I love to learn about how towns got their names, both real and fictional.
When fellow Filly Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, DeWanna Pace and I decided to write our first anthology together, we wanted our stories to take place in our hometown. The premise was that each story had to have a theme of Amarillo by morning, which was our working title. You all will probably recognize it as “Give Me a Texan” the fantastic name that Kensington gave it! To any of you writers out there, don’t get too attached to the name of your work in progress because it probably will change.
Historically, Amarillo wasn’t the first name given our town. In 1887, we were originally called Oneida when merchants from Colorado City wanted to establish stores at a logical stop in the Panhandle. Since they needed votes to choose the county seat and most of the voters were cowboys working for the surrounding ranches, the promoters promised each of them a residential or business lot to vote for Oneida. Not surprisingly Oneida won but was promptly renamed Amarillo. Keep in mind that the Panhandle was only settled beginning in 1875. It’s been said that we were renamed Amarillo after the Arroya Amarillo or Amarillo Creek which were probably named by traders for the “yellow soil” and yellow wildflowers. Amarillo is Spanish for yellow. Of interest, all the frame houses in Amarillo were painted yellow in our infancy.
My story in “Give Me a Texas Ranger” is set in Tascosa, the second town settled in the Panhandle, although I had to change the name somewhat to fit my story. Its original name was Atascosa meaning “boggy creek”, but it was too difficult to pronounce, thus becoming Tascosa. Several kernels of history from actual accounts of Old Tascosa, as it’s known today, germinated into my story about how the “upwardly” folks of Upper Tascosa wanted to make sure the rowdy, detestable citizens kept their distance in Hogtown or Lower Tascosa. They would have never associated with people named Rockin’ Chair Emma, Boxcar Jane, Slippery Sue, and Gizzard Lips. Thus, for my story, Old Tascosa became Buffalo Springs along with its seedy residents restricted to a part of the town across the creek known as Buffalo Wallow instead of the original name of Hogtown.
But, I could have never told my story without having my characters be forced to relocate from the oldest town settled in the Panhandle, Mobeetie, in order to stay one step ahead of the law. Both towns were founded only a year apart, some one hundred and thirty-five years ago. If it hadn’t been for Mobeetie, and one determined Texas Ranger Captain hell bent for leather on cleaning up the town, Tascosa would not have exited. Separated by only 135 miles, they soon became mirror images of one another.
Mobeetie, originally named Hidetown and later Sweetwater, is still referred to today as the “Mother City of the Panhandle”; and, evolved from buffalo hunters’ camps and from the nearby Army post, Fort Elliott. In the beginning (1875), it was the legal, business, and social center for this part of Texas. The town faded when the railroad bypassed it two years later; and in 1890 when the Army abandoned nearby Fort Elliott (the only military post ever established in the Panhandle), the town withered further. What remained was totally destroyed by a cyclone…today I think it’d just be called a regular ol’ tornado.
In anthology two, “Give Me a Cowboy” we set our stories over a four day period for the 4th of July Rodeo in Amarillo; however, one problem came to light. There was no rodeo in Amarillo in 1890, so we had to find a new name to be historically accurate. If we weren’t all raised here we could have probably taken creative liberties but since many of the founding father’s families are still around, we weren’t about to take the chance of being called out on it.
While driving down the highway one day, I saw a railroad crossing outside of Amarillo called Kasota; therefore, Kasota Springs was born. Those who have read all of our anthologies, which I’m happy to say are still in print after six years, will recall that we used that town again in “A Texas Christmas”.
My new eKensington contemporary single title “The Tycoon and the Texan” due out September 5th takes place partially on the Jacks Bluff Ranch outside of Kasota Springs. You might remember the LeDoux family and their ranch from two of our anthologies.
I’m calling my new contemporary series that I’m currently writing “Kasota Springs” as they will all take place in our imaginary town from the anthologies. Many of the names from my stories will reappear as fifth and sixth generation residents.
Now for some fun facts about some Texas towns and locations.
One of the most interesting was how the famous, and still in existence, XIT Ranch got its brand. The ranch was created in 1885 and covered much of the Texas Panhandle when the Capitol Syndicate of Chicago received over three million acres of land in exchange for money to build the Texas capitol in Austin. The brand XIT is translated to mean X for the “ten” counties in which the ranch was originally located; I for “in”; and T for “Texas”.
Happy, Texas, was named by cowboys who were elated on cattle drives to find spring-fed water at Happy Draw. Long before settlers came to the region, the spring was known as the happy hunting ground by the Plains Indians. Happy is proud to known as “The Town Without a Frown” and even had a movie named after it.
Cut and Shoot, Texas, near Houston, was too much fun not to include. Most of the stories agree that there was once a preacher who was much too popular with the women. When charges were made at a church meeting, the men ran to wagons and buggies to get knives and rifles to cut and shoot.
I love Bass Hollow, which was named after Sam Bass and his gang who once made their outlaw camp there. They were notorious for their daring train and bank holdups during the 1870’s.
A town gone many decades and where my grandparents once lived is Pantex, Texas, right outside of Amarillo. The location of the town would suggest that it is the abbreviation compound for Panhandle of Texas. A post office was establish for the population of 115 to provide service to the employees of the Pantex Ordnance Plant, which loaded bombs for the Army from 1942 to 1945, but the town vanished after World War II; however, the plant remains in operation today.
But my very favorite is still Mobeetie. Not just from its history, but a story I’ve heard many times. Although the town was known as Hidetown when it was a hunters’ camp and later Sweetwater, which was changed by the post office since there was already a town by that name, I’ve heard, but can’t confirm that the Indians played a joke on the area folks when they translated the meaning of Sweetwater to be Mobeetie. Later it was discovered that Mobeetie really means “buffalo dung”. It is subject to interpretation. Although I can’t confirm the theory, it dern sure makes a fantastic story for any writer. By the way, the picture above is of the original strap-iron jail in Mobeetie.
What is your favorite town name and why?
To one lucky person who leaves a comment, I will send them a copy of an autographed anthology of their choice.
In my first book, Touch of Texas, the heroine’s defense weapon of choice was a double-barrel shotgun. In the interests of research–and because I wanted to shoot one — we added a double-barrel shotgun to our Cowboy Action Shooting collection.
Shotguns come in all barrel lengths. The Stoeger side-by-side we shoot is modeled after the 1881 Baker double-barrel shotgun. While the earlier double-barrel shotguns had two triggers, one to fire each barrel, the Baker had a single trigger that was pulled twice to fire each barrel in succession.
Prior to the late 1870s, shotguns had external hammers which had to be manually cocked. Until the hammer was cocked, the gun couldn’t be fired. That meant the gun could be loaded and leaned in a corner, but it wasn’t useful until the hammers were pulled back.
The style of shotgun I use in Cowboy Action Shooting is referred to as a “Coach Gun.” That means the barrel is between 18 and 20 inches long.
The term “coach gun” comes from the popularity of the shorter barreled shotguns that fit in the footwell of a stagecoach or alongside the driver with the butt of the shotgun on the seat. A shorter gun was more easily lifted and pointed at the target when needed. And a shotgun has a broader impact pattern so the shooter doesn’t have to be quite as accurate. Where a rifle shoots one bullet, a shotgun, with 9 to 100 pellets in the load of shot, will cover approximately 2’x2′ or as much as 3’x3′. That makes it a perfect gun for defending a rocking, bouncing stage, or to fire from horseback when pursuing–or being pursued by–the bad guys.
Have you read a book where the double-barrel shotgun has been used? Which scene is your favorite? I’ll give a copy of TOUCH OF TEXAS to one of you who leaves a comment.
My thanks to all the fillies of Pistols and Petticoats for inviting me to share their blog space today and pose some questions about what defines a novel as a western historical romance?
Who ever heard of a western historical romance novel without cowboys, cows, Indians, stagecoaches, robbers, bluecoats, sagebrush, cacti and the like? Can you imagine John Wayne playing a hero who doesn’t ride, rope, or powwow? For that matter what kind of hero gets raised in a brothel? Isn’t that the kind of environment that fosters villains, or at best anti-heroes? What kind of virginal heroine actually tries to hire the services of a stud and is naïve enough to imagine she can outsmart a brothel madam with more years of corruption under her wig than the heroine has spent breathing? If you can’t imagine any of this, then prepare to be surprised. If you can, then you’re like me loving the whole shoot ‘em up cowboy tradition but wanting to expand on it. Nothing is quite what it appears to be at the start of my story because pushing the western historical envelope is exactly what I intended to do with One Moment’s Pleasure ~ Wildfire Love # 1.
Born and raised in the brothels of the California gold rush, Dutch Trahern worked for years to erase a childhood spent committing petty crimes and worse in order to survive. That past comes back to haunt him in the form of a woman he rescues from prostitution. Now his hard won respectability is threatened by an irresistible desire for a woman he shouldn’t want.
Please note that I haven’t eliminated all of the traditional markers of western historical romances. A combination brothel, saloon, and gambling hall plays a huge part in the hero’s story—present and past—as does the madam of the bordello. The heroine’s sister is an outlaw and only a thin veneer of civilization covers the violence that characterized San Francisco—at the time one of the US’s western most cities—in its first two decades. Another western icon, the rain frames the story, setting the scene for the first encounter between hero and heroine as well as anchoring the final scene when their love overcomes the last obstacle. That train is largely responsible for the choice of 1870 as the year for the events of One Moment’s Pleasure. The transcontinental railway was completed in 1860. However, the rail line ended in Sacramento. Not until 1870 did the iron road extend all the way to San Francisco Bay. Even then, the terminus was the Oakland Long Wharf Depot across the bay from San Francisco proper.
I had tremendous fun writing One Moment’s Pleasure, weaving tried and true symbols of the west with the unique and strange that still represents San Francisco today. Leave a comment telling me what markers, icons, symbols and the like are must haves for you to enjoy a western historical romance or how you might like to see the genre evolve. [Corny as it was, I love the movie Cowboys and Aliens.]
Everyone who leaves a comment will be entered in a drawing for a free download of One Moment’s Pleasure. Be sure to come back often. In July, I’ll be writing about One Night’s Desire ~ Wildfire Love # 2. Thanks so much for visiting with me today.
Author of historical, contemporary, and erotic romances, Rue Allyn fell in love with happily ever after the day she heard her first story. She is deliriously married to her sweetheart of many years and loves to hear from readers about their favorite books and real life adventures. Learn more about Rue and One Moment’s Pleasure at
Do you remember those books from your childbhood that made a lasting impression on you? I can remember walking into my elementary school library and choosing a book from the shelves because the title made me laugh – The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles – written by none other than Mary Poppins herself, Julie Andrews Edwards. That was the first book I remember reading that caused my imagination to picture a story unfolding without the use of illustrations. I was amazed that I could actually SEE the story happening in my mind.
There was another book from my childhood, however, that shaped my love for western historicals. A story that still holds me in awe today because of the courage and determination of the real family whose lives inspired the novel.
Seven Alone chronicles the tale of the Sager children who were orphaned while on the Oregon Trail. Henry and Naomi Sager joined a wagon train led by Captain William Shaw in 1844 in a quest for a better life. With them, they brought their six children: John 14, Frank 12, Catherine 9, Elizabeth 7, Matilda 5, and Louisa 3 years old. Along the trail, Naomi gave birth to child number 7 – baby Henrietta. At first all was well with the family, but as the trip grew more arduous accidents and sickness befell them. Catherine fell beneath a wagon and broke her leg. Then Henry fell ill. The father of the Sager family passed away and was buried on the banks of the Green River, not far from Laramie, WY. Naomi was out of her mind with grief. The women on the wagon train did all they could to help her – taking care of the baby, tending to Naomi when her grief led to illness.
They found a single man to help drive the Sager wagon, but after promising to bring back meat if allowed to use Henry’s rifle, he absconded with the weapon and was never heard from again. The doctor who had set Catherine’s leg did his best to aid the family along with Captain Shaw. Naomi struggled to hold on to life, determined to get her family to the Whitman Mission and winter there before continuing on to the Willamette. Despite her determination to hang on, Naomi Sager died near Idaho Falls.
Everyone in the wagon train pitched in to help the orphans, and by October they reached the Whitman Mission. Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife, Narcissa, agreed to take in the Sager children. In July of the following year, Dr. Whitman petitioned for legal custody of the children. Yet, tragedy continued to follow these children. The Whitmans ministered to the Cayuse Indians, and maintained peaceful relations with them. However, as more and more settlers passed through on wagon trains, disease came with them. In 1847, an outbreak of measles decimated the Indians tribes of the area. The Cayuse held the white man responsible and attacked the Whitman Mission. The Whitman massacre claimed 14 lives at the mission including Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and the two Sager boys, John and Frank. The women and children were taken captive. Louisa Sager was one of those who died while in capitivity. One month after the massacre, Peter Ogden from the Hudson’s Bay Company, arranged for their release trading sixty-two blankets, sixty-three cotton shirts, twelve rifles, six hundred loads of ammunition, seven pounds of tobacco and twelve flints for the return of the forty-nine surviving prisoners.
After losing both their biological and adoptive parents, the four remaining Sager girls were split up and sent to different families. Henrietta (the baby born on the trail) died young at age 26, supposedly shot mistakenly by an outlaw. The other three girls, Catherine, Matilda, and Elizabeth all married, had children, and lived well into old age.
About ten years after her arrival in Oregon, Catherine wrote an account of the Sager family’s journey west. She hoped to earn enough money to set up an orphanage in the memory of Narcissa Whitman. She never found a publisher. Her children and grandchildren, however, saved her manuscript without modification, and today it is regarded as one of the most authentic accounts of the American westward migration.
The book Seven Alone, and the movie that followed, only chronicles the Sager children’s hardships and adventures while on the wagon train. Yet, I couldn’t resist telling the rest of the story.
So what about you? What stories (biolgraphical or purely fiction) do you remember reading as a child that made such an impact on you that you still remember them today?
Oh, and as an aside, if you haven’t read Jody Hedlund’s book The Doctor’s Lady, you might find it enjoyable. It is a fictionized account of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman’s journey west and how these two missionaries who married for convenience found love along the way.
Last Thursday was a big day for me. I hit “send” on a new ms for Bethany House. It’s a contemporary instead of a historical, but the story has many the same elements that characterize my LIHs. The hero owns a truck and a Harley instead of a few horses, but he’s a cowboy at heart. If I put the heroine in the Old West, she’d be running the local paper like she does in the contemporary. No website, of course. But she’d still be in the thick of things and good at her job.
I don’t have a final title yet, but the tentative pub date is Spring 2014. I’m glad it’s a ways off, because I have a lot of background work to do. my website (www.victoriabylin.com) in desperate need of a makeover, and so is my social media stuff. The fact I call it “stuff” tells you this isn’t my wheelhouse.
So here’s what I’d like to know . . . What are the most important things to you as readers about an author’s internet presence? I’d love to hear what you think about everything from Twitter to book trailers to websites.
To say thank you, I’m going to give away a few books. To enter the drawing, just leave a comment. Three lucky winners will get to choose a title from my backlist. Just one exception–I’m out of Wyoming Lawman. (I either gave away a lot more of them than I thought, or my closet ate a box of author copies.)
Here are some questions to get us started. Answer one or as many as you’d like. Or make up your own. That’s even better.
The first place I go online to check out an author’s work is _______________.
My favorite place on an author’s website is ___________________. (booklists, FAQs, bio, etc.)
I don’t like websites that __________________________.
Pinterest rocks because ___________________________.
Twitter rocks because ____________________________.
Facebook rocks because __________________________.
I love book trailers because _______________________.
I skip book trailers because _______________________.
I like to read reviews because _____________________.
I never read reviews because _____________________.
Thank you all for your input! Check back late tonight for the drawing winners.