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.

A NEW SERIES–COMING SOON FROM CHERYL PIERSON! by Cheryl Pierson

I’m obsessed with mail-order bride stories. I can’t imagine what would make a young lady leave her home and head west to marry someone she’d never met, live in unfamiliar surroundings, and basically consign herself to a life of uncertainty from the moment she stepped foot on the train (or stagecoach).

But this “wondering” was what got me started on a massive writing project that I’m loving every minute of! My SWEET TEXAS GAMBLE series (and this is my first series!) was born of wondering what would happen if a gambler, Calum Ross, had won some mail-order brides for himself, his cousin Blake, and their best friends Paxton, Collin, Liam, and Jordan Taylor—four brothers who they’d grown up with.

Returning to Texas when the Civil War ends, the men are eager to get back to life as it was “before” they went off to fight. Calum has all but forgotten that odd bet he “won” in a smoky bar near the end of the war, and the others never even knew about it. Of course, marriage is the very last thing on any of their minds on their travels home. 

The six brides who are traveling to Texas from “back east” are as different from one another as any people could be, but during this long journey, they have embraced one another and become as close as sisters—they are family long before they ever cross the Red River.

The brides arrive before the men, to the unsuspecting Taylor family’s spacious home—and this excerpt is about the greeting they receive.

As I said, this is slated to be a series, as each of the couples have their own problems to overcome, with issues that happened before they ever met—and also, those that any couple might face—especially since they are starting marriage on such shaky ground.

I’m hoping this first book of the series will be released by early fall—and I’ll be sharing more about this venture as time goes by—but let me introduce you to some of my characters from SWEET TEXAS GAMBLE!

EXCERPT:

“Oh…my…stars,” Noelle gasped as the coach pulled to a halt in front of the elegant Spanish-style stucco home.

“As I live and breathe…” Angelica murmured. “Things are looking up already.”

“If we’re welcomed here, that is,” Tabitha added.

“Which we might not be,” Cami said quietly.

“Only one way to find out, ladies,” Jessamyn said firmly. “We’ll ask Mr. Fielding to wait a moment and see what kind of reception we get. No need to unload the luggage until we see.”

Just then, the front door opened wide and a man emerged. At the same time, the stage driver and shotgun rider called out a greeting, and the man lowered the barrel of the rifle he carried.

“Ain’t no call to shoot us, Lowell. We’re bringin’ a bevy of beautiful brides to your door!” Arnold joshed. He stepped lively to the stage door and opened it, and the women began to emerge in the heat of the June day.

 

“What in the cornbread hell—Arnold, is this some kind of sorry joke you’re pulling?”

The driver gave the man a peeved look, his bushy brows furrowing sharply. “I’ve saved you a drive into town, Taylor,” he said in a low growl. “The least you can do is be respectful in front of ladies.”

“Ladies!” Taylor scoffed loudly. “Load ’em back up. Only one here needs a bride is my foreman, J.A. Decker, and I ain’t gonna tempt him with a woman.”

“What’s going on, Lowell?” A woman’s voice came from somewhere inside the open doorway.

“Nothing, Ellen, just—”

A woman with a head of dark hair and emerald green eyes peered around the door, then, a wide smile of greeting lighting her features she moved past her husband onto the porch.

“Arnold Fielding, and Joe Darwin! Oh, and some weary travelers! Is there trouble?” Her look turned anxious.

“Only just now, Mrs. Taylor,” Joe muttered darkly.

She whirled to look at her husband, who towered over her by a good ten inches. Defiantly, she turned back to the group in the front yard and graciously announced, “Please, come inside and refresh yourselves.”  Looking past them, she motioned one of the stable boys forward. “Jose, please unhitch the team and take care of the horses. They’re hot and tired, too.”

The boy nodded, moving toward the horses.

“Should we unload the—” Arnold began.

“That can wait until we’ve cooled off some,” Ellen interrupted, motioning them forward. With a welcoming smile, she threw the door wide. “We have guests, Pilar,” she called.

Si, senora,” came a muffled voice.

Lowell Taylor stood aside as the travelers climbed the front steps and entered his house. As Arnold brought up the rear, Lowell put a staying hand on his shoulder. “What the hell, Arnie?”

Arnold shook his head. “I don’t know any more’n you. They say they’re mail-order brides on their way here from back east somewheres.”

Where back east? Hell, ever’thing’s ‘back east’ from where we are.”

“I don’t know, Lowell. It wasn’t my business. Said this is where they was headed, and I offered to bring ’em on out to save you a drive into town. It ain’t too far out of the way.”

Lowell stepped aside grudgingly. “You’ve never been one to trurn down Pilar’s lemonade and sopapillas. Reckon that’s why you offered so kindly.”

Arnold smiled. “No, sir. And I ain’t gonna make today any different.”

“Let’s go see what this is all about,” Lowell muttered. “Then I’ll decide if those women stay.”

Arnie chuckled. “Or, Miss Ellen will.”

                                                                                       ****

It was impossible to remain proper and aloof, the women soon discovered, in Ellen Taylor’s home. What her husband lacked in manners, she made up for in spades, with her welcoming demeanor, the genuine friendliness of her smiles, and her God-given ability to draw them out of their awkward reserve.

“When was the last time you ladies had a proper meal?” she asked, assuming that, no matter what, their funds would be running low by the end of their journey.

Quick looks at one another darted around the room, and she turned a blind eye, as if she didn’t notice.

“Pilar, perhaps you and Luisa could make some sandwiches for everyone,” Ellen instructed. “I’ll pour the lemonade.” 

“I’ve made tea, as well,” Pilar said with a quick nod as she excused herself and called to Luisa.

“Let’s move to the back porch, everyone,” Ellen said when she’d poured their glasses full of something to drink. “There’s a good breeze out there, usually.”

They’d all seated themselves except Lowell, who remained standing in the center of the porch looking around at all of the travelers, the driver, and the shotgun rider.

“Now I want some answers. Not to be rude—” he held out a hand as Ellen started to intervene, “—but I need to know what this is all about.”

Silence fell, and the others looked to the woman with blonde hair that was once curled, but now hung in tired, relaxed ringlets at the back, beneath her hat that looked as frayed and threadbare as her spirits. Her blue eyes still sparked with determination, and it was plain to see she was the one the others had come to depend on.

“Miss…” Ellen questioned, meeting the woman’s eyes.

“Thomas. Jessamyn Thomas. But I go by Jessie to my friends.”

Ellen smiled. “Jessamyn. What a lovely name. May I call you Jessie, then? Can you shed some light on this situation?”

Jessie nodded, and glanced at the others to be certain they approved of her speaking for all of them. “For various reasons, we had all ended up in Charleston, South Carolina, during the war, or at the war’s end. Also, we had all applied to the Potter Marriage Pairings Agency—”

“Mail-order brides,” Lowell muttered, raking Jessamyn with a disdainful gaze.

Seeing the fight come into her features, Ellen sent her husband a quelling look. She reached across one of the other women to touch Jessamyn’s hand. “Please, continue, my dear.”

Jessamyn turned away from Lowell’s steady glare to look at Ellen, effectively dismissing him. Ellen held back a smile.

“Yes. But we each have a reason for becoming a mail-order bride. And those reasons are for each of us to tell—our own stories—when the time is right.”

“But how did you come to be here? In Texas?” Ellen prodded.

Jessamyn lifted her chin. “We were…won. On a gamble. It-it was a card game, and Mr. Potter had nothing else to wager but part of his business holdings. Normally, he charges a fee to the—the prospective groom. And the groom would also pay travel expenses for—for the bride. So, Mr. Potter bet six brides.”

Lowell let out an indignant huff of disbelief. “And who would you have us believe would be stupid enough to wager a pot of money against six women who are desperate enough to—”

Jessamyn stood quickly as her anger got the best of her. “Mr. Taylor, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Whatever man becomes the husband of any of us will be the winner of that game, I can promise you.” Her voice shook with fury. “We are all here of our own accord. We are here honestly. We were told that we had husbands waiting for us.” Her blue eyes narrowed, but by now, Lowell Taylor stood, slack-jawed at the young woman’s dressing down.

“As for the man who—as you say—was stupid enough to gamble on us? That would be a dear friend of your family—a Mr. Calum James Ross.”

Lowell’s eyes widened at this, but Jessamyn wasn’t finished.

“So you see, when we meet with Mr. Ross, he will be able to explain everything to your exacting satisfaction, I believe, Mr. Taylor.”

The room fell deathly quiet, and a muttered “Sandwiches are ready,” sounded from the doorway.

****

I don’t know if I could be a mail-order bride–could you? 

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.

 

Janalyn Voigt: Ghost Town in the Rearview Mirror

 

We welcome our guest blogger, Janalyn Voigt!

Virginia City, Nevada is one of the West’s famous ghost towns, but Virginia City in Montana is less known. That’s a shame because this Montana town played an important part in the history of Montana Territory.

The year was 1863 when a group of miners led by William (Bill) Fairweather passed through Alder Gulch. Following a scrape with Crow Indians, the men were on their way home to Bannack City, a boomtown where miners flocked after the discovery of gold in nearby Grasshopper Creek. Fairweather’s group paused in Alder Gulch near the headwaters of the waterway known as the Stinkingwater (now Alder Creek). The men aimed to mine enough gold to pay for tobacco. They found that many times over. The men had chanced upon the richest placer gold strike in the Rocky Mountains.

The men tried to keep their discovery to themselves, but flashing money around Bannack revealed their secret. When they set out again for Alder Gulch, they set off a ‘stampede’ of hopeful miners. Virginia City went up within weeks. Men arrived daily to seek their fortune.

Bannack was winding down as a source of easy gold. With most of the population living in Alder Gulch. Virginia City replaced Bannack as the capital of Montana Territory in 1864. The town served in that capacity until 1875, when the territorial seat was moved to Helena.

I discovered Virginia City while on a summer road trip through Montana with my family. After a long drive through the Beartooth Mountains, we’d passed only one roadhouse. I enjoy wilderness areas, but it was a relief when Virginia City unfolded before us in the late afternoon sun. We stopped at the gas station, where I picked up a brochure that told of outlaws, stagecoaches, and vigilante justice.

Robbers Roost particularly awed me. The brochure informed me that this notorious roadhouse several miles from town was where outlaws rode out to rob gold-laden stagecoaches bound for Virginia City. I felt the weight of history and an unction to tell the story of this place.

Several years later, I returned to Virginia City on a research trip for a western historical romance series that would do just that. It was autumn, so late in the season that snow was falling. The town’s sparse bed and breakfasts were closed until spring, but my husband and I managed to wangle a bed for the night in a renovated cabin. The next day dawned bright and clear. We climbed boot hill to the outlaw gravesite located outside the main cemetery where law-abiding citizens were buried.

A stroll through the cemetery took me past the grave of Thomas J. Dimsdale, the mild-mannered author of The Vigilantes of Montana, an eyewitness account of the vigilante activities in the area. Released in 1866, it was the first book published in Montana.

After reading his account, I felt acquainted with the man. It seemed strange to find him lying in a grave. The brevity of life struck me anew, and I was glad to come down from boot hill.

As Virginia City dwindled in the rear-view mirror, we drove through a landscape marred by tailings, large piles of rocks deposited by the mining operations all along Alder Gulch. There was little left of the settlement dubbed ‘Fourteen-Mile City.’

How about you? Have you been to a ghost town?

To one lucky person who leaves a comment,
Janalyn is giving away a $15.00 Amazon Gift Card.

 

Bio: Janalyn Voigt fell in love with literature at an early age when her father read classics to her as bedtime stories. When Janalyn grew older, she put herself to sleep with her own made-up tales. Her sixth-grade teacher noticed her love of storytelling and encouraged her to become a writer. Today Janalyn is a multi-genre author. Janalyn writes the kind of novels she likes to read – epic adventures brimming with romance, mystery, history, and whimsy. She is praised for her unpredictable plots and the lyrical, descriptive prose that transports readers into breathtaking storyworlds. Janalyn Voigt is represented by Wordserve Literary. Learn more about Janalyn and her books at http://janalynvoigt.com.

Click here to purchase Forever Sky .

 

 

From Murderer to Lawman — Texas Ranger Captain Arrington

In April, I’m attending an arts workshop, including authors, in Canadian, in the Texas Panhandle. You can’t think about this part of Texas without giving a great deal of thought to one of our pioneers, Captain George Washington Arrington, who was also one of the first Texas Rangers. His ranch is now an historical site with a Bed and Breakfast. I’m hoping to take a tour while we’re there.

“Cap”, as he was known, was not just a lawman, rancher, spy for the Confederacy, and Texas Ranger, but also a murderer.

Arrington was born in Alabama under the name of John C. Orrick, Jr., and at the age of sixteen enlisted in the Confederate Army. But, in 1867 he murdered a businessman in his hometown; and after a while, he moved to Texas and changed his name to Arrington to escape his troubled past. He did many things during his lifetime; worked on the railroad, at a commission house, and farmed in Collin County, Texas, which led him to get hired on to be a drover in cattle drives. That seemingly changed his life.

In 1875 he enlisted in Company E of the newly organized Frontier Battalion of the Texas Rangers, where he excelled and after only two years was promoted to Captain of Company C because of his accomplishments of tracking down fugitives and outlaws. In 1879, his Company was moved to the Texas Panhandle to investigate depredations at area ranches. He eventually established the first Ranger Camp in the Panhandle.
 
After breaking up a major rustling ring, he left the Rangers and became the sheriff of “the mother city of the Panhandle”, Mobeetie, a wild and woolly town with a reputation for fast gunplay, sporting women and quick-dealing gamblers.

Although, Capt. Arrington had dealt with hostiles and outlaws, and had even murdered a man, he couldn’t deal with card sharks, cattle rustlers and ladies of the evening. But, the best thing about him living in Mobeetie was meeting and marrying Sara Burnette. Out of that union came ten children. The first two were born in the Old Mobeetie Jail, where part of the two-story structure was used as a resident.

After Arrington left his office as Sheriff, he managed the Rocking Chair Ranch, until it was sold to a large conglomerate. Involved in the civic affairs of Canadian and helping to establish their first rural school, Cap purchased his own ranch.
 
The Arrington Ranch Headquarters, which still stands today, is located south of Canadian adjacent to the Washita River. The house was ordered from the Van Tein catalog, delivered by railroad, moved pieces at a time by wagon for the first ten miles, and set up on the prairie in 1919. The building site was well chosen; sweeping vistas offer unobstructed sunsets and sunrises across the grassland.

Captain Arrington was definitely a self-made man of his era, harsh but fair. He was rarely seen without his sidearm, fully aware of the long list of enemies made during his tenure as a lawman. If the Captain wasn’t wearing a six-shooter, he had one within easy reach.
 
In his later years, he suffered from arthritis and made frequent train trips to Mineral Wells for their hot baths. In 1923, on one of these trips, he had a heart attack. He returned to his beloved Canadian where he died on March 31, 1923. He and his wife are both buried in the Old Mobeetie cemetery.


The Arrington Ranch House Lodge is alive and well owned by 5th generation Arrington, who have worked hard to keep Captain George Washington Arrington’s name alive and well in the Texas Panhandle.

Have you ever spent time in an historical home or building? How did it make you feel?

To one reader who leaves me a comment, I will give them an autographed copy of my latest Kasota Spring Romance Out of a Texas Night.
 

May Day by Phyliss Miranda

 

 

 

When I thought about today being May 1st or May Day, I planned to write a quick blog on the history of May Day.  Now, how hard is that?  A tad of facts, the May Day Pole, and some lovely pictures.

Well, I’ll tell you all one thing, the history about the day halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice is breathtaking.  I found so much information on its history that it was difficult to pare it down.  So, here goes.

May Day originated as a pagan festive holy day celebrating the first spring planting.  The ancient Celts and Saxons celebrated May 1st as Beltane, which translates to the day of fire. Why the day of fire? Bel was the Celtic god of the sun.

Here are a few tidbits I found interesting:

  • May was once considered a bad luck month to get married. There’s on old saying, “Marry in May and you’ll rue the day”.
  • May in the Northern Hemisphere is similar to November in the Southern Hemisphere. So, “It is the third and last month of the season of spring”, centuries ago.
  • May’s birthstone is the emerald which symbolizes success and love.
  • In Old English, May is called the “month of three milkings” referring to a time when the cows could be milked three times a day.
  • The Indianapolis 500 car race and the Kentucky Derby are held in May.
  • The United Kingdom celebrates May as the National Smile Month.
  • The last week of May is Library and information week.
  • Dances, singing and cakes are typical of the celebration.

To my surprise, when you go back into history May 1st was the date chosen for the International Workers’ Day, not to be confused with Labor Day.

Some of the modern day celebrations include dancing around the Maypole, a lot of pageantry, including “floral wish”.

May Day is strongly associated with flowers, partly because of the availability.  Since the ancient days in England there was a custom of “bringing in the May”.  This was why people would go to the woods and pick flowers to bring into the houses to decorate.  They would also make garlands, a custom that has survived still today.  The garlands were also used by the children going door to door begging. That could be done only in May; otherwise, begging would be offensive.

On the first day of May, English villagers woke up at daybreak to roam the countryside gathering blossoming flower and branches to create the towering maypole set up on the village green.  This pole usually made of the trunk of a tall birch, was decorated with bright field flowers.  The villagers then danced and sang around the maypole, accompanied by a piper.

I couldn’t resist adding this custom.  Facewashing in May Dew:  Washing the face with May dew was believed to restore beauty.  This is why in the Ozark Mountains, a cradle of American folklore, girls used to nurture a belief that having their faces washed with the early dawn dew on May Day would help them marry the man of their choice.

Now, May Day and a MAYDAY are two separate things, as most of us know.  MAYDAY was officially recognized in 1948, and is the official call of urgent needs.  MAYDAY is called three times, so there’s no mistaking the signal of a life-threatening emergency.  It should be noted that a false MAYDAY call comes with a hefty fine and up to six years in prison, since it’s considered a criminal act in many countries.

Are you as surprised as I was researching the history behind May Day and MAYDAY?

I’m so thrilled that my second book in the Kasota Spring Romance series, Out of a Texas Night will be out on my next blog day.  It’s available for preorder at Amazon.

Tonight I’m selecting one reader who leaves a comment to receive a copy of their choice of any of my eBooks and I promise my May blog, at the end of the month, which is also my release date, will be filled with fun and prizes.

 

 

Civilian Conservation Corp — Yesterday and Today

 

As a baby boomer, I thought the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) first came into appearance in the United State as a major part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.  A national project that provided unskilled manual labor job related to conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local governments.  Boy, I was ever wrong!

One of the CCC’s local projects is the two sets of cabins at Palo Duro Canyon, only a short distance south of Amarillo, Texas.  The canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of Texas. It’s absolutely beautiful. In this blog, I’m sharing many of my own pictures, especially of the three stone cabins deep into the canyon built by the CCC. I’ve spent more than one night at the old “cow camp cabins”, as they are known, with a number of writers and friends.  We’ve actually filled up all three of the cow camp cabins, just like the workers who lived there while building the roads and bridges in the 1930’s.

But here comes my surprise. The future CCC was originated on June 16, 1775, nearly two and a half centuries ago, by General George Washington, who appointed Col. Richard Gridley as the first chief engineer of the Continental army.  In 1779, The Corps of Engineers was established by congress as part of the Continental army.  The engineers’ fortifications played an important role in many Revolutionary War battles, including the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Battles of Saratoga.

In 1802, Congress, supported by President Thomas Jefferson, established the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.  This was after recognizing the need for a national engineering capability.  For more than a quarter century, West Point remained the only engineering school in the U.S.  Congress also established the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, which dates its continuous origin from 1802, and was started at West Point.  Until 1866, the academy superintendent was a military engineer.

Our nation repeatedly called upon the Army Engineers to perform civil works as well as engineering projects.  During the 1800’s, the Corps supervised construction of extensive coastal fortifications and built lighthouses, piers, and jetties, as well as mapping navigation channels. A Corp of Topographical Engineers, a separate unit in 1838-63, helped explore, survey, and map many regions of the new frontier.

During the Mexican War and Civil War, in addition to supplying many important commanders such as Robert E. Lee and George McClellan, the Corps of Engineers played important roles in mapping, road and bridge construction, fortifications, and siege craft.  The 2,170 foot pontoon bridge built across the James River in June 1864 was the longest floating bridge erected before WWII. One of the army engineers, George W. Goethals, supervised the construction of the Panama Canal.

Now for the biggest surprise I found … The Corp of Engineers, thru their military role, shifted their attention away from the footprints of the United States to a military role, as seen in its construction of army and air force facilities in the buildup of the 1980’s Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, as well as peacekeeping operations in other parts of the world.

 

Please tell us two things.  First, did you realize the CCC, as we know it today, was founded so many years ago? And, secondly, where is your favorite place to go, relax, and enjoy the wonders of nature?  My answer … is spending time with friends in the cow camp cabins in Palo Duro Canyon.

To one lucky winner, I will give away an eCopy of your choice of my “Kasota Springs Romance” eBooks plus a $10.00 Bath and Bodyworks gift certificate.  The winner will be selected from those who leave a comment.

The Gadsden Flag

 

As most of you know, I love research and when I come across something unusual I always try to add it to my blog file to share.  Today is one of those blogs where I knew nothing about the subject and was certainly excited to learn more and share.

The Gadsden Flag is a historical American flag with a bright yellow field depicting a rattlesnake, coiled and ready to strike.  Printed under the snake are the words “Dont Tread On Me” (and I didn’t make a mistake by leaving the apostrophe out). This flag was named after its designer, American statesman Christopher Gadsden.

Benjamin Franklin first used the rattlesnake in 1751 when he referenced it in a satirical commentary that he published in his Pennsylvania Gazette.  As the American Revolution approached, the snake became a symbol of the colonies and the American spirit.

The United States Navy was established in 1775, and before ships departed for their first mission, Gadsden presented the commander-in-chief of the Navy, Commodore Esek Hopkins, with the “Dont Tread On Me” flag to serve as his personal standard.

The Gadsden flag is considered to be one of the first flags of the United States, and has been reintroduced many times since the American Revolution as a symbol of American patriotism.

 

Many variations of the Gadsden flag exist:

  • The motto sometimes includes an apostrophe in the word “Dont” and sometimes does not.  Early written discussions uniformly included the apostrophe; however, as early as 1917, a flag reference book includes a picture of a version without the apostrophe.
  • The typeface used for the motto is sometimes a serif typeface and other times sans-serif.
  • The rattlesnake sometimes is shown as resting on a green ground, presumably grassy, and sometimes not.  The green grass seems to be a recent addition; representations dating from 1885 and 1917 do not display anything below the rattlesnake.
  • The rattlesnake usually faces to the left, and the early representations mentioned above face left.  However, some versions of the flag show the snake facing to the right.

If you wish to learn more about the various “Snake Flags” representing the United States, there’s a great explanation on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadsden_flag.

I’m interested in knowing how many of you previously had heard of the Gadsden flag, or for that matter, any U.S. snake flag.

 


 

To one lucky commenter, I will give you a choice of one of

my eBook  Contemporary “Kasota Spring Romances”

The Troubled Texan or The Tycoon and the Texan,

.