It’s an exciting week for me – the release of my first Love Inspired Suspense – WILDFIRE THREAT was the 24th. Whoo, hoo! I loved every moment of writing this book, and I realized why when I recently gave an interview. So many things about Wildfire Threat are very personal and special for me, and not just because it’s my first Love Inspired Suspense.
I’ve been writing for Harlequin a long time. I admit it, I sometimes don’t have to work as hard as other authors to land a new contract. My editor knows me and can depend on me to deliver a book in good shape and on time. But when this opportunity came around, I had to work hard for it and go up against a lot of other authors. There was no golden ticket or cutting to the head of the line. When I got the call, I felt really good. My hard work paid off.
As you can guess from the title, the story is about a wildfire. In this case, it’s headed straight for the fictional Arizona small town of Happenstance. For many, many years, we owned a small vacation home in Young, Arizona, a place that’s considered the most remote town in the state. One year, a wildfire came close enough we could watch it from our front porch. That inspired the book that became my first Harlequin sale about a Hotshot. About ten years ago, the Young fire came “this” close to destroying the town. Yes, it was the inspiration for Wildfire Threat.
My son, an avid outdoor enthusiast, helped me brainstorm the book. We had several long sessions where we tossed ideas back and forth. Okay, I tossed ideas out there, and he told me why they wouldn’t work. He is the source for much of my information about herding cattle and driving trucks and ATV through the burning wilderness.
Lastly, the heroine’s grandfather suffers from dementia. My own sweet mother, who I lost last year, suffered greatly from this terrible disease. It did my heart good to write about the love and devotion my heroine has for her grandfather, the tender, kind and respectful way my hero treats the older man, and how the family copes — which isn’t always easily. Writing the grandfather allowed me to honor my mother in a small but meaningful way.
To celebrate the release, I’m having a giveaway — one of my coffee mugs, a Starbucks gift card, some author bling and couple of previous books. To enter, you just have to make a comment. That’s all.
For anyone interested joining my newsletter, you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org It’s not necessary for entering this giveaway. Just if you’d like to keep up on the latest news about me.
Thank you for letting me share my good news with you and tell you about my newest book.
Almost all of my western romances revolve around cattle or cattle drives, one way or another. Having grown up in western Nebraska, cattle were everywhere, a common sight along the interstate or highway. Roll down the car window and get a whiff? Ah, we used to say. Smell that money.
But cattle need cowboys. And cowboys need to be fed. On cattle drives, the chuckwagon cook spent his days feeding an outfit of fifteen or twenty hungry men. His wagon became their home away from home, a place to gather in the middle of nowhere. It was here a man could get warm by a fire, swap a tall tale or two, and fill his belly before hitting his bedroll for a short night’s sleep.
He’d wake again to the smell of strong coffee. His meals were three squares of beef, sourdough biscuits and coffee. Maybe a dessert of raisin pudding, a popular standby. Or dried apples.
Cowboys loved sourdough and so did the cook. He started the sourdough before leaving the ranch, mixing flour, salt and warm water in a crock twice as big as the mixture. He added a little sugar or molasses to help it ferment, and voila! Sourdough starter. Cared for right, (warmed in the sun to aid fermentation and replaced what he used with more flour, salt and water) a cook could keep sourdough going for eternity.
Pretty amazing if you think about it. Versatile, too.
Since today is National Apple Pie Day, how about a cowboy’s version of apple pie on the range? I’m happy to share an authentic chuckwagon cook’s recipe for Dried Apple Cakes.
3 cups dried apples, chopped
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
–Dry Baking Mix as follows–
2 cups flour
1 Tb. Sugar
1 Tb. Baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup lard or shortening
Sift or mix dry ingredients. Cut in lard or shortening until mixture resembles fine meal.
1 1/2 cups Sourdough Starter (recipe below)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup butter
Cook dried apples in the water until tender. Drain and save the juice.
Measure 2 cups juice, adding water if needed.
Mix 1/4 cup sugar with the above recipe of Dry Baking Mix.
Stir in Sourdough Starter to moisten flour. Turn onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Pat or roll to a 12 x 18 inch rectangle.
Sprinkle with apples. Roll, starting at short end. Cut into 12 slices. Put remaining sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter and the 2 cups apple liquid into a large deep skillet.
Bring to a boil. Gently lower slices of apple-sprinkled dough into hot syrup.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 – 40 minutes. Makes 12 servings.
1 quart lukewarm water
1 pkg dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
4 cups all-purpose four
Put water in large crock. Add yeast, sugar and flour. Cover with a clean cloth. Let rise until mixture is light and slightly aged, about 2 days. As you use the sourdough, replace it with equal amounts of flour and water.
What is your favorite apple recipe? Have you ever worked with sourdough before?
Tell me if you love (or hate!) apples and you can win an e-book copy of UNTAMED COWBOY, Book 1 of my C Bar C Ranch series.
Carina Lockett is driven to build a legacy for her young daughter, and she doesn’t need a man to help her do it. But when her precious child is lured away and held for ransom, she must swallow her pride and ask for Penn McClure’s help.
Penn McClure has no intention of playing cowboy for any woman, especially one as strong-willed as Carina. But driving a herd of cattle to Dodge City is no easy task. And he has a score to settle with the man waiting for them at the end of the trail.
Along the way, he discovers Carina is pure female–and that her legacy has become his own.
I love learning historical tidbits, and getting to see pieces of history still standing is even better. Last month, my daughter and I met in Waco for a girls getaway weekend. Now that Bethany is working on her PhD at Texas A&M, I don’t get to see her very often, so we started a tradition of getting together for a weekend each semester.
She loves history as much as I do, so we skipped the shopping at the Magnolia Silos in favor of touring historic homes and walking along the Brazos River to visit the Waco Suspension Bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge was closed to the public for refurbishment, but we still managed to get a few pictures.
What is really fascinating about this bridge, however, is it’s history. It wasn’t built for man, you see. It was built for cattle.
In the mid-1800s, cattle was king in Texas, and cattle drives along the Chisholm Trail were essential for bringing those cattle to market. However, crossing the Brazos River was a difficult endeavor. No bridges spanned this river across central Texas, so trail bosses had to find shallow places to cross. With the unpredictability of Texas weather, those places became moving targets. One of the most stable locations to ford was Waco.
At the Civil War, Texas granted a charter to a private company called the Waco Bridge Company and promised them a monopoly on transportation across the river for 25 years if they would build a bridge. No other bridge could be built within five miles. The company hired New York civil engineer Thomas M Giffith to begin plans for the bridge in 1868. Griffith was a skilled engineer, having designed the first bridge to span the Mississippi in 1854. Griffith opted to build a suspension bridge and brought parts in by oxcart. His bridge was completed in 1870, and at the time was the longest suspension bridge west of the Mississippi.
The Waco Suspension Bridge wasn’t only used for cattle drives, of course. It became the main crossing point for travelers of all sorts and allowed Waco to become an economic capital for central Texas. Not only did the bridge bring merchants, farmers, and ranchers into Waco, but the bridge itself became an economic boom. The charter granted the Waco Bridge Company permission to charge a toll. Pedestrians paid five cents, and those on horseback or in carriages were charged ten cents. Any loose cattle or livestock cost five cents per head. The Waco Bridge Company reported that it made approximately $25,000 each year in collected tolls and paid off its mortgage in the first year of operation.
Tolls were collected from a bucket that would be lowered from one of its towers. If you look at the bottom right of the above photograph, the brick section with steps leading outside was where the toll keeper and his family lived. As one would expect, this toll quickly became unpopular. The county eventually bought the bridge for $75,000 and then sold it to the city for $1 with an agreement in place that the city would eliminate the toll and maintain the structure.
Eventually, the monopoly time frame expired and other bridges sprang up. Bethany and I saw remnants of a railroad bridge platform as well as a trestle bridge that was built in 1901. The trestle bridge had a section open to foot traffic, so we walked across that bridge and got some lovely shots of the river.
With all the traffic coming across the suspension bridge, enterprising local merchants figured out how to take advantage of this prime real estate. As you can see in the picture below, large advertisements hung from the the brick walls.
In 1913, citizens decided they no longer cared for the unattractive bridge since other options were available and asked for it to be torn down. Thankfully, the city preserved this historic bridge, choosing to beautify it by stuccoing over the brick and replacing the wooden trusses with steel. Cars were permitted over the bridge until 1971. Since then, it’s been open to pedestrian traffic only.
In 2010, however, cattle once again made their way across the Waco Suspension Bridge. During the Chisholm Trail Festival, cowboys herded 40 longhorns across the bridge to commemorate this fascinating piece of Texas history.
Do you find old bridges romantic or nerve-wracking?
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.
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.
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.