A Bridge for 1000 Hooves

I love learning historical tidbits, and getting to see pieces of history still standing is even better. Last month, my daughter and I met in Waco for a girls getaway weekend. Now that Bethany is working on her PhD at Texas A&M, I don’t get to see her very often, so we started a tradition of getting together for a weekend each semester.

She loves history as much as I do, so we skipped the shopping at the Magnolia Silos in favor of touring historic homes and walking along the Brazos River to visit the Waco Suspension Bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge was closed to the public for refurbishment, but we still managed to get a few pictures.

What is really fascinating about this bridge, however, is it’s history. It wasn’t built for man, you see. It was built for cattle.

In the mid-1800s, cattle was king in Texas, and cattle drives along the Chisholm Trail were essential for bringing those cattle to market. However, crossing the Brazos River was a difficult endeavor. No bridges spanned this river across central Texas, so trail bosses had to find shallow places to cross. With the unpredictability of Texas weather, those places became moving targets. One of the most stable locations to ford was Waco.

At the Civil War, Texas granted a charter to a private company called the Waco Bridge Company and promised them a monopoly on transportation across the river for 25 years if they would build a bridge. No other bridge could be built within five miles. The company hired New York civil engineer Thomas M Giffith to begin plans for the bridge in 1868. Griffith was a skilled engineer, having designed the first bridge to span the Mississippi in 1854. Griffith opted to build a suspension bridge and brought parts in by oxcart. His bridge was completed in 1870, and at the time was the longest suspension bridge west of the Mississippi.

The Waco Suspension Bridge wasn’t only used for cattle drives, of course. It became the main crossing point for travelers of all sorts and allowed Waco to become an economic capital for central Texas. Not only did the bridge bring merchants, farmers, and ranchers into Waco, but the bridge itself became an economic boom. The charter granted the Waco Bridge Company permission to charge a toll. Pedestrians paid five cents, and those on horseback or in carriages were charged ten cents. Any loose cattle or livestock cost five cents per head. The Waco Bridge Company reported that it made approximately $25,000 each year in collected tolls and paid off its mortgage in the first year of operation.

Tolls were collected from a bucket that would be lowered from one of its towers. If you look at the bottom right of the above photograph, the brick section with steps leading outside was where the toll keeper and his family  lived. As one would expect, this toll quickly became unpopular. The county eventually bought the bridge for $75,000 and then sold it to the city for $1 with an agreement in place that the city would eliminate the toll and maintain the structure.

Eventually, the monopoly time frame expired and other bridges sprang up. Bethany and I saw remnants of a railroad bridge platform as well as a trestle bridge that was built in 1901. The trestle bridge had a section open to foot traffic, so we walked across that bridge and got some lovely shots of the river.

With all the traffic coming across the suspension bridge, enterprising local merchants figured out how to take advantage of this prime real estate. As you can see in the picture below, large advertisements hung from the the brick walls.

In 1913, citizens decided they no longer cared for the unattractive bridge since other options were available and asked for it to be torn down. Thankfully, the city preserved this historic bridge, choosing to beautify it by stuccoing over the brick and replacing the wooden trusses with steel. Cars were permitted over the bridge until 1971. Since then, it’s been open to pedestrian traffic only.

In 2010, however, cattle once again made their way across the Waco Suspension Bridge. During the Chisholm Trail Festival, cowboys herded 40 longhorns across the bridge to commemorate this fascinating piece of Texas history.

Do you find old bridges romantic or nerve-wracking?

Do you have any historic bridges in your area?

March Game Day Winners

We have our winners!

What clever readers we have at Petticoats & Pistols! I loved reading through the acrostic poems everyone entered. So many lovely spring images.

In fact, the entries were so fabulous, that I couldn’t pick just one. So I selected two winners:

rkkoppen (Rachael) wins her choice of book along with the book nerd socks.

Cheryl C also wins her choice of book.

Here are the two winning acrostics:

#1 – This one just made me grin. So cute!

Somewhere, probably Rhode Island, new gardeners read every anthology describing seedlings. – Rachael

#2 – This one I could really relate to emotionally.

Surviving
Pandemic
Really
Inspires
New
Gratitude

so I can now…

Read
Enthusiastically
Amidst
Delightful
Sunshine

from Cheryl C.

May you all enjoy a plethora of marvelous spring reads!

Game Day – March

I’m a Word Nerd, and as such, I love playing word games. Words with Friends, Boggle with Friends, UpWords, Taboo, Scattegories, Bananagrams, Scrabble. I even keep a crossword puzzle by my place at the table, so I always have some word fun to work on.

So for our Game Day today, I thought we could stretch our Word Nerd muscles and with some acrostics.

To play, create a poem or sentence where each word starts with the first letters of the two words below.

SPRING READS

You can use both words or just one. This is for fun, so we’re going light on the rules. Your sentence or poem should explore a place or experience that fits the theme of Spring Reads.

For example, I pictured taking a walk through beautiful spring blossoms.

Sunny
Park
Road
In
Nature
Going
Round
Enjoying
Audiobook
Delivered
Sound.

Enter your acrostic in the comments to be entered to win a Spring Reads Prize of fun reader socks and the winner’s choice of one of my three most recent books.
Have fun!

What Do You Like in a Series?

Recently in my Facebook group, The Posse, a reader asked me this question:

“When do you begin planning a new series? What is that process like?”

Unlike some authors who have a constant fount of ideas bubbling through their creative centers, I tend to have tunnel vision. I focus on one idea at a time. So I always feel a bit anxious when a current series is coming to a close and I’m faced with the prospect of coming up with a new idea. In fact, that is exactly where I am right now. I’m writing the last Horseman book, and I need to have a new series idea ready to pitch to my editors in April.
.
.
My goal is to keep my stories and series ideas as fresh as possible. So I start with the very basic element of deciding what will connect my stories. The idea behind Hanger’s Horsemen was the A-Team meets the Magnificent Seven. The four Horsemen are former cavalry officers who are bonded by war and their desire for redemption.
.
The Archer Brothers series had a family connection. The Ladies of Harper’s Station series had books that were all set in the same place, the women’s colony of Harper’s Station. My Patchwork Family series was linked through a group of orphans who bonded after surviving a traumatic experience.
.

Once I know what core bond the series will be built upon, I can start brainstorming the individual characters and stories. And since my books don’t release in rapid succession, I steer away from series that utilize cliffhangers at the end of each book. All of my series books can be read as stand-alone novels, each complete with an adventure, romance, and happily ever after. However, I do have fun bringing characters back from previous books for cameo appearances in subsequent stories for readers to enjoy.
.
As I brainstorm ideas for my next series, I’m leaning toward having the bond be a theme instead of a particular group of characters. I’m toying with giving some classic fairy tales a Texas twist. We’ll see what happens with that.
.

What kind of series do you like best?
Do you have any ideas for a western romance series that you’d like to read?

Cover Reveal & Book Sale

Seeing a cover for the first time is a nerve-wracking mix of excitement and terror. As much as we say we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we all do. The cover is one of the biggest marketing tools an author has. This single picture needs to speak 1000 words to the prospective reader. It needs to convey time period and setting. It should hint at key story elements as well as project emotion. Most of all, it should please or intrigue the reader enough to prod them to learn more. To pick it up and read the back cover or make that click that takes them inside for a sample.

Covers for novella collections are especially tricky since they must convey details from more than one story. Different characters. Different settings. Even different time periods. Because of that, novella covers usually focus on creating a more general mood than honing in on specific details, thereby creating an image that would apply to any of the stories contained within.

My latest cover is just such a project. Three novellas whose common ground consists of four things: Historical time periods, Texas settings, Christmas themes, and romance. So while the scene depicted does not relate directly to any of the three stories, it conveys those four commonalities to perfection.

The long skirt and beautifully knotted updo on the model combined with the wrap-around porch commonly found in 19th century homes immediately places us in the historical time frame. The serif fonts and swirled design around the subtitle and name also give it a Victorian feel. The rugged landscape combined with the cowboy riding home in the distance hints strongly at Texas. Then there are the beautiful Christmas touches of garlands wrapped around the porch railings and the bold red pop of color in the heroine’s dress combined with the green subtitle bar. Finally, the romance. What says romance more than mistletoe? And having it dangling right above the heroine’s head as she leans forward, eager for the hero’s return makes it clear that love is in the air.

Under the Texas Mistletoe will release this fall.

What element of this cover is most inviting to you?

Book Sale

Grab some Valentine’s chocolate and treat yourself to some classic romance, Archer style. The book that started it all – Short Straw Bride – is on sale for only $1.99 until February 17.

If you already own a copy of Travis and Meredith’s story, consider sharing a little romance with your favorite “gal”entine by surprising her with a gift copy. All you need is an email address to share the love.

Grab a copy from your favorite e-book retailer.

Amazon | Christianbook | Barnes & Noble

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Where I live in West Texas, we don’t get a lot of snow. Sometimes we get ice or an occasional dusting of snow, but it’s only every so often that enjoy a true snow fall.

We were blessed with just such a snowfall, not once, but twice. The first time was on New Years Day and the second was this past weekend. It started snowing early Sunday morning and didn’t stop until late that night. The official measurement was 5.3 inches which just missed the record by a nose. The top mark remains 5.5 inches from 1973. Even my daughter down south in College Station got snow!

Now, I know that those of you you live in most northern climes measure your snowfall in feet, not inches, but we were delighted by the big fluffy flakes and couldn’t resist the lure. OK – my son and his fiance couldn’t resist the lure. I simply jumped out for a few minutes then back in while they had the true adventure.

Having just gotten engaged on Christmas Eve, the intrepid couple set out to create his and her snowmen in our backyard. I chronicled the event.

It began with the rolling of the snow. McKenna had to instruct Wyatt on the proper roll technique since Wyatt’s mama had failed in teaching him the proper way to roll snow during his childhood. Shame on me. (But then, I did grow up in Central California, a place that gets even less snow than West Texas.)

Next came the construction phase . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then the decorating. My hubby and I volunteered for the warm job of digging through closets and the fridge for appropriate items.

If you look really closely, you’ll see that the male snowman is giving the classic Wyatt “thumbs up” with one hand while chivalrously wrapping his other arm around the lovely snow lady.

Unfortunately, chivalry must have died, for the snowman began to lean and eventually did a full face-plant, taking his lady love down with him.

Oh, well. At least the real-life couple suffered no ill effects.

Do you get much snow where you live?
    If so, what is your favorite snow activity?
    If not, what kind of of snow activity would you most like to try?

Christmas Crispies

Don’t you just love all the decadent goodies at Christmas time? I do. Probably more than I should. But, hey, that’s what New Year’s is for, right? No counting calories until January 1. It’s a Christmas law. Or should be.

My hubby always buys Christmas M&Ms to fill my candy bowl and, of course, I have to have the Christmas-wrapped Dove dark chocolates on hand.

Some of my favorite things to bake at Christmas include snickerdoodles, butter toffee, and shortbread. But the one goody that gets made every year without fail are my Chocolate Peanut Butter Crispies. Super easy to make and scrumptious to eat.

I hope that you and your family had a marvelous Christmas holiday whether together in person or in spirit. Keep enjoying those leftover goodies, and go ahead and make a few more. Don’t forget . . . calories don’t count until January 1!

Christmas Cowboys on Sale

I don’t know about you, but I love a good Christmas novella. The holiday season is so busy, that quick reads are about all I have time to squeeze in around all the cooking, wrapping, and decorating.

I’m excited to share two collections of mine that are currently on sale.

The first is a collection of four novellas that follow a family heirloom that is handed down at Christmas time from mother to daughter across the years. It starts in 1820’s England then moves to 1890’s Texas then 1950’s Appalachia then finally to modern day Washington.

If you love sweet Christmas romance with a variety of settings and time periods, this is a great collection.

And even better, the e-book version is on sale for only $1.99!

In my story, “Gift of the Heart,” a widow and her young daughter move to Hope Springs, TX for a fresh start, but with no money to secure a home, Ruth must convince a wealthy resort owner to accept her heirloom brooch as collateral. Will the pin that brought love to three generations soften the heart of a wounded recluse and give Ruth a second chance at love?

This story is a western Christmas re-imagining of the Ruth and Boaz story from the Bible.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christianbook

(Sale runs through December 31, 2020.)

 

The second collection is western through and through. This is a two-in-one novella collection that contains my story from The Christmas Heirloom, “Gift of the Heart” along with a separate novella that carries on the legacy of my all-time best-selling Archer Brother series – “An Archer Family Christmas”.

It’s Christmas Eve, 1893, and the entire Archer family has gathered to celebrate the holiday. While the men are off chopping down the perfect Christmas tree, an unexpected request for help leaves Cassandra Archer directly in the path of a dangerous outlaw. Desperate to protect the woman he loves, Jim Archer races to the rescue, only to find that Cassie’s life is not the only one in peril. It will take a Christmas miracle—and the entire Archer clan— to keep a second Archer Christmas from ending in disaster.

This 2-in-1 collection is on sale for only $0.99!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christianbook

(Sale runs through December 31, 2020.)

 

Do you prefer Christmas novella or full-length Christmas stories?

Do you read Christmas stories only during the holiday season, or year round?

Washington on the Brazos

This past weekend, my daughter and I had a girls’ getaway weekend in Brenham, TX. Bethany is working on her PhD at Texas A&M, and since I don’t get to see her very often these days, I decided it would be fun for the two of us to have a getaway weekend once a semester. We did a lot of relaxing, reading, movie watching, and cross-stitching during our time together, but we also spend the afternoon on Saturday at Washington on the Brazos.

The town of Washington is considered the birthplace of Texas. It got its name from a group of settlers who traveled from Washington, GA into Texas and named it for their hometown. It was established along the Brazos River and became a significant trade center with its river access.

Under Mexican rule at the time, citizens had to swear their allegiance to Mexico to live there, but since Mexico was a Republic at that time, under the constitution of 1824, the immigrants complied. However, at the next election, Santa Ana was elected president and quickly turned this republic into a dictatorship. This is not go over well with those who had immigrated from the United States. War broke out.

On March 1, 1836, Texas delegates met in an unfinished building in Washington on the Brazos to formally announce Texas’ intention to separate from Mexico and to draft a constitution for a new Republic of Texas. While congregated, they received word from William Travis about the Alamo being attacked. Many wanted to rush to their aid, but Sam Houston insisted they stay and charter their new government. Without that, they would have nothing. In the course of 17 days, they drafted a declaration of independence, adopted a new constitution, and organized an interim government to serve until a government could be elected and inaugurated. This ended up being the right choice, for by the time they received word of the Alamo’s attack, had they left to join the fight, they would have been slaughtered. The Alamo fell on March 6.

The delegates declared independence on March 2, 1836. They adopted their constitution on March 16. The delegates worked until March 17, when they had to flee with the residents of Washington, to escape the advancing Mexican Army. The townspeople returned after the Mexican Army was defeated at San Jacinto on April 21. Town leaders lobbied for Washington’s designation as the permanent capital of the Republic of Texas, but leaders of the Republic favored Waterloo, which later was renamed Austin.

The town of Washington no longer exists today. Like other river towns of this era, they made the mistake of shirking the railroad in favor of steamboats. The brick buildings that once stood tall in one of the largest towns of the area, were carted off brick-by-brick to build new buildings in places where the railroad flourished.

In 1899, a group of school children realized the threat of losing the history of what happened at this location and did a penny drive fundraiser in order to erect a monument to stand at the location where they believed Independence Hall stood. Later, archeologists found the foundation in that very location and Independence Hall was rebuilt and restored to its original specifications.

During our tour, Bethany and I got to sit around the table and listen to the story of all that had transpired in this place. Here is where the nation of Texas was born.

Do you enjoy visiting historical sites?
What was the last place you visited?

Kissing Tree Winners

 

Congratulations to:

SunnyStreet1967
&
Alicia Haney

You ladies will be enjoying Phoebe and Barnabas’s story along with the three other fabulous tales in this collection in the very near future. Be watching your email for more instructions.

Happy Reading!