Though some writers set their stories in real locations, a lot of us create our own settings. That has been the case for my books, and yet every new locale I create is inspired by places I’ve been. For the past seven years, I’ve been writing in mainly one location — Blue Falls, Texas. Blue Falls was inspired by several real towns throughout the Texas Hill Country. The downtown shopping district was modeled after Fredericksburg; the lake was based on Lake Marble Falls; and the Blue Falls Music Hall was based on the the oldest dance hall in Texas in Gruene.
Though I still have one Blue Falls book still set to release next January, I’m fully immersed in creating a new setting for a new series for a new publisher. In my Once Upon a Western series for Tule Publishing, I’ve created the small tourist town of Logan Springs, Montana (I evidently like towns based on bodies of water). It’s set in the real Paradise Valley north of Yellowstone National Park, a simply stunning valley that stretches out between the Absaroka and Gallatin mountain ranges. And once again, I’ve used bits and pieces of real-life inspiration to create Logan Springs. It’s one part Gardiner, Montana, the northern gateway community to Yellowstone National Park; one part West Yellowstone, which as its name suggests is the western gateway to the park; and one part Chico Hot Springs, which is in the Paradise Valley and home to a hot springs resort that gave me the idea to have the main family in my series, the McQueens, own a hot springs resort as well as an expansive ranching operation. As with these real world locales, the Yellowstone River runs through my fictional one.
Even though my main setting is fictional, I do have my characters visit real towns. For instance, my Blue Falls characters would make trips to cities such as San Antonio and Austin. In the Once Upon a Western series, the characters go to Livingston, which is the town where travelers exit I-90 to head south to Yellowstone. It’s also the nearest place for such things as a hospital, which is where the hero of my second story in this series is a doctor. Livingston is a charming little town with some neat western history. In the first book in this series, Her Cowboy Prince which comes out in June of this year, I have a scene where the hero and heroine have dinner in Livingston and he tells her some of the history of the building where the restaurant is located. Though their dining location is fictional, I borrowed some real history from the real Murray Hotel, which saw the likes of Buffalo Bill Cody and Calamity Jane as guests.
I like the freedom of creating my own town but being able to pepper it with real-life details. As a reader, do you like fictional or real locales?
Thank you to Petticoats and Pistols for inviting me for a visit. Today I want to share a memory with you.
When I was a child, my father took us to what is now known as Dinosaur Provincial Park which consists of badlands along the Red Deer River south of our home. There he showed us a rough log cabin and said it had been the home of John Ware—a famous Black cowboy. He told us about the cowboy and it sounded so brave and wonderful. Since that day, I have had an interest in this unusual man.
John Ware was born a slave on a South Carolina plantation in 1845. He was freed at the end of the civil war in 1865 and set out to join a Texas cattle drive. John Ware was a big man and strong…by all accounts, a gentle giant. When he was freed he had a debt to settle with the plantation owner. He caught the man and led him to the whipping tree where John and many of his friends and family had endured the wrath of this man. But he set his ex-master free. John preferred peace to violence.
By 1882, he was an experienced cowboy and was hired by the owners of the newly-formed North-West Cattle Company at the Bar U Ranch to drive cattle into Canada. Once the cattle reached the ranch, John was asked to stay on. It seems he ate as much as two men and needed sandwiches as big as Bibles for lunch.
Breaking horses was one of John’s favorite jobs and he was good at it.
One time some cowboys were having trouble with an unruly horse and asked John to help. He got on it and stayed on it as the horse raced toward Oldman River. The horse launched itself over the bank into deep water. Afraid of what had become of John, the cowboys waited until the horse emerged downstream with John still on its back.
Many stories of his feats abound. Like the time the cattle were caught in a snow storm. The cowboys tried to turn them but failed and all returned to the ranch except John. The storm raged for three days before the cowboys could go in search of John and the cows. They found him two days later still with the herd. He had not been dressed for the weather and joked he was afraid to flex his fingers in case they broke of like icicles.
Sometimes John performed feats of strength like straightening a curved hay hook with his bare hands, or lifting a barrel full of water into cart.
John had a dream—to own his own ranch. In 1890 he had built a house on the shores of Sheep Creek. But he wanted a family. He wanted to marry a Black woman and there were few such in Alberta. However, a family moved into the area. He courted Mildred and married her. He was 26 years older than her. They soon had four children.
The land around John and his family was settling up and John didn’t care for that so in 1900 he moved his family to near the Red Deer River. Mildred must have been shocked to see the treeless countryside with its stunted grass and the nearby badlands.
Their sixth child was born there but he was never strong. Mildred never regained her health after the child was born. John rode the train to Calgary to get medicine. Where he returned to Brooks (the nearest station) he had 40 Km to ride to reach home. A storm made it impossible for the horse to make its way so John walked the distance. But sadly, the child, Daniel, died before his 3rd birthday. Later that year Mildred died of pneumonia.
That same year, John and his 11 year old son were cutting out some cattle when John’s favorite horse caught her foot in a badger hold and fell, pinning John beneath. John was killed in that accident.
At his funeral, the pastor described John as “a gentleman with a beautiful skin.” John had not faced much prejudice on the open range though he experienced it in the towns and cities. He was believed to have said that “A good man or a good horse is never a bad color.”
I hope you enjoyed learning about this gentle giant. Feel free to post comments or ask questions, though I don’t promise to have all the answers.J
I am offering a free digital copy of Temporary Bride to one on those who comments. It is the first in my Dakota Brides series, featuring strong, independent young women who ventured west to Dakota Territory and found not only freedom and independence, but love. Their love, however, came to them in unexpected ways and from unexpected sources.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think you should know that the classic candy that has been a constant since 1847, is about to go the way of phone booths. Yes, that’s right. The company that makes Necco Wafers has announced that, unless it finds a buyer, it will close its doors forever in May.
Do you know what that means? Future generations will never know what drywall tastes like.
Originally called hub wafers, the coin-shaped candies were carried by soldiers during the Civil War and World War II. Since the candy traveled well and never melted or spoiled, soldiers and yes, even cowboys, could carry them with confidence.
These candies traveled as far as the North Pole, and that’s not all. Admiral Byrd took two tons of the things with him to the Antarctica. Even more impressive; Necco Wafers was the first candy to multi-task. They served as wafers during communion and were tossed in baskets for payment at toll booths.
Sad to say, Necco isn’t the only old company at risk. In recent years, we’ve seen the demise of the Sears Wish book and five and dime stores. Who knows what will be next?
I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but I shudder to think that Baker’s chocolate—a friend to cooks since 1780—might someday be declared unfit for human consumption. Don’t laugh. It happened to wheat, eggs and red meat. Who’s to say the same thing won’t happen to chocolate?
Never mind that cowboys and civil war soldiers enjoyed morning cups of Baker’s hot chocolate with no known problems. Cast-iron stomachs of the past have no place in today’s world.
It’s not just food and drink that’s in danger. The next company that could bite the dust could very well be Remington, established in 1818. It’s hard to believe that the company that produced the “rifle that won the west” might one day close its doors. But firearms aren’t all that popular these days. Nor for that matter are typewriters. So who knows?
And what about Brooks Brothers, another formidable company founded in 1818? The company made the first ready-to-wear suits in 1849. Those flocking to California that year for the gold rush couldn’t wait for tailors to outfit them. For that reason, forty-niners depended on Brooks Brothers for their clothing needs. So did Abe Lincoln, Eisenhower and J.F. Kennedy.
Anything made of paper is about to become obsolete, including maps, shopping bags and checks. Here in California, the war on drinking straws is heating up. If that’s not enough, many of the nation’s newspapers have vanished in recent years. That means that old standbys like The New York Times (founded in 1851 as the New York Daily Times) could one day shut down their presses forever.
I also worry about Merriam-Webster, founded in 1831. If it goes the way of encyclopedia salesmen, I will have to share the blame. I can’t remember the last time I actually looked something up in an honest-to-goodness, print dictionary, can you?
Nothing is safe in today’s fast-paced world as proven by Kodak. Who would have thought that a company that we all knew and loved would close its dark-room doors forever and stop making cameras?
Founded in 1889, Kodak was the absolute leader in photography. It’s still in business making mobile devices, but its past glory is gone. Phone cameras have taken its place, but it’s not the same. An iPhone second just doesn’t have the same ring as a Kodak moment.
So, what old-time product do you or would you miss? What were you glad to see go?
Yes, we do have a winner for the free e-book copy of The Princess and the Wolf. But before I announce the winner, I want to take a moment to thank every reader who came to the blog on Tuesday, and who left a message. I appreciate you all.
When I was in college, I had a hankering for a union suit, which is essentially a long-john onesy. I was studying geology and found myself in situations where I needed additional warmth. Since a union suit would be both amusing and practical, I asked for one for Christmas. This was in the 1970’s, when outdoor technical clothing was in its infancy–down jackets were just becoming a thing–and finding a wool-blend union suit wasn’t that easy. Cotton, I feared, wouldn’t be warm enough. My mom, bless her, managed to find an bright red union suit made of a wool-cotton blend and gave it to me for Christmas. How I loved my union suit. I was the only girl I knew who owned one. I had it for 20 years before I made the error of storing it in the garage in a container that mice got into. I think you know the
rest of the story. (Insert very sad face here.)
Interestingly, even though it is common to associate union suits with men–prospectors, old west cowboys, etc–the garment was originally made for women as an alternative to restrictive clothing during the middle and late Victorian age. The union suit was created in Utica, New York in 1868, and was billed as “emancipation union under flannel”. It was a one-piece garment made of red flannel with buttons up the front and a drop-seat in the back. The union suit was so practical in terms of comfort and warmth that it soon became popular with men. Men being men, it was not uncommon for a union suit to be worn all week, or even all winter. I once read an account of one man who’s leg hair grew through his union suit and he had to be cut out of it before receiving medical attention. Uh….
The union suit continued in popularity, primarily as a working man’s garment, until the mid 20th century. As time passed, long johns–two piece thermal undergarments–gained popularity, eventually bypassing the union suit. The union suit survives, however, and is much easier to find than now than in the 1970’s when I made my Christmas request.
Do you have any experiences with or know of any anecdotes about union suits?
Welcome to another terrific Tuesday. While edits of Brave Wolf and the Lady are in progress, I find myself involved in plotting out my next story, and so of course I have my nose in much research. Lately, I’m reading the book, The Soul of the Indian, An Interpretation by Charles A. Eastman (Ohiyesa) — a Sioux Indian who wrote several books in the early part of the last century. A Chapter entitled BARBARISM AND THE MORAL CODE is one of extreme interest, and so I though I’d share with you a little bit from this chapter, as I find it fascinating.
To the right here is a picture of a young Charles Eastman. He was of mixed descent. His maternal grandmother, daughter of Chief Cloudman of the Mdewankton Sioux, was married to a well-known western artist, Captain Seth Eastman, and in 1847 their daughter, Mary Nancy Eastman became the wife of Chief Many Lightnings, a Wahpeton Sioux. Their fifth child, Charles Alexander Eastman, as a four-year-old was given the name Ohiyesa (the Winner). During the Sioux Uprising of 1862, Ohiyesa became separated from his father — his mother had died soon after his birth — and fled from the reservation in Minnesota to Canada under the protection of his grandmother and uncle. There he was schooled in the Indian ways until the age of fifteen, when he was reunited with his father, who took him back to his homestead in present South Dakota.
Eastman went on to become one of the best-known Indians of his time, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from Dartmouth in 1887 and a medical degree from Boston University three years later. From his first appointment as a physician at Pine Ridge Agency, where he witnessed the events that culminated in the Wounded Knee massacre, he sought to bring understanding between Native and non-Native Americans. Source Reference from the back blurb of the book, The Soul of the Indian, An Interpretation.
To the left here is a picture of Adam Beach who played Charles Eastman in the film, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. They look so very similar, don’t they? Of course, I’m a Adam Beach fan.
So here we go, here are some gems that I’ve underlined in this chapter of his book:
“The man who preserves his selfhood ever calm and unshaken by the storms of existence — not a leaf, as it were, astir on the tree; not a ripple upon the surface of shining pool — his, in the mind of the unlettered sage, is the ideal attitude and conduct of life.”
And since we write romance, I thought I’d call attention to this gem:
“No man can hope to maintain such a temple of the spirit beyond the period of adolescence, unless he is able to curb his indulgence in the pleasures of the senses. Upon this truth the Indian built a rigid system of physical training, a social and moral code that was the law of his life.
“There was aroused in him as a child a high ideal of manly strength and beauty, the attainment of which must depend upon strict temperance in eating and in sexual relation, together with severe and persistent exercise. … He was required to fast from time to time for short periods, and to work off his superfluous energy by means of hard running, swimming, and the vapor-bath. The bodily fatigue thus induced, especially when coupled with a reduced diet, is a reliable cure for undue sexual desires.”
This is a link to a short video about this book and about Charles Eastman:
Party games! Don’t you love them? My household is a family of “gamers.” Over the years, snow-days and holidays and birthday parties, whenever we were all together, we would usually have a game of some sorts going. It has come in handy this winter, which has been quite a LONGGGGG one! We are all ready to see some spring flowers here in the Midwest.
What would we have played if we all lived in the 1800’s? Some of the social games from then survived into my childhood, such as Blind Man’s Buff and Twenty Questions and Musical Chairs. But no matter the year, games have always provided a way for people to have fun, “let down their hair” a little, laugh, interact socially, flirt, and enjoy socially approved physical contact.
The spirit of these social games in the 1800s involving boys and girls, men and women of the middle and upper classes, was that an overly competitive attitude was considered “poor form.” The idea was to have fun together and not to “out-do” another player to the point that feelings were hurt. Camaraderie, a relaxing of inhibitions, and laughing at one’s self were the important aspect of social games. I imagine that cowboys, used to a barn dance or two, would feel out of place playing some of these games, but I bet they would have brought an entirely new competitive atmosphere to them!
Here are a few examples of games from the 1800s that involve a mixing of the genders ~
Puss, Puss in the Corner
For the game, all that you need is a fairly square room with four corners and the furniture moved out of the way. If played outside, you need something to denote the four corners such as bean bags or chairs. I suppose a baseball diamond could be used, but such a large area would make for a very energetic game. The game requires five or more players. One stands in the center of the square, while the others stand in each corner. The central player calls out: “Puss, puss in the corner!” On the word “corner” everyone moves to a different corner. Since there are five players, one will always be left out and that one becomes the new “Puss.” If more players are involved, the one left out of a corner goes to the end of a line of the others waiting to play, and the first in that line becomes the new “Puss.” Sometimes when this game was played, a “forfeit” was demanded of the one who became the new Puss.
Twirl the Trencher
In this game, everyone sits in a large circle (with or without chairs depending on the age of participants.) Each player is assigned either a number, an animals name, or a flower’s name. The starter goes to the center of the circle and spins a plate on its edge (wooden or some other unbreakable plate or disc.) He calls out a number or one of the names and dashes to his seat. The person being called out, must jump up and rush to the plate to spin it again and call out another player. The play continues until someone is not quick enough and the plate falls. That player, then must pay a forfeit.
The Key of the King’s Garden
This is a memory game much like Grandmother’s Trunk. Players sit in a circle. The one starting begins by saying “I sell you the Key to the King’s Garden.” Then indicates a player on his right or left. That player adds to the sentence. For example, by saying, “I sell you the chain that held the Key of the King’s Garden.” Then it is the next person’s turn in the circle. “I sell you the dog that wore the chain that held the Key of the King’s Garden.” This continues around until everyone has played. If someone does not repeat the words exactly, a forfeit is demanded.
(My favorite part!)
These games were played for fun with a light-hearted attitude. Keeping score (numerically) wasn’t done. However, there was such a thing as “forfeits” which added tremendously to the fun. (Personally, I think these should make a comeback!)
Forfeits occurred when someone made a mistake, lost their chance to a seat or space in the game, or lost in some way. That player would write their name on a piece of paper, which would then be placed in a bowl or basket. At the end of the game (or the evening,) a judge would be chosen. A second player would select a paper from the bowl and announce: “I have a forfeit to be redeemed.” The judge would ask whether it belonged to a lady or a gentleman. Upon learning which it was, he would then assign a task for the person to perform (not knowing the actual person’s identity.)
Examples of “forfeit” tasks ~
A man puts on a lady’s hat and imitates the owner. Or a woman puts on a man’s hat and imitates the owner.
The “forfeiter” is posed by a selected number of other players, usually in ridiculous positions.
Bow to the Prettiest, Kneel to the Wittiest, and Kiss the One You Love Best
This is reserved for a man. (Hopefully he will do all three tasks with the same lady!)
The Nun’s Kiss
A lady kisses a man chosen by the judge, performing the kiss through the bars of a chair.
The person must give a piece of advice to all (or just one) players. (Always done in the spirit of fun and good humor.)
The person leaves to each other player an item or a quality he thinks he possesses. (Also done in the spirit of fun and good humor.)
Kiss the One You Love without Revealing Who It Is
The individual must kiss all the players of opposite gender, without letting on which player is the one he or she loves.
There are many others – as varied as the imagination of the judge!
* * * * * * * * * *
With teenagers constantly watching their phones
rather than communicating face to face,
I can’t help but think that these would be fun to bring back!
Who is with me?
What is a social game of yours that you have enjoyed playing?
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