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?


The National Cowboy Museum

Meet Tim …

Who doesn’t love a cowboy? And what better place to learn about them than The National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

During these trying times, people began looking for bright spots on the Internet and lo and behold they discovered Tim! He’d been asked by the museum to take over their social media while the museum was closed because of the pandemic. The result was hilarious, not to mention endearing. The man became famous almost overnight and all because he was inept at social media.


 But just because Tim was social media impaired, didn’t mean that people read his tweets and Instagram and made fun of him or hit him with rude comments, quite the opposite. His personality and love of the cowboy come through his trial and error attempts, and because of Tim, the museum’s Instagram followers increased by the thousands within days after he took over their social media. In fact, he became so popular so fast, CNN tracked him down for a phone interview. The result has been great for the museum and not only that, thousands of people have learned about the cowboy and other aspects of life in the old west. Soon other staff members were helping Tim out and creating different snippets of information to educate the public on the life of our beloved Cowboys.


 I myself hope to visit the National Cowboy Museum one day where I’m sure to meet Tim the security guard, Seth from marketing, and Michael Grauer, the McCasland Chair of Cowboy Culture/Curator of Cowboy Collections and Western Art.


 In the meantime, you can visit the museum’s website and take a virtual tour. Thanks to Tim, I’ve learned that it’s a fascinating place. I can also relate to his learning curve of tweeting, Instagram use, and other social media! Those of you who participated in Game Day yesterday can relate too I bet! If you’d like to check out the museum’s Instagram, you can find it here.

Just click on the photos to read what Tim and his cohorts have to say about them! There are video demonstrations of various aspects of cowboy life too!

 Have any of you been to a cowboy museum before? The closest I’ve come is the High Desert Museum outside of Bend, Oregon. Tell me what sort of old West or cowboy museums you’ve visited. If you haven’t, which ones would you like to?




Game Day!


Hi Gang! It’s GAME DAY! This goes with my blog post for tomorrow so this will be fun! Okay, ready to play?


So, how many of us text? All, a few, only when you have to? Well here’s a little game to get us all warmed up for tomorrow’s blog post. And this just isn’t about texting, but applies to different forms of social media as well!

Texting involves abbreviating and if you’re like me, you only know a handful! I look at what my kids text or put on their social media and can’t understand half of it. So for the rest of us, here are some guides  …



So for our game, try to make a sentence using just these abbreviations! Example: 2day HMU L8R. Translation: Today hit me up later. And yes, you can add a regular word or two. Such as, Hey Sally, 2day HMU L8TR! I’ll pick not one but THREE lucky winners to receive an e-book of mine of thier choice! Have fun!

Secondary Characters and a Giveaway!

What’s a story about a small town without those wonderful secondary characters? Especially when they have a vice? I have several well-established town gossips in my different series. Some of which do things that make the entire book!

Most of my gossips are women but I have some men too. In my town of Clear Creek, we have Fanny Fig. A classic gossip in every sense of the word. But then we also have Wilfred Dunnigan, who owns Dunnigan’s Mercantile. A hopeless romantic, he tries using gossip to bring people together.

In my town of Nowhere, in the Washington Territory, we have Nellie Davis, an ex-southern belle who isn’t happy about having to leave the South to come West. Stuck in a small town and with nothing better to do, she stirs up trouble by letting her tongue wag. Unfortunately, her gossiping ways get her into a lot of trouble, especially in my Mail-Order Bride Ink Series. In the first book in the series, Dear Mr. Weaver, she ends up having to perform community service after a judge deems her gossiping ways a crime

In my town of Independence, the worst gossip is the mayor, Horace Vander. With his booming voice, the man spreads news faster than the wind. Everyone in Independence knows that if you want to find out anything, just ask the mayor.

Stories of small towns, be they historical or contemporary, have certain types of characters authors use to add conflict to the story. Writers can give these secondary characters different vices and gossip is just one of the many.

One favorite such character, is Lady Whistledown, from Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton Series. The books are set in the Regency era and Lady Whistledown publishes a gossip sheet that talks about everyone having attended a ball or party that’s just been held. No one knows who she is, but she’s talking about everyone! Soon to be a show on Netflix, Julie Andrews will play the voice of Lady Whistledown.

Is there a secondary character in a book you’ve read whose habits have caused a ruckus for the hero or heroine? Tell me for a chance to win an ebook of mine of your choice!