Jokes, a Fork, and a Give Away!

I’m writing my blog post this month from Aladdin, Wyoming. Population 15. Yep, 15. My daughter, myself, and two fellow authors bumped the population up when we arrived last Wednesday. So far, we’ve met over half the town! There’s a hundred year old general store and a little cafe where we had breakfast, visited with the locals, and got some good inspiration for future stories. We’re in this neck of the woods for the fourth annual Wild Deadwood Reads in Deadwood, South Dakota. It’s a fun-filled book event held at the same time as Wild Bill Days in the famous town. It also fills up the local hotels which is why we’re staying 45 minutes away in Aladdin.

But I know what you’re thinking. “What about the fork?” Well, as some of you know, I spent the month of May and part of June taking care of my little sister who had a hip replacement. The poor thing had a tussle of a time for a while but is now pleasantly on the mend.

I have two sisters, one older, one younger. My younger sis, Marijo, and I share a house and so, as sisters do, we tend to play jokes on one another. One on-going joke involves one of her son’s old plastic cowboys. Black Bart. I think he once had a parachute judging from some funny little plastic do-dads attached to his sides. Who knows? All I know is he shows up in the darnedest places! My shoes are a popular hiding place for Bart, and he likes to find himself in my sister’s pillow case. Sometimes he’s in the medicine cabinet or hiding behind Marijo’s shampoo in the shower. But lately, Bart has ventured further.

He was seen studying a bank in Spokane! Oh no! And then he found his way to Mount Rushmore with a few Western Romance authors! He had coffee here in Aladdin with some real cowboys and even showed up at the book signing in Deadwood! My how the little fellow gets around. I wonder if my sister has noticed that he’s missing? She will once a few pictures start getting posted!

But what does this all have to do with a silly fork? Well, my sister has a favorite. It’s one of the few pieces left from our mother’s original sterling sliver flatware set she got shortly after she and our father were married. Marijo’s been looking for that fork and can’t figure out how it could be missing. Little does she know Frankie the Fork (my daughter and I named him) has been traveling with Bart and being led into a life of crime! Oh no!

When your daughter is in film, you can do things like this. We’ve been taking shots of Bart for days and are just now filming Frankie the Fork’s scenes. It’s silly, I know, but this is something that will be laughed about for years. By the time Frankie and Bart make it home to Oregon, who knows what adventures they will have shared?

These bits of silliness were all some folks had back in the day. Some jokes were elaborate, some simple and cute, but cowboys, businessmen, ranchers, lawmen, you name it, all loved a good joke when they heard one. And some loved pulling them on others. Makes you wonder what a good prank consisted of between cowboys, doesn’t it? Here are just a few jokes from back in the day:

1870: While passing a house on the road, two Virginia salesmen spotted a “very peculiar chimney, unfinished, and it attracting their attention, they asked a flaxen-haired urchin standing near the house if it ‘drawed well’ whereupon the aforementioned urchin gave them the stinging retort: ‘Yes, it draws all the attention of all the d***** fools that pass this road.’ ” Daily Milwaukee News, May 21, 1870

1872: A man said to a preacher, “That was an excellent sermon, but it was not original.” The preacher was taken aback. The man said he had a book at home containing every word the preacher used. The next day the man brought the preacher a dictionary. Daily Phoenix, April 4, 1872

1888: There was a man whose last name was Rose. As a lark, he named his daughter Wild, “with the happy conceit of having her called Wild Rose.” But that sentiment was “knocked out” when the woman grew up to marry a man whose last name was Bull. Weekly Journal-Miner in Prescott, Ariz., May 23, 1888

1899: A man got up one morning and couldn’t find his alarm clock, so he asked his wife what had become of it. She said, “It went off at 6 o’clock.” Salt Lake Herald, April 27, 1899

Have you played jokes on a sibling or friend? Have you a favorite joke? We’ve been having a great time with Bart and when he and Frankie have their film debut I’ll try to post it on my Facebook for all to see. I’ll also give a free e-book of mine of choice to one of the commenters below! I’ll be on the road when this posts but will drop in and comment when I can!

Horsey Occupations and a Giveaway!

This has been a busy month for me. My little sister got a hip replacement and I’ve been her nursemaid. She gets calls from folks telling her to heal up quick so they can have her teach riding lessons again, train their horses and that sort of thing. And of course her fellow horsemen (and women) have been calling and wishing her a speedy recovery. One such fellow stands out though.

I’ve been around horse people pretty much all my life because of my sister’s occupation. As many of you know, she’s a retired race horse jockey and teaches hunter/jumper horses now. An old friend of hers, Mr. Meling, has been in contact with her over the last few months and I finally got to meet him. As an author, this guy is a treasure trove of resource material! He holds riding clinics, he’s competed at the national level in jumping and in Grand Prix’s. He exercised horses at the race track for 19 years in his younger days. He’s roped at a semi-pro level, he breaks colts, he’s also been an outrider at the race track. Outriders are responsible for the safety of all racing participants, both equine and human during training and live racing. And, (yes, there’s more) he’s also a high end horse shoer with a focus on reconstructive shoeing. He’s been shoeing for 47 years.

This was the part I found interesting.  People fly him into Texas, Kentucky and New York among other places just to shoe their horses. And yes, we’re talking Churchill Downs and Belmont race tracks. He shoes horses for those races. He said I could pick his brain and I plan to, but the whole horse-shoeing thing sort of amazes me.

One thing I didn’t think about when he told me what he does, is that he takes his own tools with him. Yikes! That’s one way to set off the metal detectors at the airport. Of course, he’s not about to carry any of that stuff onto a plane himself. Still that’s a lot of weight to have to haul around when you get to where you’re going. Mr. Meling said he has two 24x24x18 pelican cases that each weigh ninety pounds. He keeps sets of tools at some of the places where he shoes often, but when he does have to heft his own tools along, it’s a chore. 

Horse shoeing is also not for sissies. He can shoe from one to as many as a couple dozen horses when people fly him in. When doing what are called gluons and reconstructive shoeing, he said he can do no more than eight pair in a day. The before and after photos of some of the horses he’s done are amazing. 

Do you know someone with an interesting occupation? As writers, we can dabble in different genres and be very good in each. Mr. Meling works in different parts of the horse world and is very good in each. But what other occupations are out there that you or someone you know has branched into different areas of and made a life long career out of? For Mr. Meling, it’s horses. For my fellow fillies and me, it’s stories. I’ll giveaway one e-book of mine of choice to one lucky winner from the comments.




Help Wanted in Leadville and a Giveaway!

While trying to decide what to post this month, I ran across some interesting things about Leadville, Colorado. I’ve written stories that took place in a town patterned after Leadville, but didn’t know some of the finer details. These little snippets of details were written by writers for The Chronicle and beg the question, “What sort of job opportunities are in Leadville and what are the salaries? Well, that’s a good question! Anyone looking to move somewhere should be asking such things. Back then Leadville was a boom town, so there were all sorts of opportunities available besides going there to mine gold.

Competent hardware clerks, for example, could always find work and got paid $75 to $100 per month! And what about first class milliners? They could make $18 to $25 dollars per week! Not bad for a hat maker. But seeing as how a talented milliner was hard to come by, they were worth it.

Machinists got paid $3.50 to $4 per day. Boiler makers got $3.50 per day. But there wasn’t a lot of demand for these guys so needless to say, they had extra milling around, waiting for work. And speaking of extra, the town had its share of barkeepers of all kinds. Even the most skilled could be out of work. But the ones that were employed made $75 to $125 a month! That’s more than the hardware clerks. If you were an Assayer, you could make even more money. The ones at the mines and smelters could make $125 to $200 a month!

And of course, if you were a hotel clerk, you made a cool $100 a month. And then there were the writers …

If you worked on one of the daily papers your pay could range from $25 to $40 a week. There was no demand for special articles. There was enough to write about as it was. And novelists? Brace yourselves my fellow fillies. They could find no work at all. There were already scads of journalists waiting in the wings for a time when they’d be needed. For many, it didn’t come, so they moved on.

Needless to say, the article ended with a warning that none come to Leadville in hopes of finding work in journalism. Today, however, I’m sure Leadville’s journalists find plenty of things to write about …

Have you ever seen a book or article that told you what sort of money folks made back in the day or what some of the everyday staples they needed cost? I’ve always found this fascinating! I’ll choose one person from the comments to win one free e-book copy of Winning the Spinster’s Heart. A fun little story about a town with a matchmaking problem and one poor fellow with an engineering degree. Now what was he going to do with it? This town also has a pair of novelists that live there. And they do just fine.



Fireplace Etiquette and a Give Away!

I know I’ve talked about the duties of servants, maids, odd beauty secrets and old West etiquette in Petticoats and Pistols before, but let’s face it, it never gets old. Especially since much of the advice given back then was so outlandish it bears looking at (and laughing at) again now and then. I have an extensive research library and have collected some fun “field-guides” on these subjects ranging from the late 1700’s to the early 1900s.

It’s interesting to note that not all of them were written by women. Did you know there was a Mr. Walsh who wrote a manual of domestic economy in 1856? The book was then updated in 1873. He wrote extensively about household management.

One tip I found from his book was this advice for women whose clothes have caught fire. Usually from standing too close to a fireplace, something a lady should never do. According to Mr. Walsh you should first:

1. Call for help by ringing the bell. A servant should come. (If one doesn’t than you better start praying your socks off. My thought, not Mr. Walsh’s.)
2. Rip off the clothes that are aflame and pour water on the clothing. The servant should have water in your room for this reason.
3. If this doesn’t stop the flames sit down on the floor in an upright position.
4. Roll oneself in a rug. Every room should have a rug in case of flaming females.
5. Stop wearing fine muslin.

Easy for Mr. Walsh to say, and where are the instructions for flaming males? That’s what I want to know. Maybe men never caught fire. And why would they when there was an etiquette rule that dictated gentlemen should never put their backs to the fire while conversing with others. And if one does put their back to a fire, it was considered extremely impolite to warm one’s derriere by raising the coat flaps at an angle of 45°, while the rest of the company in the room was freezing.

The queen of these tomes on cooking and domesticity was, of course, Isabella Beeton. Mrs. Beeton lived from 1836 to 1865. She was the original domestic goddess and published her famous Book of Household Management in 1861. It sold 60,000 copies in the first year, and 2 million copies by 1868. What’s interesting is that her commentary on servants, household management, and cooking are still used as primary sources today. Unfortunately, Mrs. Beeton died in 1865 from an infection during childbirth. Her husband, Samuel Beeton who was also her publisher, kept up the idea that she lived on, since her name was a large source of income. Spinoffs and abridged versions of her book were published to keep up the image that a matronly Mrs. Beaton was still alive and well. To my knowledge, she didn’t include anything about flaming skirts in her her book.

I have a maid, Betsy, who works for Mayor Vander and his wife Mercy. Characters from my town of Independence which is featured in my holiday mail order bride series. She’s the kind of servant that would throw a bucket of water on you if your skirts caught fire or roll you up in a rug herself. Mayor Vander wouldn’t care if he conversed with his back to the fireplace or not. That’s the thing about manners and some of the other things the experts of the day wrote about. Out West folks didn’t pay as much attention to such things. Unless of course they were from back east and brought their manners and etiquette with them.

Have you ever read or seen a book on manners, etiquette, or household tips from the 1800s? They’re hilarious to read! I’ll pick a random person from the comments below to receive a free e-book copy of Love in Independence which introduces the town and its quirky characters along with Betsy the maid.

Book Blurb: They say love covers a multitude of sins, and for matchmakers Mercy, Martha, and Maude, it’s a good thing! Fearing the town’s new pastor is lonely, they decide to take matters into their own hands, and order him a mail order bride! Imagine his surprise when he finds out? Only he doesn’t! Mercy, Martha, and Maude see to that!

Winnie Longfellow has spent years caring for her sick mother, and now that she’s passed, has nowhere to go but her Aunt Eugina’s. But her aunt has other things on her mind, other problems to deal with, and so Winnie accepts a proposal from a pastor out west looking for a mail order bride. Little did she know, he was looking for so much more, anything more! He had no idea he’d sent for one! Now Winnie finds herself at the mercy of three madcap matrons, determined that love will find a way. Despite multiple misunderstandings, a horrid bully/gossip, and a woman she’s sure her intended will marry instead of her, Winnie discovers some things about herself, and finds that love really does find its way …

Hometown History and a Giveaway!

We don’t often think of writing about where we live. We love to write about history and the old west, but for this month’s blog, it occurred to me that I should write about my hometown of Estacada, Oregon. Not that I haven’t written a little about the area before. I’ve shared Philip Foster’s farm with you as it’s a wonderful historical site. But the old Estacada Park, located south of what was once the Estacada Hotel, was built to attract throngs of streetcar-riding city dwellers to what was considered an amusement resort in the mountain foothills.


 The Oregon Journal described Estacada as the Mecca and Medin of summertime picnickers and thousands of other pleasure seekers as well. It beautiful park and hotel made it especially attractive. The Estacada and Cazadero train would leave from the east approach of the Morrison Bridge in Portland every two hours daily. The distance was 36 miles, and the entire ride gave folks an interesting and excellent idea of the Willamette Valley in the vicinity of Portland. People were whirled through a fine suburb and farm country with grain fields, orchards, stock pastures, berry farms, chicken ranches and stretches of forests. The paper described the line running to “new country” where the land is being cleared for new homes.


Estacada is a spanish word and it means staked out or marked with stakes. It was first suggested by George Kelly as a name for the town site at a meeting of the Oregon Water Power Townsite Company directors on December 27, 1903. Kelly had selected the name at random from a U.S. Map which showed Llano Estacado, in Texas. If Kelly’s suggestion had not been drawn from the hat, the town could have been named Rochester, Lowell or Lynn. The name Estacada is also used in Arizona. Having done a report on the history of Estacada back in high school, we found that some folks said the town was named for Esther Cada, the daughter of one of the more prominent citizens back in the day. Some of the older folks in town still say that’s how it got its name!


The Oregon Water Power Railway Co. began streetcar service from Sellwood to Estacada in 1905. In 1907, the name changed to the Portland Railway Light and Power Co. Passenger service and continued until 1932.

Other than the park and hotel that had its own restaurant, there was also a Confectionary and the Ice Cream Store along with a grocery, the First State Bank and various other businesses. Some of the buildings are still there today including many original houses and churches. When doing my history report, one of the things that stood out was the number of saloons in the tiny hamlet. Fourteen! And that was back in the early 1900s. Today the population of Estacada is about 3600. That was a lot of watering holes for one tiny little town. But as it was considered a tourist spot, I can see the amount.

Maybe one day I’ll use Estacada as a setting for a book. Quite a few movies and television shows have been shot around here including Kevin Costner’s The Postman, The Librarians, (I remember when Jonathan Frakes of Star Trek the Next Generation was in town directing and gave a special talk at the library. That was in 2015 as I recall), Without a Paddle, Extraordinary Measures, Behind the Mask, and more. Maybe this is why as teenagers, we couldn’t wait to get out of here, and now most of us have returned. Our little town isn’t a bad place to live and we like it here.

What’s the history of your hometown? Have you ever delved into it? I’ll pick a random person from the comments below to win one free e-book of mine of their choice!