The Legend of the Easter Fires.

Each year. the residents of Fredericksburg, Texas enjoy a tradition that began with the town’s founding in 1847.  On the night before Easter, residents dress up as settlers, Comanches, and Easter bunnies to commemorate a peace treaty the town signed in 1847.

When the early German settlers arrived, they were greeted by a harsh land full of fierce native people.  The Comanches were not happy with this latest intrusion on their territory–and for good reason. They had experienced violent encounters with immigrants moving in from the East and Mexico from the West

It didn’t take long for the German settlers to realize that if they wanted to survive, their first job was to strike a treaty with the Comanches. As such a thing had never before been accomplished, it must have seemed like a daunting task.

Just before Easter, the town’s founders rode over the hill to negotiate with tribe leaders, leaving women and children behind. 

While the men were away, Comanches scouts stood atop the hills surrounding the town. Even scarier, they sent up smoke signals. 

Not knowing what had happened to their men, the women feared the worse. This caused a near panic in the town, especially among the children who were convinced of an attack.

According to legend, one woman came up with a story that calmed everyone down. The fires, she said, had been started by the Easter bunny so he could boil his eggs to deliver the next day.  

Not long after that, the men returned, treaty in hand. it was a unique treaty struck by the two different cultures, and it turned out well for both sides. It is reportedly the only North American Indian treaty not to be violated by either party. 

Now, every year, the town celebrates the occasion with church bells, bonfires, and pageantry.   

What is your favorite Easter or Passover tradition?

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Wooing the Schoolmarm and Giveaway

Today, three-quarters of teachers in primary schools are women.  It wasn’t always that way.  Prior to 1850, teaching was primarily a male occupation.  Men received an education, and women were taught how to run a household. 

Industrialization changed all that.  The new economy led men into business and better wages, creating a teacher shortage. This left the door open for women to step in.   

It was a tough job.  Teachers taught in one-room schools with as many as sixty pupils.  Female teachers commanded less pay than their male counterparts, but the job did give women more independence. 

In my book, Wooing the Schoolmarm, Miss Maddie Percy has come all the way from Washington D.C. to teach school in Colton Kansas.   Instead, the feisty red-haired schoolmarm finds the town burned to the ground and her only shelter an isolated sod house belonging to widower Luke Tyler and his young son, Matthew. Never one to be deterred by setbacks, Maddie is soon making friends with the local Indians, setting up a tepee to live in, and finding her blood racing every time Luke comes near.

Luke Tyler has no room in his life for a woman—especially one as eccentric, spunky, and smart as Maddie Percy.  His prairie farm life is too harsh, his memories too painful and his secrets too dark to give in to the feelings she has awakened in him.  She might be stealing his son’s heart, but he is keeping his own out of reach. If only he could keep the sparks between them from igniting something as dangerous as lo

For a chance to win a copy of Wooing the Schoolmarm, tell us the challenges you’ve had with homeschooling during the pandemic or share a favorite memory of your early school years.  

 

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Five Texas Rangers Who Left Their Mark

Anyone familiar with my books might think I have a thing for Texas Rangers, and they be would right.  The Texas Rangers are the oldest law enforcement agency and will celebrate their bicentennial in two years. Stephen F. Austin organized the first group of 10 Texas Rangers back in 1823.

Those early Rangers had no formal law enforcement training, used their own horses and weapons, and faced some of the deadliest outlaws alone.  Some even worked without pay.  It was a hard job, requiring countless hours in the saddle and endless nights beneath the stars.   

Some modern historians take issue with the Rangers’ “brutal force,” but times were tough and the stakes high. Historical events are often subjected to differing interpretations when viewed from modern times. 

Most agree, however, that many Texas Rangers made their mark in Western history. Too many, in fact, to name here.  But here are a few:   

 Frank Hamer

Frank started out as a blacksmith and then became a cowboy.  He may have remained so had he not helped in the arrest of a horse thief. That’s when the crime-fighting bug bit.

Counted as one of the most fearless men in Western history, he is credited with killing more than 60 outlaws.  In the course of his work, he sustained 17 wounds and had been left for dead four times.   He retired in 1932 but, even then, no outlaw was safe.  Two years after his retirement, he retained a commission as Special Investigator in the case of Bonnie and Clyde.  His work ended their deadly crime spree and resulted in their deaths.

 

William McDonald

Considered by some to be the greatest captains in Texas Ranger history, McDonald’s distractors considered him an irresponsible lawman who precipitated violence and sought publicity. Most, however, agreed that he was “a man who would charge hell with a bucket of water.”

 “No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that’s in the right and keeps on a-comin’,” was his motto.  Upon being sent to Texas to prevent a prizefight, he was asked by the sheriff where the other rangers were. According to legend, this was when the phrase “One riot, one Ranger,” was coined.

 

John Armstrong

Texas Ranger Armstrong didn’t let anything get in the way of catching his man, not even a bullet wound to his leg.  On assignment to capture notorious criminal John Wesley Hardin, Armstrong cornered the outlaw on a train.  Limping aboard, Armstrong switched his cane to his left hand and drew out his gun.  (Now that’s something you don’t see in movies.) 

He shot and killed one of Hardin’s gang members, knocked Hardin unconscious, and disarmed the other three outlaws.  Once he had everything control, the other law enforcers filed onto the train to take the men into custody.

 

John “Rip” Ford

Ford couldn’t seem to make up his mind what profession he wanted to pursue. He was a lawyer, doctor, surveyor, newspaper editor, teacher, historian, playwright, printer, mayor, sheriff, chief of police, city marshal, and state and national senator. But he’s most remembered as a Texas Ranger.

He was nicknamed Rip because of his habit of writing the words “Rest in peace” next to the names on the company’s casualty list, and for leading his men into successful battles.

 

Ira Aten

Ira joined the Rangers in 1878 and played a central role in the Fence-Cutting Wars.  Barbed wire put an end to the once-open range. Disgruntled cowboys, hustlers, and outlaws became fence clippers.  Attempts to stop the wire cutters failed until Ira came up with a solution: dynamite. 

He rigged the wires so if the one on top was cut, it would trigger an explosion.  Word quickly spread that bombs were planted under the fence lines, effectively ending the “war.”

So what is your favorite type of western hero?

 

Two of my Texas Ranger stories

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Boot Scootin’ Holiday Favorite Cow Pie Cookies

 

As some of you may know, my daughter is a chef and is always coming up with interesting recipes.  I asked her to think up a recipe for Cowboy cookies and she did.  These yummy cookies are now a family favorite. My daughter wasn’t thrilled when I called them Cow Pies, but the name stuck and it makes the grandkids giggle.  Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas. 

 

 

Cow Pie Cookies

              Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of pretzel Bits
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans toasted
  • 1 tbsp sea salt flakes

Directions

  • Place pecans on a 15x10x1-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 6 to 8 minutes or until toasted, stirring every 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture; beat well. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, pretzels, and pecans. 
  • Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle the sea salt flakes on top.  Bake at 350° for about 12 minutes or until brown. Move to wire racks to cool.

What is your favorite Holiday treat?

                           What I hear when I’m with you, is two hearts beating as one. 

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It was just his luck to have a run-in with a trigger-happy damsel.

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Margaret’s Winners

Thank you so much for sharing your Thanksgiving day  It was fun reading through your comments.  Congratulations on keeping the Thanksgiving spirit alive.  

It gives me great pleasure to announce the three winners.

Julie Butler

Janice H.  

Jen K.                  

To receive your Amazon gift cards, send an email to me at margaretbrownley1@gmail. com

Thanksgiving Giveaway

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

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Is their love strong enough to overcome their differences?

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Watch for this exciting new contest starting November 30

When Halloween Meant Scaring Up a Little Romance

 

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? 

You’ll Find a List of Margaret’s Books Here:

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A Promise Made; A Promise Kept

       Charles Goodnight

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.

                    Oliver Loving

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.

A Promise Made: A Promise Kept by Lee Cable shows Goodnight taking his friend home to Texas.

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?

 

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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