I find it hard to believe it’s been almost three years since dh and I decided to join the fun of Cowboy Action Shooting as part of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS). It is an organization full of folks who love the Old West and want to relive just a little of it while making and enjoying new friends…
And shooting at steel targets and “making smoke” (that would be the cowboys and cowgirls who shoot black powder, like my dh to the right there). We call that goin’ to the dark side. lol
We spent a few hours this weekend enjoying the sport in gorgeous February weather. I had so much fun, I had to share some pictures.
When we shoot, we divide into “posses” of 15-25 shooters. That way we have someone shooting, folks getting ready to shoot (at the loading table, like the pic at left; I’m the one of the left), folks unloading and clearing guns, folks spotting—counting misses and procedural errors and helping keep the sport safe, another picking up spent casing and someone else keeping score. Then we trade off until everyone has their turn at the firing line.
The stages each have a scenario, or shooting sequence, and they’re never the same. Boothill Slim wrote the stages for Saturday and, boy, did he keep us all concentrating!
And Remi here (to the right) is going to show up in an upcoming story. [He just laughed when I told him he’d be a hero, but that it was going to take some doing to bring him in line!]
Most of all, Cowboy Action Shooting is about the friends and sharing time doing something we all enjoy. These cowboys and cowgirls are some of my besties.
If there’s a SASS club in your area, (www.sassnet.com) go check them out. You don’t have to shoot, just put on some eye protection and ear protection and stand clear of the mayhem. You just might get hooked like I did.
Often, as I research a historical book, I run across some little factoid that sets my imagination going. It sometimes has nothing to do with the story I’m researching, and I must store it away from a future book. That’s what happened to me a couple of years ago with what ultimately ended up being the basis for my latest historical, THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS.
I happened upon a story about the Industrial Schools for Indian Children that popped up in the late 19th century just as the Native Americans were forced onto reservations. I was quite stunned to discover that the government had systematically taken the Native American children from their families and sent them to what amounted to military-like boarding schools where they were stripped of their language, their culture, their long hair and even their names. These schools were often church run, and operated on the necessity of saving the souls of heathen children, but that wasn’t their only goal.
The government cloaked the education of these children in the American culture, forcing them to lose their connection to the tribes they left behind, while offering them little in the way of a future. Many children in these schools never made it out. Sickness and abuse was rampant and, despite BIA involvement, there was little government oversight. Ostensibly, the government believed that this cultural genocide—yes, I said it!—was necessary to help the children integrate into the white world. But it would appear they had no such ambition for them. Once the children had achieved a modicum of ‘education’ and they were mostly turned loose or returned to a culture they no longer felt part of, a wave of helplessness and despair swept over them.
Many turned to alcohol once back on the poverty-stricken reservation, a major problem that is still rampant today. What had once made the Native Americans strong was stripped from them piece by piece. Shortly after these schools came into being, the famous Ghost Dance began among the Indian nations, the last gasp hope that Native Americans might, somehow, miraculously, regain their culture, heritage and freedom. Sadly, that was not to be.
I was even more shocked to learn that these boarding schools existed right up until the 1980’s-90’s, when they were finally closed, following protests and legislation reform. The backlash of the boarding school experience is still visible on reservations today; a fact conveniently omitted from our school history books, along with much else that was done to that amazing culture. In many tribes, their native language is all but forgotten. If you’re interested in hearing more about Indian Boarding Schools, there’s an amazing and heartbreaking documentary about it called “Our Spirits Don’t Speak English.”
In my book, THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS, Essie is a woman who has lost everything and finds work teaching at one of these schools in the rough world of Montana Territory. The job was not what she expected. My hero, a half-breed Cheyenne who’s come in the dead of night to steal away/rescue one of the children, ends up stealing Essie instead, when the boy is nowhere to be found. The book follows their journey together as they run into the mountains to escape the men pursuing them and to find the boy. But in the end, this is a story of forgiveness and the choices these two very different people make between them and how Essie discovers her own power and finds herself. Is she ruined in the end? You’ll have to read it to find out. I can only say that I fell madly in love with both of them as I wrote this book, not only for their courage, but for their hearts. And besides, can’t all of us stand a little ruination now and then?
I hope you enjoy this book. THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS will be available for pre-sale soon. This is Book Two in my new Wild Western Rogues series, and if you’ve already read THE LADY TAKES A GUNSLINGER, (and I hope you have!) you’ll be happy to know you’ll run into my H&H from that book, Reese and Grace, in this one, too.
I’m giving away a $10 AMAZON GIFT CARD to one lucky commenter.
Just tell me what it is about Historical Western romance in particular you love?
The heroine in my latest book Calico Spy is a Pinkerton detective working undercover as a Harvey Girl. Last month I wrote about Fred Harvey and how he saved early train travelers from food poisoning.
This month I want to draw your attention to Mary Colter, the woman who designed many of his hotels and restaurants. At a time when traveling was expensive and people traveled only out of necessity, she helped introduce the concept of traveling just for pleasure and that’s not all she did.
Born in Pittsburgh in 1862, she attended the California School of Design at the tender age of seventeen. She planned to support her mother and sister by teaching art. While attending school, she apprenticed as an architect.
At the time, architecture was going through great changes. Instead of emulating European styles, a new type of California architecture was in the works and Mary was influenced by this new Mission-type of design. She also believed in replicating nature by utilizing natural materials in her designs.
After graduating in 1890, she returned to St. Paul and taught art at the Mechanic Arts High School.
She was hired by the Fred Harvey company in 1902 as an interior decorator. In the early days, Fred Harvey collected Indian art and she encouraged the company to expand on this concept. She was instrumental in reaching out to Native American craftsmen and bringing their wares into the Harvey hotel shops. This was a daring venture as the Indian Wars were still ongoing in some parts of the country, but somehow she persuaded visitors to purchase tribal pottery, blankets and jewelry—quite a feat given the times.
Eventually, Mary became the chief architect of the Fred Harvey company. The idea of a woman playing such a role in a company was unthinkable, and it wasn’t easy. She clashed with family members who carried on after Fred’s death, but eventually won them over.
Never heard of her? There’s a good reason for that. Architecture was a male dominated profession, and Mary was not credited as architect on the buildings she designed. As a result, she never gained the same recognition as many her peers such as Frank Lloyd Wright. She has been called the best unknown architect of the Southwest.
Some of Mary’s work includes the Indian Watchtower at Desert View; Lookout Studio; Hopi House; Hermit’s Rest and Painted in Painted Desert. La Posada in Winslow, Arizona was her favorite.
Okay, you decide; Frank Lloyd Wright’s Park Inn Hotel is on the left and Mary’s La Posada hotel is on the right. Many think that had Mary been a man she would be better known today. What do you think?
By this time next week, my first Harlequin American Romance, The Bull Rider Meets His Match will be on store shelves and I’m so excited to venture into a new Harlequin line.
I love rodeo and my favorite event is bull riding. Second is bronc riding. I’m a rough stock kind of gal. When my kids were small, they could only last through so much rodeo before we had to go home. During those years, I saw a lot of bronc riding, and missed a lot of bull riding–always the last event. And occasionally I went to the rodeo with a family member who wanted to leave before the parking lot got congested. Again, bull riding sacrificed. *sigh*
When the PBR Blue Def Tour came to Reno last month, I didn’t know about it until three days before the event. I told my husband that it was too bad we couldn’t go. He told me that we should, even though we live 200 miles away. So I got a hotel room and PBR tickets. Then my son called and I told him we were going. He got tickets. Then my daughter called and she got tickets, even though she had to ride a bus from San Francisco to Reno and take it back the next day. Our family is very serious about bull riding.
As we took our seats, I noticed that the letters PBR were spelled out on the arena floor. I’d never seen anything written on an arena floor before and thought it was a nice touch.
And then, much to my amazement, the letters were lit on fire.
And then the bull riders started walking through the flames. Be still my heart!
World class bull riders and fire. Does it get any better that?
Yes—the actual rides.
If you ever get a chance to see a PBR event, I highly recommend it. It’s well organized, entertaining and perfectly show cases the talent of these amazing athletes–human and bovine. I can’t wait to go back.
Well, today, I’ll be giving away another couple of e-books to two lucky bloggers. So come on in and leave a comment. Oh, please be sure to read the rules of giveaways here at the Junction. On the main page, just click on Giveaway guidelines, so you’ll be informed. One point I’d like to mention is that you must come back to the site to claim your prize as a winner. We do not contact you as some other sites do. For me, I generally announce the winners on Wednesday evening. So do check back.
Law & order in Native America. You know it’s interesting to me that many might tend to think that America as a lawless land before the advent of the European to our shores. But…that was not the case.
I know that there were certainly gunfighters and outlaws and such. Stories of the West are filled with these characters. But there were probably — by far and large — many people who lived their lives in safety and security. One of the things that I love about writing Indian romance is that I often find favorite myths and ideas in conflict with what really happened. So I thought I’d mention a few tidbits of law and order in Native America that I’ve learned over the years.
Probably the first myth to break is the idea that the land and the people were savage and given to satisfying their lusts. George Catlin writes of traveling the West alone, with only his pony as his companion. He traveled in this way for many weeks and not once was he molested by Indians, buffalo, bears or wolves or coyotes. He draws many pictures of his adventures, to be sure and one can really sense the power of the land…that it healed the spirit instead of the opposite.
George Catlin also writes of traveling through Indian country, living with the Indians, painting their pictures and being at their mercy. He writes quote eloquently about the fact that not once was he molested, nor did he have any item stolen from him, though the opportunity to do so was always there. In fact, he writes of a particular young man who found a book of Catlin’s and, in the style of the land and people, the lad waited until Catlin was leaving to give the book back to him. Not because the lad wanted to keep it, but to give it to Catlin as he was leaving would have prevented Catlin from returning the favor. The young man wanted it plain that his was a strong heart and that Catlin need not return the favor.
Sometimes I think of Native America as a series of small towns, scattered all over America. Because hunting and warring was the profession of most men, their villages were kept small. Mostly family.
Only in the summer, spring, or late fall months would the entire tribe meet, giving lovers a chance to meet and others the opportunity to renew acquaintance.
Honesty, integrity and fortitude were valued so much that in some tribes a liar was put to death. (It would have been a sad state of affairs for most politicans in our modern society to have lived then — I think Bob Hope put it best when he said — in a movie — that he was a politican and that the profession came naturally to him, since he was from a long line of liars.) Sigh…
There were no jails in Native America. I remember reading a book called Buckskin Brigades by L. Ron Hubbard, where the hero (who is a blond-haired Indian) was put into jail in one of the traders outposts. It was such an unnatural state for our hero, that he could little understand it.
On the plains, if one had a grievance with another, it was up to him to make it right. If one member of a tribe killed another member of the tribe, that killer was often forced to leave, which was often a sentence of death. In some cases amongst the Lakota, the murderer — through agreement with both families — took the place of the person who was murdered. And often these people became the very best members of the family. Revenge was considered a duty — and it was the law of the land. If one were wronged severely (and it had to be severe), it was considered the duty of one of the male members of the family to seek revenge. Sometimes this worked out okay, but sometimes not.
As a matter of fact, it was this mind set of revenge that caused the Iroquois to come together in peace and to establish their League of Five (and eventually Six) Nations. Because at this time, wars were caused by revenge — which became unweildly due to the constant need seek remedy in revenge — the Iroquois sought to wipe away war from the face of the earth by curing grief — not only in oneself but of the dearly departed one, also. In this way, the Iroquois established a peace that filled America long before the white man arrived on Eastern shores. By all calculations the Iroquois Nation lived in peace as a genuine and true Republic for about 500 years.
I’ll leave you with these thoughts: “…Historians forget that there were free men in America before the first white settlers arrived with their slaves and indentured servants. There is more truth in a popular account of America widely circulated in Great Britain in 1776: ‘The daring passion of the American is liberty and that in its fullest extent; nor is it the origianl natives only to whom this passion is confined; our colonists sent thither seem to have imbibed the same principles. Truly the passion for liberty as practiced by the Iroquois was a contagious thing.”
From the book, Roots of the Iroquois by Tehanetorens.
So come on in an leave a message. If you could, would you have liked to live back in the time when Native Americans ruled our land? For myself, in many ways, I believe it would have been a good home, one filled with love and family.
What do you think?
BLACK EAGLE — on sale now at all online bookstores. http://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5640/black-eagle
Pick up your copy today!
Below is a picture of my husband and I on the Blackfeet reservation.
The lifespan of a mining town in the old west was as volatile as the dynamite used to blow up the rock and release the ore. Seems that just as soon as most of the ore was hauled from the mines, the town would dry up and blow away, becoming ghost town. Two famous ones in California that boomed and are now nothing but ghost towns are Calico and Bodie.
Calico in Yerma, California was established when silver was discovered in the mountains there in 1881. $20 million in silver ore came from the 500 mines surrounding the town over the next 12 years. Then, when silver lost its value, everyone packed up and left. Today, Calico is a historic site, restored for people to visit and see what life was like ‘back in the day.’ Calico makes for a very interesting destination today, but no one lives there anymore.
The same thing happened to Bodie, California. The place was a small mining camp in the Sierra Nevada mountains when gold was discovered in 1859. Although nearby towns boomed, Bodie inched along until 1876 when more gold was discovered by the Sandard Company. Suddenly miners poured into the town and its population shot up to 7,000. $34 million in gold ore came from the mines there over the next eleven years. And then, like Calico, Bodie slowly died. In 1915 it was officially labeled a ghost town.
So how did Julian in San Diego’s back country escape the fate of becoming a ghost town?
In 1870 gold was discovered 60 miles east of New San Diego and the Julian Mining District was formed. Over the next 6 years more than 600 people made Julian their home and enjoyed all that living in a boom town entailed. then in 1876 with most of the gold excavated out of the mines, the bulk of people left searching for better goldfields elsewhere. The population dropped to 100. What made Julian’s fate so different than Calico’s or Bodies had to do with a number of things–good soil, climate, and more than anything it seems, Julian became a place for family.
Although the town had its share of saloons and dance-halls and rowdy miners, it was never the “Wild West Town” like other mining towns. The early settlers of Julian saw to the opening of their first school–and the first year 100 children attended. When teacher after teacher married and had to stop teaching due to the law at the time that forbade married women to teach, the school trustees decided to hire a man for the position. When the miners learned of it, they threatened trouble, and the trustees relented and hired another woman.
When the mines played out, instead of leaving, a core group of 100 people remained and turned to agriculture. James Madison was the first to recognize the perfect soil a
nd weather for apple growing and he, along with Thomas Brady started an orchard of young apple trees. Others followed suit, adding pear trees. Today Julian apples have won many awards and the town is world famous for its apple pies.
There were two main ways to socialize in town. One was through church (Free land was given for the establishment of churches.) The second was at the frequent dances. Dances and fundraising socials would often last through the night and into the early morning hours. The dance hall in town even had a separate room for mothers to leave their babies to sleep away the night so the mothers could continue dancing. A number of good-natured tricks were played on neighbors and friends in Julian. Couples tried to keep their romantic feelings a secret so they wouldn’t end up the recipient of these pranks. The people of Julian were known for enjoying each other and having fun in a big way. (To me, it sounds like the town had a lot of personality!)
Today, Julian is a tourist town with a small-town feel. It caters to those who want to get away from the city. They come for the mountain air, fresh apple pies, mining tours and–for many San Diegans (including me) — the snow in winter. I have always had a soft spot for Julian. As an author, it is great to vicariously live in the town of 1876 through the characters in my books. I am grateful it survived its gold rush heritage and has given me such inspiration for my stories.
Do you have a soft spot for any particular place?
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