My mother was the oldest of eleven children. In her younger days when I was growing up, and on into my early adulthood, she reminded me of Aunt Pittypat in Gone With the Wind—not in looks or mannerisms, but in the way that she knew the relationships between people–and not just in our family! Growing up in a small Oklahoma town, Mom knew the ins and outs of most every other family in that small community—but so did everyone else. That old saying about everyone knowing your business in a small town was so true…but what a legacy of stories she provided me with to write about!


A relative who hung his pocket watch up on the wall to “give it a rest” overnight. Another relative who, shunned by his prominent businessman father, (we don’t know why) rode a bicycle all over town selling condoms. What better way to embarrass him?

Then there were the sadder tales…the little boy who crawled under the porch and drank tree poison and died. All those many years later, my mother would get teary remembering how she and her 12-year-old best friend, Mary, attended the funeral.

The family who lost five of their six children—they’d gone out to pick berries and taken shelter under a big tree when a storm hit. Lightning struck the tree and killed many of them, but the oldest brother crawled to a farmhouse for help. In the end, he was the only survivor.



Another story that, in this time would be almost unbelievable is that of a little girl, six years old, who had appendicitis. The doctor would not operate unless the money was paid before the surgery. The girl’s father stood on the corner and begged for money – this would have been in the mid -1930’s, in Dustbowl Oklahoma…during the Depression. No one had any money to spare. I have a picture of that little girl with my aunt who was the same age—they were second cousins. It was the last picture made of her before she died.


So many stories my mom told about—with such description of the people, the places, the events…maybe that’s why I’m a writer now. But I know the happenings she told me about were a true-life depiction of actual events, and she had a great memory for detail most of her life.


Being the eldest of eleven siblings, she was all ears when the adults talked, of course. And she was old enough to remember many of the happenings herself. She told of watching them rush her grandfather into the house and put him on the kitchen table when he collapsed in the field—she and Mary were watching through a nearby window—they saw it all.


Going to Blue River was sometimes a Sunday social event in the summers—the men cooled off in the water while the women set out the food for a picnic. The children—none of whom could swim—were the older kids’ charges. Mom told of a time when one of her young cousins, Warren, went missing as they were all playing in the shallow water of a nearby clear creek running into the river. She felt something brush her leg and looked down—it was Warren, drifting by, his eyes open sightlessly as he stared up. She automatically reached down and grabbed him up out of the swift-moving current and yelled for help—and remembered nothing else about the rest of that day. Yes, he lived. But…why would so many parents think it was okay for their kids to play in water when none of them could swim?


It hit me after listening to her talk about her life and growing up in that small town that the older siblings seemed to have had no childhood of their own. Her earliest memory was of standing on a stool, washing dishes in a pan of water. She said she was about 3 or 4.  By then, there were two younger sisters and another on the way.



I wasn’t old enough to appreciate it at the time, but Mom and Dad, having grown up together, knew all of the same people. They’d talk about who was related to whom, and who this one or that one had married, and what had become of them. I remember once in a great while, my dad would sit back and look at her with an odd look of appreciation on his face and a little half-smile and say, “Doris Lynn had an illegitimate baby? I never knew that!”  Or some other “morsel” he’d somehow never heard.

Mom knew all the stories of the past, too. The tales of the relatives who had gone before and what they’d done—her great grandfather who had been “stolen” from his Indian village and given to a white Presbyterian minister to raise as part of the “assimilation efforts”…and how that had forever affected our family.














Even the stories of my dad’s family—of his grandmother and grandfather coming “up from Texas” and stopping under the shade of a tree by a creek in Indian Territory long enough for her to give birth, then moving on after one day’s time.


Mom knew so much—untimely deaths of family members, “early” births, family dreams and goals that came to fruition, changed, or never happened at all. Games played, meals cooked, weddings held…so much that I would have given anything to have written down—but was too young to realize how much it meant, at the time.


But to whom? Those things are important to the families and friends of the principal players, but now…there are few left who would remember or care. The small-town cemetery is filled with those who lived together, worshipped together and worked together. Friends and family who lived, laughed, loved, and made their way through life—leaning on one another in a way that is rare in today’s world.


So…I use those memories in the best way I can. In my writing. There is a piece of my mom’s remembrances in my own stories—probably every single one of them, in some way or another.


Authors, do you use long-ago memories from relatives in your tales? Readers, do these books and short stories we weave jog your own memories of things you’ve heard in the past from older relatives?  What are some of the stories you recall?


Here’s an excerpt from an “oldie but goodie”, ONE MAGIC NIGHT. After learning the story of my gr gr grandfather and how he was kidnapped, I just had to give him a happy ending. In real life, his adoptive parents changed his name to David Walls. They sent him to medical school in Missouri–I don’t know if he ever finished or not, but he came back to Indian Territory to practice medicine. Of course, he never fit in, either in the white world or the Indian. But in my make believe world, he did find happiness…

As Whitworth’s hand started its descent, Katrina turned away.  But Shay’s arm shot out, grasping Whitworth’s hand and holding it immobile.

“You will not.”

Three words, quietly spoken, but with a heat that could have melted iron, a force that could have toppled mountains.

Katrina’s father’s face contorted, his teeth bared, finally, as he tried to jerk away. He didn’t utter a word.  He stared up into Shay Logan’s eyes that promised retribution, as the seconds ticked by.  Finally, he lunged once more, trying to pull free, but Shay still held him locked in a grip of steel.  Only when he released that grip was Whitworth freed.

“You presume too much, Doctor Logan, unless you are assuming the care and responsibility of my daughter.”

“Papa! Oh, please!” Katrina felt herself dissolving into a puddle of less than nothing beneath stares of the townspeople of Talihina.  What had started as an exciting, beautiful evening had become an embarrassing nightmare.  It was torture to think that she was the cause of it all.  How she wished she had stayed home with Jeremy as she’d first planned, before Mrs. Howard had volunteered to keep him company.

Now, Papa was saying these things that she knew he would regret later.  It was always this way when he drank too much.  These accusations had gone beyond the pale of anything he’d ever said before.  But Shay Logan wouldn’t realize that.  He wouldn’t know that Papa would be sorry tomorrow.

Evidently, there was one thing Shay did recognize, though.  She saw the very slight flare of his nostrils as he drew in the scent of alcohol on her father’s breath, and in that instant, there was a flash of understanding in his eyes.

“You’ve had too much to drink, Mr. Whitworth,” he said in an even tone.  “I will overlook your behavior toward me because of that, but not toward your daughter.  She has done nothing, yet you would strike her, and cause her shame.”

“She’s my daughter,” Whitworth replied sullenly.

“But not your property, Whitworth.  Never that.  You owe her an apology.”

“No, Shay, really—” Katrina began, then as her father whirled to look at her, she broke off, realizing her mistake.  ‘Shay,’ she had called him.  As if she had known him forever.  As if she was entitled to use his given name freely.  As if she were his betrothed.

“‘Shay’ is it, daughter?  Not, ‘Dr. Logan’?  Shay.”  He spat the words out bitterly.  He drew himself up, looking Shay in the face.  “I’ll not be apologizing to her—or to you.  And I’ll expect nothing less than a wedding before this week’s end.  Do you understand me, Doctor?”

Shay had lost any patience he might have harbored.  “You understand me, Whitworth.  You will not dictate to me, or to your daughter on such matters of the heart.  As I say, the alcohol has got you saying things you’re going to regret, and—”

“Threatening me, are you?  Threatening me?”

“Truman.”  Jack Thompson stepped out of the crowd and smoothly came to stand beside Katrina.  “Let’s put this…unfortunate incident…behind us, shall we?”  He confidently tucked Katrina’s hand around his arm.  “I can see that the church auxiliary ladies have almost got everything set up for this wonderful Independence Day meal—” he frowned at Mrs. Beal, nodding at the picnic tables behind her.  She jumped, motioning the other ladies to resume the preparation.

He gave a sweeping glance around the group of onlookers.  “I, for one, am ready to eat! How about you all?”
Katrina was swept along at his side as he walked toward the tables, speaking to acquaintances and friends, laughing and…and seething with tense anger the entire time.  She could feel it in his body, with every step he took and the tightness of his grip as he covered her hand with his. Katrina glanced back over her shoulder, hoping to catch a glimpse of Shay, but the crowd blocked her view.

“Smile, my dear,” Jack gritted into her ear.  “I’m hoping we can still salvage your virtue, no matter what happened, really, between you and the good doctor.  If I see him near you again, I’ll kill him.”


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A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work:
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 40 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here:
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  1. Cheryl- what an amazing blog. Wow the stories you grew up hearing from your parents, I agree, after hearing all those you had to be a writer.
    One story out of many stories told to me is my Great-grandfather known as Pa Lucas to my Dad, he was a sharecropper in Erath County down in Texas. He shot a man over their sharecrop. His partner was stealing from him. The other man didn’t die, but no one ever messed with Pa Lucas again.
    Thanks for sharing your stories. Your book sounds wonderful and to think it’s the happy ending to a family member makes it even more special.

    • Oh, thank you, Tonya! That was truly just the tip of the iceberg–just can’t include everything here. I wish so much I had gotten my mom to record these things.

      Back in those days, stealing anything was almost akin to murder–to take their food, their horse, etc. was the same as sentencing them to death. Your Gr Grandpa did what he had to do and it fixed things! LOL

      Thanks for sharing that story! And thanks for all your support and your very kind words, Tonya!

  2. I remember one my daddy told me his Grandfather aka Paps told him about Jesse James coming to visit yes the Outlaw. Our surname was originally Younger and related to the Younger brothers but my Paps family were not of the Outlaw nature and the law was constantly harassing them wanting to know if they knew of Cole or his brothers were abouts so they moved to Ohio and changed their name to Young and then Paps moved on to here Alabama. Long story short was Jesse had came down here and were going to rob a train in the area and he stopped in to see Paps for he had meet him before Paps moved and liked him and Paps said he talked Jesse out of going thru with train robbery but that was the only crime he talked him out of while in Alabama for he did commit crimes in Alabama that year. Sure wish I knew more of this and the official kinship between the Younger brothers and my daddy’s Paps family. Btw love love your books Cheryl Pierson

    • Glenda- you’ve told me this story before, I’m as intrigued with it as you. How awesome. Love you lady.

    • Glenda, this is so interesting! Wow! Your paps must’ve had a million stories in his head. Oh man! You should trace your family history, lady! I’m sure you’d be surprised at the results. So what was your maiden name?

    • Glenda, you should get on Ancestry .com–my aunt did that and it was amazing all the relatives she met that we didn’t know we had. I want to get a membership because she can then share everything with me that she’s already done so I don’t have to start from scratch.

      Speaking of Jesse James, my grandmother’s sister in the picture above, Byrd, was in town one day when she was about 7 or so, standing outside the general store and Jesse James rode up and asked her to hold the reins for him a minute. He flipped her a silver dollar!!!! What a LOT of money back then! In a little bit, he came out and thanked her and rode off–don’t know any more than that. I’ve always wondered if he went in and robbed the store and then rode out of town. I wish we knew the whole story!

      Glad your Paps was able to talk Jesse out of ONE crime anyhow! No telling how many lives he saved!

  3. Cheryl, this is so interesting! I love your family stories and the peek into what life must’ve been like back then. I do include a lot of tidbits about my family in my stories because they are the fabric that make up my life. It’s almost impossible to separate that from my stories. My mom told me a lot about being homeless during the Depression and even later and how she gave birth to my oldest sister and had nothing–no diapers, clothes, or anything. It’s a good thing we’re a hearty bunch. When I was born they still lived in a tent and she talked about how she tried to insulate it by putting newspapers on the walls. Hard times. Your folks had hard times aplenty too. I wish I’d asked my mom more questions. There’s so much I’d love to know more about.

    Your mom is/was very talented! Those drawings are excellent. She was an amazing woman. That picture of your great grandmother breaks my heart. She looks worn out and beaten down. And so young still. She’d already lived many lives by age 25. Very sad.

    I loved One Magic Night!

    • Hi Linda! Thank you–glad you enjoyed the post. I sometimes hesitate to share these old stories because I don’t know if everyone loves other people’s history as much as I do! LOL

      Linda…my heart goes out to your mother. I can only imagine being ready to give birth and not having ANYTHING. My mom, too, talked about using newspapers for insulation in the old house they lived in. She talked about my dad’s parents’ house and how the linoleum would raise up off the floor when the winter wind blew in under the house. It’s hard to imagine living that life with the things we have now, isn’t it? You’re so right–you had to be hearty to survive!

      I’ve always been in awe of my mom and her artistic ability. She did those on butcher paper with a plain ol’ pencil–no money for charcoal, pastels, etc.! All through my growing up years, she would stay up late into the night after we all were in bed and that was HER time to paint, draw, etc.

      I remember my great grandmother–she died when I was about 10 or 11, so I knew her–we were not close or anything, but my mom was close to her. Oh, Lord–yes, I can’t even imagine that life she had–losing her husband suddenly, with four little ones to take care of–she must not have even been 20 when he died. Then to marry someone with that many kids already and then have more…and Mom always talked about them going there for Sunday dinner…in those days when food was so scarce–I guess maybe everyone brought what they had and pooled it all. So many kids…I am sure she was beaten down.

      Mom told me once that her mother (my grandmother) told her (after they were all grown up) that when she found out she was pregnant with #5 she went to the river and walked along the bank thinking about throwing herself in, but didn’t, because her other kids needed her. I know she must have been thinking “What a life!”

      That makes me so happy to know you enjoyed One Magic Night so much! Thanks for letting me know, Linda. It was just a little short story, but I felt better and was proud of it, because my gr gr grandfather finally got his happy ending.

  4. Wow, I adore history like that! The old family stories tell so much. My hubby’s side there are quite a few but the most talked about one is where his great great grandpa left behind a family overseas, jumped ship when coming to America so he wouldn’t be caught, and started a new family here no one the wiser. How crazy is that?? I love listening to my dad tell old family stories and history. I need to get them recorded!

    • Susan, I love that story! I can just see the “old wife” showing up someday and telling the “new wife”—MOVE OVER! I HAD HIM FIRST! LOL

      Here’s something weird. When my son was born, we had narrowed the names down to Casey and Derrick. Something just drew me to Casey more–hubby wanted Derrick. I said, finally, “NO. You named Jessica, and it’s my turn now!” LOL So Casey it was. About 5 years later we were at a family reunion and my dad’s sister and their cousin were sitting there talking, and the cousin, Eloise, said to me, “I’m so glad you named him Casey–a family name!” I pretended I’d known it all along. LOL But I’d really had no clue. Later, when I went to check on it, it turned out that James Casey had left Ireland on a ship and come to America in the early 1800’s. He married an Indian woman named “Horseshoe”–no tribe is listed, and I still need to find out where they married, etc. So …I get chill bumps when I think about this because I remember how I was drawn to name him Casey and even argued over it with my husband, never knowing it was a family name.

      I hope you will get recordings of your dad’s stories!

  5. Both my maternal grandparent came from norway. She was the oldest of 6( 3 girls and 3 boys) 3 came to america, 3 stayed in norway. Her husband parent immigrated with 3 kids and had 2 here, 4 boys and 1 girl, 1 boy died of a childhood disease when he was 5 or 6 years old.

  6. Paternal grandparents not maternal sorry. We are able to trace her family history back 8 generations all the men were fisherman including her father.

    • Kim, that is sooo cool. I wish I had time to just sit and work on genealogy. It was something my mom was always interested in, and of course, my aunt, her sister, is the one I mentioned that had gotten on Ancestry and located so much info. I guess now I just want to know for myself. The curiosity is really eating me up–but time is the thing I don’t have right now.

  7. My grandfather’s stories seemed like tall tales to some of the family until I did family research and proved what he said. His mother died from being kicked my a horse, his dad a year later from pneumonia, and his oldest grown sister two years after that, so he knew about death earlier on and making his own way since he was “passed around.”

    As a married man he took in his wife’s parents, and then moved the family to Oklahoma City so his father-in-law could be bear to his wife in a TB sanitarium. After she died, they all moved back to eastern Oklahoma so his father-in-law could be near his other children.

    Then later on my grandpa lost his wife to cancer and he had three little girls to raise on his own in tough times. Since the oldest girl was sickly and the youngest was a baby, my mom the middle child helped my granddad all through rough dust bowl times, not just caring for her sisters, the house and the garden (for scarce food), but also leaving school at times, like when she helped her dad run a gag station to support the family.

    Cheryl, you said, “…there are few left who would remember or care.” That’s my situation too and it makes me really sad. I was going to write my family’s story at one time but there’s no one left and I guess it has taken the heart out of me to do it now. I’m so very glad that as a writer you’re continuing those early stories.

    • oops, typos. my grandfather be “NEAR” to his wife (not a bear to his wife….sigh)

      my mom helped her dad with a GAS station (no one would have paid for “gags” then….sigh)


      • Eliza, soooo good to see you here! Wow, your grandfather really suffered a lot of loss at an early age! Oddly enough, there was a TB hospital in eastern Oklahoma–two of them–one for whites and one for Indians. My dad spent some time there–a short time. Then he was sent to Arizona.

        Your mom really had a tough time, too, didn’t she? Goodness–the hardship of those days just in everyday life PALES in comparison to the times we live in now.

        Like you say, it does take the heart out of you to write it down–but…look at Anne Frank’s diary. At the time she wrote it, she just wrote it. And sooo many people care about that–so I guess the lesson we have to take from it is that what we write is not just for our family and hoping someone will care from our family members–there may be others who care. Look at Little House On the Prairie–those books describe Laura’s life, but also society and life in general and have become a “study guide” for elementary age kids. I’m going to write down as much as I can–whether anyone else cares or reads it–I may be gone by then, but I’m still going to do it. I hope you will, too, Eliza.

  8. I think it is awesome you able to use some of those stories into your current books, what a way to honor those family members.
    My paternal grandmother had alzheimer’s and after she fell and broke her hip, she wasn’t able to go home and was put into the nursing home. A cousin from the other side of the family worked there, and told us that my grandmother had the best stories to tell. I kept asking are you recording her or at least writing the stories down? Unfortunately no one did either, and her stories, memories are lost forever. Her parents came from the old country to Oklahoma, then then moved up to northern Montana. They were German speaking, Mennonite. My father didn’t speak English until he started school, at that time, his parents decided English only. So my dad lost his German. My grandmother only spoke German around her siblings, and when pushing the grandkids out the door with her broom. The old country they came from was Prussia, Poland, Ukraine. I have family that left Russia, traveling to Germany, some to the Netherlands. In this country, my dad’s parents settle first in the Korn, Ok area, then some went to Montana to homestead. There is a museum I believe in Korn that is pretty much all about my family.
    I have been told my whole life that my paternal grandfather was the first white baby born in the Oklahoma territory. I am thinking first baby recorded, but don’t know that for sure. One of these days I want to go visit Korn, and check it all out.

    • Veda, there was a big German settlement in Texas (New Braunfels and surrounding area) that my gr gr grandmother’s family came from “up from Texas” into Indian Territory. Her name was Rita, so for a long time a lot of family members assumed she was Hispanic–but she was of German descent and she and my gr gr grandfather married and lived in SW Indian Territory. There was a regular cattle trail nearby –can’t remember which one–but she didn’t want him being gone on long drives, so he would go down about 20-25 miles south of their home and work the drives from there to about the same distance north, then come back home. That way, he wasn’t gone for the whole time.

      Now I’m going to have to go to Korn and see the museum! Are you related to Bob Funk? He is one of the patrons of the Nat’l. Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum here in OKC–owns a big ranch not far outside of OKC, among other things.

      • Cheryl, most likely related to Bob Funk in some way. I didn’t get to know the Oklahoma Funk when I was young, because we went to Montana, and if they didn’t come up I didn’t meet them. One of the brother’s went to the Fresno, CA area, and we did go visit them when we lived in Ca, when I was a teenager. They had a family reunion while we were there, and I met so many people, I have no idea how some fit in.

  9. Such a wonderful post, Cheryl! My dad is the “Aunt Pittypat” of our family. If I need to know any family or history of the little farm community where I grew up, I give him a call.

    • Hi Shanna! Thanks so much–Isn’t it great to have someone who knows all about family? I wish my parents hadn’t been so old when I was born–they were both 35–which back then was ancient to be having a baby–especially when my older sisters were 10 and 12 years older than I was—can you say “ACCIDENT”????LOL

  10. Love these stories!!! I know a precious few of my ancestors, but not nearly enough. Although unfortunately, there’s very few left beyond my parents anymore. So the few I have are treasured.

    I do find where stories and books I’ve read have a way of weaving into my real life, and how memories are jogged from one story to a real life happening.

    And I love it when authors take happenings from their real life and are able to give a HEA twist to a story that may otherwise end up more tragic. When I know there’s a real life history/story behind it, it almost seems more special. Now I’m gonna have to get One Magic Night. 🙂

    • Hi Michelle! I have some notes I’ve taken from things my mom told me–I need to write more–I thought I’d just sit down and write every memory she ever told me about that I could remember. Same with my dad, though he wasn’t much for talking about the past like she was.

      I hope you love One Magic Night, Michelle. It’s really special to me.

  11. You brought back good memories. It is odd how our families parallel a bit. My parents married about the same time yours did and both came from relatively large families. My mother was second oldest of 9 and my dad third oldest of 7, though the oldest died at 6 or 7 of a ruptured appendix. My mother also taught herself to draw and I was stuck by the similarity of your mom’s work and my mom’s.
    Your comment on the oldest child not really having a childhood hit home. I am the oldest of 6. You are expected to set the example and always be good. I remember waiting for years for my bed time to be a half hour later. The younger siblings complained and within a few weeks, their bed timeshare changed. Always being put in charge and having to watch the younger ones cut into any real play time. One of my brothers is in his late 60’s and is still complaining about my being bossy and being in charge. Even his wife keeps telling him It was my parents that put me in charge, it wasn’t my idea. He won’t listen.
    I too wish I had written down the stories I would overhear when the “elders” got together. I wish I had been able to tape them or written them down. That generation is gone (grandparents) and on my dad’s side, his generations is gone.
    Thankfully one of my brothers is big into genealogy and has unearthed and recorded many stories. One of my favorites is about my maternal grandfather. A family home was built on the Canadian-American border. The kitchen and back part of the house was in Canada and the front porch and front of the house in the US. During Prohibition, they would bring legal whiskey into the kitchen, take it out the front door, where it was illegal, load it into a car and make the run to New York City. Evidently there were several incidents of police chasing them and I believe my grandfather had to “disappear” for a while. I do remember hearing him say he ditched a car and its cargo in Lake Champlain during one chase. There were also rumors of Native American members in the early family tree on both sides of the family. However, they always told us “Why do you want to know about that stuff?” when we asked about it.

    • Patricia, I remember one thing my middle sister said when I was little that we still laugh about. My dad worked in the oil fields and when he’d be gone for a long while, when he came home he would always bring me something–it might be a coveted 45 record or a tarantula from out on those oil field roads in the country. But I was sick a lot when I was little, and I had a little red record player that I think I burned the motor up on, I played it so much. Anyhow, one day, he brought be a new STEREO (that was a new thing back then!) I was about 5 or so…and I was so thrilled. My middle sister, Karen, was at that time 15 and my oldest sister, Annette, was 17. Karen said, “Well, it’s a fine day when the BABY of the family gets the first stereo!” LOL Mom had a talk with Dad, and the next day, he brought Annette and Karen one for their room. LOL They were so busy in high school, and Mom didn’t work outside the home, so they didn’t have to be responsible for me on an everyday basis like you did with your siblings or my mom did with hers. Still…yes, the youngest does have it easier than the oldest or even the older kids do!

      It’s great that your brother is delving into family history and finding some of the stories and facts about your family. I LOVE that story about your grandfather’s house and the liquor! That was very smart! LOL

      Thanks for sharing your story–I love to hear about other people’s families and their unique stories. There are so many–not just about MY family, but other families there in that little town where my parents grew up. Community had a totally different meaning then. :(((( People really did help one another in ways we don’t even think of today.

      So glad you stopped by! I know you are busy!

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