A few days ago I participated in a social media promotion called #WhyIReadHistoricals / #WhyIWriteHistoricals. I know why I read and write them: because I love history and can really connect with the characters. British Isles set and, of course, westerns are my favorites.
How about you? As a reader, why historicals?
Writers, same question.
What was the last historical you read? Or which one are you reading now?
I’m flying through Lorraine Heath’s The Duke and The Lady in Red. Fabulous characters and a setting I can disappear into for hours. I tend to shy away from westerns while I’m writing just to keep myself in my own story.
If you had to choose only one book, which historical romance is your absolute favorite read EVER?
Have you ever talked to a fence post? Not a treated, fancy white four-by-four or steel post. I mean a real fence post that’s been around for a while. An old twisted cedar leg that some rancher stuck in the ground a hundred years ago or more.
I walk by them every morning on my trek up the gentle slope toward the lip of the Arkansas River Valley near Cañon City, Colorado. Most of the time I find new wire stabled to the old fellas. But occasionally I’ll spot a length of rusty devil rope hanging on.
And that’s when I stop and visit. Crazy? Sure. But I can name a few people a whole lot more prickly that I’d rather not talk to. And they don’t have half the stories the old cedars have.
“Who planted you here? A cattleman sick to be fencing the land, or a homesteader eager to keep the cows from his crops?”
“Was he single? Did he have a sweetheart? Did he ride by every season to check on you, see how you were holding up?”
“Did he have a handlebar mustache? Carry a rifle or a sidearm?”
When I bend close to the weathered creases and knots, and feel the sun peeking up over the hills, I can almost hear the creak of saddle leather and the soft riffle of grass against a horse’s lip.
But times have changed and they changed people, or maybe it was the other way around.
It doesn’t take much to imagine one of those cowboys hunting out a good cedar stand, limbing the longest leg with a sharp ax, and replanting the tree as a post. Makes me wonder if some of those cattlemen felt tamped in like the cedars, with their open range stitched into sectioned acres.
The first cowboys who drove their “Mexico” cows into the high parks of this country didn’t pack fencing tools in their saddle bags. This was open range and barbed wire had not yet been invented. However, a good man would string wire, or board off a garden plot for his missus if he had one. A missus, that is.
In my upcoming novella, The Columbine Bride, fencing plays a subtle role in the story of young widow Lucy Powell and her neighboring rancher Buck Reiter. She isn’t too happy about him riding up into the timber to snake down a long pole behind his horse. But she doesn’t mind his help when it comes to fencing off her garden.
But fences don’t keep everything out—or in—and when Buck takes a liking to Lucy and her two young’uns … well, you’ll just have to wait and see.
The Columbine Bride is the sequel to last year’s The Snowbound Bride. It releases in book 4 of The 12 Brides of Summer collection from Barbour on Sept. 1. However, a special printed collection will be at select Walmart stores July 14 in Old West Summer Brides.
Set in 1886 Colorado in the high park country above Cañon City, the tale of this hard-working couple came fairly easy to my writer’s heart.
Guess I talked to enough old cedar posts over the winter.
Leave a Comment to be entered in the drawing for The Snowbird Bride in e-book form. And look for 12 Brides of Summer in September!
– e-book version Book 4 of three stories, including “The
BIO: Davalynn Spencer writes inspirational Western romance complete with rugged cowboys, their challenges, and their loves. Her work has finaled for the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, the Selah, and the Holt Medallion. Davalynn teaches writing at Pueblo Community College and at writing workshops. She and her own handsome cowboy make their home on Colorado’s Front Range with a Queensland heeler named Blue. Connect with Davalynn online at www.davalynnspencer.com and http://www.facebook.com/AuthorDavalynnSpencer
I love Temecula, Southern California’s premiere Wine Country (think Napa up north), and I visit every month or two with a posse of gal-pal wine aficionados. Since Temecula is several hours from home, we manage to spend the weekend, and last time, we arrived just in time for the annual Western Days festival! Temecula has a rich history which is preserved in “Old Town.” Enjoy the fun re-enactors pix today!
First off, the name of the valley comes from the Luiseño Indians and basically mean “where the sun breaks through the mist.” The tribe has been in the area since at least 900 AD.
The first “white man” to set foot is believed to be Father Juan Norberto de Santiago while leading an expedition in 1797 to found a new mission.
Forty years later, American fur trappers moved in, and not long after, provincial governors granted a large tract of land to Felix Valdez, and Rancho Temecula was born in 1845. The “rancho” era of California bloomed with a romantic aura that lingers still.
In addition to romance, the area saw its own historic violence. A nearby canyon was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the Mexican War in 1847.
The local tribe captured and executed eleven Mexican soldiers. However, the Mexicans conspired with an enemy tribe, the Cahuilla, to settle some scores with them. In short, the common grave of the dead Temeculans is still visible from a major highway.
And true to legends of the wild west, Temecula had run-ins with bandits and bad guys. In 1857, outlaw Juan Flores killed a shopkeeper (his second in the area) and with his gang, hid out on a nearby peak, eventually killing a Los Angeles sheriff. These events sparked California’s greatest manhunt. (Flores was finally captured in Simi Pass 110 miles north, and hanged.)
Stagecoaches began to arrive that same year (1857) and an alleged hold-up occurred. In 1858,the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach Line scheduled stops there its route from St. Louis and San Francisco.
California’s second-ever post office soon followed.
January 1882 brought the first railroad service, but tracks washed out in an 1883 flood, and the train station became a barn. Not to worry. Temecula started quarrying granite in the 1890’s (although the industry died out about 1915–cement was easier). Many curbs and fences built of this stone are still extant today, even in San Francisco some 470 miles away.
By the turn of the century, Temecula became Cowboy Town–the shipping point for cattle!
By the 1970’s, the Long Branch Saloon had become a meetinghouse, and the Stables Bar, retail boutiques.
Test vineyards were planted in 1966, leading to a dozen wineries by 1990 and at least 35 today. The “microclimate” caused by good soil, seabreezes from 65 miles away, and 11,000-feet high mountains is perfect for wine grapes. Yay.
Two notable authors resided in the valley. Erle Stanley Gardner, of Perry Mason fame, lived at Rancho Del Paisano from 1937 until his death in 1970; a model of his ranch can be seen at Temecula’s History Museum.
Massachusetts native Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885), long an activist against federal mistreatment of the native peoples, stayed in the area around 1880 and became friends with Temecula merchant Louis Wolf–a mixed-race/half Indian, and his wife Ramona. Their store inspired a setting in Jackson’s novel Ramona. Although the 1884 book–romantic and realistic both–was written mostly in New York, it’s a California classic.
I hope you enjoyed these tidbits today. Anybody else ever visited Temecula or like wine tasting?
Sixteen months since the foolish death of her husband, attorney Rachel Martin aches to move on as much as she fears the future. Cutting back on her practice and moving back to her childhood ranch means her three-year old son has all the attention he needs. Finding love again is the last thing on her mind…until she meets Brayton Metcalf.
After ten year’s of self-blame for his wife’s death in a plane crash, successful businessman Brayton Metcalf is instantly drawn to Rachel when he brings his his daughter to Hearts Crossing Ranch for therapy riding lessons. But Rachel backs off at his impetuous personality. He whittles away at her doubts…until he jumps head-fist into a business decision that will affect her family. Rachel, her trust in Brayton endangered, turns to trusting in God. Can the couple’s shared grief and guilt permit them to see daylight once again?
Texas Ranger badges are a hot commodity in the collectibles market, but the caveat “buyer beware” applies in a big way. The vast majority of items marketed as genuine Texas Ranger badges are reproductions, facsimiles, or toys. Very few legitimate badges exist outside museums and family collections, and those that do hardly ever are sold. There’s a very good reason for that: Manufacturing, possessing, or selling Texas Ranger insignia, even fakes that are “deceptively similar” to the real thing, violates Texas law except in specific circumstances.
According to Byron A. Johnson, executive director of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum (the official historical center for the Texas Ranger law-enforcement agency), “Spurious badges and fraudulent representation or transactions connected with them date back to the 1950s and are increasing. We receive anywhere from 10 to 30 inquiries a month on badges, the majority connected with sales on eBay.”
Answer: The left-hand badge, dated 1889, is the earliest authenticated Texas Ranger insignia in the collection of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. Badges weren’t standard issue for Rangers until 1935, although from 1874 onward, individual Rangers sometimes commissioned badges from jewelers or gunsmiths, who made them from Mexican coins. Relatively few Rangers wore a badge out in the open. As for the item on the right? There’s no such thing as a “Texas Ranger Special Agent.”
Answer: On the right is an official shield-type badge issued between 1938 and 1957. Ranger captains received gold badges; the shields issued to lower ranks were silver. The badge on the left is a fake, though similar authentic badges exist.
Answer: The badge on the right was the official badge of the Rangers from July 1957 to October 1962. Called the “blue bottle cap badge,” the solid, “modernized” design was universally reviled. The left-hand badge is a fake. According to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, “No genuine Texas Ranger badges are known to exist with ‘Frontier Battalion’ engraved on them.”
Answer: The left-hand badge, called the “wagon wheel badge,” has been the official Texas Ranger badge since October 1962. Each is made from a Mexican five-peso silver coin. The badge on the right is a “fantasy badge.” According to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, the most common designation on such badges is “Co. A.”
How did you do? If you answered correctly for more than one without benefiting from a lucky guess, you did better than most people, including Texans. Give yourself extra points if you knew Rangers proved their legitimacy with Warrants of Authority, not badges, prior to 1935.
For more information about the Texas Rangers—including the history of the organization, biographical sketches of individual Rangers, and all kinds of information about badges and other insignia—visit the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum online at TexasRanger.org. The museum and its staff have my utmost gratitude for their assistance with this post. They do the Rangers proud.
While we’re on the subject of Rangers…
On June 1, Western Fictioneers, a professional organization for authors of western novels and short stories, announced the winners of the 2015 Peacemaker Awards. Presented annually, the Peacemakers recognize the best western historical fiction published during the previous calendar year.
I’m happy to say “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” received the award for Best Western Short Fiction. “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” tells the story of a washed-up Texas Ranger and a failed nun who find redemption in love.
The award marked the second time in two years a short story published by Prairie Rose Publications has been honored with a Peacemaker: Livia J. Washburn’s “Charlie’s Pie” received the Best Western Short Fiction award in 2014.
In addition, Prodigal Gun, also published by Prairie Rose, was named a finalist in the Best Western First Novel category. Prodigal Gun is the first novel-length romance ever nominated for a Peacemaker.
I don’t say any of that to brag…
Oh, heck. Who am I trying to kid? I’m bragging. (Sorry, Mom!)
There really is a larger point, though: I think the award and nomination are important, but not because the books are mine. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right stories. There’s a hint at something much broader here: At long last, it seems, romances of all lengths are being recognized as “respectable literature” outside the romance category. That’s good news for all of us who enjoy a genre too often scoffed at and snubbed by the larger community of authors and readers.
Over the past eighteen months, a number of books published by Prairie Rose Publications have been nominated for or received awards of all kinds. If that’s any indication, PRP is off to a great start. Founded in August 2013 by Livia Washburn Reasoner and Cheryl Pierson, the company is and always will be dedicated to publishing traditional westerns and western romance written by women. Nevertheless, in less than two years, PRP has expanded to include young adult, inspirational, paranormal, and medieval lines. The “little publishing company” releases some darn fine fiction. I’m proud it publishes mine.
To celebrate good fortune in so many areas of my life, I’ll gift a copy of “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” to two folks who are brave enough to tell us how many of the badges above they identified correctly. To the comments with you!
In 2010 Kensington released the fourth of our of anthologies written by sister filly, Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, the late DeWanna Pace, and me. Following in the theme of the other anthologies, six in all, the name of this book is Give Me a Texas Ranger and of course sent us all into research mode about the history of the Texas Rangers.
In 2008, Linda and I even went to the Texas Ranger Museum and Hall of Fame in Waco, Texas. This is a picture of the Writing the Ranger exhibit during our research.
Below is the same exhibit 2 years later. I bet you can see the difference. This exhibit, of course, is changed out so I doubt we’re still there along with The Lone Ranger, Lonesome Dove, and Elmer Kelton but needless to say just seeing it there regardless of how long it was on exhibit was one of our milestones.
Needless to say, I love tidbits of history, particularly the legendary Texas Rangers, so it seems fittin’ to share some of the things I’ve learned.
Since 1823, the Texas Rangers have represented the highest ideals of Texas and America to admirers around the world. Individually, they are some of the most colorful heroes in American history. Together, they brought peace to an untamed frontier, and in the process became one of the most famous and respected crime-fighting forces anywhere.
Hitler and the Texas Rangers. The name “Rangers” is synonymous with the Texas Rangers, and never was it more clear than during WWII. On August 19, 1942, three Commando units of the British 2nd Canadian Division landed in France. The purpose was to create an illusion of a major invasion and force Hitler to halt troops bound for the Russian front. However, somewhere along the line the British Commandos became the Texas Rangers. Apparently the confusion came with leaks that a special American combat unit, the legendary U.S. Army Rangers, who were modeled after the successful British Commandos, had invaded. Hitler was rumored to have watched Amerikanische westliche Filme (American westerns), and only knew of the Texas Rangers who were depicted in American movies played in European theaters during the 20’s and 30’s. As a result, the only American “Rangers” known to Hitler were heroic men in white hats, who single-handedly cleaned up entire towns with blazing guns. Ironically, the Texas Rangers did volunteer to go to Europe but were not allowed to do so by our military. For a short period of time, thanks to rumor, the legend of the Texas Rangers offered hope to the residents of occupied France, two years before the Allies successfully landed on the beaches of Normandy.
Texas Ranger uniform.Before the 1950’s there was no official uniform, although some companies tried to administer the coordination of outfits that proved unpopular. Traditionally, Texas Ranger clothing is conservative western attire, specifically with white or tan hats, cowboy boots, white western cut shirt, tie, pants and belt. But there is one requirement. A Ranger must wear an “appropriate” Texas Ranger hat, which is light-colored and shaped in a businessman’s style, commonly called the Rancher or Cattleman. Brims must not exceed 4 inches or be flat with edges rolled up. Hats excessively crushed, rolled, or dipped are not acceptable. The elite lawmen own both a quality straw and a felt hat to be worn as determined by the weather or assignment.
The Texas Rangers and the Alamo. In answer to Col. Travis’ request for assistance in defending the Alamo, a party of Texas Rangers responded. The Gonzales Ranging Company of Mounted Volunteers answered the call, fought, and died alongside the other defenders of the Alamo.
In western historical romances, Texas Rangers make a terrific hero because of the qualities they are known for. I have to admit, I love ‘um too, although my favorites to write are crusty ol’ retired Ranger sidekicks. In my newest contemporary romance, needless to say my hero and heroine have a Texas Ranger connection. “Out of a Texas Night” eBook from Kensington is due out in late summer or early fall. It’s the third in the Kasota Springs Romance series.
Whether it’s television, movies, or books, who is your favorite Texas Ranger?
To one reader who leaves a comment, I will send you the choice of a copy of Give Me a Texas Ranger signed by all four authors or a eBook copy of The Troubled Texan.
“Oliver Fisher Winchester was born on November 30, 1810 in Boston, Massachusetts. Although raised on a farm, Winchester eventually became a carpenter, and by 1830, he was a construction supervisor in Baltimore, Maryland. While in Baltimore, he entered the dry goods business, and after several years, Winchester became a manufacturer of men’s shirts in New Haven, Connecticut. This venture proved to be sufficiently profitable that he began to extend his business interests.
“In 1855, Winchester became a stockholder and director of the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company, a firearms manufacturing firm that brought together the talents of Winchester with those of Horace Smith, Daniel B. Wesson, and B. Tyler Henry. Volcanic produced lever-action repeating pistols and carbines based on the patents of Smith & Wesson.”
“In 1857, financial problems forced Volcanic into insolvency. The company’s assets were purchased by Oliver Winchester, who by this time had become Volcanic’s president. Winchester reorganized the firm and resumed operations under the name of New Haven Arms Company… Among those hired by Oliver Winchester was B. Tyler Henry..” Henry designed and patented the lever-action repeating rifles that bear his name.
Winchester Arms built many of the weapons the “won the west.” Several different weapons, both rifles and handguns, have been dubbed “the gun that won the west.” Like the Colt 1873 Peacemaker, a .45 caliber six-shot revolver; the Winchester Model 1866 “Yellow Boy” lever-action repeating rifle, so named for its shiny brass frame, and the Winchester Model 1873 lever-action repeating rifle.
Some believe the model 1873 Winchester is widely know as “the gun that won the west” purely because there were so many made. The production run of more than 720,000 meant the 1873 was obtainable by pretty much anyone who wanted one. And that meant a lot of them went west with those brave enough to pack up and head off into parts unknown.
“Most Texas Rangers and every old West cowboy worth his salt carried 1873 rifles. Chappo, the son of Apache war chief Geronimo, packed an 1873. And Buffalo Bill carried an 1873 lever-action rifle along with a pair of .44-40 Colts in 1876 when he worked as an Army scout.” (http://www.uberti.com/firearms/1873_rifle_and_carbine.php)
Pay attention to the difference in the amount of smoke produced between the first cartridges, which use modern smokeless powder, and the second set, which are loaded with a black powder substitute that is more like the black powder used in the 1800s. The smoke was always a factor with the weapons of the period. Every shot left a cloud that gave away the position of the shooter.
Beginning next month, we’ll explore some of the amazing weapons that came out of Winchester Arms / New Haven Arms. See you then!