BIRTHDAY CAKE AND MEMORIES–AND A GIVEAWAY! by CHERYL PIERSON

I love July for so many reasons, but when I was growing up, I have to confess, I loved it because I had a birthday on the 28th day of the month!

Of course, the 4th of July was always a great holiday, back then, too. We’d gather up and go to “Bryan County” (as my dad always called it) where both sets of my grandparents lived and almost every single one of my cousins on both sides of the family. That was what I was interested in—being surrounded by a slew of cousins who were all close to my age!

We had fireworks, home-made ice cream (the kids had the job of sitting on the top of the ice cream freezer while the men cranked the handle) and so much food. If it was hot (and it usually was, being July in Oklahoma) we’d just make a huge pallet on the floor of the living room and the kids would all sleep there, with the box fans blowing on us and the front door standing open for the least bit of breeze.

When my birthday rolled around on the 28th, I always had a party of some kind. From the parties of the early days—early-mid 1960’s—where all the little girls dressed in their Sunday best, complete with anklets and white patent leather shoes and party dresses, to the later teen years when slumber parties were the thing. What a time we had!

 

I bet you figured it out–I’m the 2nd from the end on the left. This was my 8th birthday–here we are, all in our party-dress finery!

 

 

 

 

This is my 12th birthday. I was surrounded by friends as we celebrated, ate, and just had a wonderful time. I’m on the end in the striped outfit, and my dear friend and cousin, Julie is just to my left–so this birthday, I got the best of everything–a COUSIN and friends, along with cake and great memories!

 

Remember those birthday party games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey? Drop the clothespins into the bottle while standing on a stepstool? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to have fun like that today?

 

Mom always baked her “famous” chocolate “jelly roll” cake from scratch, and made her own thick, creamy, chocolate frosting. She’d let it cool, but it had to be rolled up while it was warm from the oven so it wouldn’t break later on. After she gently unrolled it and frosted it, she sprinkled chopped pecans on top of it. Then,  it went into the fridge. OH, MY GOODNESS.

I’ve often thought about making that jelly roll cake—my sister has the recipe—but I don’t know if I’m talented enough to keep it from breaking!

I’m including a link to a cake that looks a lot like Mom’s but hers had frosting on the inside AND the outside, too. If you make this, I’d love to hear how it turns out!

truffle cake roll

/https://www.crazyforcrust.com/chocolate-truffle-cake-roll/

Do you have a favorite birthday cake? What is it? I have to admit, I’m a cake fanatic. I love them all, but that chocolate one my mom made…I wish I had some of that today!

As I mentioned earlier, I’m giving away a copy of FIRE EYES today—there’s a scene in it where one of the very young deputies, Frank Hayes, has made a terrible mistake that could have resulted in the death of our hero, Kaed Turner. In this scene, Kaed tries to find familiar ground to bring two young deputies Frank Hayes and Travis Morgan, to an understanding. Here’s what happens:

 

 

BLURB FROM FIRE EYES:

“Frank?”

Frank whirled at Kaed’s voice, his hand at his Colt instinctively. Kaed and Travis stood behind him, holding their horses’ reins. Kaed stepped forward. “Didn’t mean to startle you.”

Frank nodded, standing stiffly awkward in front of them.

“Relax, Frank,” Kaed said. His gaze dropped to where Frank’s hand still hovered above the butt of his gun. Frank looked down, as if he didn’t recognize the hand was attached to his body.

“What’re you doin’ out here?” Travis asked.

Hayes shrugged. “Thinkin’ ’bout everything.” He turned to lean against the boulder, away from them. “‘Bout how I almost got you killed, Mr. Turner.” His voice was low.

Kaed glanced at Travis, and Travis looked away.

“Well, Frank, I expect you’ll remember to tell someone next time, won’t you?” Kaed said quietly.

“Won’t be a next time, Mr. Turner. I don’t b’lieve I’m cut out for this.”

Travis started forward, but Kaed put a staying hand on his arm. Travis met his eyes and Kaed shook his head. He came toward Frank slowly. When he got within arm’s length, he stopped.

“How old are you, Frank?”

“Twenty. Or close enough. My birthday’s next month. My ma, she always made a cake.” He glanced around at Kaed, a flush staining his neck, making its way into his face. “Chocolate,” he mumbled, “if she could get it.”

Kaed gave him a half-smile and closed the last bit of distance between them. “You’re awful lucky, Frank. I lost my mother when I was just shy of nine. I’m not sure I even remember exactly when my birthday is. But, that’s not really important, anymore.”

Frank nodded, but didn’t look at him. He kept his eyes fixed on the gently swirling water of the creek.

Kaed went on. “When you became a deputy marshal, you got another family. We all share the same life, the same dangers, the same loneliness of bein’ out on the trail.”

Frank shuddered, his lips compressing tightly. “I know you’re right, Mr. Turner.”

When he didn’t continue, Kaed said, “I’m not mad at you, Frank. Anybody can make a mistake. Travis, here, he was a couple of years older than you when he made his big one.”

Travis drew his breath in, and Kaed turned to give him a quelling glance. “Right, Trav?”

Travis nodded.

Kaed turned back to Frank. “You’ll have to get Trav to tell you about it.” He spoke easily, as one friend would to another, as if he thought Travis and Frank were on amicable terms.

Frank gave a short, brittle laugh. “I don’t think Travis Morgan is gonna talk to me about any mistake he ever made.”

“Trav, come on up here,” Kaed said.

Travis slowly stepped forward to join Frank and Kaed, swallowing tightly. “Frank, I guess I need to say—”

“You better do more than guess what you need to say, Travis,” Kaed said, his tone cool.


I’m giving away a copy of FIRE EYES to one lucky commenter today! Do you have a favorite birthday memory? What about a favorite birthday cake? Please share! I love memories of parties, cake, ice cream, presents—and GOOD TIMES!

AMAZON AUTHOR LINK:  http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson

EL PASO BY MARTY ROBBINS–LEARNING HISTORY THROUGH SONGS #4 (AND A GIVEAWAY!) by Cheryl Pierson

Continuing my series on “learning history through songs” I just knew I had to include this “series” of songs by one of my favorite songwriters/balladeers, the incomparable Marty Robbins. This isn’t specific history, but these songs give us an idea of how life was for this particular gunfighter, then for his love, Feleena, and then how a modern-day man feels such a connection to it all. I love that there is “history” as we think of it, and then the modern-day connection to it all to “complete the circle.”

How many songs do you know that had sequels to them? Remember “back in the day” when recording artists would sometimes “answer” a song with one of their own? Well, if you love Marty Robbins like I do, you’ll know that his song El Paso had not only one sequel, but two, and he was working on a third sequel when he died in 1982! I think that’s a “record” for musical sequels, don’t you? I love ballads, or story-songs, and to find out that there were sequels to my all-time favorite one was pure pleasure!

El Paso was written and originally recorded by Marty Robbins, and was released in September 1959 (I was two years old at the time, but Marty was my man from the minute I heard this song!) Though it was originally released on the album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, within a month it was released as a single and immediately became a hit on both the country and pop music charts, reaching NUMBER 1 IN BOTH at the start of 1960! But that wasn’t the end of it at all—it also won the Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording in 1961, and with good reason. It still remains Robbins’ best-known song, all these years later.

 

Wikipedia states: It is widely considered a genre classic for its gripping narrative which ends in the death of its protagonist, its shift from past to present tense, haunting harmonies by vocalists Bobby Sykes and Jim Glaser (of the Glaser Brothers) and the eloquent and varied Spanish guitar accompaniment by Grady Martin that lends the recording a distinctive Tex-Mex feel. The name of the character Feleena was based upon a schoolmate of Robbins in the fifth grade; Fidelina Martinez.

The storyline is this: The song is a first-person narrative told by a cowboy in El Paso, Texas, in the days of the Wild West. The singer recalls how he frequented “Rosa’s Cantina”, where he became smitten with a young Mexican dancer named Feleena. When the singer notices another cowboy sharing a drink with “wicked Feleena”, out of jealousy he challenges the newcomer to a gunfight. The singer kills the newcomer, then flees El Paso for fear of being hanged for murder or killed in revenge by his victim’s friends. In the act of escaping, the singer commits the additional and potentially hanging offense of horse theft (“I caught a good one, it looked like it could run”), further sealing his fate in El Paso. Departing the town, the singer hides out in the “badlands of New Mexico.”

The song then fast-forwards to an undisclosed time later – the lyrics at this point change from past to present tense – when the singer describes the yearning for Feleena that drives him to return, without regard for his own life, to El Paso. He states that his “love is stronger than [his] fear of death.” Upon arriving, the singer races for the cantina, but is chased and fatally wounded by a posse. At the end of the song, the singer recounts how Feleena has come to his side and he dies in her arms after “one little kiss”.

Robbins wrote two songs that are explicit sequels to “El Paso”, one in 1966, one in 1976. Robbins intended to do one more sequel, “The Mystery of Old El Paso”, but he died in late 1982 before he could finish the final song.

Feleena (From El Paso) (FIRST SEQUEL TO EL PASO)

In 1966, Robbins recorded “Feleena (From El Paso)”, telling the life story of Feleena, the “Mexican girl” from “El Paso”, in a third-person narrative. This track was over eight minutes long, but what a story it tells!

Born in a desert shack in New Mexico during a thunderstorm, Feleena runs away from home at 17, living off her charms for a year in Santa Fe, New Mexico, before moving to the brighter lights of El Paso to become a paid dancer. After another year, the narrator of “El Paso” arrives, the first man she did not have contempt for. He spends six weeks romancing her and then, in a retelling of the key moment in the original song, beset by “insane jealousy”, he shoots another man with whom she was flirting.

Her lover’s return to El Paso comes only a day after his flight (the original song suggests a longer time frame before his return) and as she goes to run to him, the cowboy motions to her to stay out of the line of fire and is shot; immediately after his dying kiss, Feleena shoots herself with his gun. Their ghosts are heard to this day in the wind blowing around El Paso: “It’s only the young cowboy showing Feleena the town”.

 

https://youtu.be/ryzIX09s2o4

 

El Paso City (SECOND SEQUEL TO EL PASO)

In 1976 Robbins released another reworking, “El Paso City”, in which the present-day singer is a passenger on a flight over El Paso, which reminds him of a song he had heard “long ago”, proceeding to summarize the original “El Paso” story. “I don’t recall who sang the song,” he sings, but he feels a supernatural connection to the story: “Could it be that I could be the cowboy in this mystery…,” he asks, suggesting a past life. This song reached No. 1 on the country charts. The arrangement includes riffs and themes from the previous two El Paso songs. Robbins wrote it while flying over El Paso in, he reported, the same amount of time it takes to sing–four minutes and 14 seconds. It was only the second time that ever happened to him; the first time was when he composed the original “El Paso” as fast as he could write it down.

Though there have been many cover versions of the original “El Paso” song, Marty Robbins put out more than one version of it, himself. There have actually been three versions of Robbins’ original recording of “El Paso”: the original full-length version, the edited version, and the abbreviated version, which is an alternate take in stereo that can be found on the Gunfighter Ballads album. The original version, released on a 45 single record, is in mono and is around 4 minutes and 38 seconds in duration, far longer than most contemporary singles at the time, especially in the country genre. Robbins’ longtime record company, Columbia Records, was unsure whether radio stations would play such a long song, so it released two versions of the song on a promo 45—the full-length version on one side, and an edited version on the other which was nearer to the three-minute mark. This version omitted a verse describing the cowboy’s remorse over the “foul evil deed [he] had done” before his flight from El Paso. The record-buying public, as well as most disc jockeys, overwhelmingly preferred the full-length version.

I can’t tell you how many times I played my 45 record of El Paso on my little portable record player as a little girl. As a country and western song, this has to qualify as my all-time favorite, and my husband even managed to record and adapt the ringtone for me on my iPhone, so when my phone rings it plays the opening words to EL PASO. This has been a huge embarrassment for my kids when they were teens and had to be with me in public, but also was a source of amazement for them when other people actually smiled and said, “Hey! Marty Robbins!

Now THAT recognition is the mark of endurance—a song that is still beloved by so many after over sixty years!

A picture of “retro” Rosa’s Cantina that hangs in my breakfast nook.

 

I’m offering a free copy of The Devil and Miss Julia Jackson to one lucky commenter today (USA only)–so don’t forget to leave a comment and your contact info!

What’s your favorite classic country & western song? Is there a sequel to it?

PATRIOTIC C&W SONGS–LEARNING HISTORY THROUGH SONGS #3 by Cheryl Pierson

 

Summer seems like the most patriotic time of the year in general, doesn’t it? We kick off the summer months with Memorial Day in May. Poppies are worn in remembrance of veterans on Memorial Day and on Veterans Day in November.

On June 6, we are reminded of the sacrifices made on a faraway beach in Normandy that resulted in many deaths in WWII, but turned the tide for the Allies and helped us gain victory. June 14th is Flag Day, a fine “tune up” for our huge 4th of July celebration that’s right around the corner.

Is anyone more patriotic than a cowboy? I don’t think so!  So many country and western songs have been written through the years that are a tribute to not only our troops, but to first responders, and to all the “regular” American people who love our country.

Here is my list of top country and western patriotic songs, compiled from several on the internet—all different, but all wonderful—and all with one thing in common: our love for our country. These are in no particular order. I don’t know how anyone could choose one over the other since they all are products of excellent songwriting and musicianship—and heartfelt sentiments about America! And goodness knows, I didn’t list them all here—no room! Like I said, there are a lot of patriots in the country music field, and a huge number of songs to listen to in order to get in the patriotic spirit of things! I’ve included the youtube links in case you want to pop over and give these a listen!

This first one is an odd one, but I just love it. It was recorded by David Ball, who didn’t have that many hits, but this one will stay in your memory when you hear it for the very first time. I get chills every single time I hear it.  A young man buys a ’66 Corvette and discovers a letter in the glove box “My name is Private Andrew Malone, and if you’re reading this I didn’t make it home…” Which always makes me think about so many young men who could have written this following line…“For every dream that’s shattered, another one comes true…”  It’s called RIDING WITH PRIVATE MALONE and it has a very twisty ending you’re sure to love!

 

https://youtu.be/v5dyHPX8Cos

 

Probably the most recognized country song that many call our “unofficial” American anthem was written and performed by Lee GreenwoodGOD BLESS THE U.S.A. Written in 1983, it’s become synonymous with patriotism, and is loved by countless Americans, whether they are typical country and western fans or not. Its simple message is one that grabs you and holds on, and I have to admit, that even after nearly 40 years of hearing it, I still get teary! “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free, and I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me—so I’ll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today, for there ain’t no doubt I love this land—God Bless the U.S.A.!”

 

https://youtu.be/yH61hFsma24

 

Another “oldie but goodie” is Merle Haggard’s THE FIGHTIN’ SIDE OF ME, written in 1970. Oh, goodness. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard my husband play and sing that back when we used to have our band…fond memories, and it was a song that was a frequent request, whether we lived in West Virginia or here in Oklahoma. “If you don’t love it, leave it, let this song that I’m singin’ be a warnin’—when you’re runnin’ down my country, hoss, you’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me…” I love the sentiment of this song. In true “Merle” fashion, he’s saying that we can disagree on things without trashing our country. I think everyone in the audiences we played to knew the words to this song!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIxBmyRQlwQ

 

WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE WORLD STOPPED TURNING? is not a “patriotic” song in the way we’d normally think of one, but it was not written during normal times. Penned by Alan Jackson in 2002 after the horrific events of  9/11/01, this song is packed with emotion and validates the many thoughts and feelings that Americans went through during the aftermath of that day. Each chorus of this song ends with the reminder that God’s greatest gift to us is love—even though we were going through some horrendous times. This song was nothing short of a masterpiece that drew Americans together, gave us hope, and let us know we were not alone in our feelings.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNsfx_4k-JA

 

In 1974, Johnny Cash wrote RAGGED OLD FLAG, a recitation about all the incidents that happened to “the ragged old flag” that hangs in a little town’s courthouse square as told to a town newcomer by one of the old men who lives there. “She’s been through the fire before, and she can take a whole lot more…on second thought, I guess I do like to brag, cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KqrjeScLSI

8TH OF NOVEMBER, another patriotic song written about the Vietnam war, is performed by Big and Rich. It is the true story of a terrible battle in which the 173rd Airborne was engaged. That day, 48 Americans died with very few survivors when they were ambushed by 1200 Viet Cong. “With the fire rainin’ down and the hell all around there were few men left standin’ that day…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozpdBvB0hek

 

 

 

There are countless others, in case you want to put together a country and western playlist for your big Independence Day shindig! Take a look!

SOME GAVE ALL by Billy Ray Cyrus

LETTERS FROM HOME by John Michael Montgomery

HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN? by Darryl Worley

IF YOU’RE READING THIS by Tim McGraw

HOME by Dierks Bentley

I DRIVE YOUR TRUCK by Lee Brice

FOR YOU by Keith Urban

IT’S AMERICA by Rodney Atkins

FLYOVER STATES by Jason Aldean

COURTESY OF THE RED, WHITE, AND BLUE (THE ANGRY AMERICAN) by Toby Keith

WHERE THE STARS AND STRIPES AND THE EAGLE FLY by Aaron Tippin

AMERICAN SOLDIER by Toby Keith

THE BALLAD OF IRA HAYES by Johnny Cash

This isn’t all of them, either! Hope you all have a very happy upcoming 4th of July with family, friends, and loved ones. What’s your favorite country and western patriotic song, and why? It’s hard to pick just one!

A BEAUTIFUL REMEMBRANCE–100 YEARS LATER by Cheryl Pierson

Have you ever noticed how obituaries of yesteryear seem to always “say more” than many of the current ones do? (I don’t know—maybe it’s just me—I’m an obituary reader! Even those of people I don’t know.) I think one reason for this is, of course, now, everything is shortened and abbreviated to the point that sometimes the heartfelt meaning is lost. We have to make it “fit on the page” and not “run too long” in the fast pace of our modern world.

In 1921, William Allen White was the owner of the Emporia Gazette. So when his teenage daughter, Mary, died suddenly, he penned one of the best obituaries that probably ever has been written. Reading this final summation of her young life, I felt like I knew Mary without, of course, having ever met her. Her obituary became famous throughout the United States at the time it was published, 100 years ago this month.

 

 

 

 

Mary White obituary

by William Allen White

Emporia Gazette, May 17, 1921

 

The Associated Press reports carrying the news of Mary White’s death declared that it came as the result of a fall from a horse. How she would have hooted at that! She never fell from a horse in her life. Horses have fallen on her and with her—”I’m always trying to hold ’em in my lap,” she used to say. But she was proud of few things, and one of them was that she could ride anything that had four legs and hair. Her death resulted not from a fall but from a blow on the head which fractured her skull, and the blow came from the limb of an overhanging tree on the parking.

 

The last hour of her life was typical of its happiness. She came home from a day’s work at school, topped off by a hard grind with the copy on the High School Annual, and felt that a ride would refresh her. She climbed into her khakis, chattering to her mother about the work she was doing, and hurried to get her horse and be out on the dirt roads for the country air and the radiant green fields of spring. As she rode through the town on an easy gallop, she kept waving at passers-by. She knew everyone in town. For a decade the little figure in the long pigtail and the red hair ribbon has been familiar on the streets of Emporia, and she got in the way of speaking to those who nodded at her. She passed the Kerrs, walking the horse in front of the Normal Library, and waved at them; passed another friend a few hundred feet farther on, and waved at her.

 

The horse was walking, and as she turned into North Merchant Street she took off her cowboy hat, and the horse swung into a lope. She passed the Tripletts and waved her cowboy hat at them, still moving gayly north on Merchant Street. A Gazette carrier passed—a High School boy friend—and she waved at him, but with her bridle hand; the horse veered quickly, plunged into the parking where the low-hanging limb faced her and, while she still looked back waving, the blow came. But she did not fall from the horse; she slipped off, dazed a bit, staggered, and fell in a faint. She never quite recovered consciousness.

 

But she did not fall from the horse, neither was she riding fast. A year or so ago she used to go like the wind. But that habit was broken, and she used the horse to get into the open, to get fresh, hard exercise, and to work off a certain surplus energy that welled up in her and needed a physical outlet. The need has been in her heart for years. It was back of the impulse that kept the dauntless little brown-clad figure on the streets and country roads of the community and built into a strong, muscular body what had been a frail and sickly frame during the first years of her life. But the riding gave her more than a body. It released a gay and hardy soul. She was the happiest thing in the world. And she was happy because she was enlarging her horizon. She came to know all sorts and conditions of men; Charley O’Brien, the traffic cop, was one of her best friends. W. L. Holtz, the Latin teacher, was another. Tom O’Connor, farmer-politician, and the Rev. J. H. Rice, preacher and police judge, and Frank Beach, music master, were her special friends; and all the girls, black and white, above the track and below the track, in Pepville and Stringtown, were among her acquaintances. And she brought home riotous stories of her adventures. She loved to rollick; persiflage was her natural expression at home. Her humor was a continual bubble of joy. She seemed to think in hyperbole and metaphor. She was mischievous without malice, as full of faults as an old shoe. No angel was Mary White, but an easy girl to live with for she never nursed a grouch five minutes in her life.

 

With all her eagerness for the out-of-doors, she loved books. On her table when she left her room were a book by Conrad, one by Galsworthy, “Creative Chemistry” by E. E. Slosson, and a Kipling book. She read Mark Twain, Dickens, and Kipling before she was ten—all of their writings. Wells and Arnold Bennett particularly amused and diverted her. She was entered as a student in Wellesley for 1922; was assistant editor of the High School Annual this year, and in line for election to the editorship next year. She was a member of the executive committee of the High School Y.W.C.A.

 

Within the last two years she had begun to be moved by an ambition to draw. She began as most children do by scribbling in her school books, funny pictures. She bought cartoon magazines and took a course—rather casually, naturally, for she was, after all, a child with no strong purposes—and this year she tasted the first fruits of success by having her pictures accepted by the High School Annual. But the thrill of delight she got when Mr. Ecord, of the Normal Annual, asked her to do the cartooning for that book this spring, was too beautiful for words. She fell to her work with all her enthusiastic heart. Her drawings were accepted, and her pride–always repressed by a lively sense of the ridiculous figure she was cutting–was a really gorgeous thing to see. No successful artist every drank a deeper draft of satisfaction than she took from the little fame her work was getting among her schoolfellows. In her glory, she almost forgot her horse—but never her car.

 

For she used the car as a jitney bus. It was her social life. She never had a “party” in all her nearly seventeen years—wouldn’t have one; but she never drove a block in her life that she didn’t begin to fill the car with pick-ups! Everybody rode with Mary White—white and black, old and young, rich and poor, men and women. She like nothing better than to fill the car with long- legged High School boys and an occasional girl, and parade the town. She never had a “date,” nor went to a dance, except once with her brother Bill, and the “boy proposition” didn’t interest her—yet. But young people—great spring-breaking, varnish-cracking, fender-bending, door-sagging carloads of “kids”—gave her great pleasure. Her zests were keen. But the most fun she ever had in her life was acting as chairman of the committee that got up the big turkey dinner for the poor folks at the county home; scores of pies, gallons of slaw, jam, cakes, preserves, oranges, and a wilderness of turkey were loaded into the car and taken to the county home. And, being of a practical turn of mind, she risked her own Christmas dinner to see that the poor folks actually got it all. Not that she was a cynic; she just disliked to tempt folks. While there, she found a blind colored uncle, very old, who could do nothing but make rag rugs, and she rustled up from her school friends rags enough to keep him busy for a season. The last engagement she tried to make was to take the guests at the county home out for a car ride. And the last endeavor of her life was to try to get a rest room for colored girls in the High School. She found one girl reading in the toilet, because there was no better place for a colored girl to loaf, and it inflamed her sense of injustice and she became a nagging harpy to those who she thought could remedy the evil. The poor she always had with her and was glad of it. She hungered and thirsted for righteousness; and was the most impious creature in the world. She joined the church without consulting her parents, not particularly for her soul’s good. She never had a thrill of piety in her life, and would have hooted at a “testimony.” But even as a little child, she felt the church was an agency for helping people to more of life’s abundance, and she wanted to help. She never wanted help for herself. Clothes meant little to her. It was a fight to get a new rig on her; but eventually a harder fight to get it off. She never wore a jewel and had no ring but her High School class ring and never asked for anything but a wrist watch. She refused to have her hair up, though she was nearly seventeen. “Mother,” she protested,” you don’t know how much I get by with, in my braided pigtails, that I could not with my hair up.” Above every other passion of her life was her passion not to grow up, to be a child. The tomboy in her, which was big, seemed loath to be put away forever in skirts. She was a Peter Pan who refused to grow up.

 

Her funeral yesterday at the Congregational Church was as she would have wished it; no singing, no flowers except the big bunch of red roses from her brother Bill’s Harvard classmen—heavens, how proud that would have made her!—and the red roses from the Gazette forces, in vases, at her head and feet. A short prayer: Paul’s beautiful essay on “Love” from the Thirteenth Chapter of First Corinthians; some remarks about her democratic spirit by her friend, John H. J. Rice, pastor and police judge, which she would have deprecated if she could; a prayer sent down for her by her friend Carl Nau; and, opening the service, the slow, poignant movement from Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, which she loved; and closing the service a cutting from the joyously melancholy first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetic Symphony, which she liked to hear, in certain moods, on the phonograph, then the Lord’s Prayer by her friends in High School.

That was all.

 

For her pallbearers only her friends were chosen: her Latin teacher, W. L. Holtz; her High School principal, Rice Brown; her doctor, Frank Foncannon; her friend, W. W. Finney; her pal at the Gazette office, Walter Hughes; and her brother Bill. It would have made her smile to know that her friend, Charley O’Brien, the traffic cop had been transferred from Sixth and Commercial to the corner near the church to direct her friends who came to bid her good-by.

 

A rift in the clouds in a gray day threw a shaft of sunlight upon her coffin as her nervous, energetic little body sank to its last sleep. But the soul of her, the glowing, gorgeous, fervent soul of her, surely was flaming in eager joy upon some other dawn.”

 

Mary’s father, journalist and newspaperman William Allen White, Feb. 10, 1868-Jan. 31, 1944

Don’t you feel like you know Mary through her father’s words? Have you ever read an obituary that touched you deeply? One that made you laugh? This one, especially that last lovely paragraph, brings tears every time I read it.

 

THE BALLAD OF THE ALAMO–LEARNING HISTORY THROUGH SONGS #2 BY CHERYL PIERSON

Hi everyone! In the first post of this series (The Battle of New Orleans—Learning History Through Songs #1) I mentioned that these ballad-type tunes were popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s, with Marty Robbins and Johnny Horton being two of the best-known singers of this type of songs.

The Battle of New Orleans was penned by an Arkansas school principal, Jimmy Driftwood, who wrote it in the hopes of making learning more fun for his students.

But what about The Ballad of the Alamo?

This theme was written by Ukrainian-born composer Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin (May 10, 1894 – November 11, 1979). He was a Hollywood film score composer and conductor. According to “Lyrics”, he is considered “one of the giants of Hollywood movie music.” Though he was musically trained in Russia, he is best known for his westerns, a genre “where his expansive, muscular style had its greatest impact.” Tiomkin received 22 Academy Award nominations and won four Oscars, also according to “Lyrics”.

Dimitri Tiomkin

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38069784

I can see why! He also wrote The Green Leaves of Summer (also from the John Wayne BATJAC production of THE ALAMO, as well as the theme for the movie Do Not Forsake Me from the movie HIGH NOON, and among other favorites, the theme song for Rawhide!

Tiomkin had a way of putting sweeping musical scores together with some “killer” lyrics—and with Marty Robbins recording The Ballad of the Alamo, it was a sure-fire winner! Though this song has been covered by other artists, and inspired other songs about the Alamo as well, the original Marty Robbins version is incomparable. Recorded in 1960, it became a “crossover” hit, spending 13 weeks on the pop charts and ranked high at #34, at one point.

THE BALLAD OF THE ALAMO–Marty Robbins

Imagine, telling the entire story of the Alamo in one story-song. With its haunting melody combined with unforgettable lyrics, this piece stands tall among these songs that teach history through music.

“In the southern part of Texas/Near the town of San Antone/ There’s a fortress all in ruins that the weeds have overgrown…”

The words go on to describe what’s left of the battle scene briefly and the men who were there, as they “…answer to that roll call in the sky.”

Switching gears to what actually happened, the next verse takes us to the action:  “Back in 1836/Houston said to Travis/Get some volunteers and go/Fortify the Alamo…”

The story is told in full—how Santa Anna called for surrender and Travis “answered with a shell—and a rousin’ Rebel yell.” Santa Anna issues his decree: “ ‘Play Degüello,’ he roared/ I will show them no quarter/Every one will be put to the sword!”

I still get chills at this line: “One hundred and eighty-five/Holdin’ back five thousand…” The days are counted off to mark time quickly, and then the sad fact that the “…troops that were comin’/ Never came, never came, never came…”

FALL OF THE ALAMO by Robert J. Onderdonk

By Robert Jenkins Onderdonk – 1. transferred from en.wikipedia, original is at the Texas State Archives2. A Glimpse of History in Modern San Antonio., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7843901

Of course, we know how the story ends. But Tiomkin brings the lyrics full circle when he starts the final verse with the same lines as the first verse, then diverges and lets us see what the cowboy sees, as if we are there with him.

In the southern part of Texas

Near the town of San Antone

Like a statue on a pinto

Rides a cowboy all alone,

And he sees the cattle grazing where a century before

Santa Anna’s guns were blazin’ and the cannons used to roar

And his eyes turn sorta misty,

And his heart begins to glow,

And he takes his hat off slowly…

 

To the men of Alamo.

To the thirteen days of glory

At the siege of Alamo…

 

Here’s the YOUTUBE link if you would like to hear this wonderful retelling of this battle. I can’t even imagine having to perform this in a concert setting as I’m sure Marty Robbins had to do quite often. It’s very difficult to sing, though the logical progression of events make the words easy to remember.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eyu3OIn5A00

http://<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Eyu3OIn5A00″ title=”YouTube video player” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

Here’s a favorite memory. When my son was in elementary school in fourth grade, his teacher called me one night to tell me that when they’d started talking about the battle of the Alamo in class in history, Casey seemed to already know all about it. She said, “Well, what do you know about it, Casey?” Having heard this song about a million and one times in the car, he said, “Back in 1836, Houston said to Travis…Get some volunteers and go fortify the Alamo!” After some questioning, she was amazed that he remembered so much, and it sure brought a smile to my face.

Have you ever been to the Alamo? We went one year, and it’s one of the most moving places I’ve ever been. You can definitely feel the presence of those men who fought and died there.

THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS–LEARNING HISTORY THROUGH SONGS #1 by Cheryl Pierson

When I was growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, “story songs” were very popular. Even though radio stations had their “3-minute limit” for song length back then, there were some exceptions. And many of these songs were amazingly concise, able to tell the story, and also evoke emotion from the listener. It didn’t hurt to have a catchy melody to keep us all tuned in, or to be certain we’d run out and buy a 45 single record to have for our very own!

Many of these ballads were connected to movies—whether the theme or other music that was used in conjunction with a movie release.

Marty Robbins and Johnny Horton were two of the most prolific balladeers of those times, and two of my favorite singers. I’m not sure in this case what came first—the “chicken or the egg”—because I was just a tyke when many of these songs gained popularity, so of course, I loved those singers and the songs, as well.

One of the most popular songs of this type was The Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton. If you’ve ever tried to sing along, you will know this is NOT the easiest song to perform!

The importance of the Battle of New Orleans (January 8, 1815) was not in the outcome of the War of 1812, but in the morale of the American forces as they were able to push back the British and keep them from gaining control of a major American port. This song contains the “high points” and is fun to sing (or TRY to sing!)—and easier to remember than memorizing names and dates from a history book. It was the battle the propelled Major General Andrew Jackson to national fame, and the last major battle of the war of 1812.

The song was written by Jimmy Driftwood, and received the Grammy for Best Song of the Year (1959) and Best C&W Song. Who was Jimmy Driftwood, you ask? According to Wikipedia, here’s the scoop on the melody and the lyrics, and a school principal who wanted to make learning history more interesting:

The melody is based on a well-known American fiddle tune “The 8th of January,” which was the date of the Battle of New Orleans. Jimmy Driftwood, a school principal in Arkansas with a passion for history, set an account of the battle to this music in an attempt to get students interested in learning history. It seemed to work, and Driftwood became well known in the region for his historical songs. He was “discovered” in the late 1950s by Don Warden, and eventually was given a recording contract by RCA, for whom he recorded 12 songs in 1958, including “The Battle of New Orleans.”

The Battle of New Orleans has been covered by many other artists, including Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton, but none achieved the level of success that Johnny Horton’s version did. With a rasp in his voice, a twinkle in his eye, and his enthusiasm for the song, it’s easy to understand why The Battle of New Orleans skyrocketed, where it spent six weeks at number one on the popular charts, and ten weeks at the top spot on the country charts!

“The Battle Of New Orleans”

In 1814 we took a little trip
Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip’
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans
And we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans

We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin’
There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago
We fired once more and they began to runnin’
On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

We looked down the river and we seen the British come
And there must have been a hunnerd of ’em beatin on the drum
They stepped so high and they made their bugles ring
We stood beside our cotton bales ‘n’ didn’t say a thing

We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin’
There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago
We fired once more and they began to runnin’
On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

Old Hickory said we could take ’em by surprise
If we didn’t fire our muskets till we looked ’em in the eye
We held our fire ’till we seed their faces well
Then we opened up the squirrel guns and really gave em
Well we

Fired our guns and the British kept a-comin’
There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago
We fired once more and they began to runnin’
On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

Yeah they ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles
And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn’t go
They ran so fast that the hounds couldn’t catch ’em
On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

We fired our cannon till the barrel melted down
So we grabbed an alligator and we fought another round
We filled his head with cannonballs and powered his behind
And when we touched the powder off the gator lost his mind

We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin’
There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago
We fired once more and they began to runnin’
On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

Yeah they ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles
And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn’t go
They ran so fast that the hounds couldn’t catch ’em
On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

Hup, 2, 3, 4
Sound off, 3, 4
Hup, 2, 3, 4
Sound off, 3, 4
Hup, 2, 3, 4
Sound off, 3, 4

This song is included (of course!) in the 1960 album by Johnny Horton called Johnny Horton Makes History, containing all his other story-songs about different actual historical events and those that “might have been”—a wonderful collection.

Here’s a video of Johnny Horton performing his chart-topping song, and having a little fun with it. Do you remember this song? Does anyone love these story-songs like I do?

https://youtu.be/mjXM6x_0KZk

LOVE LETTERS AND MAIL ORDER BRIDES by CHERYL PIERSON

Ah, those wonderful love letters! Don’t we love reading them? I must admit I have an affinity for love letters because of the insights they give us into the past, and the people who lived then.

With Valentine’s Day just passed, and my 42nd wedding anniversary just celebrated on the 10th, love letters are something I’ve been thinking about a lot. Probably because of the time of year, but also because, as authors, we have to use letters and notes in our writing to “get the message” across that perhaps our characters might not be able to speak aloud.

 

My hubby is, like many men, not sentimental. He wouldn’t care if I never got him another Valentine’s Day or anniversary card, but they mean a lot to me—so we exchange them every year. (I do have to add that there might be hope, because he sent me a dozen red roses and a box of candy–along with a very sentimental note–for our anniversary!) I suspect that, through the years past right down to the present, most men didn’t and don’t make flowery love speeches from their hearts, or even write their innermost thoughts and feelings in cards and letters.

 

One of the most poignant love letters I know of is the famous letter written by Union Army Major Sullivan Ballou, just before the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861 where he died at the age of 32. Married only 6 years, he left behind two small sons and his wife, Sarah. The letter he wrote to Sarah days before he was killed is one that speaks poignantly of his guilt at having to choose between his duty to country and duty to family. Ken Burns used a shortened version of the letter in his series, The Civil War—and its contents are unforgettable, and so powerful it brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.

                                                                           SULLIVAN BALLOU

In part, it reads:

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

I had to come up with a love letter, of sorts, for my 2017 novel, Sabrina, part of the 4-book set entitled MAIL-ORDER BRIDES FOR SALE: THE REMINGTON SISTERS. Oh, nothing to beautiful as this letter penned by a soldier marching to his inevitable death, but a letter that had to convince Sabrina to leave her wealthy lifestyle in Philadelphia and come West to Indian Territory!

Sabrina and her three older sisters (Lola, written by Celia Yeary; Belle, written by Jacquie Rogers; Lizzy, written by Livia J. Washburn; and Sabrina, my character) have to have mail-order arrangements in order to get out of the fix they’re in with a step-father who plans to sell them to the highest bidder—and they don’t have much time to do it. When Sabrina receives two proposals on the same day, she counts her lucky stars that she’s able to compare the two letters and has a choice between the two men who have written her—something many women of the day did not have.

She’s safely with the man she’s chosen now, Cameron Fraser, but she’s remembering the day she received the letters and why she made the decision she did. Take a look:

She’d answered ads from both Cameron Fraser and David Mason. Ironically, she’d received offers from both men on the same day. That had been a blessing, as she was able to compare their responses immediately.

Mr. Mason had written one page, in sprawling wide script.

“I have need of a wife to help me raise my four children I was left with after my sainted Amelia passed on last year. Your help will be appreciated. And I will do right by you. I hope you are a willing worker and a good cook. Can you make good cornbread? That is a must in our home…”

She’d opened Mr. Mason’s letter first, and tucked it back into the envelope quickly. She’d hoped she’d managed to keep the revulsion from her face when her oldest sister, Lola, had come hurrying through the door. Lola was five years older, and Sabrina could never manage to keep a secret from her, no matter how she tried.

“Well?” Lola had asked, pinning Sabrina with “the look” that Sabrina dreaded.

“I haven’t read them,” Sabrina said defiantly.

“Bree. You know we have to get out of here—the sooner the better. We don’t have much time.”

Here’s the difference, and why she chose Cam. He wanted her for more than making cornbread!

Lola had turned and left the room, closing the door behind her. That’s how Sabrina knew her oldest sister was angry—or hurt. Maybe both.

She’d sighed, and begun to open the letter from Mr. Cameron Fraser. And before she’d read the entire first page of his two-page missive, she knew her decision was made.

 

Dear Miss Remington,

Thank you for your very kind response to the ad I placed for a bride. I felt out of place to do such a thing, but your answer made me glad I did so, after all.

I know that Indian Territory may seem uncivilized and wild to a well-bred lady such as yourself, who has grown up in the cultured, genteel society of the East, but I assure you, I will do everything in my power to welcome you. In no time at all, I hope you’ll come to think of the Territory as your home.

My family owns a fairly large cattle ranch in Indian Territory. I wanted to assure you that, although the ranch itself is somewhat isolated, we are close enough to Briartown to travel there frequently for supplies.

You will be safe here, Miss Remington, and cherished. You will be well-treated, and I promise you here and now, I will never raise a hand to you.

If it is your will, and I hope it will be, I am willing to be a good and loving father to any children we may have—and a good and loving husband to you.

The sky here is the bluest you’ve ever seen. The water is the freshest and coldest. And I hope you will come to love the open range as much as we Frasers do.

I await your arrival in Ft. Smith. I will meet you there, where we’ll be legally married in a civil ceremony before we travel together to the ranch. Enclosed, you will find a financial draft for your passage and travel expenses.

Sincerely,

Cameron James Fraser

 Something about the underlying feeling of the words Cam had written spoke to Sabrina. That he’d taken time to describe—even briefly—how he felt about his ranch made her know that he cared about her feelings—not just about what skills she might bring to the marriage table.

I see it, too, don’t you? He loves the land and his life, and wants her to share it with him. I wonder if women who were forced to take this route looked for these types of things—I know I would. And Sabrina is a bit of an adventurer, so going to Indian Territory would not hold her back. Adventure awaited!

Have you ever received a love letter that meant the world to you? I’ve had a few in my lifetime, and they’re tucked away in my desk and my heart! If you would like to share, we’d love to hear about your love letters—it’s that time of the year—love is in the air!

 

Here’s the blurb for MAIL ORDER BRIDES FOR SALE: THE REMINGTON SISTERS–buy link below!

Boxed set of four full-length mail order bride novels.

Brought up in the wealth and comfort of Eastern “old money” in staid and proper Philadelphia, the Remington sisters are forced to scatter to the four winds and become mail-order brides. In order to gain a fortune, their sinister step-father, Josiah Bloodworth, has made plans to marry them off in loveless marriages. Time is running out, and no matter what lies ahead in their uncertain futures, it has to be better than the evil they’re running from…

LIZZY: Livia J. Washburn
Elizabeth Remington’s world is turned upside down when she is forced to become a mail-order bride. With her cat, Fulton, Lizzy flees to Alaska—only to discover the man she’s to marry is not who she thought he was! Now, she must protect herself from the biggest danger of all—her own heart. Handsome Flint McKinnon has signed his soul away to her step-father, hasn’t he? He’s chased Lizzy across the continent, but can she believe him when he says he loves her?

BELLE: Jacquie Rogers
Belle Remington must marry someone before the dangerous Neville Fenster catches up with her. She hightails it out of Philadelphia to the wilds of Idaho Territory to become a bootmaker’s bride, but when she arrives in Oreana, she discovers her groom has been murdered! Now, handsome, inebriated rancher Cord Callahan insists on fulfilling the marriage contract himself. Belle is beautiful and smart as a whip. But she has a secret. When Fenster shows up, can Cord protect the woman he wants to love forever?

SABRINA: Cheryl Pierson
Impulsive Sabrina Remington, the youngest, weds a man she knows her family would disapprove of. Though Cameron Fraser’s family owns a ranch in lawless Indian Territory, he’s made his way in the world with a gun, living barely on the right side of the law. With everything on the line as Bloodworth and his henchmen close in, will Cam be able to protect Sabrina from the desperate man who means to kidnap her for his own wicked purposes?

LOLA: Celia Yeary
Sensible Lola Remington, the eldest of the four sisters, must be certain the others are on their way to safety before she can think of fleeing Philadelphia herself. With the help of a local bridal agency, Lola finds the perfect husband for herself—in the wild countryside of Texas. Jack Rains owns a ranch and he’s in need of a bride—and children, of course! But just when Lola starts to believe there might be a future for them, she discovers a hidden letter from another woman…Jack’s first wife.

Mail Order Brides for Sale: The Remington Sisters is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon. At only .99 for the Kindle edition, this is a STEAL!  Here’s the link!

http://tinyurl.com/y8cmb4m8

PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS WEBSITE: http://www.prairierosepublications.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cheryl.pierson.92

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Cherokeegirl57

DID COWBOYS EAT CHICKEN FRIED STEAK? by Cheryl Pierson

Many years ago when my mother-in-law came to visit us in Oklahoma all the way from her native West Virginia, the thing she loved best about my home state was CHICKEN FRIED STEAK! Mom had never had it before, and it never dawned on me that someone might not have ever eaten that wonderful delicacy. When we took her out to eat, she asked “What’s the best thing on the menu?” I told her “Chicken Fried Steak.” We both ordered it. I don’t think she ordered anything else the entire time she stayed with us–around 10 days, after I had my first baby–whenever we went out to eat after she tasted Chicken Fried Steak. 
 
I wonder if cowboys ever ate this? I know they ate a lot of beans and so on, but gosh, I really think this had to come from the trail drives or ranches “back in the day”–it is WONDERFUL. It’s one of the foods that’s common, and that we are known for in this part of the USA.  In fact, it’s part of the official STATE MEAL OF OKLAHOMA, as of 1988! (WHO KNEW?) My mom never made it often, but maybe it was because she knew if she did, it would be all I’d ever want to eat
 
I found this great recipe online for Chicken Fried Steak BITES that looks wonderful–whether you’re entertaining or just want something different and good for yourself and family members. 
 
 
Chicken Fried Steak Bites 
 
Prep Time: 10 minutes 
Cook Time: 25 minutes 
Cooking Level: Intermediate 
 
The secret to true “chicken fried steak” is frying beef in cooking oil that was previously used to fry chicken. If you use fresh oil, it is considered “country fried” with less authentic flavor. The same batter recipe and method we’ve given below can be used to fry up some chicken breasts for lunch before cooking for the party for improved pre-party satisfaction. 
 
Fried Steak:
 
Ingredients 
 
• 2 lb. cube steak, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces 
• 4 cups canola oil Batter 
• 1/2 cup milk 
• 1 egg 
• 2 cups all-purpose flour 
• 1-1/2 tablespoon seasoned salt 
• 2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper 
 
Directions 
 
1. Prepare a paper towel-lined plate for finished steak pieces and set aside. 
2. Heat oil in a deep cast iron skillet over high heat until the temperature reaches 350F, then reduce to medium. Note: if not using a thermometer, test the temperature of the oil by sticking the end of a bamboo skewer into it. When the indicated temperature range is reached, the end of the bamboo will sizzle, then reduce heat to medium. 
3. In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg and milk for batter until well mixed. 
4. In a shallow dish such as a pie plate, combine the dry batter ingredients well. 
5. Dredge each piece of steak in flour mixture, dip into the egg mixture, the roll in flour mixture again to coat well. 
6. Shake off excess flour, then place into the hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. 
7. Remove cooked pieces to plate and allow to rest for 2 minutes before serving. 
 
Gravy:
 
Ingredients
 
• 2 tablespoons bacon drippings 
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
• 3/4 teaspoon salt 
• 3/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper 
• 3-1/2 cups whole milk 
 
Directions
 
1. Melt bacon grease in an 8-inch iron skillet over medium heat. 
2. Brown the flour in the bacon grease along with the salt, and pepper, whisking constantly until golden in color, about 5-7 minutes. 
3. Gradually add 3 cups of milk a little at a time, stirring constantly to prevent curdling. Add more milk as necessary to keep from becoming too thick. 
4. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve. 
 
Tip: Gravy can be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight or frozen. Allow to defrost overnight in fridge before use, and heat slowly in the microwave stirring at 30-second intervals or over low heat on the stovetop. Add more milk as necessary to achieve desired consistency. 
 
 
I will definitely be making this, and it looked so great I just had to share. I’m thinking my cowboy ancestors must have had this delectable dish many times! 

A FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MEMORY AND A GIVEAWAY–by CHERYL PIERSON

 

Hi everyone! I’m kicking off our week of Book Scootin’ Holiday Favorites with a giveaway and a great recipe to go along with my favorite holiday memory! Hope you enjoy hearing about how my cousin and I “run into some trouble” when we were kids, and why it’s my favorite holiday memory now. I’m giving away a copy of GAMBLING ON A COWBOY to a lucky commenter, and there is a wonderful recipe for Milky Way Cake coming up in this post as well, so please read on, and be sure to leave a comment!

When I was a little girl, I begged my parents for a sister—or even a BROTHER—just someone that I could have to play with. My sisters were 12 and 10 when I was born, so by the time I was in first grade, my oldest sister was off to college, and two years later, my middle sister followed. I had a lot of friends, but it wasn’t the same as having a little sister or brother—and that was what I wanted.

 

Mom was the eldest of eleven children in her family. I think she was really tired by the time I came along—she was 35 when I was born and had two older daughters entering new phases of their lives that were so different than mine. When I mentioned a younger sibling (which was very often!) she’d say, “You have a lot of cousins! You have a lot of friends! I just don’t know about a little brother or sister, Cheryl.”

This is my 12th birthday. I was surrounded by friends as we celebrated, ate, and just had a wonderful time. But I still wanted my own little brother or sister! Yep, there’s my cousin Julia sitting to my left!

I had to be content with my friends and cousins as the younger sibling never materialized. Even after I asked SANTA for one, I still didn’t get one, or a pony, either.

But Mom was right about my cousins and friends. I had many, many cousins that were about my age and always saw one another on the big holidays, Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving.

Here are just SOME of my cousins! I’m not in this picture, but my cousin Julia is–she’s front and center, 5th from the left-hand side. My middle sister, Karen, is 2nd from the left.

Those were the holidays when ALL my cousins and aunts and uncles gathered, and to me, that was almost as wonderful as getting up on Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought.

My favorite Christmas memory happened one Christmas Day when we’d all gathered at my grandparents’ house for Christmas dinner. We’d driven down there after getting up early to open gifts, packing the car, and excitedly getting on the road. I was beyond thrilled, because my cousin Julia was going to be there. With her belonging to a military family, they weren’t always able to make to these  gatherings, but this year, they would be there! And though we usually managed to spend a week at each other’s houses in the summer, that had been so long—especially for a 10-year-old lonely little girl!

Julia was a few months older than I, and we were always “partners in crime” when we were able to get together. When she happened to spot an entire package of Milky Way candy bars in the refrigerator and whispered to me “There are SIX of them!” I knew we had to get those candy bars and have them all to ourselves. But how? Julia had three younger siblings at the time, and of course, there were MANY other cousins  there. It had to just be the two of us, or we might be discovered.

We made our plan, got into the kitchen, and slipped that bag of Milky Ways out of the refrigerator and under Julia’s coat. Then, out we went through the backdoor. There were some marvelous woods behind Granny and Granddad’s house…if we could just get out there and get hidden before some of the younger kids tried to follow us! We ran—oh, how we ran in that cold air, so joyous to be together again, and even more thrilled to be doing something we just KNEW we’d get away with! No one had seen us take those candy bars, we were certain of it. We had also had the good fortune of getting out into the woods without hearing one of our mothers call to us, or even being saddled with younger cousins! How had we managed to do it all? The stars were aligned!

We found a good place to sit, and broke open that bag of candy bars. Let me tell you, no first bite of candy before or since had ever tasted so wonderful. Why? Because we’d gotten away with it! And we were sharing it together. We sat and giggled and caught up with “girl talk”, and we ate three candy bars each. By the time we got to Milky Way #3 for each of us, we were not nearly as enthusiastic about eating them as we’d been in the beginning, but what could we do? We couldn’t leave evidence. We couldn’t take them back. We couldn’t bear to just throw them away!

So we ate them. Then, we started back to Granny and Granddad’s house very slowly. Things were not so wonderful anymore. We both were feeling rather green around the gills, and…what if we HADN’T gotten away with it after all?

We had started to feel awfully guilty.

We knew each other well enough to know that was what was wrong with both of us, aside from the fact that we had eaten way too much chocolate and caramel.

When we came in the back door, we realized immediately that we’d been discovered. Our Aunt Joyce was livid. She’d brought those Milky Way bars to make her wonderful Milky Way Cake. Now, dessert was ruined for everyone because we had been so selfish. And back then, there was no way to replace them—nothing was open on Christmas Day.

Our Aunt Joyce during her years of service during WWII.

There was no need for punishment. We were suffering enough as it was, since everyone knew what we’d done. And you certainly did not want to disappoint Aunt Joyce—which we had done in spades. Oh, there were other desserts (not that we wanted anything to eat for a very long time, and certainly nothing sweet!) but no Milky Way Cake that year.

That night as we laid on a pallet on the floor, Julia said quietly, “Can you believe we ate SIX Milky Way bars? And we didn’t throw up?”

I still laugh when I think about that. It was quite an accomplishment! Though it wasn’t funny at the time, that’s become my favorite Christmas memory!

Here’s the recipe for that scrumptious Milky Way Cake that’s close to the one our Aunt Joyce WOULD have made that year if we hadn’t eaten her candy bars!   

 

MILKY WAY CAKE RECIPE (and above image of cake!) from CookItEasy.net

  • sugar – 2 c
  • eggs – 4 item
  • vanilla – 1 tsp
  • chopped nuts – 1 c
  • flour
  • stick margarine – 1 item
  • semi-sweet chocolate chips – 6 oz
  • evaporated milk – 1 c
  • soda – 1/2 tsp
  • sticks margarine – 2 item
  • buttermilk
  • marshmallow cream – 1 c
  • Milky Way candy bars – 8 item

How to make milky way cake:

Frosting:

2 1/2 c. sugar

1 c. evaporated milk

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 c. marshmallow cream

1 stick margarine

Dissolve soda in buttermilk.

Melt 1 stick margarine and all 8 candy bars in double boiler. Set aside.

Cream sugar, 1 stick margarine, and eggs. Beat well. Add alternately the flour and buttermilk with soda. Always begin and end with flour. Add vanilla, nuts, and candy bar mixture. In a tube pan, bake at 325° for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Frosting: Cook sugar, milk and margarine to soft ball stage. Remove from heat. Add chocolate chips, vanilla and marshmallow cream. Stir well. Cool slightly and spread on cooled cake.

AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!

I’m offering a giveaway today of the GAMBLING ON A COWBOY boxed set from Prairie Rose Publications, a collection of SIX book-length novels from Kaye Spencer, Agnes Alexander, Patti Sherry-Crews, Tracy Garrett, Becky Lower, and yours truly. Just share a comment about a favorite Christmas memory and I will enter you in the drawing! Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas holiday with lots of fun, laughter, and love–and be sure to join us here at P&P every day for more Boot-Scootin’ Favorites to come!

 

 

GET GAMBLING ON A COWBOY HERE!

https://tinyurl.com/swrgj4o

 

https://www.amazon.com/Gambling-Cowboy-Full-Length-Historical-Western-ebook/dp/B08MHTQTJV/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Gambling+on+a+Cowboy&qid=1608412374&sr=8-1&tag=pettpist-20

“SOMETHING THEY WANT…” BY CHERYL PIERSON — AND A GIVEAWAY!

Here’s something I learned recently that I sure could have used in Christmases past when my kids were younger! Searching for the perfect gifts, the ones that “everyone” would be getting, made for a stressful time—not the relaxed, easy-going holidays we always imagined in our minds. You know, the Norman Rockwell scenes we all believed our Christmas holidays should look like—but that was before Playstation, X-Box, iPad…the list goes on.

A couple of years ago, I read something that really opened my eyes and made me wish for this bit of wisdom much earlier in my life. A simple Christmas list like this would have surely made life easier and less stressful—what do you think?

 

“Something they want

Something they need;

Something to wear,

Something to read.”

Problem solved! FOUR GIFTS! No, I’m shaking my head. I know I couldn’t have limited it to four gifts—not “back then”, anyway. Now that my kids are 34 and 31, this is a lot easier to follow and keep to! “Toys” are more expensive—as is everything. Clothing, wants, needs – yes, even books!

Maybe that’s why we enjoy writing and reading historical western romance—those were simpler times and the expectations were not so great. My parents grew up during the Great Depression in the Dustbowl days of Oklahoma’s history. Their families were so poor—and, coming from the same small town, Mom and Dad knew each other—and everyone else in that area—from the time they were born.

Mom talked about how sparse the Christmases were, but how happy they managed to be, in spite of it all. I imagine, with her being the eldest of eleven kids, her Christmas was especially small. She mentioned that the girls got a doll and a pair of shoes. If times were “good”, they got ribbon candy and an orange in their stockings.

When I was growing up in the 60’s-70’s, Mom kept up that tradition of always getting me a doll. When I got too old for baby dolls, she switched to the Madame Alexander collectible dolls. By that time/age, I was on to other things—blacklights, posters, incense, record albums, and of course, bell bottom jeans and “smock tops” to wear! Did I mention crayons? There was nothing more wonderful than getting the HUGE box of crayons and new coloring books—I don’t think I ever outgrew those. I would still sit down today and take joy in coloring!

 

This is BABY FIRST STEP–I got her when I was about 9 or so–she really walked (with the help of 2 “C” batteries!) I named my Baby First Step “Christy” — which was the most beautiful name I’d ever heard and I wished so much my parents had named me that at the time! 

A woman with no home. A rancher with no heart.
Can holiday magic bring The Devil and Miss Julia Jackson together?

In my story, THE DEVIL AND MISS JULIA JACKSON, the heroine has fled her home in Georgia to get away from a distant family member. Filled with a sense of propriety, she scarcely knows what to ask for when the hero, rancher Devlin Campbell, asks her what she might like for Christmas. Even though they’ve made the hasty decision to marry to avoid the scandalous talk that might otherwise surround them, they don’t know one another very well yet—certainly not well enough for Julia to mention anything personal she might want or need—even though she has arrived in Indian Territory with not much more than the clothes on her back. What does she ask for? Take a look…

EXCERPT FROM THE DEVIL AND MISS JULIA JACKSON:

Something had changed. Julia felt it. His touch was more…possessive. The bitterness seemed to have disappeared, only to be replaced by lines of weariness, instead. What had happened in the short space of time since he’d left?

“Got anything left to make for breakfast?”

Before she could respond, he went on. “We’ll head for town here in a bit. Gotta take the prisoners in.”

“I have my list…it’s long.”

He laughed. “Good thing there are so many of us going. Still too treacherous for a wagon, but maybe we can pack what you need back on the horses.”

She brightened. “That will be wonderful, Dev. Thank you.” What a relief to hear him offer, with no complaint. She breathed deep, knowing this Christmas was going to be special for everyone. But it was especially important for the children.

“And…what would you like for Christmas, Julie?”

His voice was rich, low, and somehow, his question was reassuring. It had been so long since she’d thought of wanting anything for herself—even necessities—that she struggled to think of how she should respond.

“I—maybe some new pan grips for the kitchen—”

Dev stood looking at her in shock. “Pan grips—you mean pot holders?”

She nodded, and he laughed in disbelief. “Well, I tell you what, Miss Julia Jackson. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a man who buys his betrothed pan grips for Christmas.” He leveled a narrow look at her. “You better think of something other than…pan grips.” Shaking his head, he started for the door. “I’ll go gather eggs. At least, we’ll have those for breakfast if nothing else.” He grabbed his coat from the wall peg and shrugged into it. Just before he closed the door behind him, Julia heard him mutter, “Pan grips.”

Asking for any kind of personal gift would mean…reciprocating. And she had nothing to give him. If only he knew how she’d had to scrimp, even with the money he’d sent her—to get here! She had a blessed five dollars left, saved back in case she and Lauralee hadn’t been able to make it to the Flying C and had to stay in town.

How could she tell her soon-to-be husband that she needed—everything? She had bought one dress for herself and one for Lauralee. The first new dress Julia had had in over two years. And in those past two years, she’d embarrassingly filled out in certain places. And even grown taller. She was an excellent seamstress and had done all she could. The older dresses she possessed were tight, and shorter than was decent. But Julia supposed a man would take no notice of that. Dev would probably not realize that it wasn’t the fact that her clothing was woefully out of fashion, but that it was bordering indecency, that embarrassed her.

What were your childhood Christmases like? I miss those days! As soon as it was a “borderline” decent hour on Christmas morning, my best friend, Jane, who lived down the street, would call—or I would call her—and we’d excitedly talk about what we got and when we might get together to play. Those were simple joys—just sharing our new gifts with one another and enjoying each other’s company.

Here’s a picture of me with Jane playing in the sandbox one cool day when I was 7 and Jane was 8. Jane is gone now, but I will never forget the wonderful friend she was and the memories we made together.

Please leave a comment to be entered in my drawing for a digital copy of THE DEVIL AND MISS JULIA JACKSON! If you can’t wait to see if you won, you can snap up your copy at Amazon—and it’s also available in paperback.

GET IT HERE!

http://www.amazon.com/Devil-Miss-Julia-Jackson-ebook/dp/B075SJX8SL/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1512283314&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Devil+and+Miss+Julia+Jackson&tag=pettpist-20

ALSO, The Devil and Miss Julia Jackson recently was included as part of a wonderful digital boxed set from Prairie Rose Publications, GAMBLING ON A COWBOY, now available for only .99! Other authors in the set include Kaye Spencer, Agnes Alexander, Patti Sherry-Crews, Tracy Garrett, and Becky Lower!  

 

AVAILABLE HERE:

https://smile.amazon.com/Gambling-Cowboy-Full-Length-Historical-Western-ebook/dp/B08MHTQTJV/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Gambling+on+a+Cowboy&qid=1607722476&sr=8-1%3C%2Fp%3E&tag=pettpist-20

 

Thanks for stopping by today!