In historical westerns four things are always in everyone of my stories – Hats (Stetsons usually,) Guns, Horses and Boots. Not necessarily in that order.
But who were the boot makers?
The first boots, and for sure the forerunner of the western kind, were reportedly worn by Genghis Kahn way back in the Mongol Empire. He wore a pair of red boots with wooden heels. But definitely the Wellington boots worn in 17th and 18th centuries of England were a precursor of the boots cowboys wear. They rode high on the leg, had a low heel and were made of the same four part construction as cowboy boots. Soldiers in the Civil War preferred them and when they went home from the war, they took their boots with them.
One on the earliest known cowboy boot makers was Charles Hyer in Olathe, Kansas in 1872. He and his brother Edward founded the Hyer Brothers Boot Company and outfitted many a trail driver.
Down here in Texas as the cattle drives accelerated, bootmakers popped up in the towns along the trails. The Justin Boot Company and the Nocona Boot Company in Texas are among two of the earliest makers of western footwear. I’m sure there were many others. Justin Boots is world famous. It was founded in 1879 and George Strait still wears them today.
Nocona boots were long made by H. L. Justin before he ever formed the company. He was a maker of fine boots in Spanish Fort, Texas which was on the Chisolm Trail. Cowboys would stop on their way north and let him measure their feet and pick up their boots on the way back.
In 1911, Italian immigrant Tony Lama, who learned the trade at age 11, set up shop in El Paso, Texas and began that lucrative business. Today there are many, many brands.
Boots are worn by rich man and poor, presidents, country singers and the cowboys of today who work the ranches, herding cows and riding the rangeland.
I have three pair of western boots– an old pair I bought in Reno, Nevada in 2002, my Justin Ropers and a new pair I bought last month to wear to NYC to a writers’ conference. The new pair is made by the Abilene Boot Company and they’re as comfortable as my Justins. I’ve always had trouble finding shoes that don’t hurt my feet. I never have to worry about my boots.
So what about you? Have you tried cowboy boots?
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“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway.” Harper Lee
The Code of the West is the stuff that builds legends. Like the Knights in Medieval times, I like my heroes to have a code to live by ~ a moral compass of unwritten rules that center on honor, fair play, loyalty, and respect for the land.
The stories that stick with me, those that I mull over long after reading them, often have the hero or heroine struggling with hard choices. I am particularly moved by stories about honor— where a man (or woman) grapples with doing what he believes is right in the face of extraordinary opposition.
High moral standards of behavior Honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions Good reputation. Good quality or character as judged by other people.
Two examples in westerns that I can think of right off are Crossfire Trail – where the hero promises a friend on the man’s deathbed that he will take care of the man’s ranch and wife against powerful enemies. And then, even though it looks like will mean his death, he does it.
The other is High Noon – On the day of his wedding, our hero has promised his wife to put up his guns. Then he hears that three outlaws he put in prison and are out and coming to get him. Oh…and one by one, all his friends desert him.
The cowboys and women of my stories often grapple with right and wrong too.
In Dance With a Cowboy, part of the Wild West Christmas anthology, Garrett Sheridan has always loved Kathleen—even before she became his sister-in-law in a mix-up maneuvered by his fun-loving younger brother. Serious & quiet, Garrett should have spoken up before the wedding, but once he learned she was expecting, he kept his feelings to himself.
For years he has kept quiet. But now Kathleen is a young widow with a five-year old daughter in tow. The two need looking after…and Garrett can’t turn his back on that—or Kathleen—even though she wants nothing to do with the Sheridan side of the family. Trouble is ~ if she learns he was the cause of his brother’s death, she will never let him near her again.
I like to think of the American cowboy as the American counterpart to the medieval knight. (Usually with a more self-deprecating sense of humor!) One of my favorite movies about a knight is Kingdom of Heaven which takes place at the time of the Crusades. Although I skip through the more violent fighting parts, I love the story of young Balian becoming a knight. Here is the oath he took ~
“Be without fear in the face of your enemies.
Be brave and upright that God may love thee.
Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death.
Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong – that is your oath.”
John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, James Arness. Epic cowboy actors all. When you call them to your mind, what are they all wearing?
A cowboy hat! The iconic image of the Old West.
Though there are many different styles of cowboy hat, they all mark the wearer as a cowboy. From a ten-gallon, to a wide-awake, to a silver-belly, they’re all cowboy hats. But are you aware that there is a certain code, an etiquette if you will, to wearing one?
Doing a basic search of cowboy hat etiquette turned up lots of rules and requirements, and I’ve distilled it down to seven that seemed fairly consistent.
Here are Seven Rules of Cowboy Hat etiquette:
Rule 1: Always remove your hat when you enter a place where people live. It’s fine to keep it on when you enter a public building like a bank or store. Exceptions are churches and courtrooms.
Rule 2: The first time you meet a lady take your hat off when you say howdy. After that, it’s fine to tip your hat to her.
Rule 3: Never let your hat touch your bed. It’s bad luck.
Rule 4: Rest your hat on the crown. The crown will hold its shape better than if you rest it on the brim. Also, if any good luck falls your way, it might land in your upturned hat.
Rule 5: Keep your hands off anyone else’s hat. Touching someone else’s hat is a serious fight-starting move.
Rule 6: Never tip your hat to another man. It’s like calling the fellow a girlie-boy.
Rule 7: Never show the inside of your hat while you’re holding it. Hold it against your chest or your leg.
Follow these rules, and you’ll never be considered a rude buckaroo!
Author Bio: Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and romance, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical romances. Whenever she’s not immersed in fictional worlds, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.
About the book: Anything he can do, I can do better. At least that was what Cassie Bucknell thought before she pinned on Ben Wilder’s badge and took to patrolling the streets of Cactus Creek, Texas. Cassie has been in love with Ben since primer school, but Ben treats her like a little sister. When they are picked to swap jobs for a month as part of the annual Cactus Creek Challenge in their Texas hometown, the schoolhouse is thrown into an uproar, the jail becomes a temporary bank vault, and Cassie and Ben square off in a battle of wills that becomes a battle for their hearts.
I’d love to give a copy of The Cactus Creek Challenge to one US resident who comments on the blog.
I have recently needed to re-read several of my older titles for conversion to e-books. After 60 titles and 32 years of writing, I can’t always remember exactly what happened in every book I wrote or who the hero and heroine were. So far I have been pleasantly surprised at how good the stories are and how “hot” the heroes and the love scenes are. Somehow I had the idea that “way back then” I was hesitant to get too racy with my love scenes, but gosh, they ain’t bad!
Through all of this, I am noticing something about my heroes – they tend to be a lot alike – i.e. rugged, take no sh–, well built, extremely able with fists, guns or in the case of the Native Americans, sometimes knife, tomahawk or lance. They are survivors. I am falling in love all over again with each one of them as I read these older books and am re-discovering some great characters – both the heroes and the heroines. Even the heroines are, for the most part, very strong women who “match” the men they’ve chosen to love and can stand right up to them (and often wrap them right around their little fingers)! I was afraid I would find some “fainting flowers” in some of those older books, but so far I haven’t.
Let’s face it. Women love to read about the bad-ass who’s vulnerable in some way when it comes to his woman – a man who would die for her, who loves her unconditionally (actually he adores her) – who always has her back and who is true to her. He might be hard to live with, but what woman wants to live without him!
I am noticing with great relief that it’s only the bad-ass aspect that is very similar in most of my heroes. Each one so far is turning out to be unique in his background and his reasons for turning out as he has. I never want to be accused of writing the same man over and over. Each hero has to be his own man with his own special story – and not all of them are tall and dark and have 6-pack abs, although that seems to be the preferred description. My hero Mitch Brady in DESPERATE HEARTS (September 2014) has sandy hair and very blue eyes, but he is, of course, tall and has those abs!
I like to write a hero (and often a heroine) who has some kind of tragedy in his past that has caused him to turn out the way he has, either some traumatic childhood experience, or the horrors of the Civil War or Indian wars, or he’s been robbed of everything he called his own or his inheritance – or has lost a wife or child tragically – something that makes the heroine’s (and the reader’s) heart ache for the poor guy and want to just hug him and tell him everything will be all right – but of course he’s rugged and stoic and refuses (at first) to admit that he needs that hug. After all, in the “old days” a man just didn’t cry. When they do in my books, it tears your heart out because he’s such a macho man that it is a real surprise when he even gets tears in his eyes, let alone actually weeping. No cry-babies here. Just men who have suffered and have finally met a woman who understands that at least once he has to “let it all out.”
I think another required “ingredient” for a hero is that he doesn’t just love and want the heroine – he NEEDS the heroine. He should feel he couldn’t go on without her – feelings he of course fights at first, but feelings he can’t ignore forever. In my books the hero often feels he is unworthy of the heroine’s love, or feels he could never be the kind of man he “thinks” she wants or needs. I usually always find a way for hero and heroine to finally be together without either of them having to give up his and her own dreams. That’s the way most romances turn out, but I refuse to do it the “soft, flowery” way. Hero and heroine have to fight together to realize their dreams and to be able to spend their lives together.
It’s really fun reading these older books. But for now, you can read about one of the best heroes I’ve ever written – Jake Harkner – in OUTLAW HEARTS (June 2015) and DO NOT FORSAKE ME (July 2015). I am currently working on the third book of this trilogy, LOVE’S SWEET REVENGE (scheduled for September 2016). All three books comprise a great love story you will never forget. Jake was horribly abused as a child, which led him into an outlaw life, but along comes Miranda, a woman fate brings into his pathway and who won’t get out of the way. Miranda understands the “little boy” inside the macho man who is Jake Harkner … ruthless … lawless … a real bad-ass … a wanted man, which means life with Jake means life on the run (in OUTLAW HEARTS) but things work out and in Book #2 (DO NOT FORSAKE ME) Jake is a U.S. Marshal in Oklahoma – and still as bad-ass as they come!!
As explained in a great spread I had in Romantic Times magazine(DO NOT FORSAKE ME was a “top pick”), these books are packed with powerful emotions, which make them tear-jerker stories you won’t soon forget. Much like my SAVAGE DESTINY books, the Harkner books will be keepers!! I can’t wait for you to read them and am anxious to hear back from my readers!
And by the way, for those of you who need fresh, new copies of all 7 of my SAVAGE DESTINY books – or for my new readers who have never read those first books I wrote 30 years ago – you can NOW GET ALL 7 SAVAGE DESTINY BOOKS IN PRINT WITH NEW COVERS!! Just check them out on Amazon’s “print-on-demand” offers. The new covers are beautiful (by Hot Dam Designs). These were my first books and are still out-selling everything else … although sales for my “Jake” books are looking smashing!! I have to say that Zeke from SAVAGE DESTINY and Jake from my OUTLAW TRILOGY are my favorite heroes of all time!
What are your favorite western romances? Doesn’t have to be historical.
Thanks for your support! Rosanne Bittner
Rosanne is giving away 3 sets of both Outlaw Hearts and Do Not Forsake Me. Leave a comment to enter the drawing!
Rosanne has been writing most of her life, beginning with poetry at a young age, then moving on to writing her first book 36 years ago. After writing a total of nine books after that, it was the ninth book that finally sold 33 years ago, SWEET PRAIRIE PASSION, which was then published in 1983 and became the first book of a 7-book series about the settling of Colorado called SAVAGE DESTINY. All 7 books are still selling and Amazon recently reissued all 7 books for print-on-demand with new covers! Rosanne went on to write 53 more books since then, for a total of 60 published novels to date with #61 coming in 2016.
Rosanne wrote through many personal challenges and worked full time at secretarial work for the first several years of her writing. She’s been married 50 years and has two sons and three grandsons, and she helps run a family business in a small town in southwest Michigan. She attributes her success to the fact that her books are filled with real American history, which she brings alive through her fictitious characters, so well that fans often write wanting to know if those people really lived. Her books span the West, from Indiana to California and Mexico to Canada.
Rosanne has traveled to every location about which she writes, and her love for the magnificent western landscape shows through in her writing with descriptions of vast prairies and plains, and incredibly beautiful descriptions of the Sierras and the Rockies. When you read a Bittner book you are carried away into another time and into landscapes that once were virgin and unsettled. She has covered nearly every major historical event and has written many Native American stories.
Rosanne has a huge library of her own research books and has studied America’s history, especially the Old West and Native Americans, for forty years. She has won numerous writing awards, including the prestigious WILLA AWARD from Women Writing the West, and was named Queen of Western Romance and one of the “legends” of western romance by Romantic Times magazine.
Rosanne is available for speaking engagements and has conducted writers workshops at many writing conferences.
The only good reason to ride a bull is to meet a nurse
Recently I read that the American cowboy wouldn’t have survived “lonesome” had it not been for his “guts and his hoss.” The author got it only partly right. For the cowboy had one more weapon of survival under his Stetson: his sense of humor.
Seeing the funny side of life in the Old West was just as vital, if not more so, than a cowboy’s horse or six-gun. Those early buckaroos survived long hours in the saddle under the most difficult conditions with jokes, horseplay and cock and bull stories.
No campsite was complete without a tall tale or two. Cowboys didn’t experience weather like the rest of us. No sirree. One cowpuncher told about winter being so cold they couldn’t hear the foreman’s orders. “The words froze as they came outta his mouth. We had to break them off one by one so we could tell what he was sayin’.”
The wind was a popular subject. “You think this wind is bad? You ain’t seen nothin’.” Cowboys talked about feeding their chickens buckshot so they wouldn’t blow away in the wind. Not to be outdone some claimed it was so windy a chicken laid the same egg five times.
Don’t dig for water under the outhouse.
California’s current drought is nothing compared to what those cowboys of yesteryear experienced. “One drought was so bad the cactus took to a-chasing after dogs.”
Texas was reportedly the healthiest state. So healthy, in fact, no one ever died there naturally. They needed the assistance of a bullet to accomplish that feat. More than one Texan was caught crossing the border just so he could “ride to the great beyond.”
Perhaps the most amusing rivalries in the Old West pitted cowboys against railroaders. Cowboys had little patience with the “bullheaded Irishmen” who stampeded their cattle. In turn, railroaders thought cowboys a bunch of troublemakers—and for good reason.
One railcar filled with smoke when a cowboy attempted to cook a steak on the train’s coal stove. Another cowpoke, on the way to meeting his best gal, shocked women passengers by stripping down to his long johns so he could don his new suit.
When a cowboy’s too old to set a bad example,
he hands out good advice.
One foreman befuddled railroad officials by sending a wire requesting cars to ship 2,500 sea lions. The foremen figured his cattle had swum across so many streams that “sea lions” aptly described his sirloins.
Railroaders dished out as good as they got. One cowboy learned the hard way not to travel without a ticket when the train he was riding came to a screeching stop and left him stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Another cowboy boarded a train and when asked for his ticket pulled out his six-gun, declaring it the only ticket he needed. The conductor convinced him otherwise by returning with a rifle and sticking it under the cowboy’s nose.
Cowboys didn’t just laugh at these antics like regular folks. Oh, no. They’d sit ’round a campfire “grinnin’ like a weasel peekin’ in a henhouse.”
So when is the last time you grinned like a weasel? What tall tale, anecdote or family memory would you share around a campfire?
What they’re saying about Undercover Bride
Expect some fun reading while the detective team attempts to unmask a pair of train robbers and murderers. That’s how Margaret Brownley writes. Western mystery with humor rolling throughout, like tumbleweeds on Main Street.-Harold Wolf, Amazon
My very next novel will be pre-set in Marietta, Montana. That sounds like a real place, doesn’t it? Yet, it’s not located on any map that we know of. What I mean by pre-set, is that this town already exists in many other author-related books, so in a sense it’s real. There are café’s and schools, a chocolate shop, and a sheriff’s office all in the small town of Marietta. Characters live there, either in town, or near Copper Mountain or in Paradise Valley, doing what normal folk ordinarily do, ranching, banking, baking, dining and romancing!
For my new adventure, I’ll be one of four authors writing a romance about when the Rodeo comes to Marietta. My bronc-riding hero (who has no name yet—would love for you to name him) returns to his roots and meets up with his deceased brother’s widow—the very same girl he dumped for the excitement of the rodeo. Said heroine, wants nothing to do with him, until he reminds her of the unrequited passion they’d once shared.
So my research begins learning about Montana. I’ve never been, and usually I set my stories in places I’ve traveled, so this will be a bit of a challenge. Here’s some fun facts about Montana:
The State flag is stunning: Rocky Mountains, cliffs and rivers under the big sky.
Montana’s Motto: Oro y Plata (Spanish-Gold and Silver)
Montana is the Spanish word for “mountainous”.
The state nicknames are: Big Sky Country and Treasure State
Montana became a state in 1889
It’s the 4th biggest state in the US
But 44th most populated with just over 1 million people
So now I ask you to help me come up with my hero and heroine’s names? I’m really at a loss, usually I have a clear vision of their names, but right now I’m coming up blank. Both are Montana born and bred and have worked on ranches. Give me your suggestions and you’ll be in a random drawing for a really cool 2 in 1 book. The Cowboy’s Pride by Charlene Sands/The Paternity Proposition by Merline Lovelace
Also available for PRE-ORDER is my newest Desire (releases on July 1st) Isn’t it pretty?
Florida has the longest history of ranching of any state in the United States.
Does that surprise you?
Andalusian/Caribbean cattle were the first in today’s United States, thanks to the expeditions of Ponce de Leon in 1521 and Don Diego de Maldonado who came to Florida in 1540. These cattle escaped and survived in the wild. Organized ranching began with the founding of St. Augustine in 1565, when cattle from Spain and Cuba formed the basis of herds that fed the garrison and surrounding communities. In addition to herds owned by the Spanish and Indians, wild cattle still flourished in the rangelands and prairies.
Eventually Spanish colonists began exporting cattle to Cuba. During the 1600s, Spanish clergy raised cattle at the missions, where many Native Americans learned to tend them.
By 1700, Florida contained approximately 34 ranches and 20,000 head of cattle. After British-Creek Indian raids in 1702 and 1704 devastated Florida cattle ranchers, Seminole Indians sustained cattle raising in Florida. Many had established large herds of wild cattle and stock acquired from the Spanish. Cattle herding was vital culturally and economically to the early Seminoles, as attested to by the name of their leader, Cowkeeper. They remained Florida’s major livestock producers throughout most of the 1700s.
In Florida, those who own or work cattle traditionally have been called cowmen. In the late 1800s they were often called cow hunters, a reference to hunting for cattle scattered over the wooded rangelands during roundups. At times these cowhunters were also called Crackers. The name “Cracker” originated with the unique way the cowmen herded cattle, using 10- to 12-foot-long whips made of braided leather. Snapping these whips in the air made a loud “crack.” Many Crackers rode rugged, rather small horses known as “Cracker ponies.” Cracker cowboys also counted on herd dogs to move cattle along the trail. These tough dogs could help get a cow out of a marsh or work a hundred steers into a tidy group. A good dog, a horse, and whip were all the tools a true Cracker needed.
Ranging in size from 5,000 to 50,000 head, Florida herds roamed freely on open range, with no sign of fencing. The early cowboys rounded cows up over miles of open plains, in hammocks, and along the rivers and streams. Then they drove them to market. By the 1890s, cow camps were located in most sections of the state. One such camp located near Lake Kissimmee, was known as “Cow Town.” The area’s cattle were referred to as scrub cows, described as “no bigger than donkeys, lacking quality as beef or milk producers.” In early Florida, Europeans, Americans, and Indians stole cattle from each other. Rustling became particularly widespread by the second half of the 18th century, and was one of the reasons that led to the Seminole Wars.
When the U.S. took possession of Florida in 1821, it was described as a “vast, untamed wilderness, plentifully stocked with wild cattle.” These hardy creatures survived on native forage, tolerated severe heat, insect pests, and acquired immunity to many diseases. Like cowboys out west, early Florida cowmen had to fight off panthers, wolves, bears, and cattle rustlers. Cowmen spent weeks or months on cattle drives across difficult marshes and dense scrub woods, often enduring burning heat, torrential thunderstorms, and hurricane winds. From central Florida, they drove cattle as far north as Jacksonville, Savannah and Charleston, but in the 1830’s they drove the cattle south when trade was re-established with Cuba, Tampa,Punta Gorda and Punta Rassa became important export ports. The number of cattle increased rapidly from the 1840’s until the Civil War, and Florida was second only to Texas in per capita value of livestock in the South.
Wars provided an economic boost for Florida cattlemen, who provisioned armies during the Seminole, Civil and Spanish-American Wars. During the Civil War, Florida cowmen became beef suppliers to both armies. Hides, tallow and meat from Florida were so important for the Confederacy that a Cow Cavalry was organized to protect herds from Union raiders.
In the late 1800’s, famed American artist, sculptor and writer Frederic Remington visited Florida and told of his experience in an article titled “Cracker Cowboys of Florida” in the August 1895 issue of Harper’s Weekly. “I was sitting in a “sto’do’” (store door) as the “Crackers” say, waiting for the clerk to load some number eights (lumber), when my friend said, “Look at the cowboys!” This immediately caught my interest. With me, cowboys are what gems and porcelains are to some others. Two very emaciated Texas ponies pattered down the street, bearing wild-looking individuals, whose hanging hair and drooping hats and generally bedraggled appearance would remind you at once of the Spanish moss which hangs so quietly and helplessly to the limbs of the oaks out in the swamps….They had on about four dollars’ worth of clothes between them, and rode McClellan saddles, with saddle bags, and guns tied on before.” Remington’s illustrations give us a good picture of Florida’s Cracker cowboys in that era.
An excellent novel about the early history of cattle ranching in Florida is A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy!
A multi-published author, Marilyn Turk lives in and writes about the coastal South, particularly about its history. Her fascination for lighthouses spawned her popular weekly lighthouse blog at pathwayheart.com, and inspired the stories in her upcoming Coastal Lights Legacy series and her Lighthouse Devotions book. When not climbing lighthouses, Marilyn and her husband Chuck enjoy fishing, gardening, kayaking and playing with their grandchildren.