Margaret has published more than 46 books and is a N.Y. Times Bestselling author and two-time Romance Writers of America Rita Finalist. She writes historical novels set--where else?--in the Old West! She has written for a day time soap and is currently working on a new series. Not bad for someone who flunked 8th grade English. Just don't ask her to diagram a sentence.
It has been a hard year for all of us, and this holiday season will be like no other. Restrictions may mean fewer people at your Thanksgiving table, and fewer hugs all around, but this day can still be special. That’s because restrictions can only go so far. No one can restrict our ability to spread love, laughter, and kindness. No restriction can limit how much faith, hope, and gratitude fills our hearts. Nor can any restriction stop our ability to create new traditions and make new memories.
Thanks to the miracle of technology, restrictions also can’t keep us from reaching out to each other and, for that, I’m especially grateful. It allows me to tell you how much we fillies appreciate your staying with us during this difficult time. Your continued support has truly been a blessing. To show our gratitude, I’m giving away three ten-dollar Amazon gift cards today.
To enter the drawing, tell us how your Thanksgiving will be different this year? What new traditions do you have planned? What is your hope for the season?
Christmas stories on sale now for only 99 cents.
It was just his luck to run into a trigger-happy damsel
It seems to me that Halloween has grown darker over the years. Growing up in Michigan, we dressed up as beggars and yelled “Help the poor.” I don’t remember anyone wearing scary costumes. Another place where you probably wouldn’t have seen werewolves or zombies is in the Old West.
During the 1800s it was considered a night of romance. Many of the tricks and treats of those Victorian Halloween parties were designed with romance in mind.
In the Old West, Halloween dances were held in schoolhouses, barns or churches. Guests were required to jump over a broom upon arrival to assure future happiness. Masquerade balls were popular, too, but mostly held in the east.
Apples played an important part in these Halloween rituals but so did tin soldiers. An article in the El Paso Daily paper in 1899 described the ritual of melting tin soldiers. A young woman would then drip the melted tin from a spoon into cold water. The tin would harden in all manner of shapes, thus foretelling a maiden’s future. If, for example, the tin looked like a shoe, she would marry a shoemaker. A ship meant her future husband would be a sailor and a hammer foretold a carpenter in her future.
Bobbing for apples was a must, but with an interesting twist. The apples would each contain the name of a male guest. A woman lucky enough to sink her teeth into a pippin would come up with more than just a wet face; she’d also know the name of her future mate.
Some enterprising hostesses who owned apple trees went one step further. While the apples were still green they glued the initials of single males onto the apples. When the apples ripened, the paper was washed off revealing the green initials on the rosy cheeks. Upon arriving at the party, female guests would draw an apple from the tub to find out the name of her dance partner.
Another popular game involving apples required careful paring so that the peels were cut into one long strip. These were then thrown over the left shoulder. The initial the peel made on the floor was the initial of a future love.
Peelings were also hung from barn doors and female guests were given a number. If for example, you got number two, then the second male through the door was your true love.
Another crowd-pleaser was the cobweb game. Guests were each given two bright colored threads attached to a cardboard heart in some remote corner. The threads ran through the room in an intricate pattern. The idea was to unravel your thread by bobbing under a red thread or slipping through a tangle of green or blue threads until you reached the heart which named your partner for the night.
Halloween games also included the game of Proposal. Each woman was given a stack of cardboard hearts and lemons. The males had to go around the room and propose to each woman. He had thirty seconds to convince her to marry him. When the bell rang, she would either give him a lemon for no or a heart for yes. At the end of the game, the man with the most hearts won.
With all the ghosts and goblins of today, it’s hard to imagine a time when Halloween was just another word for romance
How are you and your family planning to spend this pandemic Halloween?
Last week I wrote about Lonesome Dove. This week we’ll take a look at the inspiration for the book.
In June 1866, former Texas Ranger Charles Goodnight and cattle rancher Oliver Loving went into partnership to drive cattle to western markets. Settlers, soldiers stationed on forts and Navajos recently placed on reservations were all demanding food supplies, and the two men took a chance that their venture would be profitable.
They planned to drive 2000 Longhorn cattle from Texas to Wyoming on a trail that later became known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. That meant passing through dangerous Indian territory. But given Loving’s knowledge of cattle and Goodnight’s background as a Texas Ranger and Indian fighter, the two men were confident they could succeed.
Not only was their venture a success, but it also led to an amazing act of friendship that inspired the Pulitzer prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove.
Things went well for the two men until their third drive in 1867. Heavy rains slowed them down. To save time, Loving went ahead of the herd to secure contracts, taking a scout with him. Despite telling Goodnight that he would travel only at night through Indian country, he rode during the day.
That turned out to be a bad decision as he was trapped by Comanches along the Pecos River. Though he was shot in the arm and side, he managed to escape and reach Fort Sumner.
His injuries were not life-threatening, but he developed gangrene. The doctor at the fort was unwilling to do an amputation and Loving died. He was buried at the fort, but that was not his final resting place. Before Loving died, he turned to his good friend Goodnight and asked that his body be returned to Texas. He did not want to be buried in a “foreign land.”
Goodnight promised Loving that his wish would be carried out, and that was a promise he meant to keep. But honoring his friend’s request couldn’t have been easy.
Credited with inventing the chuckwagon, Goodnight arranged for a special wagon and metal casket to be built. With the help of Loving’s son, Joseph, he had his friend’s body exhumed and carried him 600 miles back to Texas—an act of friendship matched by few.
Loving is buried in Weatherford, Texas.
What is the truest form of friendship that you’ve experienced?
“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 isabout 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.
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 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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
He may be a Texas Ranger, but he only has eyes for the outlaw’s beautiful daughter.Amazon
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!
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?