Welcome Guest – Mona Hodgson!!!

Convenient Bride BannerKeeper of My Heart Wagon Train Trivia

Just about any Western movie or TV show captured my attention, pulling me into the adventure and possibilities. Shows like Wagon Train led to my fascination with wagon train travel, which inspired Prairie Song and Keeper of My Heart.

While researching wagon train history, I found some fun tidbits.

Ready for a wagon train trivia quiz?

  1.  Horses were the preferred animal for pulling a covered wagon across the prairie. True or false?

False. While some folks did have horses pull their covered wagon, more chose burros or mules for the job. Most pioneers, however, yoked four or more oxen steer to their wagons because of the superior strength and stamina that allowed the oxen to pull the 2500 pounds or more. Besides, horses are more skittish and easily spooked. Which animal would you prefer to trust to ford a stream or descend a mountain with all of your earthly possessions?The Convenient Bride Collection--Lrg

  1.  TV shows and movies correctly depicted covered wagon overlanders riding on the wagon seat.

False. That was something that seldom happened. Would you want to sit on a narrow, hardwood seat suspended between side rails with no springs? Most trail conveyances were simple farm wagons with no thought given to comfort. The wagon beds rode on steel tires mounted on wooden wheels, on solid wood axles, for fifteen or so miles on a rutted road. That’d be quite the bone rattling ride. I’d rather walk, thank you.

Most healthy travelers walked alongside the team of oxen or took shifts riding a horse.

  1. Need some butter for the biscuits you plan to cook over the supper campfire? Just hang the milk on the wagon.

True. Milk the cow first thing in the morning then, before you set out for the day, secure the crock of milk to a hook on the side of the wagon. All the jostling over rocks and through ruts will churn the butter for you.

  1.  The TV screen and paintings of the period got it right when they showed wagons circled for defense against hostile Indians.   

False. The wagon companies didn’t typically circle their wagons. When they did, it was usually to corral the livestock. Most wagon train roads led through safe territory, and hostilities were rare. But if a caravan of wagons was attacked, they didn’t have time to find an area big enough to arrange the wagons.

  1.   Wagons were covered, which made them into a 19th century recreational vehicle.Wagon with women and children

False. Ready to curl up for a night of sweet dreams in the covered wagon? We’re talking about an eleven foot long by four foot wide, ten foot tall space crammed full of barrels, casks, trunks, and miscellaneous household items. Things the pioneers would need for the journey as well as items and heirlooms packed for their new home.

Most overlanders slept outdoors, on the ground, with or without a tent overhead, or in a hammock suspended between trees or between a tree and the wagon. Exceptions to that rule included travelers who were sick and sometimes children. Excessive rain might have warranted taking shelter inside of the wagon, but it would’ve been an uncomfortable night.

Woman ShootistReading Prairie Song and Keeper of My Heart, you’ll discover that I busted many of the perpetuated myths in my telling of two 1866 wagon train stories.

Neelie “Shott”, the heroine in Keeper of My Heart, is headed for San Francisco, where she’s been promised a job in a Wild West Show. When Neelie set out on the road going West, she thought she knew where she was going. That was before she encountered The Boone’s Lick Wagon Train Company and the widowed, spine-stiffening wheelwright named Ian Kamden.

Nor had she met his five children. As it turns out, Maisie, the youngest, is fond of picking black-eyed Susans and awarding the bouquets to those she loves.

I can’t wait for you to meet Neelie, Ian, and the others on their quest for a fresh beginning in Keeper of My Heart, one of nine novellas in The Convenient Bride Collection.

Thanks so much to the Petticoats & Pistols fillies for the invitation to come by and many thanks to you for joining me here. I hope you’ll stop by and chat with me. Do you have a favorite wagon train novel, nonfiction, or movie?

I’m excited to give away a copy of The Convenient Bride Collection, which includes Neelie’s story in Keeper of My Heart. I’d love to hear from everyone, but can only mail the book to a USA address.

 

Please find me online and join the conversation: Mona Hodgson chin on hands

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Mona Hodgson is the author of 40 books, historical novels and novellas for adults and children’s books, including her popular Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series, The Quilted Heart novellas, and Prairie Song. Her children’s books include Bedtime in the Southwest, Real Girls of the Bible: A 31-Day Devotional, six Zonderkidz I Can Read books, and more.

Rainmaker, Rainmaker Make Us Some Rain…

MargaretBrownley-headerThe success of a rain dance has a lot to do with timing

 

As you may have heard California is going through a terrible drought. Most of my neighbors have either let their lawns die or replaced them with artificial turf. Others have simply come up with a way of stealing water. Yep, that’s right; we now have water thieves to contend with.

grassMy husband came up with yet another solution; he simply painted our grass green (see before and after photo). Yep, there’s actually grass paint that you can spray on and it works!

Watching all this craziness around me made me wonder about droughts in the past. I’m pretty sure they didn’t have grass paint back in the 1800s.

For many years people believed that cloudbursts were caused by noise. Plutarch was the first to note that a rainstorm followed every great battle. He thought it was nature’s way of purifying the ground after bloodshed.

He wasn’t the only one who believed in the “concussion theory of rainmaking;” Napoleon was among the many military leaders convinced that artillery fire caused rain. After losing the battle of Waterloo due to the muddy battleground, he came up with the strategy of firing weapons in the air in hopes that a deluge would disable the enemy.

Amazingly, more than 150 major civil war battles were followed by rainstorms. Witnessing the rain that fell after the battle of Bull Run, J.C. Lewis blamed it on the “discharge of heavy artillery.”

Not everybody agreed that rain was generated by blasts. Meteorologist James Pollard Espy, known as thecannon Storm King, insisted it wasn’t the noise, but rather the heat of battle that opened the clouds. To prove his theory he asked that he be allowed to set a 600 mile stretch of land on fire. Congress turned down his request.

Heat or noise, no one really knew for sure. Brigadier General Robert Dyrenforth decided to settle the matter once and for all by conducting a series of rain-making experiments in Texas. He used artillery and balloon-carrying explosives. Instead of rain, he set a series of prairie fires and was given the name Dry-Henchforth.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the west was going through another drought and water wars raged. It was the perfect environment for a former sewing machine salesman by the name of Charles Hatfield aka Robin Hood of the Clouds.

hat
      Hatfield’s Rain Tower

Offering his services to farmers he built high towers and released a chemical concoction he created. Because of clever timing he had some initial success, which is why the city of San Diego hired him. In 1916 he climbed his newly built tower and tossed his chemicals into the air.

Lo and behold, the sky opened up dumping thirty-five inches of rain on the city and causing a tremendous amount of damage. The city wanted Hatfield to take responsibility for what was called the Hatfield flood, but he refused, claiming it was an act of God. When the city failed to pay him his $10,000, he sued, but after twenty-two years the case was finally thrown out of court.

Scientists are still trying to figure out how to summon rain and so far their efforts have met with little success. Maybe it’s time to bring out the cannons.

So which rain theory makes the most sense to you?

Noise or heat?

 

                      

                              What Readers are Saying About Undercover Bride

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“5 Stars!”

“A truly entertaining must read”

“A thrilling escapade”

“A creative plot and delightful characters”

“Good clean fun western romance”

“Thumbs up for mystery western”

“Wild west guns and grins”

“Fantastic”

Amazon

                                                  B&N

 

We Have a Winner for Karen Kay’s Tradepaper Copy of THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF

bannerHowdy!

Yes, we do have a winner.  I do write down each person’s name and put it in a jar or bowl or hat and do a drawing, so that the chances are equal to one and all.

The winner of today’s book is Whitney.  Whitney, please email me privately at karenkay(dot)author(at)earthlink(dot)net.  Insert a (.) for (dot) and an@ for (at).

My thanks to all your kind, kind comments on the book and on the blog.  I really enjoyed our talk yesterday.  Please come back in two weeks because I’ll once again be giving away a free copy of THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF.

Keeping Your Money Safe in the Old West

letterhead-header 219th century bank tellerIn my current work in progress, I have a heroine who established a women’s colony in 19th century Texas. Harper’s Station – a place where women can make a fresh start because women–not men–make the rules. Some have come to escape abuse, some have come because they had nowhere else to turn for financial support, some simply came to ply a trade not normally accepted for females. At the center is my heroine, Emma Chandler. Raised by suffragette aunts, she believes women fully capable of managing their own affairs. In fact, she banks on that belief–literally. You see, Emma runs the town bank, and it is her loans and savvy business sense that allow so many women the fresh starts they dearly need.

As I was researching 19th century banking, I ran across some fascinating information about how they keep their money safe. Harper’s Station is eventually threatened by outlaws, and I needed to ensure that Emma and her female clientele  would be protected.

Until the mid-1800s, most United States banks utilized small iron safes fitted with a key lock. After the Gold Rush of 1849, however, many frustrated prospectors decided there was an easier way to get the gold they craved–rob a bank! Using tools they were accustomed to, they broke into the buildings with pickaxe and hammer. The safes they encountered were small enough that they could simply take them and break them open in a more secluded location.

SafeTo make it harder on thieves to carry off the safes, companies started making them larger and heavier. However, the safe itself was still vulnerable through the keyhole. All a bank robber had to do was poor gunpowder in the hole and set it off in order to blast off the door.

In 1861, Linus Yale, Jr. invented the combination lock. Bankers rejoiced. Surely this would be theft-proof. Yet, as well all know, criminals can be a decisively creative lot. Eventually, they learned ways to manipulate the lock. For example, they could drill a hole in the door then use a mirror to view the slots in the mechanism. Or – they could simply hold the bank manager at gunpoint and force him to reveal the combination.

In the 1870’s banks moved to safes that incorporated a new design that not only featured a combination lock, but a timer mechanism as well. The safe could only be opened after a set number of hours had passed. So even if the bank manager gave up the combination, the code wouldn’t work unless the timer had expired. (Wonder how many bank employees got shot by disgruntled bank robbers over that new feature?) This meant the thieves had to find new ways to get inside the safe itself. Some figured out how to use a chisel or other sharp tool to pry open the crack between the door and the safe. If they got it open just enough, they could use the gunpowder method to blow off the door.

Vault makers responded by making grooved doors that could not be pried open. But the grooves provided an ideal catch for liquid nitroglycerin. Professional bank robbers learned to boil dynamite in a kettle of water and skim the nitroglycerin off the top. They could drip this volatile liquid into the door grooves and destroy the door. Vault makers subsequently redesigned their doors so they closed with a thick, smooth, tapered plug. The plug fit so tightly that there was no room for the nitroglycerin. This was the design Emma Chandler employed.

Of course, thieves kept pushing the envelope and security companies had to keep stepping up their game. This back and forth still drives the business today.Piggy Bank

 

If you lived back in the 19th century – before the federal government insured funds held by banks – would you have felt safe depositing your money there? Or would you have been more likely to stash it in the cookie jar or under your mattress?

The Scout, THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF and free give-away

bannerHowdy!  And Welcome to another Tuesday Blog!

Before I go into the most interesting part of the blog and tell you some more about the awesome abilities of the American Indian scouts of old, I wanted to say again that I’ll be giving away a Trade Paper copy of THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF to some lucky blogger.  This is valued at $15.00.  Just leave a comment and you are automatically entered into the drawing for the book (void where prohibited).

Let me mention again that my schedule is intense and I rarely have a moment to myself most days…and so I rely on you to come to the blog tomorrow (Wednesday — usually at night) to see if you have won.  Sometimes I pick a winner and post it, and never hear from them, and that saddens me because it is a rare occasion when I can find the time to go and look that person up.  So please, please be sure to check back tomorrow — it should be posted by evening — and see if you are the winner, okay?  All you have to do is drop me an email and we’ll figure out how to get a book to you, if you are the winner.  And yes it is true that I am giving away a $15.00 value copy of the book THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF.  So do come in and leave a message.

apachescout4THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF, which is just out in Tradepaper format, is a book about a hero who is among other things, a scout.  In researching this profession, I ran across some extremely interesting abilities that these men of old had.  And in my last post I had promised  to cover in more detail how a scout could tell from a mere trail the thoughts, health, etc. of the man/woman/animal who had left that trail.  This information, some of which I’ll quote, comes from the book, THE WAY OF THE SCOUT by Tom Brown, Jr., a man, who as a young boy was taken under the wing of an old Apache scout, and who was trained by that man as a scout.  Grandfather is what Mr. Brown called this old Apache scout.  So this passage is from this book.

“(Grandfather) defined the tracking that we had done as typical or novice tracking, but the tracking of the scout was defined as master tracking.  Even at the onset, the difference became obvious.  Grandfather told us that the earth was like an open book, filled with stories.  These stories were written not only in the softest ground but also on every other type of soil even on rock…”

arikarascoutMr. Brown goes on to say, “To this day, the greatest tracking thrill of my life was when Grandfather first showed me how to read track “compressions” in impossible soils and on solid rock…”

And here is where one really begins to learn about the old American Indian Scouts (which, let me repeat here — those scouts who worked for the United States army were not the scouts of old).  Anyway, again, another quote from THE WAY OF THE SCOUT, “You must stop looking at the tracks as lifeless depressions in the ground. Instead, and you have noticed inside of the track is a tiny landscape.  There are hills, valleys, peaks, ridges, domes, pocks, and countless other little features.  These features the scouts developed into a science, that which they call the ‘pressure releases.’  It is through these pressure releases that the scout can know everything about the animal or man that he is tracking.  The scouts of my clan could identify and define over four thousand of these pressure releases, and I know of no peoples of the earth that have been able to do the same.”

curlycrowscoutMr. Brown goes on to explain in his book how these pressure releases can be read and identified, and he goes on to say that because man or animals are stabilized by their feet on the ground, they are always in motion and always having to keep balance — even to the tiniest of moves.  It’s because of this constant need to keep balance and shift that produces the “pressure releases.”

IndianScouts2Mr. Brown goes on to say that he and his friend, Rick, who was learning about tracking also, would start to identify their own moods and look at the pressure releases and note the difference between that mood and some other emotion — and study their own tracks — he says that everyone became a source of study.

He even goes on to say that “Grandfather taught us to expand our awareness and tracking beyond even that level.  He would stand beside a tree, point to a missing limb and ask, “How long ago was this done?  What did it and how?  What direction did the cutter come from?  Was his axe or saw dull or sharp, was he right- or left-handed, what degree of strength did he have?  Grandfather told us that we should always hold one question in our minds at all times:  What is this telling me?”

Charles EastmanIndian&boyscoutsBy the way, the picture to the left is a picture of a young Charles Eastman, a Sioux Indian, who became a lawyer for his people.  I believe (please correct me if I am wrong) that it was Charles Eastman who established the Boy Scouts long, long ago.  Charles Eastman also wrote several books with the help of his wife, whom he met in collage.  She was white.  I believe some time ago, there was a television story concerning Charles Eastman and his wife, and I believe that Adam Beach played the part of Charles Eastman.  This was an interesting fact to learn for me, because I have never really known that the Boy Scouts came to us from the American Indian — I had never stopped to consider it until I read about it from either one of Charles Eastman’s books or another book.

adambeachascharleseastmanAt the left here is a picture of Adam Beach playing Charles Eastman.  : )

Well, that’s all for today.  Next blog I’d like to tell you a little about the water dance of the scout.  Did you know there was such a thing?  I can’t help but think sometimes that it is a shame that one culture coming in will often destroy the culture that is there already.  There is so much we could have learned from the American Indian of old.  I always look forward to these blogs so that I can tell you a little about what I’ve learned because I think it so vital to keep these things alive.

SpiritoftheWolf-The-R -- first draftRemember THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF is on sale here:  http://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5090/the-spirit-of-the-wolf

Pick up your copy today.

 

The Code of the West

Webheader 2009 2

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway.”  Harper Lee

The Code of the West is the stuff that builds legends. Like the Knights in Medieval times, I like my heroes  to have a code to live by ~ a moral compass of unwritten rules that center on honor, fair play, loyalty, and respect for the land.

The stories that stick with me, those that I mull over long after reading them, often have the hero or heroine struggling with hard choices. I am particularly moved by stories about honor— where a man (or woman) grapples with doing what he believes is right in the face of extraordinary opposition.

Honor =     

High moral standards of behavior
Honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions
Good reputation. Good quality or character as judged by other people.

Two examples in westerns that I can think of right off are Crossfire Trail – where the hero promises a friend on the man’s deathbed that he will take care of the man’s ranch and wife against powerful enemies. And then, even though it looks like will mean his death, he does it.

The other is High Noon – On the day of his wedding, our hero has promised his wife to put up his guns. Then he hears that three outlaws he put in prison and are out and coming to get him. Oh…and one by one, all his friends desert him.

The cowboys and women of my stories often grapple with right and wrong too.

In Dance With a Cowboy, part of the Wild West Christmas anthology, Garrett Sheridan has always loved Kathleen—even before she becamNOVEMBER 8 Book Covere his sister-in-law in a mix-up maneuvered by his fun-loving younger brother. Serious & quiet, Garrett should have spoken up before the wedding, but once he learned she was expecting, he kept his feelings to himself.

For years he has kept quiet. But now Kathleen is a young widow with a five-year old daughter in tow. The two need looking after…and Garrett can’t turn his back on that—or Kathleen—even though she wants nothing to do with the Sheridan side of the family. Trouble is ~ if she learns he was the cause of his brother’s death, she will never let him near her again.

 

I like to think of the American cowboy as the American counterpart to the medieval knight. (Usually with a more self-deprecating sense of humor!) One of my favorite movies about a knight is Kingdom of Heaven which takes place at the time of the Crusades. Although I skip through the more violent fighting parts, I love the story of young Balian becoming a knight. Here is the oath he took ~Kingdom of Heaven 1

“Be without fear in the face of your enemies.

Be brave and upright that God may love thee.

Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death.

Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong – that is your oath.”

-The Knight’s Oath (Kingdom of Heaven)

 

Isn’t that just so very sigh-worthy?

However, I imagine a cowboy’s code might have a different twist, such as ~

 

Look your enemy in the eye and don’t blink or spit,

Saddle up and take the high trail,

Steer clear of lyin’ scoundrels, including yourself,

Kindly help women and children and cut a straight trail ~ mud or no mud.

flange

What do you think? I’d love to hear suggestions to make my cowboy’s code better. Just have fun with it!

One lucky commenter will receive a free print copy of Wild West Christmas ~ my small contribution to Christmas in July that seems to be everywhere this month!

Free Download from NYT Bestselling author, Jodi Thomas

Winter's Camp
Click Cover to Order

One of our favorite western gals, Jodi Thomas, just rode by to let us know that she’s got a FREE novella up for grabs. Now, I don’t know about you, but I LOVE free! The novella is an historical prequel to Jodi’s new contemporary western series that starts with Ransom Canyon. See below for more details on Jodi’s fabulous new series. I pre-ordered Winter’s Camp already. I hope you do, too.

Here’s the story line:

A wanderer’s life was all James Randall Kirkland had known since he was an orphaned boy in San Antonio. And while years of adventure had satisfied his younger self, now he’s longing to put down roots of his own and is prepared to go it alone. But when he sees the Apache slave woman with the startling blue eyes, the course of his journey is changed forever.

Ever since the Comanche raided her village and took her for their own, Millie hasn’t known any kind of freedom. After years of being outcast, beaten and traded from tribe to tribe, she’s unprepared for James’s patient tone and gentle ways. Still, as her handsome savior slowly earns her trust, Millie struggles between desire and fear, sure it’s just a matter of time before James tires of her and her burgeoning feelings are nothing but another wasted memory.

 

And here’s a look at what’s coming next – Ransom Canyon.

 

Ransom Canyon
Click Cover to Order

“Compelling and beautifully written, it is exactly the kind of heart-wrenching, emotional story one has come to expect from Jodi Thomas.”

—Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Long ago, four families of ranchers settled along the canyon walls of a bleak Western frontier to forge better lives for future generations. Now, well over a hundred years later, on that same treacherous gorge, their scattered descendants are set to converge once more, ready to face the deadliest test of their lives. Welcome to Crossroads, Texas. From New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Jodi Thomas comes RANSOM CANYON, the first offering in a six-book series featuring enthralling family dramas, rugged heroes and the beautiful Texan landscape.

Following the deaths of his wife and only child, wealthy and prominent rancher Staten Kirkland swore he would never love again. All that keeps him going are his ranch and the grief he shares with his deceased wife’s best friend, Quinn O’Grady—his rainy-day woman. But after years of shared misery, something suddenly changes with the reclusive Quinn. Wallowing in the past is no longer enough. Now Staten—a man who thought his life was over—must decide if a future exists for him with a woman he’s long known but, until now, never really seen.

To everyone at his high school, Lucas Reyes seems like a regular kid who likes to keep to himself. But after one harrowing night together, his classmate Lauren Brigman realizes there’s much more to the brave, unassuming ranch hand’s son than anyone suspects. For instance, the quiet and mature Lucas has big plans for his future. But when danger threatens the town from nearby Ransom Canyon, the bright future Lucas envisioned with the girl of his dreams is suddenly very much in doubt.

Jodi Thomas Author PicAfter five long years in prison and with nothing left to lose, ex-convict Yancy Grey has come to Crossroads, Texas, looking to take whatever he can by any means necessary. While scoping the community, Yancy takes a job, hoping to blend in with the locals. But before he knows it, he suddenly finds himself caring about the same folks he was planning to rob. So, when Yancy’s crooked past suddenly catches up and presents him with the score of a lifetime, he knows he has a difficult choice to make—between the crook he’s been in order to survive and the man he strives to be in order to truly live…

Against a landscape as deadly as it is beautiful, the lives of these people are about to intersect in a way that none of them ever imagined. And like their ancestors who settled the land long before them—nothing about Ransom Canyon has changed—they must survive together or die alone…the decision is theirs.

RANSOM CANYON is available wherever books are sold and at www.HQNBooks.com.