Boot Scootin’ Favorite Book

“Yesterday’s gone on down the river and you can’t get it back.” -Lonesome Dove

One of my favorite books is Lonesome Dove, which was made into a TV mini-series.  Written by Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove is about two retired Texas Rangers, “Gus” McCrae and “Woodrow” Call who drive a herd of cattle from Texas to Montana.  

 The Pulitzer Prize-winning story is loosely based on the true story of Charles Goodnight’s and Oliver Loving’s cattle drive from Texas to Montana. Goodnight and Loving were close friends. Before Loving died, he asked that his body be returned to Texas.  He did not want to be buried in a “foreign land.”  Charles Goodnight and Loving’s son, Joseph, carried the metal casket 600 miles back to Texas.

In Lonesome Dove, Gus dies and Call (played by Tommy Lee Jones) hauls his friend back to Texas as promised.  If this doesn’t make you cry, I don’t know what will.  

“I guess this’ll teach me to be careful about what I promise in the future.”

McMurtry originally wrote the story as a short screenplay named the Streets of Laredo.  It was supposed to star John Wayne as Call.  But Wayne dropped out and the project was abandoned. 15 years later McMurtry saw an old bus with the phrase “Lonesome Dove Baptist Church” on it.  He rushed home to revise the book into a novel and changed the name.  (Ah, inspiration.)

The book went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. The mini-series also won many awards, including a Golden Globe.  It was cheated out of the Emmy for best mini-series by War and Remembrance.  Considered the “Gone With the Wind” and “Godfather” of Western movies, Lonesome Dove has sold more DVDs than any other western.

“It’s been quite a party ain’t it?”

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Robert Duvall as Gus, but he was actually offered the role of Woodrow Call, and turned it down.  His wife had read the book and told him, “Whatever you do, don’t let them talk you into playing Woodrow F. Call.  Gus is the part you should play.”

James Garner was also considered for the role, but he had to turn it down because of health problems. 

McMurtry said that he wrote Lonesome Dove to show the real hardships of living a cattleman’s life vs. the romantic life many think they lived. Some think he failed in this regard. Instead, many readers and critics see Lonesome Dove as a celebration of frontier life. 

What is your favorite western book, movie or TV show?

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Will Rogers: Master of One-liners

I just finished reading a delightful book by Will Rogers titled The Cowboy Philosopher on Prohibition. Using liberal doses of the Bible, Rogers made a thoughtful and humorous argument against the alcohol ban.  The book made me realize how little I really knew about the man and so naturally I had to do some research.    

Will Rogers was born in Indian Territory in 1879 to a prominent Cherokee family.  Rogers quipped that his ancestors did not come over on the Mayflower.  Instead they “met the boat”

He learned cowboying from the ranch hands on his father’s Dog Iron Ranch.  Cherokee freedman Dan Walker taught him roping, which later proved to be his road to success.

Quick to learn ranching, he was in his own words a poor student, saying that he “studied the Fourth Reader for ten years.” He was much more interested in cowboys and horses. Much of his later humor involved both.

“You know horses are smarter than people. You never heard of a horse going broke betting on people.”

He left home to work on a Texas ranch, where he was known for his lassoing abilities.  He then tried to make it as a ranch owner in Argentina, but when he ran out of money, he traveled to South Africa.  There, he joined Texas Jack’s Wild West Circus.”  

He rode broncos, but his real talent was throwing lassoes.  He didn’t just throw one rope; he threw three, and his trick of lassoing a horse’s neck, legs, and the rider all at the same time earned rave reviews.

“Best doctor in the world is a veterinarian. He can’t ask his patients what’s the matter. He’s just got to know.”

He returned to America in 1904 and joined the vaudeville circuit.  During his trip to Madison Square Gardens, a wild steer broke out of the arena and began climbing the viewing stands. Rogers roped the steer to the delight of the crowd. The feat got front-page attention from the newspapers, giving him valuable publicity and an audience eager to see more.

At first, he worked in silence, but when he discovered that audiences responded to his western drawl, he began ad-libbing. Soon people were lining up to hear his words of wisdom.

“Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.”

His folksy style enabled him to poke fun at politicians, gangsters, prohibition, and other controversial subjects in such a way that no one took offense. People were too busy laughing.  Knowing that President Woodrow Wilson was in the audience during one performance, Rogers improvised a “roast” of presidential policies that had Wilson, and the entire audience, in stitches.

“Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
 

He went from being a cowboy to a vaudeville performer. Before long, he was known as a humorist, newspaper columnist, social commentator, and humanitarian.  As an entertainer, he traveled around the world three times and appeared in an astounding 71 movies.  He also wrote six books, and more than 4000 syndicated newspaper columns. 

Somehow, he still managed to marry and father four children.  Who knows how much more he would have accomplished had he not died at the age of 56 in an airplane crash? 

Fortunately, his witticisms live on and are just as relevant today as they were a hundred years ago when he first uttered them.  The man who cautioned us to “always drink upstream from the herd,” also had a lot to say about politics, which could just as easily be written today.   

  • This would be a great time in the world for some man to come along that knew something.
  • We shouldn’t elect a President. We should elect a magician.
  • Both parties have their good times and bad times at different times. Good when they are out. Bad when they are in.
  • I can’t see any advantage of having one of your own Party in as President… I would rather be able to criticize a man than to have to apologize for him.
  • So much money is being spent on the campaigns that I doubt if either man, as good as they are, are worth what it will cost to elect them.
  • The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets. 

What is your favorite Will Rogers’ quote?

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They’re b-a-a-ck. Those Ten Cent Thrills Known as Dime Novels.

Your Victorian ancestor may have had one shocking vice up her leg of mutton sleeve. She probably read dime novels.

The dime novel craze began in 1860 with the publication of Ann S. Stephens’ book Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter. The success of the book resulted in publishers and writers jumping on the bandwagon.

Critics called the popular books immoral and blamed them for society’s ills. Nevertheless, dime novels sold millions, and Civil War soldiers were the prime audience. Confederates and Union soldiers were on opposing sides politically, but both camps shared the same passion for pirates, mountain men, adventurers, and detectives. The melodramatic books with the lurid covers and purple prose helped them fight the boredom of camp life.

Now, these same books can help Pandemic stay-at-homes combat monotony. The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded a grant of $350,000 to Northern Illinois University to catalog and digitize its collection of more than 4,400 dime novels and story papers. Stanford and other universities are also participating, and books are available at dimenovel.org.

With millions of books to choose from on Amazon, why would anyone want to read books written more than 150 years ago with no known literary value?

The answer is that these books are a treasure trove of cultural heritage and social history.  These stories also reveal the political attitudes of the past and gender stereotypes.

The depiction of Indian women was criticized by the Toronto Times in 1892. “It is a deplorable fact. She is always named Winona, the daughter of a chief, and, inevitably, her ill-fated love for a white man drives her to suicide or death; and, in these stories, the Indian maiden always dies.”

With all their faults, the books did society a favor; they established a new social order in which males were judged by deeds rather than social status. For this reason, the western hero became the symbol of the ideal man.

Books featuring real people like Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok, and Jesse James were especially popular. One dime novel featuring Kit Carson had an unexpected impact on him. According to the story, Carson chased down a group of Apaches to rescue a kidnapped white woman only to discover her dead. In her belongings was a copy of the book Kit Carson, the Happy Warrior.

He later told the story in his autobiography: “We found a book in the camp, the first of the kind I had ever seen, in which I was represented as a great hero, slaying Indians by the hundred. I have often thought that Mrs. White must have read it and, knowing that I lived nearby, must have prayed for my appearance in order that she might be saved. I did come, but I lacked the power to persuade those that were in command over me to follow my plan for her rescue.”‘

Even though a woman started the dime novel craze, female writers were not taken seriously and were even resented. That didn’t stop readers from scooping up their books. By 1872, an astounding seventy-five percent of published books were written by women.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was one of many male writers who lamented the popularity of female fiction. In a letter to a friend, Hawthorne wrote: “America is now wholly given over to a dammed mob of scribbling women, and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash–and should be ashamed of myself if I did succeed.”

Now, thanks to the National Endowment for Humanities, the works of those early “scribbling women” will now be given a second chance.

Would you be interested in reading one of these books?  Why or why not?

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The Fourth of July, Frontier Style

The Fourth of July was celebrated big time in the Old West.  From mining camps to wild cow towns, those early settlers used the day to whoop it up with dances, speeches, parades, foot races, and turkey shoots.  Not to be left out, even American Indians celebrated the day with pow-wows and dances. 

Some celebrations even took place in remote areas. In 1830, Mountain man William L. Sublette, on his way to Wind River with 81 men and 10 wagons, celebrated the holiday next to a large 130-foot-high rock.  Claiming to have “kept the 4th of July in due style,” Sublette named the large boulder Independence Rock.

Independence Rock

Located in what is now Wyoming, the rock became a signpost for travelers on the Oregon and Mormon trails. Companies arriving at the rock by July fourth knew they had made good time and would beat the mountain snows.  Celebrations included inscribing names on the rock and shooting off guns. 

Not every community celebrated with guns and fireworks.  In 1864, a mining town in Nevada decided to celebrate its first fourth with a dance.  Music, flag, and dance committees were formed. Of the three, the music committee was the most challenging as the only musician was a violinist who had an affinity for whiskey. His drinks had to be carefully regulated before the celebration.  

Stag Dance

Since the town lacked a flag, the flag committee pieced one together from a quilt.  Fortunately, a traveling family camping nearby provided the blue fabric.  The family included a mother and four girls, which meant more women for the dance.  The problem was the girls had no shoes, which would have made it difficult to dance on the rough wood floors.   The miners solved the problem by taking up a collection of brogans, and the dance went off without a hitch. 

William “Buffalo Bill” Cody made history in North Platte, Nebraska on July 4, 1882, when he mounted an exhibition of cowboy “sports.”  This was the beginning of his Wild West shows and what we now call a rodeo.

Not to be outdone, Dodge City did something different two years later for the Fourth of July to attract attention and business; It hosted the first professional Mexican bullfight on U.S. soil. Though the event was a financial success, it was not without controversy.  Many, including Henry Bergh, founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals, denounced the sport as barbaric.

Compared to the rest of the country, Denver’s first Fourth of July celebration was oddly subdued. Drinking or carousing was not allowed.  Instead, the Declaration of Independence was read, followed by prayers, “chaste and appropriate oration” and wholesome band music.

This year, most public celebrations have been canceled.  But we Americans will find a way to keep “the 4th of July in due style.”  Just like they did in the Old West.

How are you and your family celebrating the Fourth this year?

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He may be a Texas Ranger, but he only has eyes for the outlaw’s beautiful daughter. Amazon

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The Outlaw’s Daughter & Giveaway

He may be a Texas Ranger, but he only has eyes for the outlaw’s beautiful daughter…

I’m happy to announce that my new book has just been released!  This is book three in my Haywire Brides series, but each book stands alone. 

I’m giving away a book today to one of you.  So be sure to leave a comment!

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Texas Ranger Matt Taggert is on the trail of a wanted man. He has good reason to believe that Ellie-May’s late husband was involved in a stagecoach robbery, and he’s here to see justice done. But when he arrives in town, he discovers the thief has become a local hero…and his beautiful young widow isn’t too happy to see some lawman out to tarnish her family’s newly spotless reputation.

Ellie-May’s shaken by her encounter with the Ranger. Having grown up an outlaw’s daughter, she’ll do anything to keep her children safe—and if that means hardening her heart against the handsome lawman’s smiles, then so be it. Because she knows Matt isn’t about to give up his search. He’s out to redeem himself and find proof that Ellie-May’s husband wasn’t the saint everyone claims…even if it means losing the love neither expected to discover along the way.

Ellie-May has lived all her life in the shadow of her outlaw father.  Do you think a parent’s reputation has the same impact today as it did in the 1800s?

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Poets in Cowboy Hats


Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,
Out where the smile dwells a little longer,
            That’s where the West begins…

                            Arthur Chapman 1912

 

Last week was National Cowboy Poetry week and I usually spend it at the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival signing books.  The festival, was canceled this year, along with everything else.  But I sure did miss it.

I especially missed rubbing shoulders with people like Cheryl Rogers Barnet (daughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans), Jon Chandler (chosen Best Living Western Musician by True West Magazine) and cowboy poet, Waddie Mitchell.

This is me signing at the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival.

It was at this festival that I first learned to appreciate cowboy poetry. I was never particularly fond of poetry, but this was different. This was storytelling like I’d never heard, and it really brought the west alive for me.

Cowboy poetry flourished after the Civil War. War songs were mixed with traditional ballads to create a unique style that painted vivid pictures of loneliness, loss of a horse, camaraderie and annoying coyotes.  

Cowboys recited these poems for each other around the campfire. No free form verse for these hard-driven men. Old time cowboy poetry always rhymed and was often put to song.

Much of it was done orally, which helped with memorization. Because the poetry was not written down, much was lost but not all. Fortunately, some of these gems were printed in newspapers and have since been published in books.

Legend has it that the reason poems were recited from memory was because cowboys were illiterate.

Not true, says writer David Stanley. In his book Cowboy Poetry Then and Now,” he argues that cowboys were anything but illiterate. “Many cowboys of both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have been well read, sometimes astonishingly so.”  He goes on to say that “Cowboy poetry has been primarily the province of literate people since the first publication of poems in western newspapers in the 1870s.”

To prove his point, Stanley tells us that “It wasn’t just original poetry that was enjoyed around the campfires. Cowboys also enjoyed “a mass of popular poetry from Shakespeare to Rudyard Kipling.”

There’s a famous saying that any poem a cowboy likes is a cowboy poem.  That may be true of Shakespeare, but for me, personally, nothing beats a poet in a cowboy hat.

What’s your favorite western storytelling medium: movie, TV, books, music or poetry?

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So You Think You Know How to Wear Cowboy Boots

Cowboy boots are fun to wear, but I recently discovered I’ve been wearing them wrong—all wrong. Fortunately, help is on the way. Some of the top designers including Calvin Klein and Fendi are about to send cowboy boots down the runway this spring and you know what that means; our sacred footwear is about to get a makeover.    

To keep you from being out-of-step, here are some tips from fashion experts:  

  • Don’t go for the costume-y look. If you’re wearing boots, avoid cowboy hats, ponchos, spurs, prairie dresses and overalls or you’ll end up looking ready for Halloween.
  • Leave the accessories at home. (I think this means don’t wear your diamonds.)
  • Avoid fringes and sequins (ruffled skirts, okay)
  • You can’t go wrong with jeans (not the faded ones) and turtlenecks. If you’re brave or  immune to stares, you can even wear boots with shorts.
  • Pair cowboy boots with animal prints.

If you’ve been wearing your boots all wrong, chances are the same can be said for the guys in your life.  According to fashion pundits, men should adhere to the following guidelines unless working on the range:

  • Avoid dressing like Woody in Toy Story. Ditch the bolo tie and chaps.
  • Forget the spurs (unless you’re playing a bad guy in a movie).
  • Hats are okay if you going to a rodeo or rounding up cattle. Otherwise, leave at home.
  • Avoid light colored jeans. Dark fitted jeans are best paired with cowboy boots.
  • If you’re wearing a tux, only black cowboy boots will do (polished to a shine).

Men, if this is too much for you, don’t despair.  Everyone loves Woody.  As for the rest of us, Happy Halloween.

What is the best or worst fashion advice you ever got?

 

What happens when four mail-order brides get cold feet?

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The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same

My favorite time period to write about is between 1880 and 1890. In many ways, the cowboys of yesteryear struggled with some of the same issues we currently face and that’s what makes the time period so fascinating to me.

They aren’t paying attention to each other. They’re too intent on the wireless.

For example, technology in the way of telephones and electricity changed the way people lived in the 19th century, just as new technology does today.  The Victorians even had their own Internet.  It was called the telegraph, and this opened-up a whole new world to them.

What, for that matter, is a text message but a telegram, the high cost of which forced people in the past to be brief and to the point?

In the past, our ancestors worried about losing their jobs to machinery.  Today, there’s a real possibility that robots will make us obsolete.

Sears and Roebuck was the Amazon of the Gilded Age. The catalogue featured a wide selection of products at clearly marked prices. No more haggling.  Customers were drawn to the easy-to-read, warm, friendly language used to describe goods, and the catalogue proved an instant success. Our ancestors could even order a house through the catalog and that’s something we can’t do on Amazon.

The Victorians worried about books like we worry about iPhones. We worry about screen time damaging the eyes.  Victorians were certain that the mass rise of books due to printing presses would make everyone blind. 

Then as now, women fought for equal rights.  Our early sisters fought for property ownership, employment opportunities and the right to vote. Women have come a long way since those early days, but challenges still exist, especially in matters of economics and power.

Nothing has changed much in the area of courting

Almost every single I know subscribes to at least one dating site.  These are very similar to the Mail-Order Bride catalogs of yesteryear.

Did our Victorian ancestors worry about climate change?  You bet they did! The Florida Agriculturist published an article addressing the problem in 1890. The article stated: “Most all the states of the union in succession of their settlement have experienced a falling off in their average temperatures of several degrees.  A change from an evenly tempered climate has resulted in long droughts, sudden floods, heavy frost and suffocating heat.”

Nothing much has changed in the world of politics. Today, the Republicans and Democrats are still battling it out, just as they did in the nineteenth century. We still haven’t elected a female president, though Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood tried to change that when she ran in 1884 and again, in 1888.

What about environmental concerns? Today we’re concerned that plastic bags and straws are harming our oceans.  Our Victorian ancestors worried about tomato cans. That’s because a German scientist told the New York Times in 1881 that the careless deposit of tin cans was “bringing the earth closer to the sun and hastening the day of the final and fatal collision.”

During the 1800s, horses were taken to task for messing up the streets.  (Oddly, enough, it was once thought that automobiles were good for the environment.)  Today, cattle are under fire for the methane in their you-know-whats. Oh, boy, I can only imagine how that would have gone over with those old-time ranch owners.

We have Coronavirus, but that’s nothing compared to what our ancestors battled.  The 1894 Hong Kong plague was a major outbreak and became the third pandemic in the world. The rapid outbreak and spread of the plague was caused by infected fleas. Repressive government actions to control the plague led the Pune nationalists to criticize the Chinese publicly. Sound familiar?  The plague killed more than 10 million people in India, alone. 

As the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Reading how people in the past survived and, yes, even prospered during tough times inspires me and gives me hope for the future.  I hope it does the same to my readers.

This list is nowhere near complete, but what did you find the most surprising?

Attorney Ben Heywood didn’t expect to get shot on his wedding day–and certainly not by his mail order bride.—Pistol-Packin’ Bride/Mail Order Standoff collection.

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The Mail Order Bride Standoff

 

I have a new book out, just in time for Valentine’s.  The anthology is titled Mail Order Standoff.  If you like mail-order bride stories, then this one is for you. The stories all have a fun twist when the brides get cold feet.  Here’s a short preview of my story:

Pistol-Packin’ Bride

Attorney Wade Bronson didn’t expect to get shot on his wedding day–

and certainly not by his mail order bride…

Elizabeth Colton stares anxiously out the window of the stagecoach.  Fresh from Boston, never could she imagine a more desolate place. Every scary story ever heard about attacking Indians and highwaymen comes back to haunt her.

 Before they reach town, her worst fear is realized. A horseman flags them down and yanks open the door to the coach.  Certain he is about to rob her—or worse—she pulls out her derringer.  Much to her shock, the gun goes off and the man falls to the ground.

Attorney Wade Bronson is lucky to be alive.  Fortunately, the bullet missed his heart—barely. All he did was stop the stage to tell his mail-order bride he’d been called out of town on urgent business and had to postpone their wedding. God forgive him for not feeling especially charitable toward the blue-eyed beauty who shot him, but now he’s bed-ridden with a shoulder-wound and his gun-toting bride-to-be is in jail.

It seems everyone in the small town has an opinion on the brash young woman who traveled west to become his wife—and none of it good.  Orphaned at a young age, Wade was raised by the town and is Prickly Pine’s favorite son—literally—and the local girls know better than to get involved with him. Things looked bad until his three worried “mothers” took it upon themselves to place an ad in Matrimonial News for a “nice Christian girl from the east.” Now they refuse to believe the pistol packin’ bride is the right woman for him. At first, even Wade has trouble visualizing the two of them wed.

But in matters of the heart sometimes a wrong really does make a right.  Now he doesn’t know which task will be hardest; convincing his reluctant fiancée that marriage to a man with three sets of well-meaning “parents” won’t be so bad (maybe).  Or proving to the town that Elizabeth really is the girl of his dreams. 

To Order:

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