For Christmas my wonderful son-in-law bought tickets to the PBR in Wichita, Kansas, which will take place in a couple of months. This isn’t the first bull riding event he’s taken me. They are all a treat and brought to mind the backstory to my $.99 eBook release of the first book in the Kasota Spring Romance series The Troubled Texan. Since this contemporary series takes place several generations later than one of the six Texas anthologies I was fortune enough to be included in with Fellow Filly Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, and the late DeWanna Pace, Give Me a Cowboy, about a Texas Panhandle rodeo in the late 1800’s, I decided it might be fun to give you all a glimpse into how we developed this book. Without it, there would be no Troubled Texan.
Typically, the publisher matches up authors in a short story collection or an anthology and each author writes their own story based on the house’s criteria. In our case, our editor matched the four of us up and all but this one book had a theme and each of us wrote an individual story.
For our second book, we tried something different. We decided we’d all intertwine our stories around one rodeo. This was really gonna be fun and challenging, so we got together and went through all of the historical facts. The first date chosen had to go because there was no rodeos in the Texas Panhandle until the summer of 1888. Our story changed dates to the 4th of July 1890. The Pecos, Texas, competition occurred on July 4, 1883. One thing about historical writers, particularly writing about your home town, you must stay as authentic as possible. So we needed the name of a fictional town. I was coming back from Dallas, and looked over and low and behold there was a railroad crossing a few miles from Amarillo … West Kasota. In the 1800’s seemingly everything had a Springs attached, thus Kasota Spring, Texas, came to fruition.
Now for the next problem, since there were only four official events in the rodeo at that time, we all had to select one for our story. We were sitting around the work table. Jodi and Linda selected their events, so that left DeWanna and me. I’ve always loved bull riding. Although it was an unofficial event, taking place somewhere far away from the rodeo grounds, we decided to include it. I’d really been watching and studying up on bull riding because I had a fantastic story in mind or at least that was how I saw it. Well, guess what? DeWanna was the next in line to select; and, of course, what did she choose but bull riding and the reason, her brother was a bullrider!
I tried not to act disappointed when the only choice left was wild-cow milking! Yes, just like today in our rodeos. The reason was simple, the ranches had to bring in the mama cow to take care of her youngster who was participating in calf roping. Eventually, someone came up with the idea that if they hauled both mama and calf in why not make an event out of it … so I got wild cow milking.
To tell you the truth, I think my scene in the rodeo was so much fun to write. It rains, so my hero and heroine who were undesirably teamed up, really got to know one another by the end of the scene!
In The Troubled Texan I borrowed, with her permission, several of Linda’s character’s families as founders of Kasota Springs. Two pioneers out of my stories I truly loved were Teg Tegler and Edwinna Dewey (from the Christmas anthology). Here is a picture I took at the Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, Texas, a few years ago. This couple is exactly how I envisioned Teg and Edwinna. I know it’s okay to use their photo, since I got their permission and they asked me to autograph my stories to them as Teg and Edwinna!
The fictional Teg’s great-grandson works on the Jack’s Bluff ranch in The Troubled Texan and Edwinna’s great-great granddaughter lives in Kasota Springs still and has a book of her own as heroine that’s under contract. It’s so much fun for me to write about these folks and their dreams.
How about a few fun facts about the rodeos of the 1800’s.
Before the 20th century, rodeos were called “Cowboy Competitions.”
Bragging rights for an entire year were at stake.
Cowboys tuned up their horses, shook the kink out of their ropes and made final decisions on who mugs and who milks. That was my story. My hero did the mugging and my heroine did the milking in the rain.
Today, the cowboy winning events earn huge purses; however, in the original rodeos, they won a small purse and blue ribbons from the trim of a girl’s dress or bonnet.
Jail cells were used as boarding house rooms, since even prisoners were let out of the hoosegow for the rodeo.
The opening was full of “speechifying”, but the crowd never let it last very long.
They had chuck wagon competitions, just like today. Fares included beef, potatoes, biscuits and bread pudding.
There was a lot of music competition. Singers and pickers: guitars, fiddles, and poetry.
The oldest cowboy in the area always had the honor of shooting the pistol to begin competitions.
There were no rules that governed the rodeo, like there is today. The grounds were typically near the railroad and/or stock yards, because the main street was needed for parades and competitions.
When the evening was over, usually after a dance, everyone climbed aboard creaking buckboards, dusty buggies, and faithful horses and scattered to resume the tasks of their normal lives and to work on their skills for next year’s competition.
My question to you all, do you like rodeos and what is your favorite event?
Congratulations, Judy Schexnayder, the random number generator picked you as the winner of my book A Rancher to Love. Contact me via the Contact Page on my website with your mailing address, and I’ll get the book out to you.
Before I was a romance writer, I was a voracious romance reader. My reading of choice in those early days was historical romance, particularly American-set historicals. There were two facets of American history that drew me more than any others — Colonial/Revolution and Westerns. So it wasn’t a stretch that the first manuscript I ever wrote was set along the Oregon Trail. And since my sister moved to the Northwest, I’ve taken opportunities over the years to go on road trips to see her instead of flying (which I don’t like anyway).
During one of these trips, I got to see with my own eyes several of the Oregon Trail sites that I’d researched and written about in that first manuscript. I was fascinated to travel in the steps of those brave men and women who headed out for a new life, who traveled into the largely unknown landscape that was filled with danger on a daily basis.
Nebraska and Wyoming are often considered flyover states, but there’s so much to see, so much history to be absorbed if you take to the roads instead. One of the famous landmarks Oregon Trail travelers looked for on their journey was Chimney Rock in present Morrill County, Nebraska. This geological feature made of a combination of clay, volcanic ash and sandstone has a peak nearly 300 feet above the surrounding North Platte River valley. Travelers along the California and Mormon trails also used it as a landmark. You can see it today from US Route 26 and Nebraska Highway 92. Learn more at the Chimney Rock National Historic Site website.
About 20 miles to the northwest of Chimney Rock, also along Nebraska Highway 92, is Scotts Bluff National Monument near the town of Gering. This collection of bluffs on the south side of the North Platte River was first documented by non-native people when fur traders began traveling through the area in the early 1800s. It was noted to be among the first indications that the flatness of the Great Plains was beginning to give way to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s named after Hiram Scott, a fur trader who died near the bluff in 1828, though the Native peoples of the area called it “Me-a-pa-te” or “the hill that is hard to go around.”
After crossing into Wyoming, another National Park Service site preserving trail history is Fort Laramie National Historic Site, which sits at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte rivers. It has a rich history as a frontier trading post and then an Army post up until its decommission and transfer out of the final troops in 1890. The fort also has appeared in pop culture, including in the Oregon Trail and Age of Empires video games, the 1955 movie White Feather, and a 1950s CBS radio drama called, appropriately, Fort Laramie. You can learn more at the Fort Laramie NHS website.
Perhaps one of the most amazing things you can still see today along the Oregon Trail are actual ruts made by the thousands of heavily loaded wagons heading west. This physical evidence made me feel closer to those long-ago travelers than anything else. One of the places you can see these ruts is Oregon Trail Ruts, a National Historic Landmark near Guernsey, Wyoming.
To learn more about the Oregon National Historic Trail overseen by the National Park Service throughout seven states, visit their site. I hope to be able to visit even more trail sites in the future. I’d especially like to see Independence Rock in Wyoming and more end-of-the-trail sites in Oregon.
Have you ever traveled to historic sites you’ve either written or read about? What were your favorites? I’ll give away a signed copy of A Rancher to Love, part of my Blue Falls, Texas series from Harlequin Western Romance to one commenter.
In The Rancher’s Heart, the third book in my contemporary Hearts of Wyoming series, the hero and heroine own neighboring ranches, both inherited from feuding fathers. The feud goes back generations and has to do with water from the creek that separates their properties. But they quickly realize that each is the solution to the other’s ranching problems, and soon, love knows no boundaries. But cattle rustling and the fallout from that act will soon test both love and loyalty.
Isn’t this a contemporary western romance, you ask?
While talk of cattle rustling usually conjures up images of the Wild West and memories of 1960s television westerns like Rawhide and Bonanza, the crime of cattle rustling is on the rise in the twenty-first century, driven largely by the rise of beef prices.
A calf can bring upward of $1,000 at market; an uncastrated bull more than $2,500. Calves are particularly susceptible because of the lag time between birth and branding.
One heist in northeast Texas involved 1,121 calves worth over $1.4 million. Four thieves in Waco, Texas, stole 107 calves for a payout of $139,000. But more common, and easier to execute, is theft of a few animals from small ranchers who don’t brand their cattle.
To combat this outbreak of thievery, the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association has a team of thirty lawmen, described as special rangers, who investigate livestock-related crimes throughout Texas and Oklahoma. Just like their Old West counterparts, these rangers sport six-shooters and cowboy hats but drive pickups instead of ride horses. Rather than relying on tracking skills, these officers use advanced law enforcement tactics, including digital databases that track every head of cattle sold in a state, and they utilize DNA testing to discover the dam and sire in order to ascertain if the cattle have been stolen.
While we no longer hang cattle thieves, stealing even less than ten head of cattle in Texas is considered a third-degree felony and punishable by up to ten years in prison. Texans don’t fool around.
As reported in the Dallas Morning News, Marvin Wills, the special ranger who was in charge of the Waco case, noted “there’s three types of thieves here: there’s family, employees, or someone who knows them.”
You’ll have to read The Rancher’s Heart to find out which of those categories fit the cattle rustlers in the story, but needless to say, suspicion falls on the hero precisely because the Taylors, who own the neighboring ranch, have been feuding with the McKennas for generations, and everyone in town knows the Taylors need the money. The fact Cody Taylor got roped into helping lovely Cat McKenna, who prefers high heels to cowgirl boots, only means he had opportunity. But Cat has fallen for the stubborn rancher, and she will have to decide if she will let either history or circumstantial evidence shake her trust in the man who has captured her heart.
Here’s an excerpt:
Cody placed his shotgun firmly by his side, shaken by the fact he’d pointed it at Cat before he’d realized just who had followed him. Having tied his horse behind the old line shack and camped out on the far side of one of the small hills that mounded the rocky pasture, he had found a spot to watch the herd unobserved. Only to find someone trailing him. With her hair tucked under her hat and her back to him, he hadn’t been able to tell who it was until she’d turned around.
Only then had he realized he could have shot her. He wiped an arm across his brow. Despite the cool air of the higher elevation, he was sweating.
“I’m trying to catch a rustler who I hope isn’t scouting right now, because I’ve certainly blown my cover. I didn’t want to risk you telling someone. I don’t know who the culprit is yet, but I suspect it’s someone who knows Pleasant Valley Ranch pretty damn well. That could mean it is someone working for you.”
Her hands were on her curvy hips, and her chest rose as she took a deep breath. He admired her chest. Perky and perfectly sized.
“That description would include you.”
Cody felt the verbal slap as if his face had met the flat of her hand, sparking anger he struggled to control. A man’s reputation summed up his worth.
And no one had ever trampled on his.
Too furious to speak, he turned on his heel and walked away, toward his gear and the line shack. While the cows lowed in the background, he could feel the steam rising in his blood as his boots crunched along the rocky soil. He didn’t deserve her suspicions. He merited better than this. If she’d been a man calling him out as she had, he’d have decked her.
Despite the loss of money he so desperately needed, better to find out now how little she thought of him than to go on fooling himself that she respected him, maybe even liked him. Enough to find some solace in each other’s arms. What a fool he’d been to even contemplate such an arrangement with a woman who couldn’t hide her disdain for him and the life he valued.
“Cody,” she called from behind him, her voice loud but wavering. He kept walking, taking bigger strides to lengthen the distance between them.
Nope, he’d dodged a bullet.
He heard her boots scuffing along the stony ground at a run as she breathlessly called his name.
He was surprised at how much her lack of faith cut him. Anger was one thing. But her lack of confidence in who he was felt more like betrayal. More like she’d knocked the supports right out from under him, sending him into a free fall of emotion. He’d thought they’d gotten beyond mistrust. Way beyond.
The scuffing noise was getting closer.
He turned. Ready to have it out. She stopped just a few feet away, her breathing ragged.
“I’m sorry. I…” There was desperation in her voice.
“You don’t accuse a man of stealing and then think you can say a few words and all is forgiven. I may not have much in this world. But I do have my reputation. Yet just now you accused me of something no rancher accuses another of unless it’s meant. You either believe in me, or you don’t. There are no shades of gray in this.”
The Rancher’s Heart is the third book in the Hearts of Wyoming series, where love is given a second chance, and is available in either e-book or print on Amazon.
I am guessing we’ve all lost some treasure at one time or another. Could be we valued it for sentimental reasons, for its monetary value, or we just liked it. I’ll gift a Kindle e-book of The Rancher’s Heart to one lucky person who leaves a comment about something they lost or which category they think the cattle rustler in The Rancher’s Heart falls into—family, employee, or acquaintance.And in the comment section, you can also read my note about something I lost and how my hubby became the hero who saved the day.
Anne Carrole writes both contemporary and western historical romances. She’s an eastern girl with a western heart who was raised on a farm (yes, they have them in the East) with horses, dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits and whatever other animals she could convince her parents to shelter. Besides reading and writing romances, she loves western history, rodeo, football, gardening, and tennis. Married to her own urban cowboy, she’s the mother of a college-age cowgirl. Her latest releases are The Rancher’s Heart and an historical short story about a Harvey girl in the Wild West titled When Love Comes Calling, part of the recently releasedJourney of the Heart Anthology. Buy Journey of the Heart on Amazon
Though it’s hard to imagine the likes of Wyatt Earp or Bat Masterson bowling, this was actually a popular sport in the Old West. According to True West magazine, one of the strangest bowling alleys was built in California in 1866. After felling a majestic Redwood, miners turned the flat, heavily-waxed surface into a bowling alley.
Speaking of sports, baseball was also a popular sport in the Old West. Even Wild Bill Hickok was a baseball fan and reportedly umpired a game wearing a pair of six-shooters.
We think of the old West as wild, but it pales in comparison to what’s going on in some cities today. From the 1850s to the 1890s, Texas held the title as the most gun-fighting state. But during that forty-year span, the state logged in only 160 shootouts.
The number of Old West bank robberies were also greatly exaggerated. During this same forty-year period, only eight bank robberies were recorded in the entire frontier. Today, yearly bank robberies number in the thousands. California and Texas have the highest number of bank robberies. At long last, the west lives up to its reputation.
It breaks my heart to say this, but some of the phrases associated with the Old West weren’t actually coined until the 1900s, which means I can’t use them in a book. These include “Stick em up” and “hightail.”
The one thing outlaws feared was dying with their boots on. To “die with your boots on” was a term that meant “to be hanged.” Outlaws often pleaded with the sheriff to take their boots off so their mothers would never know the truth of how they died.
Before the days of GPS, it was the chuck wagon cook’s job to keep the cattle drives heading in the right direction. Before retiring, his last chore of the day was to place the tongue of the chuck wagon facing the North Star. This was so the trail master would know which direction to move the herd in the morning.
It might be hard to believe, but most cowboys didn’t carry guns while riding. Carrying a gun was a nuisance to the riders and firing it would scare cattle and horses.
Of the 45000 cowboys working during the heyday of cattle drives, some 5000 were African-American.
The tradition of spreading sawdust on saloon floors supposedly started in Deadwood, South Dakota. The sawdust was used to hide the gold dust that fell out of customer pockets, and was swept up at the end of the night.
So what Old West fact did you find most surprising or interesting?
There’s a new sheriff in town and she almost always gets her man!
Well, since I believe that these e-books will be disappearing off the internet come March 1st — I’m giving all of you who came to the blog and left a comment a free e-book of your choice (except for the two e-books that are still carried by AVON/HaperCollins, WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE and THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF.
And if there is anyone else who didn’t get a chance to blog, just drop me an email and I’ll give you a free e-book also. I figure if the Publishing House is closing, it should go out with some free-bees. So all of you who came to the blog today or who are viewing this message, go to my website at: http://www.novels-by-KarenKay.com and let me know which e-book you’d like, as well as the email address to send it to. You can email me here: karenkay(dot)author(at)earthlink(dot)net.