So what is a thong tree? I learned the answer to that and other burning questions while researching my latest novel, A Man Like That. This story is the sequel to Harvest of Dreams and set in the Ozark Mountains of central Missouri just after the Civil War.
No, a thong tree is not a place to hang your underwear. Thong trees were trail markers left by the Osage Indians and early settlers. They pointed the way to a trail, salt lick, spring, cave, or other landmark. The Osage inhabited the Ozarks around Camdenton, near what is now the Lake of The Ozarks, until the 1820’s when a series of treaties finally deprived them of the last of their land. By the time of my story in 1867, the Osage were long gone, but many thong trees remained. Amazingly, some can still be seen in the area.
To create the distinctive bent trunk, the Osage would tie a leather strap to a sapling then stake it to the ground to bend the trunk. Eventually, the leather would rot away, but the tree stayed bent in a very distinctive form. In A Man Like That I used a thong tree as a marker between my hero, Morgan Bingham’s, land and the property of his relatives and sworn enemies, the McTaggarts. Circumstances force Morgan to visit his kin several times, and at one point he and the heroine, Jessamine Randall, use the horizontal branch of the thong tree as a resting place on the trail.
In the story, Morgan’s family lives in a type of cabin called a dogtrot. This architectural style originated in the Appalachian Mountains, the original home of many of the early Ozark settlers. Traditionally, the dogtrot consisted of two log cabins connected by a breezeway, or “dogtrot”. It allowed for improved ventilation and provided a shaded area in summer. In A Man Like That, Morgan’s mother and sister live in one of the one-room cabins, and his brother, sister-in-law and young nephew occupy the other.
I really enjoyed researching the setting for this book because it’s off the beaten path as far as romance novels are concerned, and I’ve always been fascinated by unexplored territory. My husband’s family is from the area of the Ozarks where I set my story, and I wanted to imagine what life might have been like for them in that time and place. I invite you to check it out.
Here’s a blurb about the story:
Jessamine Randall, fearless crusader and champion of the downtrodden, is not a woman to be left waiting at the altar. When her fiancé disappears hours before their wedding, the ever-resourceful Jessy hatches a plan to track him down and bring him back where he belongs.
Morgan Bingham knows he’s no good. Never has been. Never will be. A former outlaw is no fit husband for the only daughter of the town judge, despite her misguided notions. Besides, after ten long years away from home, it’s time to return to the hills and face his demons.
Ill-prepared, but armed with unshakeable certainty, Jessy follows Morgan to his family’s cabin deep in the Ozark Mountains where she’s sucked into a whirlpool of deep secrets and old hatreds. While she struggles to bring light and hope into their dark lives, her greatest challenge is Morgan himself. Can she ever convince him he’s worthy of love?
How do you feel about romance novels in non-traditional settings? One lucky commenter will receive a copy of A Man Like That.
For an excerpt and buy links, please visit me at www.alisonhenderson.com.