, as often happened with vigilante groups, became the main source of violence. One of its members, a dance hall owner, chased a man out of his establishment and shot him. As the victim lay writhing in the street, the proprietor walked up to him and shot him again.

Several months later, two vigilante members killed a man named William Taylor. Not a good move. Taylor was employed by the commanding officer of Ft. Dodge who entered the city and arrested six of the vigilantes.

The Montana vigilantes also had a controversial life. During Montana’s gold rush days, the law was mostly absent in what was then the Territory of Idaho. After a young miner was murdered in Virginia City, and two of his suspected murderers were set free, outraged citizens decided justice was too slow. Five men were sworn in as the Vigilance Committee, patterned after the San Francisco Vigilantes. In the next few years, 22 men were lynched, some of which were probably not guilty. Some researchers believe the entire affair was a cover up for the so called vigilantes who were actually committing the crimes. Random lynchings continued in Montana Territory throughout the 1860s until a backlash against extralegal justice took hold around 1870.

More about vigilante committees in my next blog.

On a more cheerful note, I wish you a magical holiday season. Thank you all for being a part of this community.

Winner of Tammy Barley’s Book


Hope everyone enjoyed Miss Tammy’s blog.  Although I was too full of turkey, I waddled over to chat.

The names were neatly folded and put in my ten gallon hat.

The winner of Faith’s Reward is………………


Ah’m dancin’ a jig for you, Joye! Woo-Hoo! Please contact Miss Tammy through her website at and send her your mailing particulars and she’ll get the book to you as soon as she can.

A Warm Welcome to Tammy Barley

If you could have dreamed up the ideal way to wake up this morning, what would that have been like? No alarm clock, thick drapes to keep the room pleasantly dark, so you could have slept in until you felt rested and fabulous? Keep going. What else? A feather-stuffed mattress beneath you? Warm quilts curled snugly under your chin? A hunky man with a lazy grin bringing you fresh éclairs and hot coffee or cocoa?

In Faith’s Reward, Jessica Hale Bennett probably wishes she could have enjoyed just such a morning….

January 1865
Honey Lake Valley, Northern California


    Jessica Bennett jolted upright in bed, her hand trembling as it searched the cold sheets in the darkness beside her. Her fingers brushed Jake’s equally cold pillow, then the soft fur of the cat that huddled on it, the only trace of warmth in the place where her husband had gone to sleep beside her. “Jake?”

     Wind rattled the windowpane with nearly enough force to crack it. The wintry cold had seeped through the glass and turned the bedroom to ice. Jess hugged her flannel nightgown firmly to her and sat still and alert, straining to hear over the storm for any indication of movement in the house, either upstairs or down. She heard no thud of boot heels on the plank floor, no jingle of spurs to suggest any presence inside the house but hers.

    Judging by the thick darkness, dawn was still hours away. Though she and Jake had worked until sometime after midnight, until they were both exhausted, he must have rested in bed until she had fallen asleep, but no longer than that. Once he had been certain she and the baby within her were at rest, he must have gone back to work and joined the next shift of cattlemen who fought to keep their horses and cattle alive, digging them out of the snow and providing hay to stimulate their bodies’ heat.

   The misty darkness abruptly grew darker, closing in around her.

   Then, blackness.

    An image flashed through her mind—she stood in boot-deep snow under a gray sky, a Henry rifle gripped in her hands. At her sides stood two of the cattlemen. More than a dozen Paiute Indian men stepped forward to stand alongside them. She recognized one Paiute who worked at the ranch. The others were strangers. Their faces revealed fear, and resolve. In front of her, perhaps five paces away, stood thirty or more renegade white men who, as one, reached their hands to their holsters, drew their guns, then took aim at Jess and the Indians. Jess cocked the Henry rifle, pressed the butt to her shoulder, and sighted down the barrel at the cold, glittering blue eyes of the man who aimed the bore of his revolver at her. Though fear burned like liquid fire beneath her skin, she firmed her grip, shifted her index finger from the rifle’s trigger guard to the curve of the metal trigger. And pulled.

     The hot coffee, cocoa, and fresh éclairs are sure sounding better, aren’t they? Fortunately, Jess is married to a hunky man with a lazy grin, and you’ll see that she has plenty of ideal mornings, and the love of a good man who will risk his life for her…and for whom she will risk herself.

     Faith’s Reward, book three of The Sierra Chronicles trilogy, hits the shelves January 4, 2011! For more details, and to enter to win “The Day of Your Dreams” contest, visit


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Now it’s the day after turkey-day. The feast has been enjoyed and only the carcass remains–and the relatives. J By now, you’ve probably talked over every subject you can think of. Just in case, here is some Thanksgiving trivia that might come in handy.

>> The first known thanksgiving feast or festival in North America was celebrated by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and the people he called “Tejas” (members of the Hasinai group of Caddo-speaking Native Americans). [That was in the 1540s in eastern Texas!]

>> There are three places in the United States named after the holiday’s traditional main course — Turkey, Texas; Turkey Creek, La.; and Turkey, N.C. There are also nine townships around the country named “Turkey,” with three in Kansas.

>> The cranberry is a symbol and a modern diet staple of thanksgiving. Originally called crane berry, it derived its name from its pink blossoms and drooping head, which reminded the Pilgrims of a crane.

>> Fossil evidence shows that turkeys roamed the Americas 10 million years ago.

>> 91% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

>> Turkeys were one of the first animals in the Americas to be domesticated. (Sorry, I just can’t see this guy as a pet.)

>> The Guinness Book of Records states that the greatest dressed weight recorded for a turkey is 39.09 kg (86 lbs), at the annual “heaviest turkey” competition held in London, England on December 12, 1989.

>> There are regional differences as to the “stuffing” (or “dressing”) traditionally served with the turkey. Southerners generally make theirs from cornbread, while in other parts of the country white bread is the base. One or several of the following may be added: oysters, apples, chestnuts, raisins, celery and/or other vegetables, sausage or the turkey’s giblets. 

>> More than 40 million green bean casseroles are served on Thanksgiving.

Happy day-after Thanksgiving, everyone! Now bring on the Christmas Carols!

Thanksgiving Delights by Joanna Fuchs


On Thanksgiving Day we’re thankful for

Our blessings all year through,

For family we dearly love,

For good friends, old and new.

For sun to light and warm our days,

For stars that glow at night,

For trees of green and skies of blue,

And puffy clouds of white.

We’re grateful for our eyes that see

The beauty all around,

For arms to hug, and legs to walk,

And ears to hear each sound.

The list of all we’re grateful for

Would fill a great big book;

Our thankful hearts find new delights

Everywhere we look!

Saturday’s Guest: Tammy Barley


Hello Darlings,

Miss Tammy Barley is following the trail back to Wildflower Junction. She’ll arrive here Saturday for a day of chatting.

In addition to talking about Thanksgiving Miss Tammy is bursting with news about her new book. FAITH’S REWARD is the third book in the Sierra Chronicles Trilogy and it looks like a humdinger. Miss Tammy is bringing one copy to give away. Ah know that’ll bring some excitement.

So put your get-along in gear and mosey over to the Junction. We’ll be proud to have you.

Don’t forget now, you hear!


I am so excited to share with you that I just had three holiday short stories released through Victory Tales Press last week!  As you all know, I normally write historical western romance, and two of these stories are just that. The third is a contemporary story, and I would like to tell you a bit about all of them.

HOMECOMING is a story I had written about a year ago.  I knew it was very odd, and probably had no chance of “making it” in the romance market, especially with the larger houses.  I don’t want to give anything away, so I will just have to be content to say that it has a very odd twist to it, a bit of the paranormal, and is a very different kind of story.  It appears in the Sweet edition of A CHRISTMAS COLLECTION.  Darn it, I wish I could tell you more because this is one of my favorite stories, but I’m afraid I’ll say too much!   I’m in this collection with four other wonderful authors.  Here’s the blurb for HOMECOMING, a story of forgiveness and faith at Christmas:

A holiday skirmish sends Union officer Jack Durham on an unlikely mission for a dying Confederate soldier–his enemy.  While thinking of the losses he’s suffered, can Jack remember what it means to be fully human?  Will the miracle of Christmas be able to heal his heart in the face of what awaits him?

My story in the Sensual edition of A CHRISTMAS COLLECTION is called SCARLET RIBBONS.  For as long as I can remember, the song of the same title has been part of my life.  I grew up in the 60’s/70’s and folk music was a staple in my home.  This poignant song, made popular by Harry Belafonte, tells the story of a man who hears his child praying for Scarlet Ribbons for her hair. It’s late, and the streets are empty, with no place to get the Scarlet Ribbons. During the night, the father anguishes over not being able to get such a simple gift for his daughter.  In the morning, just before dawn, he goes into her bedroom and there on the bed are two beautiful scarlet ribbons for her hair. If you have never heard the song, it’s well worth a listen or ten–I promise it will touch your heart (I can never listen to it without crying like a big third grader.)

My story of SCARLET RIBBONS is about a half-breed gunslinger who comes back to Mexico after many years to several surprises.  There is, again, a hint of the paranormal in this story.  I was so happy to be able to place it with Victory Tales Press, as it is quite different.  But this was a story I had had in mind for a long time.  Here’s the blurb:

Miguel Rivera is known as El Diablo, The Devil.  Men avoid meeting his eyes in fear of his gun.  Persuaded by a street vendor, he makes a foolish holiday purchase–two scarlet ribbons.  Can a meeting with a mysterious priest, and the miracle of the scarlet ribbons set Miguel on a new path and restore the love he lost before? 

My contemporary story, WHITE CHRISTMAS, appears in the Spicy edition of A CHRISTMAS COLLECTION along with three other wonderful authors.  I think my idea for this story stemmed from the many hospital visits I have made with my sister this year, and talking with so many wonderful ER nurses and doctors. What happens with their holidays? And what about first responders–fire fighters and police officers?  In my story, I took a lonely divorced ER nurse who hasn’t had a proper Christmas in many years, and a long-single fire fighter who has lost everything dear to him and threw them together for Christmas.  Here’s the blurb for WHITE CHRISTMAS:

Since her divorce, busy ER nurse, Carlie Thomas, is happy to spend Christmas on duty.  Fire fighter Derek Pierce needs special care after being injured on the job.  But Derek’s wounds are more than skin deep.  Will they spend the holidays haunted by the ghosts of the past, or could this Christmas spark a beautiful friendship–or even something more?

If you love holiday stories, this is a treasure-trove!  There are four books in all in the A CHRISTMAS COLLECTION set: sweet, sensual, stimulating and spicy.  The stories are grouped according to “heat” level so there are no surprises.  These are great for gift-giving for this reason.

To order, or for more information, here’s the link.

I’d love to hear from y’all.  What is your favorite holiday story? Is it one of your own, or someone else’s?  I love holiday stories and I’m always looking for new ones.



Lila, My New Grandchild

Good Morning or Afternoon or Evening!

Well, I am away from home at the moment, visiting my daughter and my first grandchild, Lila Madison.  To say it was love at first sight would be an extremely lame description of my first moments with my new granddauther.

Lila was born early in November to my daughter, who lives in New York.  Since we live in southern California, it took a bit for us to get to New York.  We arrived there (we drove it straight through) on November 19th and found mom and baby doing well.  Here is a picture of the 10 day old beauty and myself.

Here’s another picture of grandma and the new addition to the family.  Maybe I’m a little prejudiced, but she is truly a gorgeous newborn.  She was a little small at birth, even though she was born full term.  She has gorgeous black hair — dark eyes — although these things often change.  And I think she already has me wrapped around her tiniest little finger.

Here’s grandpa and the beautiful new beauty smiling up at him.  And off to the left is another picture of the couple (grandpa and the new addition). 

I think it was again love at first sight.  My husband wasn’t able to stay long, but I remain here in New York, hoping to help in any way that I can — I do remember very well what it’s like to come home from the hospital, not really fully recovered — hardly able to walk — and to walk into taking care of two young children all at once.  I could’ve used a helping hand (my own mother died before I had my children), and when my daughter delivered Lila, I was determined to be that helping hand for her.  Hopefully I really live up to being a helping hand and not a problem.

Here’s a picture of the proud papa.  And another picture of proud mom and Lila.  Am also thrilled that both my daughter and her husband welcomed me into their home.  Not always easy to have a mother-in-law come to stay with you.

Hopefully I will be of service and not a hindrance.

Here’s another picture of grandma and grandchild — getting to know each other.

Well, that’s all for today.  As I said I’m out of town.  Of course, I realize that this isn’t my usual kind of post, but I thought I would share a little bit of heaven with you.

If you have a moment, please come on in and leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!