How Wild Was the Old West—Really?

I heard a TV commentator liken the violence of Baltimore back to the Old West. Is that a fair comparison? Some historians would probably disagree. Some have even gone as far as to describe the Old West as “a quiet, peaceful and law-abiding place.” Hard as that is to believe they may be on to something for the following reasons:

The Old West Practiced Gun Control

dodge-gunsYep, that’s right. In fact, the very first law passed in Dodge City was a gun control law. Many towns including Tombstone had similar strict laws barring guns. Visitors were required to turn guns over to the stable owner or sheriff. Checks or receipts were issued much like they are today when checking coats at a restaurant. Gun owners could reclaim their weapons upon leaving town.

Not everyone followed the law, of course. Drunkenness and disorderly conduct would get you a free pass to the hoosegow, but so would toting a gun. The gunfight of OK corral was actually sparked by an effort to enforce the “no gun” law.

Gun control made economical sense. Towns wishing to attract businesses and commerce or even the railroad couldn’t afford to let crime run amok.

The Law of Wagon Trainswagon
Some wagon trains reportedly contained more than a hundred wagons and as many as 800 people, so keeping law and order was of primary concern. Many of these trains had their own constitutions which spelled out a judicial system. Ostracism and threats of banishment kept most travelers in line and there are few reported instances of violence on these trains. That’s pretty amazing considering the conditions and long months on the trail.

What About All That Cattle Rustling?

cowsIf we believed all those old time Western movies there wasn’t a steer in the land that hadn’t been rustled at least once. No question; Cattle rustling was a problem. That is until ranch owners got together and formed cattlemen associations. These groups hired private protection agencies, which pretty much put cattle rustlers out of business.

Bank Robbers Ruled, Right?

Wrong again. According to the book Banking in the American West from the Gold Rush to Deregulation by bankLynne Pierson and Larry Schweikart, only eight actual bank heists occurred in the 15 states that made up the frontier west during the forty year period between 1859-1900. (Holy Toledo! My little hometown has had more bank robberies than that just in the last decade.)

Why so few bank robberies in the Old West? The answer is simple; Banks were hard to rob. Banks were located downtown often next the sheriff’s office. People slept above shops so the town was far from deserted. The bank’s walls were often doubly-reinforced. Blasting through the walls would wake everyone in town including the sheriff.

Some, like Butch Cassidy simply walked in the front door, but even that type of bank holdup was rare. Robbing stagecoaches was easier. But transporting money by stage fell out of favor when trains came along. Robbers who shifted attention to trains soon had to contend with Pinkerton detectives.

What About All Those Gunslingers?

gunDime novels, old newspapers and movies would have us believe that shooting from the hip and quick draw duels were the norm. In reality, gunfights were few and far between.

Some well-known shootists (the word gunslinger didn’t come into play until the 1920s) deserved their reputations but, by today’s standards, most would be considered lousy shots. Some, like Wyatt Earp, killed nowhere near as many men as they were given credit for. A gunslinger’s reputation, however exaggerated, was sometimes more valuable than his skills.

Peter Hill, co-author of  the Not so Wild, Wild, West wrote “If one wants to see the “Wild, Wild West” in action one should turn to congressional hearings, political demonstrations and arguments over recreational and consumptive vs. non-consumptive uses of forest lands.”  Now there’s a thought…It kind of makes you wonder what those old cowpokes would have thought about the recent riots.

So what do you think? Was the Old West a quiet, peaceful and law-abiding place or wasn’t it?

Speaking of Wild:

Maggie Michaels is sent to Arizona Territory as an undercover mail order bride to track down the notorious Whistle-Stop Bandit. If she doesn’t prove the suspect guilty before the wedding—she could end up as his wife!

undercoversmallClick cover to Preorder

Available in print, eBook or Audio

A Big Welcome For Author Linda Hubalek!

Rania Ropes a RancherMs Linda Hubalek has saddled up and will ride into the Junction on Friday, May 1st.

As a lover of the old West and life on the Kansas frontier, Ms Linda is full of interesting information. She’s going to talk about the Texas cattle drives  and the drovers who worked to get the cows to market.

Ms Linda is giving away two Kindle copies of Rania Ropes a Rancher!

This is her first time as a guest. Help us make her welcome.

Rise and shine come Friday, or Saturday, and join us! 

Is There a Doctor in the House?

newsletter_headerjpg - 2Back in February, my e-novella Love on the Mend debuted, featuring Dr. Jacob Sadler as my male lead. He was my first doctor character, though Crockett from Stealing the Preacher came close. Crockett was self-taught, however. Jacob actually completed medical school and worked as an army surgeon during the War Between the States. Just last week, I was honored to see the first print version of the story. In Dutch. Yes, still no plans for a print  version in the US, but if you travel to the Netherlands, you can find one. Ha!

Although, the translated title look like it reads “Life of the Receipt.” A scintillating tale of a girl trying to return the doctor’s bag she purchased accidentally only to realize she’s stuck with it unless she can find the receipt. Did the dog eat it? Did her next door rival steal it? Or did the matchmaking store clerk purposely send it home with the handsome doctor from the next county hoping to bring the unlikely pair together in an adventure neither saw coming? Find out in Life of the Receipt.

Well, back to doctors. I’ve always been fascinated by these courageous men and women who dedicate their lives to helping others. Some of my favorite western doctors have been:

Dr Quinn Medicine Woman


Dr. Michaela Quinn – One of my favorite shows from the 80s. A strong female lead proving herself in a rugged land. A love story between the reclusive frontiersman and the educated woman. Plenty of medical drama, frontier drama, and family drama. I watched every episode without fail.





Little House Dr Baker




And who could forget Dr. Hiram Baker from Little House on the Prairie? He was one of those rare characters that you could always trust to do the right thing. He never lost his temper. Never got flustered. Just treated everyone with the same calm, soothing, competent manner that instantly put people at ease. I wish we still had doctors like him today, making house calls in his black buggy.





This next one is a bit of a stretch. Robert Fuller started off as one of my favorite TV cowboys – Cooper Smith, the scout from the series Wagon Train. Later he took on the role of Dr. Kelly Brackett on one of the first TV medical dramas I remember from my youth in the 70s – Emergency.

Robert-Fuller as Cooper Smith in Wagon Train
Robert-Fuller as Cooper Smith in Wagon Train
Robert Fuller as Dr. Kelly Brackett on Emergency
Robert Fuller as Dr. Kelly Brackett on Emergency













The last western doctor is one I just discovered. How did I never know this show existed? I guess it was never one of the westerns that reran its episodes in the 70s when I was around to catch them on Frontier Doctor TV ShowSaturday afternoons. Do any of you remember Frontier Doctor from 1958? It starred Rex Allen as small town doctor Bill Baxter in the Arizona Territory in the early 1900s. It was only in syndication for a year, which explains why it never made it to rerun status in the 70s. Sounds like a show that would have been up my alley, though.

  • How about you? Who are are some of your favorite TV/movie doctors?

Any Dr. House fans? I can’t believe how much I enjoy that show when the lead character is such a horrible human being, but I do. It’s definitely unique and I love the medical mystery aspect of it.

Oh, and for anyone who’s interested, the English version of Love on the Mend is available for all e-readers for around $1.99. You can purchase the Kindle version here.

We Have a Winner for Karen Kay’s Tradepaper Copy of THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR

bannerYes, indeed, we have a winner for a copy of THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR — actually two.  Sometimes, when I pull names out of the hat, two come up without me knowing I’m doing it.  So in this case, we do have winners.  Those winners are:  Sandra S and Laurie G.

If you please, could you contact me personally at karenkay(dot)author(at)earthlink(dot)net.  Insert (.) for (dot) and @ for (at).  I will need physical addresses to send these books to.

Congratulations to you, one and all for coming to the blog yesterday and for leaving a comment.  I enjoyed them all.  Have a terrific rest of the day.

WE HAVE A WINNER! (or rather winnerS)

Because I am ridiculously slow getting winners picked…

I am doing a bonus giveaway to someone who saved me from forgetting altogether.

Did I mention I crashed our ATV into a light pole and ripped wires down off the house.

The power still works but there’s a massive electric line dragging on the lawn

That can’t be good and I’m using it to excuse my behavior.

(I draw an excuse faster than Billy the Kid draws a gun)

I’m giving away THREE 2 book sets of the With This Kiss pair, plus the Amazon gift card.

Seekerville spring novella sm

Winner #1 of an ebook copy of With This Kiss Historical AND Contemporary is

Deb Forbes

Winner #2 of an ebook copy of With This Kiss Historical AND Contemporary is

Deana Dick

Winner #3 of an ebook copy of With This Kiss Historical AND Contemporary is someone kind enough to REMIND ME I HADN’T POSTED A WINNER YET!



And the winner of the $25 Amazon gift card is 

Lori G

THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR in Tradepaper — 4th Give-Away

bannerHowdy!  And Happy Tuesday!

Yes, that’s right.  For the fourth time, i am offering a free copy of the Tradepaper copy of THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR to some lucky blogger — a $16.00 value.  All you have to do to enter into the drawing is to leave a comment.  Note that there are certain restrictions.  This applies only to those addresses that are within the United States and the offer is void where prohibited by law.  One also needs to be eighteen years of age or older to be eligible for the prize.

Let me say again, that to claim your prize, you must check back to the blog tomorrow — my posting of the winner will be under the main posting for the day.  My schedule is intense…truly intense.  So please do me a favor and check back tomorrow if you would like to see if you have won the book.

Okay with that said, why the number 4?  Well, I was going to stop the Tradepaper give-away of THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR with my last blog.  However, I’m not sure if it’s generally known that the number 4 is a number is sacred in many of the American Indian cultures — particularly so the Lakotah.  And so, in honor of that,  I decided to do another give-away — the 4th.

imagesCAEMDZXBSo, you might ask, why the number 4?  Why would it be special to the American Indian cultures?  I do believe that it has to do with the observations of Nature.  (This goes back to research I did many, many years ago — and so I’m writing this from memory.  Please forgive me if it’s not exact.)  When one is living very close to Mother Earth, some things become apparent:  First, there are 4 directions (North, South, East and West).  Then there are the four seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn).  There are the four acts of Nature:  Wind, Snow, Rain and Fire.  There are the four celestial bodies that are intricate to life:  The Earth, the Sun, the Moon, the Sky (stars, clouds, etc.).  So the number four.

thumbnailCASS51BJAlso, I notice that there have been some wonderful posts recently on the American Indian and different facets of their encounters with the U.S. Cavalry, as well as with government agents.   One was by Jennifer Uhlarik and the other by Kristy McCaffrey.  If you go back a few days in posts, you’ll see their blogs.

It’s interesting to me how misunderstandings and in some cases, pride and bull-headedness — have been allowed to harm so many innocent people, by a government that professed to be founded upon the principals of Freedom.  Perhaps there were double standards in their day, but that doesn’t excuse for a minute, the destruction of people’s lives.  By bull-headedness, I mean the demanding of $25.00 for a cow that wandered away from the herd into an Indian encampment, when the Indians did not trade in money, nor did they have any — and a refusal to accept an even trade for the cow — when in fact it was the owner’s negligence as much as anything else that caused the problem.

Communication — important thing.  Also, fair-headedness and a willing to administer real justice — important things.  We are all part of the human family.  If an alien race were to come to this earth to conquer it, what a field day they would have — because it seems to me that one of the things that man does best is to allow himself to be divided over petty differences.  Over and over again, he sets himself up as a target for anyone who knows the strategy of divide and conquer.

This all leads me to another excerpt from THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR.  Hope you’ll enjoy.

AngelAndTheWarrior-The-CoverExcerpt of THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR by Karen Kay


It was then, by chance that she gazed up, and there, off in the distance, beneath a fiery-red sunset, she spotted Swift Hawk.  At once, everything in her immediate environment, except him, faded to a dim blur, as if he, and only he were real.

She watched as Swift Hawk strode through the tall grasses, grasses and vines that rippled in the wind; his pony, weighted down with something, followed in his wake.  That the grass hampered his tread didn’t seem to slow his stride.  In truth, he looked determined.

He was quite a sight to behold, and she thought she would never forget the beauty of it, for the tall grasses mirrored the extravagance of the sunset, their whitish tops casting a pinkish-red glow over the land, the sky, and over him.  And for a moment, a lump formed in her throat.

She drew in a deep breath, and as she did so, she sniffed, at once cognizant of the fragrant, late afternoon scent of grass, dirt and pure, oxygen-filled air.

He was back.  The good Lord be praised.  And if his glance told her anything, it spoke volumes, for he looked unswervingly at her.  Hope blossomed, and for a moment, the native grace of the landscape reflected her mood, giving Angelia’s spirits a buoyancy that she hadn’t felt for many a day.

“Miss, ah, miss?”

But Angelia didn’t hear the old geezer by her fire; she had eyes and ears only for him.

Swift Hawk’s stride brought him directly toward her and her brother’s campfire, and within moments, he was there in front of her, for he had stopped his pacing only inches from the blaze.  His pony snorted behind him, then commenced to munching on the grass.

Swift Hawk stood, his long, buckskin-covered legs far apart, arms crossed over his broad chest.  And he stared down at her.

Gazing upward, Angelia drew herself onto her knees while her brother turned over in his sleep, as though nothing — not the old man, not even Swift Hawk — would interfere with his nap.  Angelia squinted up at Swift Hawk as the evening sunset outlined him in reds and pinks and oranges.  She tried to study him, attempting to determine what she could witness within his countenance.

Silently he stared back at her, and beneath the heat of his gaze, Angelia let her own glance drop to the ground.  Cautiously, she breathed in and out, hardly daring to say a word.

And then  he spoke to her, saying, “I have come to tell you that I have made my decision.”

“Miss,”  piped up the old geezer, “Have ye heard nothin’ I’ve been sayin’ to ya?”

With her right hand, Angelia shushed the man, while she spoke directly to Swift Hawk.  “Have you?”  she voiced, bestowing a smile to Swift Hawk.

Haa’he, I have.”

“Consortin’ with Injuns!” declared Mr. Wooster, coming up to his feet and shaking a finger at her.  “Ye’ll come to harm, I tell ye.”

“Yes, yes, Mr. Wooster.  Thank you.  I’ve heard you,” Angelia said, though the man, for all the attention she paid him, might have been invisible.

Angelia waited, for Swift Hawk did not at once elaborate on what his decision was.  However, unable to bear the anticipation, Angelia brightened her smile, cast Swift Hawk the most flirtatious gaze she possessed, and said, “Yes?”

Looking away from her, Swift Hawk stiffened.

“Of all the…”  The rest of whatever censure Mr. Wooster had to say was lost to the wind, for he left forthwith; unfortunately his stench lingered behind him.

But neither Swift Hawk, nor Angelia paid the man an ounce of attention.

Smiling, Angelia again coaxed, “Yes?”

And Swift Hawk said, “I have decided that I will help you and your brother.”

She gulped.  “You have?”  Slowly AngeliaAngelAndTheWarrior-The-Cover


Now in Tradepaper.

Inspiration for a story comes from…my readers!

Pt. Loma Lighthouse

Often my inspiration to write a story comes from a setting. For instance, the very first book I ever wrote grew out of my fascination with the Old Pt. Loma Lighthouse on the peninsula in San Diego Harbor. The peninsula is windswept with tide pools and cliffs on the ocean side and a sloping hill on the harbor side. That book is The Angel and the Outlaw. That lighthouse is featured again in my latest book, The Gunslinger and the Heiress. However, rather than having the setting inspire me this time, the main reason I felt compelled to write this story came from readers. They asked (repeatedly) for a story about the little girl, six-year-old Hannah from The Angel and the Outlaw. Many wondered what had happened to her.US_Boundary_Survey_1850

Hannah, grows up living the life of a princess with her grandfather in San Francisco. He owns a shipping business with a fleet of ships. Life for Hannah has been one of adults, tutors, and boardrooms. She is a princess in an ivory tower—smart, beautiful, and lonely. And one more thing…Hannah is mute.

Caleb, her childhood friend from the peninsula, has not been so fortunate to be born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Caleb had to fend for himself and learn life lessons the hard way. At a young age, he joined the army at Fort Rosecrans in San Diego. While looking out for his friend in an out-of-the-way saloon on the Mexican/American border, he was drugged and the next day found himself aboard a steamer heading for Alaska and the gold fields—shanghaied.

Crazy as it may sound, they never forgot each other. Hannah thrilled at the letters Caleb would write to her that were full of adventures and excitement in worlds she would never know. And Caleb liked hearing from her. Her letters gave him a “home” when everything else felt tossed and twisted in his life. They remained good friends up until Hannah’s sixteenth birthday. That is the day that everything changed, a day that Hannah chose to exclude him from her life.The Gunslinger and the Heiress

Five years later Hannah is on his doorstep. She needs his help to keep her family’s shipping empire. She has no right to ask him for help. She was callous and cruel before, driving him away, but he is the only one she can turn to now. And he is the only one that can help her step down from her ivory tower.

It’s been said there is a thin line between love and hate. Is it possible that he will help her…even though he might never forgive her? Would he do such a thing? And could she trust him if he did accept? She knows that if she were offered the same situation again from all those years ago…she would not choose any differently.  Where does that leave their friendship? How can she have the slightest hope that Caleb will help her…let alone forgive her?

She finds her answer only as they both work through old prejudices. She must come to realize that no matter the trappings and rules society places on her, it is up to her to find and grasp her own happiness. Can she be as strong as he needs her to be?

I loved writing Caleb and Hannah’s story. I have a soft spot in my heart for each of them. I guess in a way they are my “children.” For an excerpt click here.

I have one copy of The Gunslinger and the Heiress for someone who comments today. I would love for it to be YOU! Last month when I offered a book, I was unable to connect with the winner through their email, so I must ask that if you post in the hopes of winning a free book, please check back the next day to see if you won. Should your name be drawn, I will need to know if you want a print copy or an ebook and where to send it!



juhlarik-HR-3Hey everyone! Thanks so much for having me over today! As I write stories, I love being able to weave historical events and figures into my fiction. In my first novella, Sioux Summer, published in The Oregon Trail Romance Collection, I was able to do just that. The Grattan Massacre was the conflict that spawned the First Sioux War, and it plays a part in my story.

In August, 1854, near Fort Laramie, Nebraska Territory (present day Wyoming), one lonely cow wandered away from a group of Mormon emigrants traveling the Oregon Trail. The bovine ambled into an encampment of Lakota Sioux containing roughly 4800 men, women, and children and was killed by a visiting Miniconjou warrior named High Forehead.

Young Bull
Photo credit: Andreas Krappweis.

The cow’s owner who had tracked it down, became fearful at the sight of the Indian encampment, so he went to Fort Laramie and explained the situation to Lt. Hugh Fleming. Fleming approached the Sioux chief, Conquering Bear, to negotiate a solution. The chief offered a horse from his own herd or a cow from the tribe’s herd, but the Mormon man demanded $25 cash. When terms couldn’t be reached, Fleming demanded the arrest of High Forehead. Conquering Bear wouldn’t agree since he had no authority over the Miniconjou tribe, so their negotiations ended in stalemate.

Second Lieutenant John Grattan, a new West Point graduate, took matters into his own hands. With little respect for the Sioux, he, an armed detachment of thirty soldiers, and an interpreter went searching for a fight. They marched into the Sioux encampment, intent on arresting High Forehead. The interpreter, who was drunk at the time, taunted the Sioux warriors, promising that the soldiers would kill them. Grattan demanded High Forehead’s surrender. When he refused, Grattan approached Conquering Bear. The chief once more offered a horse in exchange for the dead cow, but Grattan would accept only the arrest of High Forehead. Again, the negotiations ended in stalemate.

Government Archives

What Grattan didn’t know was that the Sioux warriors had flanked the detachment during the negotiations. As he returned to his horse, one soldier became so nervous he fired a shot, and the bullet struck and killed the Sioux chief. With bows and arrows, the Sioux killed Grattan and eleven others. The remaining men retreated to a rocky outcropping nearby, but the warriors, led by rising war chief Red Cloud, pursued and killed them all.

For days, the Sioux raided nearby settlers, trading posts, and Fort Laramie. Finally, the Indians abandoned the area for their respective hunting grounds, and in so doing, broke the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. When a burial party went into the encampment, the thirty soldiers’ bodies were found mutilated almost beyond recognition.

Photo credit:Phil Konstantin.
Photo credit:Phil Konstantin.


News of the Grattan Massacre reached the War Department, and a plan for retaliation was formed. On September 3, 1855, a 700-soldier force led by Colonel William Harney descended on an encampment of 250 Brulé Sioux along Ash Creek. The soldiers killed more than one hundred Sioux men, women, and children and took roughly seventy prisoners. So began a long history of attacks and retaliations that continued for many years. And…the Battle of Ash Creek is directly linked to one of the most famous cases of retaliation in all of Indian war history. One of the young boys who witnessed the massacre at Ash Creek grew into the great Sioux warrior, Crazy Horse, who fought and killed Custer twenty-one years later at the Little Big Horn.


I hope you’ll be interested to see how The Grattan Massacre fits into my story, Sioux Summer.

You can find The Oregon Trail Romance Collection at bookstores everywhere, or purchase from Amazon. And to one lucky reader, I’ll be giving away an autographed copy. Leave a comment below to enter the drawing.


Oregon Trail Collection
To order click cover.