I hope you’re doing some fun things this summer. A few weeks ago, I drove thirty miles from where I live to what used to be only one of three towns in the entire Texas Panhandle. Tascosa used to be a thriving, but very dangerous, town that at its peak boasted 350 people. It was settled in 1876 by an ex-soldier and blacksmith named Henry Kimball and it became the assembling point for the Tascosa/Dodge City Cattle Trail. Surrounded by large ranches, the town quickly became known as the Cowboy Capital of the Plains and was an economic rival of Dodge City, Kansas.
It also became a place where outlaws and bad men outnumbered the law-abiding sort.
Here’s an adobe schoolhouse (built 1911). It’s the oldest one of adobe in Texas.
Due to the town being only thirty -five miles from the New Mexico line, Billy the Kid used to rustle cattle and bring them to Tascosa to sell. He made the trip many times. His campground is still marked today in a shady spot near a creek.
Pat Garrett was another regular to frequent Tascosa that in 1879 had a population of 150 with only 8 English speaking women who were not employed in the considerable brothels and saloons.
Inside of two years, there were twenty-eight deaths caused by shootings and Boot Hill saw much activity. Here’s the picture I took and the restored markers. I think it’s the first Boot Hill cemetery I’ve ever been in.
A post office opened in 1878 and in 1880 the county of Oldham (only the second county in the entire Texas Panhandle) was formed and a stone courthouse was built. That courthouse is still there and they’ve turned it into a museum. Here’s the picture I took during my visit.
Despite the lawlessness, romance was alive and well. A mysterious saloon girl and gambler named Frenchy fell deeply in love with Mickey McCormick who owned one of the saloons. They married and from then on, the two became inseparable. This huge, deformed tree and marker is all that remains of the spot where their adobe house sat.
Mickey died in 1912 and Frenchy walked to visit his grave every day—even after the town died and everyone moved away, she remained. She lived alone in the ghost town by herself with no running water or electricity for twenty-seven years, grieving for Mickey. Finally, in poor health and her house falling around her, the woman whose real name they never knew or where she was from let them move her to the nearby town of Channing where she stayed a little over a year before dying in 1941. As per her wishes, they brought her back and laid her to rest next to her beloved Mickey.
Other ghosts reside there also—like Ed King, Frank Valley, Fred Chilton, and Jesse Sheets who were killed in a gunfight in the wee hours of March 20, 1886.
The ghost town was bought by Julian Bivins who turned around and donated it to the Cal Farley Boy’s Ranch in 1939. The town sits on this private land and I believe the thousands of boys(and now girls also) who’ve lived there have purged the voices of the ghosts. I didn’t feel any restless spirits. Although it is on private land, they welcome visitors.
If you’ve read any of my Outlaw Mail Order Brides, you’ve seen the town of Tascosa in the stories. Here’s one segment in Tally Shannon’s point of view from Book 1 – The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride:
Life was full of ups and downs, and this wasn’t the worst that they would face. She’d heard the men talk about a bounty hunter Ridge had seen in Tascosa and the reward poster the man had been showing around. Foreboding told her the worst still lay in front of them.
Have you ever been to or read about a ghost town? I’m curious what you thought. I would love to have seen Tascosa at its peak but I wouldn’t have wanted to live there. Too rough for me!
In UNTAMED COWBOY, my heroine, Carina Lockett, is a cattle woman who owns the C Bar C Ranch. Unfortunately, she is blackmailed by the father of her precious daughter for a huge sum of money, her entire herd of cattle. To get her daughter back after she’s been kidnapped, Carina must drive the herd to Dodge City and pay the ransom with the sale money.
Enter Penn McClure, one of her ranch hands who has burning revenge for the man blackmailing Carina. Penn is only too happy to help Carina get to Dodge City and settle his score.
Now, my friends, cattle drives ain’t easy. All kinds of things can go wrong and usually do. One of the worst is a stampede.
You wouldn’t think animals weighing a thousand pounds each would get scared of the littlest thing, but they do. A rabbit, a fox, a coyote–or even the strike of a match on a quiet night–could spook the herd and send them running. And that’s exactly what happens in UNTAMED COWBOY.
Here’s an excerpt:
The cattle had turned themselves around and were heading south, losing the ground they’d gained all day. He had to get to the front of them and turn the leaders so the rest would follow. Their hooves hammered against the ground, surrounded him with a deafening roar. Dust clouded his vision, thickened in his throat, but he lay over the gelding’s neck and rode even faster.
In the moonlight, those three thousand head of wild-eyed, horn-swinging cattle were a dark mass of terrifying power. Penn hoped fervently none of the men would be trampled. Or gored. One wrong move, and it could happen. It’d be easy, so easy. Dangerous for anyone, but especially a woman…
He closed his mind to Carina Lockett, to the worry that she was out here with him and the rest of her outfit. He pressed on, at last passing the thundering longhorns. Moving in amongst them, he swung his bullwhip again and again, aware if his horse found a prairie dog hole, or a hidden ravine, he’d go down, stomped to his death by those heavy hooves.
Yelling, relentless, he fought to turn the animals into the center of the herd. Then, to the side of him, there was Woollie, Stinky Dale and Jesse, and damn it, the she-boss, too, lashing her quirt, as desperate as the rest of them to get her herd to shift direction.
Finally, finally, the cattle began to veer into a wide circle, changing their straight run into a giant wheel of heaving cowhide. The switch got them bellowing to one another in confusion, and relief flowed through Penn at the sound, a sign their stampede was nearing an end. Gradually, they slowed and shuddered to an exhausted halt.
Penn halted, too. Breathing hard, he vowed vengeance on the night-herders responsible. Orlin Fahey was one, and he’d better have one hell of a good reason for those steers to run like they did.
The stampede is a crucial point in the book and sends Penn and Carina’s relationship in a whole new direction. A romantic one, of course!
Like with most all disasters, someone was responsible, and I hope you’ll read UNTAMED COWBOY to learn more about the stampede that made all hell break loose for Penn and Carina.
Let’s Chat! Have you ever done something that created havoc?
Has someone in your family? Or a pet?
I’ll go first. This winter, while visiting my sister in New Mexico, our Golden Retriever had to potty at 2:00 am. I put him off for a solid hour, but by 3:00 am, the poor dog just had to go out. When I opened the door to their patio, their alarm system went off. Lights flashed and sirens peeled. Their dog barked. The kids got scared. My brother-in-law came running toward me in his underwear . . . I felt awful, and I was so embarrassed. Yikes!
Thank you to Petticoats and Pistols for inviting me for a visit. Today I want to share a memory with you.
When I was a child, my father took us to what is now known as Dinosaur Provincial Park which consists of badlands along the Red Deer River south of our home. There he showed us a rough log cabin and said it had been the home of John Ware—a famous Black cowboy. He told us about the cowboy and it sounded so brave and wonderful. Since that day, I have had an interest in this unusual man.
John Ware was born a slave on a South Carolina plantation in 1845. He was freed at the end of the civil war in 1865 and set out to join a Texas cattle drive. John Ware was a big man and strong…by all accounts, a gentle giant. When he was freed he had a debt to settle with the plantation owner. He caught the man and led him to the whipping tree where John and many of his friends and family had endured the wrath of this man. But he set his ex-master free. John preferred peace to violence.
By 1882, he was an experienced cowboy and was hired by the owners of the newly-formed North-West Cattle Company at the Bar U Ranch to drive cattle into Canada. Once the cattle reached the ranch, John was asked to stay on. It seems he ate as much as two men and needed sandwiches as big as Bibles for lunch.
Breaking horses was one of John’s favorite jobs and he was good at it.
One time some cowboys were having trouble with an unruly horse and asked John to help. He got on it and stayed on it as the horse raced toward Oldman River. The horse launched itself over the bank into deep water. Afraid of what had become of John, the cowboys waited until the horse emerged downstream with John still on its back.
Many stories of his feats abound. Like the time the cattle were caught in a snow storm. The cowboys tried to turn them but failed and all returned to the ranch except John. The storm raged for three days before the cowboys could go in search of John and the cows. They found him two days later still with the herd. He had not been dressed for the weather and joked he was afraid to flex his fingers in case they broke of like icicles.
Sometimes John performed feats of strength like straightening a curved hay hook with his bare hands, or lifting a barrel full of water into cart.
John had a dream—to own his own ranch. In 1890 he had built a house on the shores of Sheep Creek. But he wanted a family. He wanted to marry a Black woman and there were few such in Alberta. However, a family moved into the area. He courted Mildred and married her. He was 26 years older than her. They soon had four children.
The land around John and his family was settling up and John didn’t care for that so in 1900 he moved his family to near the Red Deer River. Mildred must have been shocked to see the treeless countryside with its stunted grass and the nearby badlands.
Their sixth child was born there but he was never strong. Mildred never regained her health after the child was born. John rode the train to Calgary to get medicine. Where he returned to Brooks (the nearest station) he had 40 Km to ride to reach home. A storm made it impossible for the horse to make its way so John walked the distance. But sadly, the child, Daniel, died before his 3rd birthday. Later that year Mildred died of pneumonia.
That same year, John and his 11 year old son were cutting out some cattle when John’s favorite horse caught her foot in a badger hold and fell, pinning John beneath. John was killed in that accident.
At his funeral, the pastor described John as “a gentleman with a beautiful skin.” John had not faced much prejudice on the open range though he experienced it in the towns and cities. He was believed to have said that “A good man or a good horse is never a bad color.”
I hope you enjoyed learning about this gentle giant. Feel free to post comments or ask questions, though I don’t promise to have all the answers.J
I am offering a free digital copy of Temporary Bride to one on those who comments. It is the first in my Dakota Brides series, featuring strong, independent young women who ventured west to Dakota Territory and found not only freedom and independence, but love. Their love, however, came to them in unexpected ways and from unexpected sources.
It’s a scary world and about to become a lot scarier.
Not only are we faced with the prospect of driverless cars and mirrors designed to voice unabashed opinions of our wardrobes, I recently realized that my “smart” doorbell has a higher IQ than I do.
Cowboys and cowgirls of the future?
Now scientists are closing in on giving us animal-free meat. What that means is that our steaks will soon be grown in labs, not on cattle ranches. Cowboys of the future will wear white coats instead of denims and Stetsons—and they sure won’t be riding horses.
It’s not hard to understand what’s driving this new technology. Some believe that cattle and the methane gas they produce is the number one cause of global warming. There are also financial considerations; It’s estimated that the cells from a single live cow will produce 175 million quarter pounders! That’s about what McDonald’s sells in nine months.
I’m currently working on a book set on a Texas cattle ranch in 1800s and I can’t help but wonder what my hero would think about all of this. No doubt he would be appalled and regard the so-called “clean meat” as a threat to his very existence. But he also knows what it’s like to fight a losing battle. In the book, his ever-ready Colt stops rustlers, horse thieves and “belled snakes,” but is useless in the face of progress.
Only time will tell if the National Cattleman’s Association will be successful in convincing consumers to demand the “real thing” in their hamburgers. Or if it, too, will go the way of cattle drives.
Of course, not everyone agrees on what the “real thing” is. Some aficionados insist that none other than grass-fed cattle fit the bill, but that can be a hard sell.
Grass-fed cattle taste different than cattle fed on corn and soy. It has less fat, which means it’s healthier, but the taste doesn’t always suit modern palates and can take some getting used to.
Then there’s the difference in texture. Grass-fed cattle move around more than cattle in feedlots and therefore have more muscle. This makes the meat “chewier.” Those rugged cowboys of yesteryear might have relished a chewy steak while sitting around a campfire, but today most people prefer the tender, melt-in-your mouth taste of prime grain-fed beef.
Feed, muscle and fat aren’t the only things that affect taste. The way meat is handled during shipping, aging and preparation makes a difference, too. Barbecued steak doesn’t have the same flavor as meat cooked on an open campfire. So even if you purchase grass-fed beef today, it still won’t taste the same as it did during those old chuck-wagon days.
Who knows? Maybe future generations will prefer the taste of lab-grown meat, which some describe as “crunchy.” There’s no stopping progress, but neither can we stop changing tastes.
So what changes or new tech do you like or dislike?
Are you ready? THE HEART OF A TEXAS COWBOY (#2 Men of Legend) is galloping into bookstores and online on May 2nd! I’m so excited. Houston Legend has tons of adventure, romance, and suspense waiting. This book has more twists and turns than a roller coaster.
After his father, Stoker Legend, gambles away half of the Lone Star Ranch, he tells Houston they can get it back—if he marries the new owner’s daughter. Houston reluctantly agrees but makes one thing perfectly clear—love is out of the question.
Yet, all Lara wants is a name for her baby. And kindness.
He’s never met or seen Lara so he has no idea what to expect, but marry her he does. Two weeks later, he leaves on a cattle drive, taking two thousand head of longhorns up to Dodge City. At the last minute, his cook quits so Lara steps in and goes along. Of course, the baby who’s just started crawling has to come too.
Trouble starts two days out when Houston sees riders trailing them. Soon, he discovers that Lara is unsafe and it turns into an all-out fight. Houston will do whatever it takes to protect his wife.
As they struggle to stay ahead of Yuma Blackstone, love blossoms between them and passion flares under the looming threat.
But, the baby, Gracie, crawls into a dangerous situation and they have to find a doctor…somewhere in Indian Territory.
That took some research and I had to contact Dr. David Ciambrone for help. A very nice man by the way and also a mystery/suspense writer.
I also had to see if anything was available to relieve Lara’s severe discomfort while Gracie is unable to nurse.
Lo and behold! There were breast pumps in 1878. In fact, I discovered that these mechanical devices dated back to Ancient Greece. I couldn’t believe it. In the U.S. they operated like a hand pump. Problem solved.
Here’s a short excerpt following their short marriage ceremony:
Her vivid green eyes held misery. “It’s just that I don’t know what you expect of me.”
Her statement caught him by surprise. What did he expect? Certainly not a wife, given they were utter strangers. But not a cook and housekeeper either. That wasn’t right. No wife of his would ever fill the role of a maid to be at his beck and call.
Hell! He yearned for a stiff drink.
“A friend.” His answer surprised him probably more than it did her. “I expect you to be a partner. We both have gaping wounds that have to heal and things in our past to forget. I need someone who’ll stand with me in good times and bad.”
A smile transformed Lara’s face. She was a beautiful woman. He felt the urge to let his fingertips brush her delicate cheekbones and drift along the curve of her jaw.
“I can use a friend,” she said. “I’ll try not to ever make you sorry for your decision.”
“You won’t.” The words came out gruff and he didn’t know how he could say them with such confidence. Yet, somehow deep in his being a calm surety settled like disturbed silt back to the bottom of a riverbed.
He felt a tug to his trouser leg and glanced down. Gracie had crawled to him and gripped the fabric in her tiny fist. He picked her up. They would face lots of ups and downs but they’d survive. For no other reason than the little girl giving him a toothless, slobbery grin.
The babe needed a father. Lara a husband.
And Houston desperately needed some reason to keep living.
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I’m giving away three copies of the book before release day. Just tell me if you have a favorite marriage of convenience story, either book or movie. Mine is Sarah, Plain and Tall. Maybe it’s yours too.
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Oh, and I almost forgot…TO LOVE A TEXAS RANGER (#1 Men of Legend) is on sale for .99 until next Saturday, April 22, 2017! Just click on the cover.
Texas has seen a number of mass migrations since the Mexican government opened the territory to Anglo settlers in the 1820s, but perhaps none were as transformative as the influx that took place immediately following the Civil War. Carpetbaggers, footloose former Union soldiers, and dispossessed former Confederates all found attractive the state’s untamed rangeland brimming with feral cattle called longhorns. Many a man with nothing more than guts and grit built a fortune and a legacy by shagging longhorns from deep scrub and driving the tough, stubborn, nasty-tempered critters north to the railheads in Kansas and Nebraska. Others pushed herds to Montana and Wyoming to begin new lives where the West was even wilder.
Between 1866 and 1890, cowboys drove an estimated twelve million longhorns and one million horses north. A crew of twelve to twenty men could push a herd of 2,000 to 3,000 beeves about ten to fifteen miles a day, reaching Kansas railheads in three to four months.
The development of barbed wire in the mid-1870s — along with an incursion of sheepmen and farmers — put a crimp in the cattle drives by crisscrossing Texas’s wide-open spaces with miles and miles and miles of fence. To protect themselves and their herds from the yahoos who would use Texas range for something besides Texas cattle, wealthy ranchers strung wire around the land they owned or leased, often extending their fences across public land, as well. What once had been open range across which cowboys drove enormous herds of steak on the hoof became parceled off, causing no end of frustration and unfriendly behavior.
Fence-cutting began almost as soon as the first of the wire went up. Small confrontations over “the Devil’s rope” happened frequently, with wire-nipping taking place in more than half of Texas counties.
In 1883, the conflict turned bloody. Instead of merely cutting fences that got in the way during trail drives, bands of armed cowboy vigilantes calling themselves names like Owls, Javelinas, and Blue Devils destroyed fences simply because the fences existed. Fence-cutting raids usually occurred at night, and often the vigilantes left messages warning the fence’s owner not to rebuild. Some went so far as to leave coffins nailed to fenceposts or on ranchers’ porches. During one sortie, vigilantes pulled down nineteen miles of fence, piled the wire on a stack of cedar posts, and lit a $6,000 bonfire.
In response, cattlemen hired armed men to guard their wire…with predictable results. Clashes became more violent, more frequent, and deadlier. In 1883 alone, at least three men were killed in Brown County, a hotspot of fence-cutting activity, during what came to be known as the Texas Fence-Cutter War.
The bloodiest period of the Fence-Cutter War lasted for only about a year, but in that period damages from fence-cutting and range fires totaled an estimated $20 million — $1 million in Brown County alone.
Although politicians stayed well away from the hot-button issue for about a decade, in early 1884 the Texas legislature declared fence-cutting a felony punishable by a prison term of one to five years. The following year, the U.S. Congress outlawed stringing fence across public land. Together, the new laws ended the worst of the clashes, although the occasional fracas broke out in the far western portion of Texas into the early part of the 20th Century.
Texas Ranger Ira Aten
The Texas Rangers were assigned to stop several fence-cutting outbreaks, and being the Texas Rangers, they proved remarkably effective…with one notable exception. In February 1885, Texas Ranger Ben Warren was shot and killed outside Sweetwater while trying to serve a warrant for three suspected fence-cutters. Two of the three were convicted of Warren’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.
In 1888, a brief resurgence of fence-cutting violence erupted in Navarro County, prompting famed Texas Ranger Ira Aten to place dynamite charges at intervals along one fence line. Aten’s method was a mite too extreme for the Texas Adjutant General, who ordered the dynamite removed. The mere rumor of the explosive’s presence brought fence-cutting to a rapid halt in the area, though.
Though Civil War battles left few scars on Texas, the war’s aftermath was devastating — and not just because barbed-wire fence appeared. Texas existed under federal martial law for five long years after the war ended, becoming the final member of the Confederacy to repatriate only under duress. During Reconstruction, lingering animosity led some of the occupation forces to plunder and terrorize their jurisdictions. Bearing their own grudges and determined to become an independent republic again, Texans demanded “the invading foreign army” remove its boots from sovereign soil. A U.S. Supreme Court decision finally ran the rebellious Lone Star State back in with the rest of the herd in 1870, at last reunifying a divided nation.
My newest story, The Trouble with Honey, takes place during Reconstruction in Texas: A marshal’s widow can escape a Union Army manhunt only with the help of an outlaw condemned to hang. The novella is part of the trilogy The Dumont Way, which begins a saga chronicling the lives and loves of a Texas ranching dynasty from before the Civil War to the turn of the 20th Century.
Boots meandered across the stone floor. The marshal’s snicker slapped Daniel between the shoulder blades. “Injun Creek hasn’t seen this much excitement in a month of Sundays. We’re planning quite a celebration for you.”
One of life’s great mysteries: Had Halverson been born arrogant, or had the skill required practice? “Always did fancy a crowd of folks looking up to me.”
Whistling, the marshal moved away. Daniel stared at the dingy clapboard across the alley. That wall wouldn’t present much challenge. This wall, on the other hand… A barrel of black powder and a lucifer would come in handy right about now.
He rested his forehead against the bars. Daisy would dig up his body and throw a second hemp party if he didn’t show up for the wedding.
The jailhouse door scraped open, and a swirl of fresh air tapped him on the shoulder. Fingering the tender crease running from his eyebrow to his hairline, he pivoted. If Halverson’s lucky shot hadn’t dropped him—
His fingertips stilled. So did his breath.
The marshal ushered in a voluptuous vision and lifted a tin plate from her hands. An abundance of golden hair, gathered in soft swirls at the crown, framed her head like a halo. Curls fell beside rounded cheeks.
“What’re you doing here?” Judging by the pucker in his tone, Halverson had eaten one too many sour apples. “Where’s that old drunk you insist on keeping around?”
“Henry hasn’t touched a drop in—”
“What? Twenty-four hours?”
The angel raised her chin. “He isn’t feeling well.”
Daniel drifted to the front of the cell and slouched onto the forearms he draped over a horizontal bar. The familiar voice… Nectar, fresh from a hive.
Gracing Halverson with a shallow smile, the buxom beauty tipped her head toward the plate. “Chicken and dumplings for your prisoner’s supper.”
Steam rising from the lump meant to be his meal carried a whiff of old socks. Daniel’s thoughts churned right along with his stomach. High point of the day: bad vittles. Now, the lady… She was downright mouthwatering.
A Kiss to Rememberis available exclusively on Amazon (free for those who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited). I’ll give an e-copy to one of today’s commenters who answers this question: If you had migrated to Texas after the Civil War, would you have settled in town or on a ranch or farm? Why?
Thanks for stopping by today! I’m looking forward to your comments. 🙂
I’ve been researching for my next book, Tina Tracks a Trail Boss, book eight in my Brides with Grit series, and needed more information about the cattle breed which traveled from Texas to Kansas
along the Chisholm Trail.
A friend loaned me his 1941 copy of The Longhorns by J. Frank Dobie, and I found it to be a fascina
Besides details of the actual animal and the trails they took back in the 1800s, there are stories, which made the book really enjoyable to me. One of my favorite chapters is about a lead steer named “Old Blue”. Born in Texas in 1870, he walked his first trail at three years of age to New Mexico.
The next year Charlie Goodnight bought Old Blue, who was in a group of five thousand head driven to Pueblo, Colorado. Goodnight realized the steer’s potential and the longhorn wasn’t sold, but stayed with the home herd on the Goodnight Ranch.
In 1876, Goodnight decided to move back to Texas and Old Blue lead the herd. Over the next eight years, Old Blue kept leading herds, sometimes twice a year, to Dodge City. When the drive was over, he’d travel back to Texas with the horse remuda and drivers.
Old Blue was always be the pointer animal, and the herd learned to follow the sound of his bell. Attached to the bell was a little strap to tie up the clapper so it would stay quiet at night. Old Blue would let a cowboy tie up the clapper at night, and release it in the morning when the herd was ready to move.
The longhorn became a pet, walking right up to the camp to eat bread, apples, or whatever the cook would give him. He preferred to bed down with the horses instead of the herd. The steer faced storms, Indian raids and buffalo stampedes, and lived to be twenty years old.
This is the kind of research which makes interesting background for the writer’s imagination, and for the reader. So, be sure to look for the lead longhorn steer in my next book, because he’ll be leading the herd to Ellsworth, Kansas in 1873.
Here’s the Brides with Grit series so far.
Please note:Rania Ropes a Rancher is free right now on Amazon, B&N, Kobo and iTunes, so be sure to add it to your e-reader.
Today I’ll give a Kindle ebook copy of the seventh book, Darcie Desires a Drover to a lucky winner.
Here’s the story line for Darcie Desires a Drover, book seven.
A historical romance set in 1873. Darcie Robbins fled St. Louis to protect her two children from their bad father. Now divorced, she’s temporarily working on the Bar E Ranch in central Kansas. She needs a permanent job—or a trustworthy husband—to help provide for her family.
Reuben Shepard went home to his family in New York after the Civil War, to find his wife had declared him dead—so she could wed another. In shock, Reuben didn’t contest her claim and wandered south, spending years as a cattle drover on western trails until settling down to work on the Bar E Ranch.
Spending time with Darcie’s toddler, Tate, makes Reuben miss his own son, Gabe. Reuben travels to New York, hoping to visit his son, and ends up bringing Gabe back to the Kansas because the boy’s step-father had just died.
When Reuben proposes marriage to Darcie for their children’s sake, the couple falls in love as they learn to trust and support each other while planning for their future. But their wedding is stalled when Reuben’s former wife arrives, stating she and Reuben are still married.
What’s the truth and what’s best for the children is their concern now instead of a wedding date. How can they clear the past so they can have a future together?
To get the chance to win Darcie Desires a Drover, please comment on…If you could travel with a cattle drive back in 1873, what would be your favorite, and least favorite thing about the trip?
About the Author
Linda writes historical fiction and sweet western romance books about pioneer women who homesteaded in Kansas between 1854 to the early 1900s, often using her Swedish immigrant ancestors in the storyline.
Sign up for her newsletter at www.LindaHubalek.com.to hear about the release of future books, contests and more. In return, you’ll get her free Brides with Grit short story, The Bridal Crown. Linda loves to connect with her readers, so please contact her through one of these social media sites.
Hello from the Kansas prairie! I’m honored to be a guest blogger on Petticoats and Pistols today, because this site features a group of authors I’ve admired for a long time.
Today I’m blogging about my new historical romance series, Brides with Grit. Set in the Ellsworth, Kansas area during 1873, the town’s top cattle drive year, these sweet western romances combine sweet clean love stories with cowtown history.
I also live close, so it was handy for me to explore the area, and envision the vast herds of cattle that dotted the hills almost a century and a half ago. One can find a vast amount of information on the internet about the cattle drives which went through Kansas in the 1870’s. Here’s some interesting tidbits, written by F. B Streeter in 1935, for an article in the Kansas Historical Quarterly. As a means of advertising the new trail and the shipping points on the line, the Kansas Pacific issued a pamphlet and map entitled, Guide Map of the Great Texas Cattle Trail from Red River Crossing to the Old Reliable Kansas Pacific Railway. The writer has located only two editions of this pamphlet: one issued in 1872, the other in 1875. To quote from the 1875 edition:
Drovers are recommended to make Ellis, Russell, Wilson’s, Ellsworth and Brookville the principal points for their cattle for the following reasons: Freedom from petty annoyances of settlers, arising from the cattle trespassing upon cultivated fields, because there is wider range, an abundance of grass and water, increased shipping facilities and extensive yard accommodations. Large and commodious hotels may be found in all these places, and at Ellsworth, especially, the old “Drovers’ cottage,” so popular with the trade for years, will be found renovated and enlarged.
Ellsworth became the principal shipping point for Texas cattle on the Kansas Pacific Railroad in 1872. The first three droves of longhorns that season arrived in Ellsworth early in June. These droves numbered 1,000 head each. Two weeks later a total of twenty-eight herds, numbering from 1,000 to 6,000 head each, had arrived and many more were on the way. The fresh arrivals contained a total of 58,850 head of longhorns. These, together with over 40,000 head which had wintered in the county, made a total of more than 100,000 head of Texas cattle in Ellsworth county.
That season 40,161 head were transported from Ellsworth, or one fourth of the total number marketed over the Kansas Pacific…Besides those shipped by rail from Ellsworth, about 50,000 head were driven to California and the territories from that place. In the months of June and July more than 100,000 head of beef and stock cattle changed hands at Ellsworth. Drovers found buyers on their arrival, enabling them to close out at a good price and return to their homes.
The prices paid for cattle that season were as follows: $19 to $22 for beeves; $15 to $18 for three-year-olds; $9 to $10 for two-year olds; $12 for cows; and $6 for yearlings.
My first thought on reading this? Wow! That’s a lot of cattle to surround the little town.
My second? Dust, manure and flies…and a good setting for a western romance…
The first three books in the eight book series are available now on Amazon, and more titles will be released during the year. Here’s the titles and taglines for the first five books.
Rania Ropes a Rancher – Book 1
She can ride, rope, handle livestock and children—and he wants her as his ranch wife. But will danger rip them apart, or rope them together?
Millie Marries a Marshal – Book 2
This mail-order bride arrives to find out her groom has died! So, she moves into the town marshal’s house—and into his heart.
Hilda Hogties a Horseman – Book 3
She bought his homestead out from under him with her horse race winnings…and now he wants it back.
Cora Captures a Cowboy – Book 4
She has just days to convince the cowboy into marrying her, or its back to Boston as another man’s bride.”
Sarah Snares a Soldier – Book 5
She leaves her groom at the altar, because there’s a soldier who has snared her heart. But can she catch him as he marches away?
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Sound interesting? I’ve had fun writing these stories, so I hope you’ll enjoy reading them too—without having to worry about the dust, manure and flies… What’s your first thought when you hear the words “cattle drive?”
Please leave a comment for a chance to win one of two Kindle copies of Rania Ropes a Rancher. Many thanks from the Kansas prairie…
where I’m writing love stories for you to enjoy
Florida has the longest history of ranching of any state in the United States.
Does that surprise you?
Andalusian/Caribbean cattle were the first in today’s United States, thanks to the expeditions of Ponce de Leon in 1521 and Don Diego de Maldonado who came to Florida in 1540. These cattle escaped and survived in the wild. Organized ranching began with the founding of St. Augustine in 1565, when cattle from Spain and Cuba formed the basis of herds that fed the garrison and surrounding communities. In addition to herds owned by the Spanish and Indians, wild cattle still flourished in the rangelands and prairies.
Eventually Spanish colonists began exporting cattle to Cuba. During the 1600s, Spanish clergy raised cattle at the missions, where many Native Americans learned to tend them.
By 1700, Florida contained approximately 34 ranches and 20,000 head of cattle. After British-Creek Indian raids in 1702 and 1704 devastated Florida cattle ranchers, Seminole Indians sustained cattle raising in Florida. Many had established large herds of wild cattle and stock acquired from the Spanish. Cattle herding was vital culturally and economically to the early Seminoles, as attested to by the name of their leader, Cowkeeper. They remained Florida’s major livestock producers throughout most of the 1700s.
Cattle on the beach
In Florida, those who own or work cattle traditionally have been called cowmen. In the late 1800s they were often called cow hunters, a reference to hunting for cattle scattered over the wooded rangelands during roundups. At times these cowhunters were also called Crackers. The name “Cracker” originated with the unique way the cowmen herded cattle, using 10- to 12-foot-long whips made of braided leather. Snapping these whips in the air made a loud “crack.” Many Crackers rode rugged, rather small horses known as “Cracker ponies.” Cracker cowboys also counted on herd dogs to move cattle along the trail. These tough dogs could help get a cow out of a marsh or work a hundred steers into a tidy group. A good dog, a horse, and whip were all the tools a true Cracker needed.
Ranging in size from 5,000 to 50,000 head, Florida herds roamed freely on open range, with no sign of fencing. The early cowboys rounded cows up over miles of open plains, in hammocks, and along the rivers and streams. Then they drove them to market. By the 1890s, cow camps were located in most sections of the state. One such camp located near Lake Kissimmee, was known as “Cow Town.” The area’s cattle were referred to as scrub cows, described as “no bigger than donkeys, lacking quality as beef or milk producers.” In early Florida, Europeans, Americans, and Indians stole cattle from each other. Rustling became particularly widespread by the second half of the 18th century, and was one of the reasons that led to the Seminole Wars.
1890’s cowboy near Orlando
When the U.S. took possession of Florida in 1821, it was described as a “vast, untamed wilderness, plentifully stocked with wild cattle.” These hardy creatures survived on native forage, tolerated severe heat, insect pests, and acquired immunity to many diseases. Like cowboys out west, early Florida cowmen had to fight off panthers, wolves, bears, and cattle rustlers. Cowmen spent weeks or months on cattle drives across difficult marshes and dense scrub woods, often enduring burning heat, torrential thunderstorms, and hurricane winds. From central Florida, they drove cattle as far north as Jacksonville, Savannah and Charleston, but in the 1830’s they drove the cattle south when trade was re-established with Cuba, Tampa,Punta Gorda and Punta Rassa became important export ports. The number of cattle increased rapidly from the 1840’s until the Civil War, and Florida was second only to Texas in per capita value of livestock in the South.
Wars provided an economic boost for Florida cattlemen, who provisioned armies during the Seminole, Civil and Spanish-American Wars. During the Civil War, Florida cowmen became beef suppliers to both armies. Hides, tallow and meat from Florida were so important for the Confederacy that a Cow Cavalry was organized to protect herds from Union raiders.
Remington’s Cracker Cowboys of Florida
In the late 1800’s, famed American artist, sculptor and writer Frederic Remington visited Florida and told of his experience in an article titled “Cracker Cowboys of Florida” in the August 1895 issue of Harper’s Weekly. “I was sitting in a “sto’do’” (store door) as the “Crackers” say, waiting for the clerk to load some number eights (lumber), when my friend said, “Look at the cowboys!” This immediately caught my interest. With me, cowboys are what gems and porcelains are to some others. Two very emaciated Texas ponies pattered down the street, bearing wild-looking individuals, whose hanging hair and drooping hats and generally bedraggled appearance would remind you at once of the Spanish moss which hangs so quietly and helplessly to the limbs of the oaks out in the swamps….They had on about four dollars’ worth of clothes between them, and rode McClellan saddles, with saddle bags, and guns tied on before.” Remington’s illustrations give us a good picture of Florida’s Cracker cowboys in that era.
An excellent novel about the early history of cattle ranching in Florida is A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy!
A multi-published author, Marilyn Turk lives in and writes about the coastal South, particularly about its history. Her fascination for lighthouses spawned her popular weekly lighthouse blog at pathwayheart.com, and inspired the stories in her upcoming Coastal Lights Legacy series and her Lighthouse Devotions book. When not climbing lighthouses, Marilyn and her husband Chuck enjoy fishing, gardening, kayaking and playing with their grandchildren.
Hello, Jean Brashear here. I’m a fifth-generation Texan who grew up in a family of ranchers, and one of my most treasured possessions is five pages of reminiscences by my great-grandmother, Nannie Jowell, who was born in 1860. I’m part of a just-released boxed set collection of five full-length novels called LOVE ME SOME COWBOY, and all of us adore our fictional heroes—but here is a slice of what it was like to love a REAL cowboy…the first sentence says it all.;)
“While we lived in Palo Pinto County, I met Jerry Jowell who was interested in cattle and was never interested in anything else.
We married January 10, 1883 and moved to his place near Strawn. The house was a big log one with a hall between the rooms and the kitchen and dining room were built of lumber on the north. There was a porch on the south. There were two of the big rooms built of logs. We kept cattle and farmed a little. That was all the farming that we ever did. We raised grain and corn. We moved to the town of Strawn, and Jerry gathered a bunch of his cattle and drove them to Kansas City. He left in May and was gone about three months. The cattle turned out fine. As a rule they generally got good prices them days.
When Jerry got back, he went on west to Midland to dig wells so the cattle could have water. They used windmills, but when the wind didn’t blow they were run by horsepower. He ran his cattle on the open range. Everybody’s cattle ran together. His brand was JT at first and mine was O Tail Q. We didn’t brand the old cows—just branded the calves in our own brand. After finding water for the cattle, Jerry gathered up the cattle and took them out between Midland and Carlsbad. I don’t remember how many calves we branded a year. I was too busy taking care of my kids and doing the cooking.
When Jerry got water for the cattle in the spring of 1886, we moved to Midland which was just a small place in the road. The Texas Pacific Railroad had just gone through. There was just one store. Soon the nesters started coming in and kept coming in until we had to drive our cattle out from there to range—generally to the Pecos country. It took all spring and summer to get the cattle out there.
From then until 1900, when we came up here, we had ranches at different places. We had to move to get grass and water for our cattle. We had just common cattle and finally graded them up. At first we had many that were long horned. We lost so many that year that we moved up here. I don’t know how many there were. We moved to the M-Bar Ranch with our cattle until we got more water and then moved to a location between the JAL Ranch and Muleshoe.
We lived in a tent all this time, mind you. We were looking for water. We had to put the cattle where there was water until we could get water somewhere else. We had a large tent. We cooked and eat out on the prairie. We burned mesquite roots and cow-chips. I had nothing to do with the fuel part. Mr. Jowell and the cowboys tended to that. We had cow-chip ashes in the coffee—but I guess they were purified after being burned. We got our supplies out of Midland which was about seventy miles. They got supplies from Pecos when they were working cattle in the valley.
Then we moved to Monument Springs. There was an old rock house—no telling when it was built. There were springs there. It had been used as a camping place of Indians when they were on their raids, before I was there, of course. The corrals were even made of rough rocks. We lived in the old rock house. It was just one great big room. I cooked and ate in one end of it and slept in the other. It had two doors and one window. Our furniture was mostly soap boxes. Sometimes we had chairs and sometimes we didn’t. We had wooden bedsteads, feather beds and mattresses. We generally had plenty to sleep on when we had a place to put it. The cowboys slept on the ground. We had a common cookstove—not a range. We used coal oil lanterns for lighting purposes.
At Midland when Nannie and Charlie, my children, were small, I used to put them on an old mule to let them hunt bird nests in the mesquite so I would not have to watch them so close to keep snakes from biting them—rattlesnakes and sidewinders. Later when we moved to Martin, I put Roy, the youngest boy, on old Jen to protect him, too. Old Jen was a dandy. She raised all the kids. That’s a fact. Nobody but them and me about the place—I would go bridle old Jen and put the kids on her so I could go about my work and they would be safe. They never fell off though sometimes I was afraid they would because when that old mule saw a snake in her path, she always stopped suddenly, and then turned around and trotted off in the opposite direction.
Nights when we were alone I didn’t sleep much. I was afraid a snake might come crawling in and bite one of the children.
When we were living in that tent near the sand hills, Mrs. Vaughn, whose husband worked with mine, was living in another tent not far from mine. I often visited her and her children.
One day I looked out and saw two bulls fighting. It was not an unusual sight, but it scared me because they kept fighting toward my tent. I took my kids and left for Mrs. Vaughn’s tent. From there we watched those bulls fight. They fought and fought and finally ran into my tent and tore it up badly. They broke and tore up everything in the tent. I feared most for my cookstove. I just knew it would be ruined so I couldn’t fix it to cook on. It was knocked down and scattered about, but we found that nothing was broken. We put it together and I cooked supper on it.”
I love cowboys, as we all do…but I feel incredibly privileged to come from women with grit like this!
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USA Today bestselling Texas romance author Jean Brashear’s family home now resides in the Ranching Heritage Center at Texas Tech.
She once couldn’t wait to see her small Texas hometown in her rearview mirror…and she now appreciates the irony that she has grown to love cowboys, country music and those eccentric characters who bring small towns to life!
Jean and four other authors have joined together to present a collection of five full-length novels featurning rugged cowboys. The collection is titled Love Me Some Cowboy and is being offered for a steal of a deal – only 99 cents! And for one lucky commenter today, Jean is offering a choice of EITHER a coupon good for obtining a copy of one of her ebooks or a physical copy of one book from her most recent Harlequin trilogy.
LOVE ME SOME COWBOY
In Nothing But Trouble by USAToday Bestselling Author Lisa Mondello, city girl Melanie Summers must spend an entire month alone in the Wyoming wilderness with sexy rodeo cowboy, Stoney Buxton, without getting into trouble. Possible? Not a chance in the world!
USAToday Bestselling Author Jean Brashear adds Lone Star flavor with Texas Secrets. Boone Gallagher returns to the only home he’s ever known only to find it’s been willed to a sexy stranger who’s intent on leaving. He must keep her there for thirty days or it will be lost to them both.
Love romantic reunion stories? Then USAToday Bestselling author Barbara McMahon has the perfect book for you! Crazy About a Cowboy brings you Sam and Lisa Haller, who divorced for all the wrong reasons. Now Sam wants his ex-wife back for all the right ones.
Once Upon a Cowboy by USAToday Bestselling author Day Leclaire introduces Cami, a lovable, greenhorn spitfire determined to become a cowboy, despite the objections of her sexy rancher boss.
And last, but far from least, Waldenbooks bestselling author Ginger Chambers offers a heartwarming treat with Love, Texas, in which Cassie Edwards returns to the hometown she’d forsaken to negotiate the sale of land belonging to the Taylor family. Hard-working rancher Will Taylor, once her girlhood crush, is all man now and fighting hard to save his heritage. When attraction flares, will true love triumph?