Hey, y’all! It’s always such an honor to spend the day with you!
One of my favorite themes to write about is God’s love, and the way He guides us in His plan if we’re intentional about seeking His will in each decision. We all want to know we’re in God’s will, right? That He will bless the outcome of whatever we’re setting out to accomplish. But I’ve always tended to think that being in God’s will would make things easier. Make the road a bit smoother. So when life would become exceedingly tough, I would sometimes question how I had stepped outside of God’s will. Where did I go wrong?
Book two in my current series, Love’s Mountain Quest, is the story of a mother’s journey to saver her 5-year-old son who’s been kidnapped by a gang of thieves. Can you imagine how that must feel as a mother? The terror of not knowing what your child might be facing. The horror of the situation being so far out of your control.
She enlists the help of Isaac Bowen, a mountain man who’s helped her once before. Together they set of to recover her son and the friend who was stolen with him. I love Joanna’s tenacity to take action in the face of fear. Ever heard the phrase, “Cowgirl up?” This woman knew what that meant!
One of the things God showed me at a heart-deep level as I wrote this story was how critical the hard times are to reaching joy. Not just important to properly appreciate the blessings God brings to us, but we can’t actually reach the good until we’ve traveled through the rough parts. Our lives are a journey, and no matter how dark the current path may feel, I can cling to the fact that my Father will bring me joy and blessings, as long as I stay on the path He’s placed me. As long as I seek His face and yearn to model His righteousness, I can look forward to the gifts He plants along the journey.
That, my friend, brings me hope!
Today, I’m excited to give away a copy of book one in the series, Hope’s Highest Mountain. The winner will be randomly selected from those who leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you, what are some of the blessings that have come your way from hard times in your life?
Step back in time—how do you celebrate a barn raising in the Old West? A wagon train coming to town? A wedding? The end of a cattle drive? Or something as regular as a Saturday night?
The towns in the West were full of independent, rugged people, looking to make a mark on the world or at least on their own pockets. Town dances invited all to attend; cowboys and miners, outlaws and lawmen, bankers and merchants, cultured women and soiled doves. Dances were important to bring a community together for courtship and friendshipping. It was also a vehicle that mixed the social classes, giving people opportunities for advancing one’s class. America’s class system wasn’t as rigid as had been the countries of Europe and the attendees of the dances proved this especially in the West.
Immigrants found it easy to hoe-down with their neighbors as many of the dances originated in Europe and changed very little from the folk dances people already knew. The Polka was a favorite in the new West, but other common dances were the Quadrille, Grand March, Waltz and Scottish Fling. As dances evolved, new steps became incorporated and a dance master would call out the steps to keep the group in sync. This evolved into an American original, the square dance. It seemed to fit the American ideal of a mixture of people and ideas that work together to create a new culture.
In many western towns, women were scarce. And just as in Shakespeare’s plays, men would assume the female role. “Heifer branding” solved the problem as burly men would don a piece of fabric tied round their arm or strap on a bonnet or apron to take the place of the fairer sex and the party continued.
Hurdy-Gurdy Girls traveled to western towns in a group of several women, chaperoned by a married couple, often with children. They hired out for dances and then traveled on to another town.
Saloons found that dancing brought in more men and more money, and employed women as dance hall girls. These women were looked down upon by “proper” ladies, but they were not prostitutes as they were accused. Men would buy a dance ticket for a dollar, then spend it on a partner of his choice, dancing together for a quarter of an hour. The interaction allowed for dance and conversation with men starved for female companionship.
The women generally earned half the price of the tickets they claimed. If they took the man to the bar after the dance, they received a commission on the drinks as well. The dance hall girls could make more in a week than most men made in a month. They also made more money than the prostitutes did, and when given an opportunity, the soiled doves made their way into the dance hall ranks.
Towns also sponsored regular dancing events. In Albert Benard de Russailh’s travel journal, Last Adventure, published in 1851, he wrote of dances in San Francisco. “I am occasionally reminded of our balls at the Salle Valentine on the Rue St. Honoré. There is one important difference: Parisian rowdies often come to blows; but in San Francisco hardly an evening passes without drunken brawls during which shots are fired.”
Dance in the Old West is part of the mystique of the era and was as vital to building their culture, as it is today. It was used to release energy, bring together neighbors, socialize, and provide recreation. So come on out to the barn—let’s dance.
One lucky commenter chosen at random will receive her choice of one of Jo Noelle’s ebooks! To be entered in the giveaway leave a comment on your favorite dance or your favorite dancing memory.
Photo Attribution Public Domain: American Vaudeville Museum Collection (MS 421), MS 421 Box 66 Folder 1, azu_ms421_b66_f1_pg034a003_m.jpg, courtesy of University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections.
My favorite time period to write about is between 1880 and 1890. In many ways, the cowboys of yesteryear struggled with some of the same issues we currently face and that’s what makes the time period so fascinating to me.
For example, technology in the way of telephones and electricity changed the way people lived in the 19th century, just as new technology does today. The Victorians even had their own Internet. It was called the telegraph, and this opened-up a whole new world to them.
What, for that matter, is a text message but a telegram, the high cost of which forced people in the past to be brief and to the point?
In the past, our ancestors worried about losing their jobs to machinery. Today, there’s a real possibility that robots will make us obsolete.
Sears and Roebuck was the Amazon of the Gilded Age. The catalogue featured a wide selection of products at clearly marked prices. No more haggling. Customers were drawn to the easy-to-read, warm, friendly language used to describe goods, and the catalogue proved an instant success. Our ancestors could even order a house through the catalog and that’s something we can’t do on Amazon.
The Victorians worried about books like we worry about iPhones. We worry about screen time damaging the eyes. Victorians were certain that the mass rise of books due to printing presses would make everyone blind.
Then as now, women fought for equal rights. Our early sisters fought for property ownership, employment opportunities and the right to vote. Women have come a long way since those early days, but challenges still exist, especially in matters of economics and power.
Nothing has changed much in the area of courting
Almost every single I know subscribes to at least one dating site. These are very similar to the Mail-Order Bride catalogs of yesteryear.
Did our Victorian ancestors worry about climate change? You bet they did! The Florida Agriculturist published an article addressing the problem in 1890. The article stated: “Most all the states of the union in succession of their settlement have experienced a falling off in their average temperatures of several degrees. A change from an evenly tempered climate has resulted in long droughts, sudden floods, heavy frost and suffocating heat.”
Nothing much has changed in the world of politics. Today, the Republicans and Democrats are still battling it out, just as they did in the nineteenth century. We still haven’t elected a female president, though Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood tried to change that when she ran in 1884 and again, in 1888.
What about environmental concerns?Today we’re concerned that plastic bags and straws are harming our oceans. Our Victorian ancestors worried about tomato cans. That’s because a German scientist told the New York Times in 1881 that the careless deposit of tin cans was “bringing the earth closer to the sun and hastening the day of the final and fatal collision.”
During the 1800s, horses were taken to task for messing up the streets. (Oddly, enough, it was once thought that automobiles were good for the environment.) Today, cattle are under fire for the methane in their you-know-whats. Oh, boy, I can only imagine how that would have gone over with those old-time ranch owners.
We have Coronavirus, but that’s nothing compared to what our ancestors battled. The 1894 Hong Kong plague was a major outbreak and became the third pandemic in the world. The rapid outbreak and spread of the plague was caused by infected fleas. Repressive government actions to control the plague led the Pune nationalists to criticize the Chinese publicly. Sound familiar? The plague killed more than 10 million people in India, alone.
As the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Reading how people in the past survived and, yes, even prospered during tough times inspires me and gives me hope for the future. I hope it does the same to my readers.
This list is nowhere near complete, but what did you find the most surprising?
Attorney Ben Heywood didn’t expect to get shot on his wedding day–and certainly not by his mail order bride.—Pistol-Packin’ Bride/Mail Order Standoff collection.
While going through some stuff left behind by an elderly relative, I came across a booklet entitled How to Write Telegrams Properly by Nelson E. Ross. The author wrote: “The telegram will always command a peculiarly important place among methods of communication.”
He wasn’t alone in his thinking. The telegraph has been described as the Victorian Internet and, in many ways, that was true. Not only did the telegraph allow for long-distance courtships, it also introduced Victorians to scams and junk mail. Sound familiar?
Ross wrote that telegrams were expensive unless you were sending multiple copies, which you could do at no additional cost. This turned out to be a boon to marketers who didn’t want to pay the expense of sending advertisements by mail.
The business owner had only to provide one copy and a list of addresses and the telegraph operator would send the telegraphs. Multiple copies were called books. The largest “book” sent by a single concern is said to have been more than 200,000 telegrams. Needless to say, this required operators to be called in for emergency duty.
The telegraph even allowed people to send candy, flowers, cigars, books and other things across the country. All a person had to do was notify the telegraph operator what they wanted purchased, pay the cost and nominal fee, and the job was done.
In the early 1900s, a man in San Francisco ordered a ride for his mother who lived in New York. The gift was for Mother’s Day. The telegraph company called up a taxi service and directed it to send a car to a certain address at a definite time and the lucky mother was treated to a three-hour taxi ride.
Some people took the idea of sending gifts across the wire, literally. One man wishing to send his out-of-state son a pair of boots, took them to his local telegraph office. The operator jokingly told the man to tie the boots together and fling them over the telegraph wire. The man did as he was told. During the night, someone stole the boots and the man assumed his son had received them.
The telegraph also helped in the Western expansion as travelers were able to communicate long distances and make arrangements. Ranch owners could finally keep track of their stock during cattle drives through telegraphs sent by trail bosses.
Business owners and travelers weren’t the only ones to benefit. Telegraph operators were the first to date and fall in love online. Male operators could pick out female operators by their touch. Supposedly women didn’t press the keys as firmly as their male counterparts. A bored male operator seeking companionship could easily reach out to a female operator, miles away.
Ross outlined ways to cut costs by eliminating unnecessary words such as “please” and “stop.” He also explained that 1st was counted as two words, whereas first was counted as one. Some people took this to extremes. When questioning the sales of his new book, Mark Twain reportedly sent his publisher a telegram with a single “?”. His publisher responded in kind with an “!”.
Then as now, security was a concern. Ross tells the story of the woman who sealed her message in an envelope and refused to let the telegraph operator see it. Somehow, she had the notion that an operator could send a message sight unseen.
Ross ended by telling readers if they had any questions, to check with their local telegraph office. Good luck with that. Stop.
We have more ways to communicate today than at any other time in history, yet loneliness is at an all-time high. What do you think are some of the reasons?
Look what Ruth, Mary and I cooked up!
In classic “Hallmark” style, three couples spend a magical Christmas
I was saddened this week to hear the Sears has filed Chapter 11. The company has appeared in so many of my books, it feels like I’m losing one of my characters.
Among my favorite resources is a Sears Catalogue dated 1894. I use it to research fashion, furnishings, vehicles and just about everything else a household would have needed back in those early days. Prices are clearly marked, along with full descriptions—a writer’s dream.
The company was originally started in 1886 by Richard W. Sears in Minnesota to sell watches. The idea came to him while working as a railroad agent. A jeweler received a large shipment of watches, which were unwanted. Sears purchased them and sold them to the railroad agents, making a handsome profit.
A year later, he moved to Chicago and hired Alvah C. Roebuck to repair watches. Together they established a mail order watch catalogue, which proved to be a great success.
However, Sears was a restless type and always looking to improve. He didn’t have to look far. At the time, farmers living in rural areas had to purchase products from the local general store on credit and at high prices. Shopkeepers would decide how much to charge by estimating a customer’s credit-worthiness. Choice of products was also extremely limited.
Sears decided to take advantage of this by offering a catalogue under the name Sears, Roebuck & Company. His timing was perfect: The government’s Rural Free Delivery Act opened delivery routes in rural areas, allowing for better distribution of the catalogue.
The catalogue featured a wide selection of products at clearly marked prices. Consumers were delighted to find prices consistent and not have to haggle. They were also drawn to the easy-to-read, warm, friendly language used to describe goods, and the catalogue proved an instant success.
By 1895, the catalogue had grown to 532 pages and featured such items as sewing machines, sporting equipment, household furnishings, tombstones and barber chairs. It was even possible to purchase an entire house from Sears, delivered by train. In 1905, automobiles were added to the catalogue. It even sold a “Stradivarius model violin” for $6.10
Sears began opening retail stores in 1925 and, for years, was the largest retailer in the United States.
Many reasons have been cited for the company’s demise. Critics claim Sears made many mistakes and couldn’t keep up with the likes of Walmart and Amazon.
This might be true, but Sears taught America how to shop and for that reason, its legacy will no doubt remain intact.
Before Rockford, Illinois became known as Rockford, it was called Midway Village. Travelers would stop here at the midpoint of their trip between Chicago and Galena, which is on the Mississippi River. The Rock River had a rocky bottom which made passage (fording) easier than at other areas. Hence the name that stuck for the growing town: Rockford.
Rockford’s living history museum, Midway Village, hosts many fascinating events – the nation’s largest WWII reenactment, a WWI reenactment, school programs, weddings, and garden tours. The small town is made up of several original buildings along with a few replicas that portray life in the 1890s. The docents are a wealth of information about life in earlier times. In a recent tour of the general store, I learned of a few sayings that have lasted until our time.
For instance, I thought the phrase “The whole nine yards” had something to do with football, although why ten yards wouldn’t be better, I’m not sure … sigh. (Laugh if you must.) What it means is that a woman wants to purchase the entire bolt of fabric for sewing.
What about “Get down to brass tacks?” The docent pointed out a row of brass tacks that were placed every six inches on the counter’s edge near the cash register. They were used to measure fabric, ribbons, and string before cutting. You can barely see them in the picture above.
“Cash on the barrel.” The pickle barrel that is. Nothing was ever stored on the pickle barrel because it was opened so often to buy pickles. See how the lid has a flat area with a slight edge? Because of that edge, coins wouldn’t roll off. You can see the large pickle barrel in this picture too.
Most small town general stores doubled as the post office.
The docent is standing before the post office boxes.
Even though my series is set in Kansas (not Illinois), a small town general store
and its owners are featured in The Prairie Doctor’s Bride.
One other piece of information imparted was that when the first settlers arrived here from the east, they thought the land must not be any good for farming. They were used to forests that they had to cut down in order to farm the land. But here they saw grass, grass, and more grass which might be good for livestock…but not crops. Any trees they saw hugged the rivers. I guess that is a warning about first impressions! Now the Midwest is known as the world’s “bread basket” because its soil is the richest in the world and crops grow exceedingly well.
Here I am standing on a patch of natural prairie in northern Illinois! Look at the height of that grass! I cannot imagine walking beside a wagon and trying to get through it. I also cannot imagine coming upon a snake!
What is your state “famous” for?
The countdown has started for my next book ~ Wedding at Rocking S Ranch.
I will tell you all about it the next time I post.
Until then, have a safe, fun summer!
Here at the junction, we had a great week with some of our Fillies blogging about Cabin Fever. Then yesterday, Trish did a thought provoking blog on her bucket list. These blogs brought to mind something I wanted to share that is sorta a followup to all the blogs. Didn’t take me long to dump today’s outline and post something I’ve been thinking about.
Here in the Texas Panhandle we didn’t have hardly any winter, so very little Cabin Fever. We’ve been in a serious drought, which is great for cotton farms, but bad for about everybody else. Oh yeah, we did have one day of snow flurries, but the next day neared 90 degrees! Only in the Texas Panhandle!
The tending of a friendship garden is no small matter and is not to be taken lightly. Many a beautiful garden has gone to ruin for lack of proper care. Here are some tips that may prove helpful.
Prepare the soil by tilling it with God’s unconditional love. Remove any rocks of judgment or critical attitudes. Pull out any roots of fear and jealousy. Destroy the seeds of gossip before they can even take root.
Seeds of friendship may be found most anywhere. Plant with care, using kind words and a listening ear. Germination is usually spontaneous, so be watchful. To ensure growth, water with kind deeds and a generous heart.
Make sure you give each friend plenty of room to grow. Be realistic–don’t expect a marigold to smell like a rose. Fertilize generously with laughter and joy. Water deeply with tears of empathy and prayer to develop healthy roots and a stronger, more stable friendship.
Cultivating a friendship garden requires patience, perseverance, and time–but it’s worth it!
Thanks to Karla Dornacher, The Blessing of Friendship: A Gift from the Heart.
I can’t help but think that the farmers and ranchers during this drought and centuries before used parts of this hoping to get a good harvest, much like we might harvest our friendships.
Hope do you think people in the early days developed their friendships? No doubt every part of our country had different ways, so I’m excited to hear what you all think.
I’m thrilled that my newest contemporary western, and the second in my Kasota Springs Romance series, will be out next month!
To one lucky winner, I will give you the option of getting this book as an eBook early release or any other book of mine on Amazon. I’ll also send you a $10.00 gift certificate from Bath and Body Works!
Late breaking news, I just got word from Kensington that The Tycoon and the Texan has been marked down to 99 cents as a special Kindle Monthly Deal. It’s at Amazon today, but should be at other vendors later this week. Go check it out!
This month I’m debuting a new series titled Heart of the Frontier. Book one is titled Treasured Grace and is the story of three sisters in 1847. The focal setting of the story is the Whitman Mission in the area of present day Walla Walla, Washington.
This is a model of the mission layout with the main mission house to the right, the blacksmith shop in the center and the Emigrant’s House on the left. The mill pond (upper left) was where they also had a grist mill.
This location was the site of the Whitman Mission Massacre that took place November 29, 1847. It was this massacre that truly changed the course of westward expansion and brought on the setting up of military forts along the Oregon Trail.
Marcus and Narcissa Whitman (she was one of the first two white women who crossed the Rocky Mountains) had tried for over ten years to win the hearts and minds of the Cayuse Indians in their area. However, a measles epidemic struck and killed a great many Cayuse, as well as whites. The Cayuse were convinced that Whitman (who was a doctor as well as a preacher) was trying to kill them and so on November 29th, they attacked and killed the doctor and Narcissa, along with most of the other men who were living at the mission. The remaining fifty-four women and children were taken hostage and held for nearly a month by the Cayuse.
On my many visits there to glean information for my series, I found the park rangers to be some of the best I’ve encountered while doing research. It was fascinating to learn about the Cayuse people. They were a nomadic people who were known for their horses and horsemanship. They were also considered to have some of the fiercest warriors.
They lived in tulle mat lodges and traveled with the seasons to harvest various roots and vegetation, as well as take advantage of the salmon fishing.
In the 1840’s this area of America was called Oregon Country. It was mostly inhabited by Native Americans and the British. The latter ran a string of Hudson’s Bay Company forts and traded with both the Native Americas and whites who came west. I mention this because another fascinating aspect of this massacre and the aftermath was the part the Hudson’s Bay Company played.
When it was learned that 54 white women and children were being held captive, Peter Skene Ogden (one of the factors at Fort Vancouver – now present day Vancouver, Washington) went to work to secure their release. He and Chief Factor James Douglas put together a ransom hoping they could convinced the Cayuse to let the women and children go without harm. The ransom included 62 blankets, 63 cotton shirts, 12 Hudson Bay rifles, 600 loads of ammunition, 7 pounds of tobacco and 12 flints. Eventually the Cayuse did agree to this and the women and children were set free. I thought it quite interesting, if not touching that The Hudson’s Bay Company never billed the American settlers for the ransom. I thought it equally interesting that reimbursement by the American government was never offered.
March is Women’s History Month in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. (Canada celebrates Women’s History Month in October.) Setting aside a special month to celebrate women’s history always has struck me as a mite amusing, because without women there would be no human history.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Women’s History Month traces its origins to the original International Women’s Day, March 8, 1911. In 1980, Jimmy Carter, then President of the United States, expanded the recognition of women’s roles in society to a week. In 1987, the U.S. Congress declared all of March Women’s History Month, but they didn’t make the designation permanent. Each year since (until 2017), the President has proclaimed March Women’s History Month.
Regardless whether Women’s History Month continues in an official capacity or becomes an informal observance, there is no doubt women have changed the world in ways too numerous to mention. Most of us would rather be called “the fairer sex” than “the weaker sex” — but we’ll let men call us whatever (polite) term they desire, because we know who’s really in charge. 😉
Women in 19th Century America knew who was in charge, too. Perhaps nowhere was that more evident than in new vocabulary that entered the lexicon during the period. (How’s that for a segue?) Here are some of the more colorful terms.
California widow: a woman whose husband is away from her for an extended period. Americanism; arose c. 1849 during the California Gold Rush.
Call girl: prostitute who makes appointments by phone; arose c. 1900. To call someone, meaning to use a phone for conversation, arose in 1889 along with the telephone.
Catty: devious and spiteful; c. 1886 from the previous “cattish.” The meaning “pertaining to cats” dates to 1902.
Cute: pretty, 1834 from American English student slang. Previously (1731), as a shortened form of acute, the word meant “clever.”
Drag: women’s clothing worn by a man. 1870s theater slang from the sensation of long skirts trailing on the floor.
Fancy woman: high-dollar whore or a kept woman; possibly from the 1751 use of “fancy” to mean “ornamental.”
Fast trick: loose woman. Of unknown origin, but possibly related to the 15th Century use of the noun “trick” to mean “trifles,” or pretty things with little value. By 1915, “trick” had come to mean a prostitute’s client.
Feathered out: dressed up.
Filly: a young, unmarried woman (literally, a young mare).
Frump, frumpy: cross, unstylish person; sour-looking, unfashionable. The noun arose c. 1817, possibly imitative of a derisive snort. The adverb followed c. 1825. The slang etymology is a bit obscure, although earlier uses of the noun frump meant “bad temper” (1660s) and “cross-tempered” (1746), both of which may have derived from the verb frump, which in the 1550s meant “to mock or browbeat.” All senses may have descended from the late-14th-Century verb frumple, “to wrinkle; crumple.”
Grass widow: divorcee
Gyp: female dog; more polite form of “bitch.” American slang from about 1840 as a shortened form of gypsy, presumably in reference to stray dogs’ wandering nature. By 1889, gyp’s meaning had shifted to “cheat or swindle,” also based on gypsies’ perceived behavior.
High-strung: temperamental, excitable, nervous; c. 1848. Evidently based on earlier (1748) musical term referring to stringed instruments.
Hot flashes: in the menopausal sense, attested from 1887.
Hysteria: mental disorder characterized by volatile emotions and overly dramatic or attention-seeking behavior. When the word arose in 1801 (based on the Latin medical term hysteric), it was applied solely to women and often resulted in their confinement to an asylum. In 1866, clitoridectomy was proposed as a cure.
Lightskirt: woman of questionable virtue. American slang. Date unknown, but most likely from the notion loose women’s skirts lay over fewer petticoats than traditional skirts of the time and therefor were easier to raise.
Painted lady: any woman who wore obvious makeup, primarily entertainers and prostitutes. From the 1650s use of “paint” to mean makeup or rouge.
Scarlet woman, scarlet lady: prostitute. From the 13th Century use of scarlet to mean “red with shame.”
Soiled dove: prostitute; generally considered the kindest of such terms. Most likely a conflation of the 13th Century definition of “soil” (to defile or pollute with sin) and the Christian use of “dove” to indicate gentleness or deliverance.
Sporting house: brothel. Arose latter half of the 19th Century as a combination of “sporting” (early 1600s for “playful”) and “house.”
Sporting ladies, sporting women: prostitutes. Shortening and modification of 1640s “lady of pleasure” by substitution of early 1600s “sporting” (playful). Arose in America during the latter half of the 19th Century in conjunction with “sporting house.”
Vaulting house: brothel. Conflation of “vault,” meaning a vigorous leap (mid-15th Century), and “house.”