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!






Diaries in the Old West and a Give Away!


The most famous American on the planet (at least for a period of time) was none other than William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody. He was a former scout, an Indian fighter and a buffalo hunter. But most of us know him as the guy who created “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” in 1883. A circus-like attraction that featured cowboys, Native peoples, Turks, Gauchos, Arabs, Mongols and Georgians (often referred to as Cossacks). The show was very popular and made international stars of many of its performers such as Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull. It was also what many consider the forerunner to the modern-day rodeo and inspired a generation of film makers like John Ford, John Wayne and Sam Peckinpah.

But everything wasn’t glitz and glamour with the show. Cody ran up against hard times and if it wasn’t for an Englishman by the name of Evelyn Booth (who was worth a cool 25 million) the show most definitely wouldn’t have gone on. Booth tagged along with Cody and the show and recorded his experiences in a diary that, over time, found its way into the hands of the Denver Public Library. If not for Booth’s travel diary, we wouldn’t know all we know today about the show.

Diaries written back in the day are a wealth of information for us modern folks. What better way to learn about the past than from those who lived in it day to day? Diaries and manuscripts from the past have become big business as well, and folks clamor after these treasures with gusto. And why not? You can step into the past and get a first-hand look at what it was like to live back then. Hand-written diaries are also a popular item for collectors. I have a few myself.

As far as diaries on the market, their historical content is what drives the price. Diaries with Civil War and western frontier settings are highly sought after. If they have drawings in them, even better!
Diary writing has been making a big comeback lately and you can find all sorts of fancy journals and diaries on sites like Amazon and Etsy. Not that any of our hand-written diaries will be sought after by history buffs long after we’re gone, but one never knows!

Do you currently keep a diary? Have you ever kept one? I’ll pick a random person from the comments to receive a free e-copy of Trail to Clear Creek, in which my heroine does indeed keep a diary while traveling west.

Cowboys, Christmas, and a Giveaway!


Who doesn’t love a cowboy? Mix them with Christmas and you have some of the best books of the year! Not to mention events. Sadly with everything going on in the world, many events have been canceled. Such as the Cowboy Christmas retail event held in the Las Vegas Convention Center every year during the two-week National Finals Rodeo events. Sigh, I’ve always wanted to go. Maybe next year.

In the meantime, I’ll read some of the wonderful Christmas stories available and get lost in some stories. In fact, some folks love these stories so much they read them all year long! And why not? They’re fun, romantic, and full of cowboys!

What is the allure of the cowboy? I have a book releasing next week, A Cowboy for Christmas. There are times in the story where the heroine, Amy Jo, can’t take her eyes off the hero, Clay. When she asks herself why it’s because he’s a cowboy. You see she grew up with the same romanticized version of the cowboy that a lot of us did. We forget how hard it was and still is to be a cowboy. We may have modern conveniences like pick up trucks and modern machinery to make ranch life easier, but the fact remains, it can still be back-breaking work at times.

My sister knows a rancher in central Oregon. One of these days I’d like to spend time with this gentleman on his ranch and get a good idea of what “a day in the life of a modern cowboy” is like. That and I’ve always wanted to see his ranch. He does a mix of cattle and horses and at times comes to this side of the mountain to hold horse clinics that my sister attends. We also have bought beef from him. I call him Cowboy Ron.

So while I look forward to visiting Cowboy Ron’s ranch in the spring, I’ll continue to read one of my favorite combinations, cowboys, and Christmas. Because between snippets of reading amidst all the writing I do, it will take me until spring to get through my “to be read pile” I have!

For a free e-copy of my new book, A Cowboy for Christmas, what are some of your favorite books featuring Cowboys and Christmas? I’m sure there are a lot I haven’t got my hands on! I’ll pick a random winner from the comments below.



Not long after the Spanish arrived in the Americas, (right around 1519) they got busy building ranches to raise cattle and other livestock. The ranchers imported horses from Spain to work these ranches, and the rest is history.
Mexico’s native cowboys were called vaqueros. The word comes from the Spanish word vaca (cow). Yeah, cowboys.

Vaqueros were known for their superior roping, riding and herding skills, so what rancher wouldn’t hire them on? They were an excellent choice for tending their livestock.
Eventually, ranching made its way to present-day Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico (we’re talking around 1700) and as far south as Argentina. And in 1769, about the time of the California missions, their livestock practices were introduced to more areas in the West.

Settlers migrating to the West adopted aspects of the vaquero culture, including their clothing style and cattle-driving methods.
Cowboys came from diverse backgrounds and included African-Americans, Native Americans, Mexicans, and settlers from the eastern United States and Europe.

By the time Vaqueros became a part of Texas ranching, they had been herding and driving cattle and wild horses for hundreds of years. They were so renowned for their skills that a rancher named Richard King traveled to Mexico in 1854 to recruit entire vaquero families to manage his herds. King knew these Mexican cowboys knew what to do with horses and cattle much better than he did. Seasoned vaqueros could stop a horse in its tracks or send it into a flat-out gallop with the slightest sway of the reins. The cowboys understood the social structure of cattle herds so well that they knew just where to look for the hiding strays. Their roping, riding, and ranching knowledge was unsurpassed.

My sister attended a vaquero horse clinic recently and found the “vaquero way” as she called it fascinating, and wants to learn more. When we think of cowboys, we automatically think of all those wonderful heroes we read in our favorite novels or have seen on TV. We forget about the vaqueros and how long they’ve been around.

Have you ever heard of vaqueros? If so, was it from a book, a movie, television? Some other sources? After listening to my sister talk about the clinic she attended I decided to learn more myself and share it. I might even attend the next clinic she goes to!


Folks Coming Together and a Giveaway!


I’ve been racking my brain about what to write for this month’s blog post, but then there’s always the obvious. I’ve been evacuated from my home for three weeks now due to the wildfires going on in Oregon.

Yes, my house is still standing, but it’s been touch and go. I must say, this isn’t my first wildfire rodeo, but this has certainly been the most I’ve seen folks come together.

I have a new appreciation for the old west or any period in history that didn’t have the fire departments and crews we have today. My sister, nephew, and I have had to come out to the house over the course of the last few weeks and water everything down. The power was out for the first week or so, and we had to haul buckets up from the creek to get the job done. It was grueling, but you do what you have to do.
Thank Heaven it rained like the dickens for a few days. That helps contain the fire, but it doesn’t put it out. This is another week of touch and go as the hot spots are being re-ignited by the warmer temperatures and east winds.

But through it all, I’ve watched my little community of Estacada come together like never before. Around here you grow up knowing the same folks from kindergarten through high school. Everyone knows everybody else. And thus, everyone knows who suffered the most damage. The outpouring of help and aid has been such that the donation centers have had to turn donations away. The quick organization of groups of people making lunches and snacks for the fire and brush crews, not to mention the huge amount of volunteers has also been outstanding. It’s great to not only see signs of gratitude to the fire crews in people’s driveways, but this time around there are coolers full of snacks, sandwiches, and drinks. The crews can just stop, hop out, grab what they need, and go.

I live at the end of a mile-long driveway in a log cabin. There are six residences, five in the canyon where I live. The one neighbor had a crew of thirty men made up of his friends and relatives fighting alongside the fire crews to keep the fire from burning down our homes. One house came particularly close but was saved. There are groups of folks like this all over the area. Many more homes would have been lost if not for their bravery, and I along with friends and neighbors commend them. They are still fighting in areas and working to keep the fire contained this week so it doesn’t travel any further into the canyon than it already has.

This has been both an amazing and devastating time, but it just goes to show how kind, generous. and loving folks are. My sister, a professional horsewoman, had to help evacuate 57 horses from the barn she works at. She put a post on Facebook about what she had to do, (at around midnight no less) she never asked for help. She was just giving folks a heads up to take care of their own barns and livestock. Ten folks showed up at her barn with their horse trailers ready to help within the hour. She was floored. 

I’m hoping we’ll be able to return home in another week or so. It will be nice to get back to a normal routine. For some, there is no more normal for a time and our hearts and prayers go out to them. But with the incredible outpouring of love from the community, I know everyone will be all right in the end. After all, we’re all in this together.

Ironically, the book I released on 9/14 starts off with a fire. But like now, folks pull together and are there for each other. 

So, for a free e-copy of Hearts of the Northwest, what acts of kindness and generosity have you seen lately? I’ll pick a random person from the comments below.

Riding Sidesaddle …

Ah, the sidesaddle, a piece of horse tack designed in the old west to make those flowing skirts women wore to flow equally well on horseback … NOT!

In actuality, the sidesaddle was invented way back in the fourteenth century to … wait for it … protect the virginity of a teenaged princess as she made her way across Europe to wed the young King of England. Wow. Just wow.

So, the assumption the sidesaddle was a product of fashion because of long flowing skirts and dresses, isn’t how this particular piece of tack came about. Instead, it was to protect the physical proof of a princess’s royal virtue. And the rest is history.

This bright idea (I’d really like to know who came up with it) set forth the notion that the only way for a proper lady to ride was “sideways.” Never mind the fact you had to hang on like your life depended on it (which for many it did) it’s how you were supposed to ride. So, for some five hundred years this was how it was done. YIKES!

The sidesaddle we still know today was invented in the 1830s by Jules Pellier. His version has a fixed pommel to support the rider’s right thigh. He also came up with a revolutionary second pommel for the left leg. This allowed more security and control, giving the woman the freedom to stay on at a gallop and to jump fences. It was a far cry from early sidesaddles, The earliest of which was nothing more than a pillow and a piece of wood that had the woman facing left. Horses are mounted on the left side, so even the earliest versions were made this way.

Fast forward to the early twentieth century where the sidesaddle was a permanent fixture for women when it came to the proper way to ride. Worse, the slightest suggestion to the contrary could get you an earful. Take for example an article in the Los Angeles Times from 1905 (and yes, this was written by a guy): “The woman does not live who can throw her leg over the back of a horse without profaning the grace of femininity; or grasp with her separated knees the shoulders of her mount without violating the laws of good taste; or appear in the cross-saddle with any semblance of dignity, elegance or poise.”

There were women writers of the time who agreed. But as with anything, rumblings against this mode of riding were bound to start. In this case, it was British author Alice Hayes who made some of the first complaints against a sidesaddle, despite the fact she argued women should ride sidesaddle. But she also saw the sidesaddle’s impractical design and how it placed women in harm’s way.

“The fact of a lady having to ride in a sidesaddle, subjects her to three disadvantages: she is unable, without assistance, to mount as readily as a man; she cannot apply the pressure of the leg to the right side of the horse, and she cannot ‘drop her hands’ in order to pull her horse together to the same extent as he can,” wrote Hayes, in her 1893 book, The Horsewoman: A Practical Guide to Side-Saddle Riding.



By 1900, American women were geographically split on the issue. Women in the East clung to the sidesaddle as
proper and necessary, while Western women saw them as impractical and dangerous. Women out west were far more likely to use a horse for farm and ranch labor than those in the East, who were more likely to use a horse for weekend entertainment. Now there are sidesaddle riding clubs, events in horse shows for the sidesaddle and of course, other interesting places in the horse world where riding sidesaddle is the used.

 My sister and I grew up with horses, and we tried riding side-saddle by wrapping our right leg around the saddle horn. Dangerous? Yep, but we were Tomboys, what did we care about the danger? And yeah, we worked our way up to a canter riding that way. But we weren’t going to go for a gallop! Have any of your seen women riding sidesaddle in parades or at horse shows? Have you ever ridden a horse that way or thought it an elegant way to ride?