I’m so happy to be visiting Petticoats & Pistols today. For the past five years my romance novels have focused on cowboys and ranch settings, specifically in my favorite state of Montana. Full disclosure here, I’m actually a Canadian, living on the border of the Rocky Mountains in Calgary, Alberta. But four years ago my spouse-to-be and I fell in love with a cottage on Flathead Lake, south of Glacier National Park in Montana, and the love affair has only grown since then. (For the guy and the cottage!)
Maybe this photo will help explain the appeal:
To get to this cottage Mike and I drive through some of the best ranching land in the world (stopping frequently so I can take photos).
In fact the highway south of Calgary is called “The Cowboy Trail” and it leads almost the entire way to Montana. And the further south we go, the more beautiful it becomes.
See what I mean? So, loving Montana the way I do, is it any wonder when my friend Jane Porter called to invite me to write for a new publishing company she was starting (Tule Publishing) and suggesting we begin with a series of romances featuring cowboys in a fictional town in Paradise Valley Montana, that I said: Hell yes!
It isn’t just the scenery in Montana that I love. It’s the emphasis on family, intrinsic to the cowboy way of life, the code of honor the men and women of the west live by, and their love and appreciation for their land and their animals. All of these qualities are wrapped up into the 6 book series that I’ve subsequently written for Tule. All is not sunshine for the Carrigans of the Circle C however. There are secrets that divide, family conflicts, painful losses and other obstacles along the path to love and forgiveness.
The latest book in this series came out this October. A Bramble House Christmas is about a grieving man and a lonely woman who travel to Marietta, Montana for the holidays…never expecting the magic they will find on they arrive. I love writing Christmas stories for many of the same reasons I’m drawn to cowboys and ranch settings. I appreciate the way we focus on home, family and hearth at that time of year. It’s the season to reflect on the things that are really important in life. At the end of each story, I strive to leave my readers with a smile on their face and a tear in their eye.
Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog to chat about what I love about Montana, westerns and Christmas romances. Now it’s time to hear from you. What do you look for when you pick up a Christmas romance? And do you love western settings as much as I do? I’ll be giving away an e-book copy of Snowbound In Montana and A Cowgirl’s Christmas to two random commenters.
p.s. On my website right now is a contest for a Kobo Glo HD. Please take the time to enter and to sign up for my newsletter if you’d like to hear about my future releases and reader giveaways.
First I want to say thank you to all the members of the Pistols & Petticoats blog for inviting me to visit with you all today. Cowboys have been near and dear to my heart since I was five and fell in love for the first time.
The object of my affection was, of course, a cowboy. He was tall, dark and handsome (5’9″ is tall to a five-year old!). I followed him everywhere, imprinting on him like a duck.
When he went away again, I was bereft. Fortunately for me, I grew up in a time when every other show on television was a western. I was enthralled.
I was also selective. One cowboy above all set my heart to beating faster — Jess Harper, the second in command at the stage stop on Laramie. (photo attribution to ABC Television) Jess was played by Robert Fuller who understood the finer points of playing a cowboy hero. He had the tall (well, taller than me), dark and handsome bits down pat. He had a gravelly baritone voice that still makes my ears tingle just to think about. Mostly, though, he understood that Jess had to live by his own moral code. The writers of Laramie seemed to understand this, too. It was a western ahead of its time in that respect.
I loved Jess not just because he was gorgeous in a rugged, rough-hewn way. I loved him for the choices he made. What Jess chose to do in any given situation was not always what the law decreed was proper. It was what deep down in his gut, he believed was right. And he arrived at that conclusion after a lot of soul searching. He anguished over the decisions he made.
Even as a child, I loved an anguished hero.
I wasn’t the only one. At a writers’ conference a number of years ago, I was tipping back in my chair, dozing a bit and contemplating lunch, when western historical author Jessica Douglass talked about cowboy — particularly Little Joe Cartwright on Bonanza who she always fantasized was “her brother” with whom she had great adventures. But the real hero of her fantasies, she went on, was Jess Harper who was “definitely NOT her brother.”
All four legs of my chair hit the ground with the thump. Jess was two-timing me with her! I was appalled. So was she. But eventually we agreed that we both had excellent taste in men — and cowboy heroes — and that Jess was the quintessential cowboy hero.
We even spoke at the RWA National Conference on the topic of My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, because of Jess Harper whom Robert Fuller had made so real.
Preparing the talk we decided to send Robert Fuller a letter asking if he would like to comment on the character he’d played so well. Clearly a fan girl heart beats in most of us long after the cowboy has ridden off into the sunset.
One December afternoon, a month or so later the phone rang right when all the telemarketers and political pollsters in Iowa regularly ring. I was not enthused. Imagine my surprised when, instead of a pollster, a remarkably recognizable baritone said, “This is Robert Fuller.”
Believe me, inside this grown-up otherwise responsible adult mother of four, a 13 year old fan girl was hyper-ventilating.
But I managed to marshal my wits and most of my brain cells and we chatted about Jess. I was gratified to learn that he shared our view about Jess’s need to create and adhere to his own moral code. He thought it was the best role he’d ever had. He recognized and articulated his feeling about Jess’s code of honor needing to be personally arrived at. He was as passionate about it as Jess was.
Talking to him then, I realized that a Jess Harper sort of cowboy embodies what I value in all my heroes. Whether they are bull riders or CEOs, architects or archaeologists, opal miners-turned-entrepreneurs or ranchers struggling to make a living on the land they love — all McAllister heroes are at heart ‘cowboy heroes.’ They all have a personal code of honor they are trying to live up to. It isn’t always easy — in fact sometimes it causes more anguish than joy — but it’s not just a part of who they are, it’s the essence of who they are. That’s why I love them.
And I’m happy to report that I had pretty good taste when I was 13 years old!
Anne McAllister has written nearly 70 books for Harlequin, Silhouette and Tule Publishing, many of them cowboys — and all of them, at heart, no matter how they earn their living, are cowboy heroes.
Presently she is hard at work on a four book series for Tule Publishing’s Montana Born imprint called Men of Hard Broke Creek due to come out in 2016. One of them is the brother of her most recent cowboy hero, Cole McCullough, of Last Year’s Bride.
She has an electronic copy of Last Year’s Bride, to send to the winner chosen from among the commenters. All you have to do to enter is tell her what appeals to you about the cowboy hero.
Hello, my name is Barbara and I’m a rodeo fan-girl.
There, I said it. Yes, I love watching cowboys take their lives in their hands aboard those lunatic pro-bulls. (Screaming into my fists, aside.) But after agreeing to write a bull-riding hero for my next book, I realized how little I actually knew about the mechanics of the sport. I needed to do some research, which is always one of my favorite parts of writing. I’ve discovered many a good turning point through research.
Hours of YouTube marathons yielded these tidbits, for example:
* Bull riders most often use man-made barrel contraptions manipulated by a huge lever to practice on and not (for the most part) real bulls because…life and limb.
* There are coach/mentors who teach/hone bull riding technique, even to the pros. One of these ended up figuring into my story and even changed my hero’s living situation.
* The bull ‘athletes’ are respected every bit as much as the riders and are specially bred to buck. One is even crowned champion at the end of the season for big money.
* The difference between a slinger –a bull that tries to hit the rider in the head with its horns and a honker: a really ‘rank’ and difficult animal to ride.
Most intriguing was the bullrope—that woven rope/strap that goes around a bull’s chest and which the rider wraps around his gloved hand—which he must release at the end of the ride or risk getting hung up and dragged around by the arm. (The screaming into fists part.) It took a while to figure out the wrap techniques and how riders freed themselves at the end of a ride.
Traditional American bullropes, position the cowboy’s hand directly over the bull’s spine. Each time a bull bucks, the rope slides a little to the left, tightening on the cowboy’s fingers. And if the stars align badly, the cowboy is unable to release this bucking strap from his pinched fingers and he gets dangerously hung up.
Brazillian bullropes are relatively new on the scene. They appeared with the influx of Brazillian cowboys who have taken many of the top spots on the rodeo charts in the past few years. The bullrope they use is slightly different from the American one.
Their grip handle starts off center, to the right of the bull’s spine, and releases to the right, the opposite direction of the American rope, which takes the pressure off the cowboy’s hand and allows him to easily free himself, preventing hang-ups. Some U.S. rodeos have banned them, claiming they’re an unfair advantage for the Brazillians and U.S. riders who have embraced them, but the jury’s still out on whether it’s simply a smarter design or an advantage. With the high stakes money in the PBR, it’s understandable that some sour grapes linger over these ropes. But I decided to use one in my story, because it felt like a smarter choice for Finn Scott, who had two little children waiting at home for him, along with a temporary wife with commitment issues.
I loved every minute of writing CHOOSE ME, COWBOY (Part of the Montana Born Rodeo series) And for those who read last year’s, A FAIR TO REMEMBER, this book follows the second of the Canaday sisters, Kate.
I have a $10 Amazon gift card for one lucky commenter here. Just tell me your favorite rodeo event!
Barbara Ankrum is the bestselling author of fourteen books, including her latest contemporary romance, CHOOSE ME, COWBOY, from Tule Publishing. Her bestselling western historical series, ‘Wild Western Hearts’ and ‘Wild Western Rogues” are available on all e-book platforms. She’s been twice nominated for RWA’s prestigious RITA Award.
My friend Susan gave me this entertaining book the other day! I love reading the quotes and find some so true, some funny and others very poignant. I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you today, from NEVER ASK A MAN THE SIZE OF HIS SPREAD, A Cowgirl’s Guide to Life. Giving credit to the author, and I love her name, Gladiola Montana. Isn’t that a great name?
The Code of Her West- Use a short rope, a sweet smile, and a hot brand.
When a cowboy gives you the key to his truck, you know you’re close to winning the key to his heart.
Foolin’ a man ain’t all that hard, finding one that ain’t a fool is a lot harder.
Oil all the wheels on your wagon, not just the squeaky one.
“One of these days” is “none of these days.”
You can’t get ahead of anybody you’re tryin’ to get even with.
If you wake up and find yourself a success, you ain’t been asleep.
Be sure to taste your words before you spit ‘em out.
Women have a lot of courage, otherwise none would ever get married.
New and improved can’t beat tried and true.
When kissin’ a cowboy in the rain, make sure you both fit under his hat.
A lesson every cowgirl should learn is where her business ends and someone else’s starts.
About half your troubles come from wanting your way; the other half come from gettin’ it.
Always say “please” when you tell somebody to shut up.
To win all you gotta do is get up one more time than you fall.
Before you get serious with a cowboy, make sure he values you more than his truck.
If a man thinks that a woman who can dog steers, ride broncs and rope the wind is too much for him, he’s probably right.
A weddin’ ring should cut off the wearer’s circulation.
Never-under any circumstances-admit that you like to cook.
Aren’t these great? They made me laugh. My favorite is: “Be sure to taste your words before you spit ‘em out.” Which one fits you the best?
And be sure to visit me tomorrow at A Platinum Event- Fantastic Fall Multi-Author Online Party. Sign up TODAY to be included. Every author is giving away wonderful prizes. And my hour on the fence post is Friday at 3:15 pm, PST…I’d love to see all of you there!! I’m giving away Amazon Gift Cards and this Fabulous Fall Prize. (Audio book of Carrying the Rancher’s Heir, Pumpkin shakers, Pumpkin spiced candle, Fall kitchen towels, and Candy corn!)
Check out my newest release too, A Royal Temptation!
We all have a hero, someone we’d like to meet in person someday. I met mine for the first time on our grainy black and white TV in our Long Island home when I was all of four years old. The first episode of Gunsmoke aired on September 10, 1955. That evening, Marshal Matt Dillon, played by the 6’7” blue-eyed Minnesotan, James Arness, was introduced into our living rooms. He stayed there for twenty years.
Throughout my teen years in the sixties, my admiration for James Arness remained steadfast. I lived for Saturday nights and my weekly dose of Gunsmoke. Tuesday and Thursday evenings were also special, the evenings the half hour reruns, renamed Marshal Dillon, aired.
Even though raised on the east coast, I’d been in love with westerns and the west all of my life. I moved to Colorado in my early twenties, ironically, to a small town on the eastern plains where another Gunsmoke main character, Ken Curtis, had grown up.
Gunsmoke went off the air in 1975 and those shows became only memories. That following year, I heard portions of the movie How the West was Won would be filmed at Bent’s Old Fort, a historic site a mere ten miles from my home. Jim Arness starred in that movie, playing the part of rugged mountain man Zeb Macahan. Oh, man, I was finally going to get to see my lifelong hero!
It was thrilling to stand on the balcony of the fort, look down on the courtyard and observe the big man in action. Still, there was no opportunity to speak to him, shake his ham-sized hand, or smile into those huge blue eyes.
When Gunsmoke came back on the air in this area on TVLand, I invested in a new VCR and a multitude of video tapes. One night I was checking the internet for anything Gunsmoke and came across the Delphi Gunsmoke message board, an internet group that shared about everything Gunsmoke. It was there that I learned that James Arness had written his autobiography and was hosting a booksigning at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles. Now was my chance to meet my hero in person, face to face!
Even though I was fifty years old at the time, I tingled with the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning as I walked into the auditorium and saw Jim sitting on the stage, dressed as Marshal Matt Dillon, waiting to greet his fans. We had each been assigned a number, and mine was thirteen. I had to wait for twelve people to have their turn before I got mine! There were a hundred and fifty people in line behind me, so I carefully planned the words I would say in the thirty seconds I would probably get with him.
When it was my turn to speak to Mr. Arness, he and his lovely wife, Janet, made me feel like I was the most important fan in the whole room. We visited about the town where I live and the fact that I know many people who were personal friends with Ken Curtis. He loved to joke, and his blue eyes sparkled with laughter.
Our day didn’t end with the booksigning. Jim, Buck Taylor, who also starred in Gunsmoke as gunsmith Newly O’Brien, Bruce Boxleitner, star in How the West was Won, and Jim Byrnes, who wrote some of the Gunsmoke episodes, held a question and answer panel. It was such fun to listen to the actors answer questions from the audience and share stories of their acting experiences together.
I had the privilege of returning to LA in 2003 to celebrate Jim’s 80th birthday along with other fans. Our Delphi Gunsmoke group presented Jim with a statue of a horse and rider, which one of our members carried all the way from Massachusetts on the Amtrak! I compiled a book of birthday cards and letters from those who were unable to attend, but wanted to send their greetings. I was honored to present that to him. We had planned to present the gift and book during the event, but his PR manager arranged for our group to meet with him privately in a small room away from the crowd.
James Arness passed in 2011, but his name lives on in television history, representing justice, patriotism, self-respect, and worthy of the highest admiration. In all the parts he has played, he has portrayed characters that emulate our basic American principles and values. I am so blessed that one of my prayers was answered, to meet my lifelong hero in person!
I would like to offer a $10.00 Amazon gift card as a giveaway. Hopefully, the winner will use it to enjoy a 19th century historical novel set in the American west. There is plenty of wonderful work by talented authors out there to choose from!
Patti still loves Gunsmoke and likes to write Gunsmoke fan fiction. She plans to complete her contemporary and historical western novels in progress and pursue publication someday. Currently, she hosts Step Into the Light, a blog talk radio interview format show that serves to help people out of darkness into the light of God’s love, grace, and faithfulness. Connect with Patti on her website (www.pattishene.com), her personal Facebook page, http://ow.ly/T2uyj and her Step Into the Light Facebook page at http://ow.ly/T2uSx or on Twitter http://ow.ly/T2v7o.
Professional and amateur cowboys intrigue me, as do the equally tough professional bullriders.
Every year I attend 2-3 rodeos, from small regional amateur rodeos in Montana and Arizona, to the National Finals Rodeo held in Las Vegas, and that doesn’t include the PBR (Professional Bull Rider) events I try to attend each spring.
Fortunately, I never lack for company when I’m heading to the rodeo or PBR. My husband and I have a standing date for the NFR in Last Vegas each December and have tickets for the last three nights of competition, and my writer friends Megan Crane and CJ Carmichael are also always up for a rodeo weekend.
I’ve written a variety of rugged heroes, including cowboys and bullriders, and three of my reader favorites were all professional bullriders: Dane Shelly (She’s Gone Country), Cade King (Be Mine, Cowboy), and Colton Thorpe (Take Me, Cowboy).
These three heroes were tough, hardcore alphas. Dane Shelly walked with a permanent limp, Cade King once dealt with his pain by drinking hard, hitting the bottle to numb his exhaustion and pain, while Colton Thorpe has no desire to ever settle down and be a buckle bunny’s sugar daddy.
I may have inherited my love of cowboys and western stories from my grandfather, an engineer and rancher from El Paso, Texas that loved the land so much he owned three cattle ranches in California and would fly his private plane in and out of the different ranches to help with routine chores and round ups. I spent school holidays on his favorite ranch in the Cholame Valley (forty-five miles east of Paso Robles) where the miles and miles of rolling hills and open land made me think anything was possible.
At UCLA I switched from being a Creative Writing major to American Studies where I could combine my love of American literature with American history, culture and art. My senior thesis was on Mark Twain, and it’s impossible to study American culture without being reminded at every turn that the American West, and our Frontier has shaped our national consciousness. Americans are explorers and adventurers and yes, risk takers. We’re fiercely independent and determined to succeed.
I was lucky to study in depth the literature of our West, reading both the classics from James Fenimore Cooper to Willa Cather, as well as getting an introduction to the greats in our popular culture, like Bret Harte, Jack Schaefer, and of course, the one and only Louis L’Amour.
Through reading I discovered one of the defining characteristics of the classic Western hero (or heroine) is strength, particularly inner strength, and this strength, and rugged individualism, resonated deeply with me. It’s not enough to say the right thing, but one must do the right thing. Integrity is also essential, as well as having a clear moral compass.
I’m grateful for my academic immersion in the West. It’s definitely been useful for my career, but as I write a contemporary western hero, not a historical one, I’m always trying to broaden my knowledge and deepen my perspective to better ground my character, making him or her as intriguing and relevant as possible for my readers.
To get my characters right, I do a lot of research. In fact, at the very beginning of a new story I do far more research and studying then actual writing.
My research can be broken into one of three categories:
1) Reading: I read every reference book, memoir, and bio I can get my hands on!
2) Interviews: I talk to industry experts (in this case, cowboys, bullriders and family and friends)
3) Observation: I attend live events, soaking it all in and noting every detail possible.
Over the years I’ve collected quite a few books that have become essentials in my Western library. I’ve pulled out a few to share with you here, and have listed four favorites by title and author below.
Favorite Reference Books
King of the Cowboys by Ty Murray and Steve Eubanks
Chasing the Rodeo: On Wild Rides and Big Dreams, Broken Hearts and Broken Bones, and One Man’s Search for the West by W.K. Stratton
Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, & Bull Riders: A Year Inside the Professional Bull Riders Tour by Josh Peter
Rodeo in America: Wranglers, Roughstock, and Paydirt by Wayne S Wooden
Not every lover of westerns needs to be a rodeo fan, but if you enjoy a great rodeo hero or setting, check out one of the titles I’ve shared above (the top three are my personal top three favorites). You can also learn more about the PRCA and PBR, including rankings, schedules and ticket info at http://www.prorodeo.com and http://www.pbr.com.
My next rodeo event? Why, it’s the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in just two months time. And I’ll be attending with my favorite ‘cowboy’, my husband Ty. And okay, he’s not a real cowboy, he’s a professional surfer, but with his Texas roots, he loves the rodeo as much as I do!
Giveaway: Are you a rodeo fan? Have you ever been to a rodeo? I’d love to hear about your favorite event or experience and one of you will win a signed copy of She’s Gone Country and some fun Jane Porter reader swag. Winner will be announced here, in the comments, on Saturday, October 10th so please check back to see if that winner might be you!
Hello everyone! I’m Jeannie Watt and I’m thrilled to be the newest filly at Petticoats & Pistols! I write western romance for Harlequin and Tule Publishing and I live in Paradise. Literally.
I know of four Paradise Valleys in the west. My Paradise Valley is in northern Nevada, and it’s a place where a kid really can grow up to be a cowboy (if his mama lets him, of course). Interestingly, cowboys in northern Nevada are not generally called cowboys. Instead they are called buckaroos, from the Spanish word vaquero.
Vaqueros started migrating to the Great Basin from California and northern Mexico in the mid-1800s to do herd work for both family and corporate ranches. They brought with them their own distinctive style of dress and working gear, as well as their own lexicon, which is still in use today.
Modern day buckaroos may choose to dress like any other cowboy in Wranglers, a western shirt, and a belt with a giant buckle, but many working buckaroos choose to wear the traditional buckaroo garb.
They favor flat hats, short chaps called chinks, white shirts, either a vest (often harvested from a thrift store men’s suit) or a wool sweater and a large silk scarf. They often sport a big Sam Elliot type mustache. (Gotta love a Sam Elliot anything—right?)
They use mecates (ropes made from twisted mane hair) for reins. The mecate is attached to the bit with leather pieces called slobber straps. The saddles often have high cantles (backs) and slick forks. Instead of a rope, they may have a rawhide riata (a gut line).
They also tie their horse’s tails in a unique knot to keep them out of the dirt…or maybe just because it looks cool.
Now that I’ve talked up buckaroos, I have to confess that I love cowboys, no matter what. I don’t care if they’re called buckaroos, cowpunchers, or cowhands. Just gimme a guy with boots, chaps and a cowboy hat. I’ll take care of the rest.
Do have regional cowboy trends in your area? Or are you a cowboy generalist as I am?
One of my favorite things in the world is learning trivia and facts about how things came to be. Since my newest release is about a rodeo rider in the small Montana town of Marietta, book one of the Montana Born Rodeo series, here’s some fun facts and trivia about the rodeo!
Did you know:
The history of the rodeo dates back to the early 1700’s—when Spanish cattlemen, vaqueros were tasked with such ranch duties as roping, horse breaking, herding and branding. These early duties developed into the rodeo events we know today as tie-down roping, team roping and bronc-riding.
During the 1800’s cattle barons began to rival their competitors in Texas, California and New Mexico. After long cattle drives the American cowboys would hold competitions to see which outfit had the best riders, ropers and all around drovers.
Wild West shows cropped up—part theatre and entertainment and part competition. These attractions brought paying customers to the arena. When the likes of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows began to disappear, rodeos came to life. Paying spectators in small rural towns in informal settings came to watch the cowboys perform and compete. These annual stock shows and gatherings became known as the rodeo.
From 1890’s to 1950’s the popularity of the rodeo grew and gave cowboys a way to supplement their income. But safety to man and animal came into play and in 1929 the Rodeo Association of America was born.
Turtles in the rodeo? When a dispute broke out between cowboys and the rodeo promoters, about 60 cowboys formed the Cowboys Turtle Association named because they were slow to form, but eventually stuck their neck out. In 1945 they changed their name to the Rodeo Cowboys Association.
The buckle trophy? Many of the cowboys were also boxers, thus the favorite and most honored prize for the competitors became the champion buckle.
So now we come to present day rodeos and my current release, Claim Me, Cowboy. Here’s a little bit about Tyler and Summer’s story.
When Summer Nichols inherited half of the Circle W Ranch, she didn’t know her rodeo-riding, bad boy ex-boyfriend came with the deal. But sure enough, Tyler Warren, the man who broke her heart and left her in Marietta years ago, is back and living on the ranch again, claiming he wants no trouble. He’s certainly not back to rekindle their decade ago romance.
Ty only wants what’s rightfully his, and then he’s gone, but not even family secrets and Summer’s seemingly deep betrayal can keep him from remembering the good times he had with the preacher’s sweet, beautiful daughter, once upon a time. Summer is more woman than he expected…
Will Ty seize his second chance, uncover the real truths of the past, and claim Summer’s love again?
Post a comment here and be included in the Claim Your Cowboy Celebration! Everything you need to claim your own cowboy including a The Longest Ride DVD, Enticing lotions, Bling, Pumpkin Pie candle, and Rope to lasso him in (licorce). The party starts on Facebook today where you could win this great prize! Winner announced on FB (www.facebook.com/charlenesands) on September 18th…release day for Claim Me, Cowboy.
“Can’t you hurry this up a bit? I hear they eat dinner in Hades at twelve sharp, and I don’t aim to be late.” —Black Jack Ketchum
Whether or not he aimed to be late, Thomas Edward “Black Jack” Ketchum missed the dinner bell by more than an hour on April 26, 1901. In fact, his original 9 a.m. appointment on the gallows was delayed by more than four hours while authorities tried to ensure Ketchum’s execution was both humane and permanent.
They got the permanent part right.
Ketchum, the youngest of five children, was born in San Saba County, Texas, on Halloween 1863. His father, a prosperous farmer, died when Black Jack was five years old; his mother when he was ten. Because the family’s property went to the eldest son, Black Jack and his other brother, Sam, made their living cowboying in Texas. The work never suited either of them. By 1890, both had left the state.
By 1892, they were robbing trains.
Together with a gang of other young men—all of whom were described as well-mannered and well-dressed, riding good horses, and flashing plenty of money—between 1892 and 1899 the Ketchum gang liberated payrolls and other large sums of cash from trains passing through the Four Corners area of the Southwest. In 1895 and 1896, the gang included Kid Curry and his brother Lonnie Curry, who reportedly departed after a dispute over the division of proceeds from a holdup.
In 1897 alone, the Ketchums heisted more than $100,000: $42,000 from a Wells Fargo safe outside Langtry, Texas, in May and another $60,000 in gold and silver near Twin Mountain, New Mexico Territory, in September.
Two years later, in July 1899, Sam Ketchum partnered with Wild Bunch members Will Carver and William Ellsworth “Elzy” Lay to rob the Twin Mountain train a second time. A posse chased the outlaws into Turkey Creek Canyon near Cimarron, New Mexico, where Sam was wounded in a shootout. He died of his wounds in Santa Fe Territorial Prison a few weeks later.
In August 1899, unaware of his elder brother’s fate, Black Jack lost his right arm to a shotgun blast fired by the conductor of a train he attempted to rob alone. “The handsome train robber” didn’t resist when either a posse or a railroad crew (there’s a dispute) found him near the tracks the following morning.
At trial, Ketchum was sentenced to hang, but the date of execution was delayed several times by arguments about where final justice should take place, since several towns wanted the honor. Finally, reacting to a rumor that the old gang planned to break Black Jack out of jail, the hanging became the center of a carnival in Clayton, Union County, New Mexico. Despite an extended debate about the length and strength of the rope necessary for the deed, something went horribly wrong.
Shortly after 1 p.m., the scaffold’s trapdoor opened and Ketchum, 37, plunged through. He died instantly, decapitated by the fall.
Black Jack Ketchum bears the dubious distinction of being the only man sentenced to die in New Mexico for “felonious assault upon a railway train.” Apparently his botched execution set the residents of Union County back a mite, because Black Jack also was the only man ever hanged in Union County. Until serial murderer Eva Dugan suffered the same fate at the Pinal County, Arizona, prison in 1930, Black Jack Ketchum was the only person in the U.S. who literally lost his head to a hangman’s noose ordered by a court.
No train robberies or grisly executions take place in the Civil War-era duet The Dumont Brand, although the hanging of a cattle rustler in her past plays a role in one heroine’s present. The book, which contains two stories about two brothers, debuted July 24. It’s the first in a trilogy about a Southeast Texas ranching dynasty with more skeletons than you can shake a stick at in its closets. Links and excerpts are on my website.
Here’s the blurb, and below that is a video trailer.
The Civil War burned Texas…and fanned the flames of love.
On the eve of the Civil War, family secrets threaten everything a ranching dynasty has built…until one son finds salvation in the wrong woman’s love. In the aftermath of battle, a woman destroyed by betrayal brings peace to his brother’s wounded soul.
The Big Uneasy: To escape the unthinkable with a man about whom she knows too much, New Orleans belle Josephine LaPierre agrees to marry a Texan about whom she knows nothing. Falling in love with his brother was not part of her plan.
Making Peace: After four long years in hell, Confederate cavalry officer Bennett Collier just wants to go home—assuming home still exists. Widowed Jayhawker Maggie Fannin will hold onto her home at any cost…even if she must face down the imposing Rebel soldier who accuses her of squatting.