Fall Traditions

Although the official date for the beginning of autumn is September 22nd, Americans traditionally mark the fall season from Labor Day through Thanksgiving Day in November.

I was born and raised in Texas, so my experience is based on the wild and wooly weather of the Texas Panhandle.  We can have triple digit days and snow the next.  Trust me, it’s the truth because it happened this year in late spring.  Weird but true.  We broke two weather records just last week with triple digits that went back to the 1930’s.

Now for the first thing we must do to get ready for next Monday. We’ve got to wear our patent shoes all we can because effective Labor Day they, along with our matching purses, have to go up on the shelves until Easter when they can come down for Spring.

I’m showing my age here, but although this year is different than a regular school year beginning, when I was growing up we always began in mid-September.  The reason was simple.  We had no air conditioning and had to wait until Fall set in to begin.  Now with A/C, school begins here in mid-August, under typical circumstances.

I grew up with a true Southern Grannie and I love sweet potatoes.  Any way, any how … but a Sweet Potato Pie is my favorite with real whipping cream on top.

My second favorite “turning to autumn” food is my first pot of homemade chili.  It’s always so good and easy to fix.

Centuries ago, farmers, ranchers, and other folks noticed animal behavior and habits that predicted the weather. Some of these are from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Here’s a few ol’ wives tales involving animals that I found interesting.

Expect rain when dogs eat grass, cats purr and wash themselves.  I found this interesting because my cat purrs when she’s in my lap or happy.  She washes herself continually, regardless of the season, and our dogs eat grass.  We’ve been in a drouth, so I’m thinking these aren’t indicative of rain.  Just my opinion.

Can Cows Forecast Weather?  Many weather adages involve cows because they were common animals on farms, as they are today on ranches.

  • If a cow stands with its tail to the west, the weather is said to be fair.
  • If a cow grazes with its tail to the east, the weather is likely to turn sour.
  • If the bull leads the cows to pasture, expect rain; if the cows precede the bull, the weather will be uncertain

There is some truth here. Animals graze with their tail toward the wind so that if a predator sneaks up behind them, the wind will help catch the scent of the predator and prevent an attack.  So, see there is still today some proof that animal habits tell a story. 

I selected this picture of a herd of cattle because they seem to be confused as to what is expected of them.

I’ve spent time on a couple of ranches and even worked cattle, but truthfully, I’m no cowgirl and sure don’t know anything about how cattle stand because I’ve seen them in every position … and I do mean every position. There is one thing I learned, and it truly stuck with me, when you’re working the gate while cattle are being inoculated, do not wear a white t-shirt. You’ll never get the bull…you know what… out of the it and you have to wash your hair a dozen times.

I’m truly interested in knowing what you readers who own cattle ranches have to say about the ol’ wives’ tales.

When do you consider autumn beginning? What is your favorite fall tradition?  Also, don’t forget to wear those patent shoes because you don’t have many days left.

To one lucky winner I will give you your choice of any eBook of mine

or any short story collection I’m in from Amazon.

Just a note, I found patent shoes spelled patten, patton,

and a couple of other ways, so I had to punt!

Old Wives’ Tales Around the House


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I love The Farmer’s Almanac and have both an old version and I a newer one.  I enjoy reading about old wives’ tales around the house from days gone by and wanted to share some of them with you. I took this information from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.  Enjoy!

  • Never give a knife as a housewarming present, or your new neighbor will become an enemy. I grew up on a version of this.  In Texas we were told never to give a knife to anybody under any circumstances; so, we always did the next thing.
  • If you give a steel blade to a friend make the recipient pay you a penny to avoid cutting the friendship
  • When you move to a new house, always enter first with a loaf of bread and a new broom. Never bring an old broom into the house.  I never heard of this and only moved twice since we married 52 years ago and I always brought my old broom.  Hum?  Fact or fiction?  We’ve had a wonderful life in both house.

  • Never walk under a ladder, which is Satan’s territory. If you do, cross your fingers or make the sign of the fig (closed fist, with thumb between index and middle fingers.)  I knew never to walk under a ladder because it’d bring you bad luck, but never knew the name for the sign of the fig, which I think we all have used at one time or another.
  • To protect your house from lightning, gather hazel tree branches on Palm Sunday and keep them in water. How many of you have a hazel tree or can even get branches?  Not in my neighborhood.
  • To banish serpents and venomous creatures from the room, scatter Solomon’s seal on the floor. I have two issues with this.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a serpent or venomous creature in our house and I sure don’t know what Solomon’s seal is.  Do any of you?
  • Never pound a nail after sundown or you will wake the tree gods. Interesting???
  • Nail an evergreen branch to new rafters to bring good luck. An empty hornets’ nest, hung high, also will bring good luck to a house of any age. Well, here in Texas, we like to hang a horseshoe over the door for good luck.
  • Never carry a hoe into the house. If you do by mistake, carry it out again, walking backward to avoid bad luck.

I thought this had a bunch a fun superstitions and old wives’ tales from around the house.  There are many more takes about the house and home, but are they fact or fiction?  Often only time will tell.

Do you have a superstition you want to share?

To one reader who leaves a comment, I will  send you either

your choice of an eBook of any of my books listed on Amazon or

a $10.00 Bath and Bodyworks gift card.

 

Castles, Llamas and Texas

 

Texas is known for our longhorn steers, prairie dogs, and oil wells along with ranches, bunk houses and the wide open prairie, but little did I know about our famous ShangriLlama Castle. We have a lot of homes, particularly in Galveston, that could be considered castles, but this one is different.

On the grounds of a majestic Irish castle in Royse City, Texas, 30 miles northeast of Dallas, you’ll meet charming royalty such as King Dalai Llama, the leader, along with Prince Barack O’Llama, Duke Como T. Llama, and Earl Bahama Llama. There are a total of seven male pedigree llamas on the 10-acre private ranch and wedding venue.

This most unusual business began when Sharon and Paul Brucato’s son, Tommy, became intrigued with the wooly creatures while visiting a zoo. I personally got acquainted with a llama ranch in California, but never thought about one being in Texas.

The owners are quoted as saying that they thought owning llamas would be fun and a bonding experience for their family. They trained with a rescue animal before buying their own purebred llamas. The ranch evolved from there because of the interest of neighbors and friends.

Since 2018, the Brucato family, including Tommy’s wife Jenni, have hosted llama-themed weddings, along with fun, fact-filled llama lessons and walks, where guests and llamas enjoy a serene stroll along the Enchanted Forest TraiI was born and raised here in Texas and never even imagined there being a majestic Irish castle in the state much less a llama ranch.

Do you have any experiences with llamas? And would you want to, if you had the chance?

To one lucky reader who leaves a comment, I will give you your choice of an eBook copy of my newest Kasota Springs romances or a Bath and Body Works gift certificate.

Cattle Rustlin’ and Hangin’

 

In the Old West, the terms rustling, and rustler had several meanings. Livestock who forged well were called rustlers by cowmen; meaning the animals could graze or “rustle up” nourishment on marginal land. A horse wrangler or camp cook was also a rustler, but the most widespread and notorious use of the word referred to a cattle thief.

On the vast open ranges of yesteryear, rustling was a serious problem and punishable by hanging. At its peak, one of the largest ranches in the Texas Panhandle had over 150,000 head of cattle and a thousand horses. Obviously, thieves could drive stolen livestock miles away before a rancher learned he had animals missing.

The vast distances to town, hence law enforcement, often prompted ranchers to take actions of their own. Court convictions for rustling were difficult because of the animosity of small ranchers and settlers toward big cattle outfits. Many times, “vigilante justice,” hang ‘um first…ask questions later, was handed down by organized stockmen. Like horse thieves, cattle rustlers could be hanged without benefit of trial, judge or jury.

Today, even with detailed brands logged in books, registering with state officials, inspectors, and the meticulous paperwork involving transportation, not to mention a new era of branding technology to keep track of animals, ranches still face cattle rustlers…those dishonest people who want to profit from selling cattle without the bother of raising them.

No longer is a single head of beef stolen for food or an occasional Native American slipping off the reservation to provide for his family… it is big business. Modern day rustlers often sneak onto rural ranches at night, or on weekends when the owners are away, steal and sell cattle. An average calf can bring thousands of dollars on the open market; so multiply that by a trailer, or even a truck load, of cattle and you can see why it’s a profitable business for thieves.

Amid warnings that cattle rustling is on the rise in Texas, recently the state Senate passed a measure that would stiffen penalties for stealing farm animals, making theft of even one head of livestock a third-degree felony drawing up to a ten year prison sentence and a fine. Until the proposal is signed into law, a rustler can steal ten or more head of livestock and the punishment is a drop in the bucket in comparison to the law of the Old West … hang ‘um high and fast. Cattle rustling wasn’t the only crimes of the 1800’s and earlier. Train robberies closed in on it.

But was hanging always fast and efficient? Maybe you can decide from the following!

I delved into the subject of cattle rustling and the methods of rustlers while researching for one of our anthologies where my Pinkerton Agent comes to the Panhandle to break up an outfit of rustlers. But I became interested in “vigilante justice” from my mother-in-law, who passed on ten years ago at the age of 92. A story teller, she was reared in Clayton, New Mexico. One of her favorite tales was about the outlaw Black Jack Ketchum, the first man hanged in the town. His execution turned into a big town event, with the lawmen actually selling tickets to the hangin’. As history has it, the sheriff had to use two blows of the hatchet before the rope broke. Probably because of their lack of experience in “structured” hangings, coupled with the lawmen misjudging Ketchum’s weight and stretching the rope during testing, he was beheaded. Ketchum was buried at Clayton’s Boot Hill on April 26, 1901.

But my mother-in-law’s story only began there. Three decades later, when she was in grade school, Ketchum’s grave was moved to the new cemetery. Because her father was Clayton’s mayor, she witnessed the reburial. According to her, they opened the grave and she and her cousin touched the bones of Ketchum’s little finger. I’m sure in those days a casket did not weather well.

Do you have a family story you’d like to share? What are your thoughts on vigilante justice of the 1800’s and earlier?

To one person who leaves a comment, I will give you a choice of an eBook copy of Out of a Texas Night or a gift card to
Bath and Body Works.

1800’s Frugal Frontier Housewife

 

THE AMERICAN FRUGAL HOUSEWIFE.
DEDICATED TO
THOSE WHO ARE NOT ASHAMED OF ECONOMY.

When I began my novella for Be My Texas Valentine, some nine years ago, I had to do some research on how laundry was done in the late 1800’s, so I went to my bookcase literally filled with reference books not only on the craft of writing, but books about everything anyone would ever want to know about the 1800’s. I’d totally forgotten about a CD I’d purchased with a number of works on it, including one written in 1832 and simply titled The American Frugal Housewife by a woman only identified as Mrs. Child. After reading a while, I decided in today’s economy it might be fun to visit some of Mrs. Child’s philosophy and guidelines from yesteryear.

The author’s premise is simple: “The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments, so that nothing be lost … Nothing should be thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it, however trifling that use may be … every member of the family should be employed either in earning or saving money.”

Here are some of her tips. Please note that I left much of the spelling and punctuation as it was originally written to truly reflect her authentic voice and the era.

• In this country, we are apt to let children romp away their existence, till they get to be thirteen or fourteen. This is not well. It is not well for the purses and {4} patience of parents; and it has a still worse effect on the morals and habits of the children. Begin early is the great maxim for everything in education. A child of six years old can be made useful; and should be taught to consider every day lost in which some little thing has not been done to assist others. They can knit garters, suspenders, and stockings; they can make patchwork and braid straw; they can make mats for the table, and mats for the floor; they can weed the garden, and pick cranberries from the meadow, to be carried to market.

• Provided brothers and sisters go together, and are not allowed to go with bad children, it is a great deal better for the boys and girls on a farm to be picking blackberries at six cents a quart, than to be wearing out their clothes in useless play. They enjoy themselves just as well; and they are earning something to buy clothes, at the same time they are tearing them.

• ‘Time is money.’ For this reason, cheap as stockings are, it is good economy to knit them. Cotton and woollen yarn are both cheap; hose that are knit wear twice as long as woven ones; and they can be done at odd minutes of time, which would not be otherwise employed. Where there are children, or aged people, it is sufficient to recommend knitting. Run the heels of stockings faithfully; and mend thin places, as well as holes. ‘A stitch in time saves nine.’

• Patchwork is good economy, but it is indeed a foolish waste of time to tear gppd cloth into bits for the sake of arranging it anew in fantastic figures; but a large family may be kept out of idleness, and a few shillings saved, by thus using scraps of gowns, curtains, &c. 

 

ODD SCRAPS FOR THE ECONOMICAL

• Look frequently to the pails, to see that nothing is thrown to the pigs which should have been in the grease-pot.
• Look to the grease-pot, and see that nothing is there which might have served to nourish your own family, or a poorer one.
• See that the beef and pork are always under brine; and that the brine is sweet and clean.
• Preserve the backs of old letters to write upon. If you have children who are learning to write, buy coarse white paper by the quantity, and keep it locked up, ready to be made into writing books. It does not cost half as much as it does to buy them at the stationer’s.
• The oftener carpets are shaken, the longer they wear; the dirt that collects under them, grinds out the threads. Do not have carpets swept any oftener than is absolutely necessary. After dinner, sweep the crumbs into a dusting-pan with your hearth-brush; and if you have been sewing, pick up the shreds by hand. A carpet can be kept very neat in this way; and a broom wears it very much. When a carpet is faded, I have been told that it may be restored, in a great measure, (provided there be no grease in it,) by being dipped into strong salt and water. I never tried this; but I know that silk pocket handkerchiefs, and deep blue factory cotton will not fade, if dipped in salt and water while new Keep a coarse broom for the cellar stairs, wood-shed, yard, &c. No good housekeeper allows her carpet broom to be used for such things.
• Suet and lard keep better in tin than in earthen. Suet keeps good all the year round, if chopped and packed down in a stone jar, covered with molasses. Pick suet free from veins and skin, melt it in water before a moderate fire, let it cool till it forms into a hard cake, then wipe it dry, and put it in clean paper in linen bags.
• The covering of oil-flasks, sewed together with strong thread, and lined and bound neatly, makes useful tablemats.
• Never leave out your clothes-line over night; and see that your clothes-pins are all gathered into a basket.
• After old coats, pantaloons, &c. have been cut up for boys, and are no longer capable of being converted into garments, cut them into strips, and employ the leisure moments of children, or domestics, in sewing and braiding them for door-mats.
• An ounce of quicksilver, beat up with the white of two eggs, and put on with a feather, is the cleanest and surest bed-bug poison. What is left should be thrown away: it is dangerous to have it about the house. If the vermin are in your walls, fill up the cracks with verdigris-green paint.1
• Eggs will keep almost any length of time in lime-water properly prepared. One pint of coarse salt, and one pint of unslacked lime, to a pailful of water. If there be too much lime, it will eat the shells from the eggs; and if there be a single egg cracked, it will spoil the whole. They should be covered with lime-water, and kept in a cold place. The yolk becomes slightly red; but I have seen eggs, thus kept, perfectly sweet and fresh at the end of three years. The cheapest time to lay down eggs, is early in spring, and the middle and last of September. It is bad economy to buy eggs by the dozen, as you want them.
• If feather-beds smell badly, or become heavy, from want of proper preservation of the feathers, or from old age, empty them, and wash the feathers thoroughly in a tub of suds; spread them in your garret to dry, and they will be as light and as good as new.
• Feathers should be very thoroughly dried before they are used. For this reason they should not be packed away in bags, when they are first plucked. They should be laid lightly in a basket, or something of that kind, and stirred up often. The garret is the best place to dry them; because they will there be kept free from dirt and moisture; and will be in no danger of being blown away. It is well to put the parcels, which you may have from time to time, into the oven, after you have removed your bread, and let them stand a day.

I don’t know about you, but I became exhausted by just reading about the do’s and don’t of a frugal frontier housewife. May of her tips are still used today.

So, what chore do you find the least pleasant and which might be fun?

I will be giving away a copy of my newest contemporary romance “Out of a Texas Night” to one lucky commenter, but if you have already read it, I bet I can find one of the others to give away in it’s place.