As I took pictures of my foster Kimber for a St. Patrick Day’s post, I started thinking about “lucky” items. I love horseshoes. I pick up pennies I find. “Find a penny pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck.” I’ve always wished on the first star I see in the night sky. I throw coins in fountains. I’ve never found a 4-leaf clover, but if I had, I’d have kept it. Considering all that it’s not surprising that when I wanted to add something special to my fictional east Texas town, I chose a wishing well. But I’ve never thought about how the wishing well lore started.
Deciding to fix that, I did some research. The lore started because of man’s natural obsession with water. Since without water we humans are toast, water has been a major concern since we burst onto the scene. Many ancient cultures viewed underground springs as sacred gifts. In appreciation, people dropped tokens for the gods into the water. Wells or well houses built around water sources to protect them became gathering places. Germanic tribes believed spirits who liked to intervene in humans’ lives inhabited these waters, and if someone voiced a wish or hope, the spirits might grant the wish. Someone could increase the chances of the wish being granted by dropping a coin or small token in the well. And it turns out poor Odin, Thor’s father, lost his eye because water deity Mimir, who lived in and guarded the Well of Wisdom, demanded his right eye as payment for a drink. The legend says his right eye was thrown in the well for others to know there was a price for the well’s wisdom.
When I created my well, I wanted a twist so I made my well persnickety, only granting wishes made for someone else. I created a legend which started with two sisters, Anne and Alice. The short version is, after the Civil War when Anne’s husband failed to return, she became despondent and took to her bed. Alice, not knowing what else to do, stood at the family well, her tears dropping into the water as she tossed in a coin. She wished for her brother-in-law to return to the family who loved and needed him. Two days later, Sam returned, and the town’s legend was born.
I’ve had fun starting each book with a wish for the hero or heroine and weaving references to the well through the stories. In To Love A Texas Cowboy, Ty Barnett’s sister Aubrey turns to the wishing well when she’s concerned he’s marrying the wrong woman. Book 2, To Catch A Texas Cowboy, opens with Ty making a wish for his best friend AJ Quinn. In To Tame A Texas Cowboy, my latest release in the Wishing Texas Series, Cheyenne Whitten’s sister Sheridan wishes for her to receive help with her health issues.
But like Odin, a price is demanded before the wish is granted. My hero and heroine must survive trials, struggles and conflict, often caused or exaggerated by what or rather who fate has decided possesses the answer to their loved one’s wish. Yup, my well enjoys stirring up lives and causing trouble before answering those wishes. Because just like in real life as the Rolling Stones say, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you might find, you get what you need.”
Today’s giveaway is a horseshoe and a copy of To Catch A Texas Cowboy. This book contains my favorite wish so far. It’s my favorite mainly because it’s done in such a guy fashion. You’ll have to read the story to find out what Ty wishes for AJ. To be entered in the random drawing leave a comment about your favorite lucky charm or item to wish on.
I knew Halloween evolved from the Celtic festival of Samhain and All Hallow’s Eve, but that was about all I knew. This year I decided to change that and dove into researching Halloween. First, I learned in New England the night before Halloween is Cabbage Night. Right now, I’m glad I live in Texas, because this tradition involves “pranksters” leaving rotten vegetables near a neighbor’s front door! I doubt this did much to promote good neighbor relations! Despite that, Happy Cabbage Night y’all.
Now on to Halloween…
I discovered many Halloween traditions revolved around helping women identify her potential husband or reassuring her she would indeed find a one. In 18th century Ireland, a cook would bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween. The hope was that the ring would bring the finder true love.
In Scotland, fortune tellers instructed marriage-minded women to name her hazelnuts after her suitors. Boy does that sound odd. 🙂 Then she was to toss them, the hazelnuts not her suitors, 🙂 into the fire. The nut that burned completely rather than exploding represented her future husband. Another legend insisted if a woman ate a sweet treat of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg on Halloween, she would dream of her future husband that night.
Women would throw apple peelings over their shoulders in hopes of forming the initials of her future husband’s name. I wonder if there was strategic throwing involved with this tradition to get a desired result. Another legend told a woman to stand in front of a mirror in a dark room holding a candle. The hope was if she peered into the mirror, would see her husband’s face over her shoulder.
Halloween parties could get competitive regarding matrimony. For example, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut hunt would be the next one to marry. The first one to successfully bob for apples was predicted to walk down the aisle soon. This tradition had visions of unmarried women practicing their bobbing for apple skills before Halloween parties to ensure a victory to pop into my head!
Because beliefs of different European countries mixed with American Indian traditions, America developed its own unique version of Halloween. At first, celebrations featured “play parties” to celebrate the harvest. Neighbors shared stories about the dead, told fortunes, danced and sang. The night also included mischief. But in the late 1800’s, people tried to shift the holiday away from ghosts, pranks and witchcraft to a more community or neighborly get together holiday. Parents were encouraged to remove anything frightening, grotesque or scary from their Halloween celebrations. Despite this community-centered focus, adding parades and town-wide parties, by the 1920’s and 30’s, vandalism became prevalent.
However, by the 1950’s communities had tampered down on the vandalism and Halloween became a more child-centered holiday. This probably was a result of all those post-war babies, too. Communities revived the tradition of trick-or-treating after it was halted due to sugar rationing during WWII. The thought was people could prevent being pranked by giving children a small treat.
Today, Halloween is America’s second largest commercial holiday, surpassed only by Christmas. We spend around 9 billion, yup with a billion with B, annually. That’s a lot of candy, costumes and yard art. It works out to an average American shelling out $86.79.
Speaking of candy…we haven’t even touched that delicious subject. But let’s do that now. Leave a comment on what’s your favorite trick-or-treat candy and why or what one makes you you want to pull a trick on someone to be entered for today’s giveaway. One random commenter will receive the pumpkin coasters and a copy of Family Ties.
Hi everyone. I’m celebrating this month! June 1 marked the release of Cameo Courtships, a 4-in-1 novella collection which I am part of. My story in the collection is Taming Petra, and my heroine goes by the name of “Buckskin Pete Hollingsworth.” Buckskin Pete is a buckskin-wearing, gun-toting, tomahawk-throwing tomboy, loosely modeled after Old West icon Calamity Jane.
If you’re like me, you know of Calamity Jane, but only in the most general way. So who was Calamity Jane?
She was born Martha Jane Cannary, on May 1, 1852, the eldest child of a gambler father and a prostitute mother. She had two brothers and three sisters. As the family traveled from Martha Jane’s birthplace in Missouri to Virginia City, Montana, her mother fell ill with pneumonia and died. A year later, her father also succumbed to death, leaving Martha Jane, who was just fourteen years old at the time, to take charge of her five younger siblings and support her family. The six siblings settled in Piedmont, Wyoming, where Martha Jane took whatever jobs she could find—from dishwasher, to waitress, to nurse, to ox-team driver, to sometimes prostitute.
As her younger siblings grew up and moved on, it freed Martha Jane to strike out on her own as well. In the 1870s, she is said to have acted as scout for the Army, an Indian fighter, as well as displaying excellent aim as a sharpshooter.
Calamity in a dress
When asked how she came to be called “Calamity,” she told the following story in a short biographical pamphlet. While working with the Army near Goose Creek, Wyoming, they were sent out to subdue an Indian uprising. On the way back to the post, they were ambushed about a mile and a half out. As she charged through the fray, being fired upon, she turned in time to see Captain Egan struck and reeling in his saddle. Jane turned back to help, caught the officer before he fell, and pulled him onto her own horse in front of her. Once safely back at the post and the captain recovering, he jokingly stated that he would dub her Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains, and she proudly wore the name from that point forward.
While the story is an entertaining one, several details call its credibility into question. For one, Calamity Jane was functionally illiterate, so she would have had to dictate such a story to someone else for the pamphlet. It’s possible she did just that. But in the story itself, she claims to have singlehandedly pulled a wounded and reeling man from him horse onto her own and held him in the saddle until they reached the safety of the army post. The likelihood of such feats of strength do cause one to question the story. Another alternative for how she came to be known as Calamity Jane is that she would warn any man who crossed her that he was “courting calamity” by doing so.
She is known to have had a kind and generous side. In Deadwood, S.D., she is rumored to have nursed the sick during an outbreak of smallpox. And she was also known to have helped those in need, providing food she’d hunted herself or given money to those unable to provide for themselves.
Calamity Jane at Wild Bill Hickok’s gravesite
Rumors link Calamity Jane to another well-known Western icon—James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok. Some rumors state they were friends. Others tout the pair were lovers. Calamity Jane herself stated that she and Wild Bill were married in 1873 and had a daughter, who was later adopted by another family. No marriage license has been found to support a legal union between the two characters. Of course, Wild Bill died by a shooter’s bullet in 1876, so any romance that may have existed lasted only briefly.
The later years of Calamity Jane’s life saw her become a hard-drinking alcoholic, often down on her luck, living life mostly alone. For a brief time, she performed with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show as a storyteller and sharpshooter, but otherwise, she drifted from town to town. She died of pneumonia on August 1, 1903, at the age of 51. She and Wild Bill Hickok are buried next to each other in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood.
My heroine, Buckskin Pete Hollingsworth, is loosely based on Calamity Jane—in their shared propensity to wear men’s buckskin trousers, their ability to scout and track, and their soft sides that enabled both to help those in need. Do you enjoy reading fictional characters you know are based on a true person from history, or do you prefer purely fictional characters that are wholly original? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts to be entered in a drawing for an autographed paperback copy of Cameo Courtships.
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers, Women Writing the West, and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children. Check out her website and Facebook page or follow her on Twitter or Pinterest.
Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Are you one of those super organized holiday people who have up their Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving and mail out their Christmas cards the following week? I used to be, but I have to admit, not so much lately. As of today just about the only decorating I’ve done is to hang up the Christmas stockings. (Mantle is looking mighty crowded these days – I LOVE it!!)
The four stockings made from the same fabric are ones I made for my kids when they were very young. I even crossed stitched their names and a holiday design on the cuff. When my oldest daughter got married I purchased her husband a stocking but cross stitched a cuff to add to it so that it matched the other four. Unfortunately, by the time my next daughter got married my cross stitching days were behind me. So I personalized the rest of them with jaunty embroidered patches.
As I was taking care of that fun bit of holiday tradition (and remembering holidays past), it made me wonder, where did the custom of hanging stockings come from. So I decided to do a bit of research.
It turns out that there are two schools of thought on how this came to be, both shrouded in myth and tradition.
The most popular theory is that it is linked to the stories surrounding the generosity of the original St. Nicholas. Nicholas lived in the third century and was renowned for his concern for and generosity toward those in need. One story tells of a poor widower who had three daughters. The man was distraught over the fate his daughters were facing since he had now dowry to offer prospective husbands. The story goes that Nicholas heard of the family’s plight and secretly, so as to not gain honor for himself, entered their home and left gold coins in the girls stocking which were hung by the fire to dry. Thus the practice of hanging stockings by the fireplace in hopes of receiving a gift was born. Oh, and sometimes an alternate version is given that has Nicholas leaving a small gold ball in each stocking. This is supposedly where the custom of putting oranges in the toe of stockings comes from.
The second theory on the origin of the Christmas comes from a completely different belief system, that of Norse mythology. According to this version, children would fill their shoes with straw, root vegetables or sugar and leave them on the hearth for Odin’s flying horse to eat. As a reward for their kindness Odin would replace their offering with one of his own, that of gifts or sweets.
This practice was widely spread through Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Once Christianity was adopted, the legend of Odin’s benevolence merged with the stories of St. Nicholas evolving over time into today’s current practice.
Whatever the truth of the matter, I’m glad this fun tradition is part of our current day holiday celebrations.
So what about you? Does your family hang stockings? Is there a story behind any of the stockings themselves?
Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for one of two copies of the re-release of The Christmas Journey
Philadelphia lawyer Ryland Lassiter is everything Josephine Wylie wants – for a brother-in-law! As the sole supporter of her family, Josie’s plans for herself have always had to wait. But Ryland will be ideal as the new head of the Wylie clan…once he finally realizes how perfect he is for her sister.
Ry knows its time to settle down. The newly appointed guardian to a friend’s daughter, he’s ready for a home and family. All he needs is a bride…and Josie’s sister is not the Wylie who has caught his eye. If only Josie would see the truth – that the only Christmas present he needs is her love.
Yup, you read that right. How do I get from the first two to the later? It’s easy when the wedding is in Estes Park, Colorado, at The Stanley Hotel, the famed inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining.
First a little history. Freelan Oscar Stanley and his wife Flora, missing the east’s grandeur, opened The Stanley Hotel complete with electric lights, telephones, en suite bathrooms, uniformed staff and a fleet of automobiles in 1909 among the Rocky Mountains in Estes Park, Colorado. However, by the 1970’s the hotel’s splendor had faded, and it might have been demolished if not for Stephen King.
The famed author stayed in Room 217 and a dream here inspired The Shining. The room is thought to be haunted by Elizabeth Wilson. Injured in 1911 in an explosion lighting lanterns in Room 217, when recovered, Mrs. Wilson became head chambermaid and worked at the hotel until her death. Since then, guests have reported luggage being unpacked (now this I’d appreciate ?) and lights being turned on and off. Mrs. Wilson, not a fan of unmarried couples sharing the room, has been known to show her displeasure by climbing into bed between them!
The Concert Hall is another room frequented by otherworldly inhabitants including Flora Stanley. When the hotel opened, F.O. presented Flora with a Steinway Grand Piano. Since her passing, guests and staff claim Flora can still be heard playing. Paul, a jack-of-all trades at the hotel, enjoys frequenting this room as well. Charged with enforcing the hotel’s curfew during his tenure, guests and workers claim Paul can be heard saying “get out” after hours. He’s also said to “nudge” construction workers and flicker flashlights for tour groups here.
On the hotel’s fourth floor, originally a cavernous attic where female staff, nannies and children stayed, guests report hearing children running, laughing, giggling and playing. People also claim a certain closet opens and closes on its own. In room 428, guests report footsteps and furniture being moved above them. However, many claim this impossible due to the roof’s slope. But the room’s most frequent ghostly visitor is a “friendly cowboy” appearing by the bed. Now that’s the room for me! What a great opportunity for hero research!
These are a small sample of the ghost stories associated with The Stanley Hotel. If you’re interested in more tales, I recommend Ghost Stories of the Estes Valley Volumes 1 and 2 by Celeste Lasky. (I purchased mine at The Stanley but they’re available on Amazon.)
If you visit Estes Park, maybe you’ll be inspired as I was. That’s where the idea for my first novel sold to Harlequin, Big City Cowboy, literally walked up to me. But that’s a story for another blog…
If you stay at The Stanley Hotel, could you’ll encounter F.O. Stanley hovering behind his staff at the reception desk. ? If you do, keep these tips from tripsavvy.com on how to capture ghosts on camera in mind. “Take five or six quick shots to capture a fleeting spirit. Oh, and bring up back-up batteries because paranormal experts will tell you if spirits are present, they’ll have a draining effect on your batteries.”
Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment about a place where you’ve encountered a ghost or that’s left you feeling a bit creepy to be entered in my give away. And oh, yes, Happy Halloween!
Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year … Halloween! Not only did I have a granddaughter born on Halloween and she’ll turn 21 tomorrow, but I love the kids, their costumes, and giving out treats. I took ten bags of candy to the church today for our annual Trunk or Treat. So many wonderful memories.
But oh do I love apple wassail to kick off the holiday season. I didn’t realize the tradition of Apple Wassail, which is a form of wassailing practiced in the cider orchards of southern England during the winter some five centuries ago. The first recorded mention was at Fordwich, Kent, in 1585. Groups of young men would go between orchards performing the rite for a reward. The practice was sometimes referred to as “howling”. On the Twelfth Night, men would go with their wassail bowl into apple orchards. Slices of bread or toast were laid at the roots and sometimes tied to branches. Cider was also poured over the tree roots. The ceremony is said to “bless” the trees to produce a good crop the next season.
A folktale from Somerset reflecting this custom tells of the Apple Tree Man, the spirit of the oldest apple tree in an orchard, and in whom the fertility of the orchard is thought to reside. In the tale a man offers his last mug of mulled cider to the trees in his orchard and is rewarded by the Apple Tree Man who reveals to him the location of buried gold.
Here’s a couple of well know and fun traditional Apple Wassail rhymes.
“Stand fast root, bear well to
Pray for God send us a howling good crop.
Every twig apple big.
Every Bough, apples now.”
19th century Sussex, Surrey
“But by far here’s the one we all know.
Here we come a wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a wandering
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too.
And God bless you and send you a happy New Year.
And God send you a happy New Year.”
The wassail recipe is very easy and fun to make and drink.
1 gallon apple cider
1 quart cranberry juice
¾ cup sugar
2 cups orange juice
16 whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 stick (6 inch size) cinnamon.
Tie the spices in a cheesecloth bag. Add the spice bag and all remaining ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
For a party or a carry-in, heat in a crock pot on low temperature.
Optional: Garnish individual servings with a cinnamon stick and orange slice. Serves 24.
My question to you: What is your favorite holiday beverage?
To one reader who leaves a comment, I will give away an eBook of my latest Kasota Springs Romance “Out of a Texas Night”.
Howdy! And welcome to the Tuesday blog. Well, today I’ll be giving away THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR in either e-book format or mass market paperback, winner’s choice. There is a restriction. It is limited to the United States only. There are also the rules for free give-away — over to the right here — that govern our give-aways, so please do give that a read.
Sometimes there’s a problem because some sites out there contact you to ensure you know you’ve won. But we don’t do that here. We rely on you to come back in a day or two to see if you are the winner. If you have won, instructions will be given on how to contact me so that the book can be sent to you. But you must contact me in order to claim your prize.
Off to the left here is the e-book cover of the give-away book and at the very end of this blog is the mass market cover of the book.
All right. So with that said, let’s have a look at what I consider to be one of the most fascinating parts of this book, and of this series. This is the first book in THE LOST CLAN series. Now, this series is set not only within historical times, but within the framework of American Indian Mythology. There are a couple of characters in this series of four books which are caught in all four books, and one of those characters is the Thunderer.
The Thunder Being (or sometimes referred to as the Thunder Bird or Thunder God or Thunderer) is central to these stories. His anger has been stirred up by acts of violence against himself and his children by a clan that is part of the Blackfoot Indians – The Lost Clan. Interestingly, the Thunder Being plays a dominant role in most Native American tribes — perhaps because when one is living so closely to nature, the Thunderer, who can produce so much damage, would be a subject of much legend. In this series of books, the Lost Clan has been relegated into the “mist” by the Creator, who intervened on the people’s behalf when the Thunderer became bent on destroying every single member of the clan. Imprisoned within that mist, each band of the Clan is given a chance within every new generation to choose a boy to go out into the real world. That boy is charged with the task of undoing the curse, thus freeing his people from what would be an everlasting punishment (they are neither real, nor dead). But, not only must the boy be brave and intelligent (there are puzzles to solve within every book), he must also show kindness to an enemy.
Let’s have a look at the Thunderer and some of the different tales about this being. In Blackfeet lore, the Thunderer often steals women. He can take the image of a very large bird — his wings creating the thunder and his eyes shooting out the lightning. In Lakota lore, if one dreams about the Thunder god, he becomes a backwards person. He must do everything backwards. He washes in sand, become dirty in water, walks backwards, says exactly what he doesn’t mean, etc., etc. The dream is so powerful that it is thought that if one fails to do these things, he courts certain death. In THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR, the hero is one of these boys who is charged with the task of freeing his people. He is desperate because he only has until his 30th birthday to undo the curse, and the hero of the story is 29, with only a few months left to accomplish this task. Relying on visions and dreams, he is drawn toward a woman with hair the color of starlight. But he regards her and his growing feelings toward her, as little more than a distraction, and great suspicion.
There is also a legend of the Thunder Being in the Iroquois Nation. In this legend, a young woman becomes the bride of the Thunderer and through him saves her village from a huge snake that burrows under her village, thus endangering the lives of everyone in her village. There is still another legend about the Thunderer which you can watch on the Movie called Dream Makers — well, I think that’s the name of the movie (if I am wrong about that name, please do correct me). In this legend, which is also an Eastern Indian tribe, a young woman marries the Thunderer and goes to live with him in the above world. But she is returned to her own world when she becomes pregnant with his child.
What is very, very interesting to me is how many and how vast are the stories and legends that abounded in Native America. Though we often hear or even study the ancient lore of the Greeks, seldom do we read much our own myths — the mythology that belongs intimately with this land we call America — which by the way, to the Native Americans on the East Coast, America is known as Turtle Island. Fascinatingly, there is a story for almost every creature on this continent, from the crow to the sparrow to the coyote (the trickster), the wolf and bear. There are legends about the stars, the Big Dipper hosts legends about the Great Bear (Iroquois) and the Seven Brothers and their sister (Cheyenne and Blackfeet). There are still other tales about the Morning Star and the Evening Star and marriages between the Gods and mortals.
Do you, like me, love these kinds of stories?
In closing, I thought I’d post a short excerpt from the book.
THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR, by Karen Kay
He stared at her, and in his eyes, Angelia thought she saw a spark of…laughter?
“After all, what trouble could there be, since a man and his wife are often seen alone together?”
Angelia wasn’t certain she had heard Swift Hawk correctly. “What was that again?”
He shrugged. “What?”
“What you just said.”
He gave her a perfectly innocent look and repeated, “Your brother is over by that ridge, trying to discover who trails him.”
“No, not that—that other thing.”
“You mean about my wife and I being alone?”
“That’s it. That’s the one. Your wife? You have a wife?” she asked, feeling more than a little confused.
He said, “Certainly I have a wife.”
She sent him a sideways scowl. “I don’t believe you. Where is this person?”
He grinned. “Right here beside me.”
“Wait a minute. How can I be your wife?”
“Very easily, I think.”
Angelia sat for a moment, dazed. How could this be? On one hand, she was cheered that Swift Hawk was, indeed, very much interested in her. On the other hand, she realized she should have been worrying less and practicing more of exactly what she should say to this man.
Was this what he’d meant when he’d said they belonged to one another? Marriage?
Aloud, she said, “Swift Hawk, have I missed something? I don’t remember a marriage ceremony between us.”
Swift Hawk frowned. “You do not remember? And yet recalling those moments we spent together is forever here.” He pointed to his head, and then to his heart.
“Moments? What are you talking about?”
“You do not remember.” He tsk-tsked.
Angelia grimaced, placing a hand on her forehead, as if to ease the spinning sensation. “There must be something here I don’t understand, because I don’t recall a thing.”
“Ah, then I should refresh your memory. But…surely you do not wish me to do this…” he made a mock glance around him, “…where others might overhear us, or see us.”
“Swift Hawk, please. Be serious.”
She shook her head. “Have you gone crazy?”
“Perhaps, for my wife treats me as though I am nothing more to her than a…” he drew his brows together, looking for all the world as if he were in deep thought, “…friend.”
“You are a friend.”
“Haa’he, that I am…plus more. Now, I have something else to tell you, and for a moment, I would ask that we forget all this, switch our duties and I will be a teacher and you will be my pupil.”
“Why?” she asked, still feeling bewildered and having difficulty following his line of thought.
“Because I have a problem in mathematics for you.”
“Swift Hawk, please, we are not doing our lessons now. We are having a discussion about…about…”
Swift Hawk shrugged. “All right. If you do not wish to hear this problem, I will not bore you with it.”
Angelia blew out her breath. “Very well. Tell me.”
“No, I do not wish to disturb you with it…at least not now.”
She sighed heavily. “I’m sorry, all right? I… It’s only that you’ve said some things that have…surprised me, things I don’t understand, and frankly, you’re speaking about a subject that must be discussed by us in greater detail. But by all means, let me hear this problem that you have with mathematics first.”
He ignored the sarcasm in her voice and gave her a look that could have been innocent, but it wasn’t. Before she could decide what he was up to, he said, “Tell me, what is the result when you add a man, a woman, and a morning spent together in each other’s arms?”
“Shh. Swift Hawk. What are you doing? Say that quietly.”
“Very well.” Lowering his voice, he whispered, “What do you get when you add—”
“I heard you the first time. Swift Hawk, really, it…it…wasn’t like that… It was…” She stopped, for she seemed incapable of uttering another word.
Now was the time. Now she should tell him.
Angelia opened her mouth to speak, took a deep breath, then held it. How in the name of good heaven could she begin?
She shut her mouth, thinking, summoning her nerve to say what must be said.
Swift Hawk leaned in toward her. “Ah, I can see that you understand. Now you must observe that all of these things, added together, equals a marriage, does it not?”
“No, it—” Angelia shook her head, exhaling sharply. “It does not equal marriage. There was no ceremony.” She said every word distinctively. “But let’s not quibble. Not now. Not here, where we might be overhead. Besides, we forget that Julian might be in trouble. Now, if you would be so kind as to lead me to my brother, I would be much beholden.”
Angelia rolled her eyes. “Please, will you take me to him?”
“Yes, my wife,” said Swift Hawk seriously, though she could have sworn that a corner of his mouth lifted upward in a smile. “Truly, my wife, I will do anything you say.”
“Please, if you must say that, say it softly.”
“Very well.” Leaning up onto his elbows, Swift Hawk spoke quietly, for her ears alone, “Yes, my wife. I am yours to command, my wife.”
Angelia raised an eyebrow. “You are mine to command?”
“It is so.”
“Good. Then I command you not to speak to me of this again.”
Smiling, Swift Hawk inclined his head. “Very well. I will show you instead how eager I am to please you.” He held out a hand toward her.
Angelia rolled away. “Swift Hawk!” she uttered sharply, under her breath. “Stop this at once. Just…just take me to my brother.”
For the last few posts, I’ve been writing about El Camino Real and the haunted missions along the way. Today, I’m going to discuss one area of Highway 101 that I bet just about everybody has seen on television commericals … the Gaviota Pass one and a half miles west of Gaviota, near Santa Barbara, California.
It’s a place where the road narrows to just a few feet. It’s where El Camino Real moves away from the coast and into the interior of California. The long climb up the grade takes travelers to Mission Santa Inez and La Purisima, which I’ve previously blogged on. The land mark is a haunted one, also.
This bronze plaque commemorates where on Christmas day 1846 an ambush set up by Mexican loyalists to stop Lt. Col. John Fremont’s U.S. troops from moving south forcing the Americans to take a more labored approach to capture Santa Barbara where it was captured without bloodshed.
The ghosts of Gaviota Pass date to an earlier time when a detachment of Spanish Lancers were set upon by the local inhabitants. The Spanish were forced to retreat down the road and through the pass toward to coast. For a while it looked like the Natives would win the day, but as the warriors prepared to mount a charge on the exhausted Spanish Troops a strong wind came up from the sea and inland. In desperation the Spanish set fire to the dry grass in the pass. The flames fueled by the ocean’s wind roared up the pass. The native warriors trapped in the conflagration were burned to death.
Defeated spirits haunt the pass today. Some have reported seeing a figure who wanders alone. Local legend is that this is the chief who led his people into the fiery defeat. There is no doubt this is a spooky place, especially for those who visit the place at night. When the wind blows one may still hear the horrible wails of those warriors succumbing to fire.
Now my truth. I’ve gone through this pass hundreds of times, during all times of the night and day, and my daughter who lives in Santa Barbara County travels to LA regularly and neither of us have seen or heard anything. I certainly want to make it clear that I’m not discounting any of this as fact, because I just know that sole legendary chief will make sure I believe in him the next time I’m around the pass.
Those of you who have traveled the 101 and gone through this pass, have you ever had any weird sensations.
Okay, as I promised this is the month, I’m telling you all about my grandson’s experience at the La Purisima Mission not far from his home. Last summer when I was out there for four months, he came out from college in Texas to one of his sister’s graduation. A friend from Texas had moved out to Santa Barbara with her family, so they went ghost busting at the mission. They climbed over the gate, as others did, and after not finding anything that interested them, they returned to his folks home. When his friend started to leave, she couldn’t find her keys. She was sure they were secured in her closed up shoulder bag. They looked everywhere and could find them, so as a last resort they went back to the La Purisima.
When they turned into the drive right outside the gate they saw a flash. Checking it out, they found not only her keys but a billfold, both which had been crushed. There was no way a car could have done it. They came home certain that this had to be an act of one of the Mission’s ghosts.
There wasn’t a driver’s license in the billfold, but a card for a doctor’s appointment and cash. They physician’s clerk called the gentleman and told him where his billfold was but never mentioned where it was found. I answered the door when he showed up. He was pleasantly surprised we had his billfold but perplexed because he was sure it had been secure in his back pocket which was zipped up. “Where was it found?,” he asked. When I told him, all he could say was “That dern ghost must have stolen it, crushed the dern thing to let us know not to go ghost busting out there again.”
Now you tell me whether you think it was just a coincidence or a reminder from our La Purisima ghosts not to bother them at night?
To one lucky person who leaves a comment, I will give away an autographed copy of the award winning anthology A Texas Christmas by sister filly, Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, the late DeWanna Pace, and me.
Today is Halloween, the day when children across the country dig the innards out of and carve faces into hapless pumpkins, dress in costume and roam the neighborhood begging for enough candy to rot teeth and cause bellyaches for a full year. I have many fond—and some not so fond—memories of Halloween. Like the year my brother and I dressed up as Christmas packages. Do you know how hard it is to walk to school in a water heater box covered in wrapping paper and adorned with an enormous bow?
The practice of decorating pumpkins, or jack-o-lanterns is said to have originated in an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. Seems Jack convinced the Devil to buy him a drink but didn’t want to pay for it. So he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin. Instead of paying for the drink, Jack slipped the coin into his pocket alongside a cross, which kept the devil from turning back. Jack freed him in exchange for a year of freedom.
When the Devil returned in a year, Jack tricked him into climbing a tree to pick a piece of fruit, then carved a cross into the bark, trapping the dark angel until he promised Jack ten more years of freedom. When Jack died, God didn’t want the trickster in heaven and the Devil had promised not to claim Jack’s soul. According to the legend, the Devil left Jack to roam the countryside with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming ever since. The Irish began to refer to the ghostly wanderer as Jack of the Lantern, or Jack o’ lantern.
Villagers began to carve their own versions of Jack’s lantern into turnips or potatoes and placing them in windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, where the native pumpkin proved a perfect canvas, and it is now an integral part of Halloween festivities.
So, tell me: do you still carve pumpkins for your front porch on Halloween?
First published in 1820, Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” has been terrifying children for almost 200 years. Though the tale of a hapless schoolmaster’s midnight gallop through the New York woods made the phrase “headless horseman” a household term in America, by the time Irving’s story appeared headless horsemen had been staples of European folklore for centuries. German, Irish, Scandinavian, and English legends all offered versions of the ghoulish phantoms, who usually were said to appear to proud, arrogant people as a warning.
Texas has its own gruesome headless horseman legend. Unlike Irving’s unforgettable spook, though, Texas’s headless horseman rode among the living once upon a time.
Some say he still does.
In the summer of 1850, a Mexican bandido by the name of Vidal made an egregious error: He and several compadres rustled a sizable herd of horses from several ranches south of San Antonio. One of the ranches belonged to Texas Ranger Creed Taylor, a veteran of the Texas War for Independence and a man not inclined to forgive his enemies. (Taylor later would be one of the participants in the Sutton-Taylor Feud, a bloody, years-long running gun battle that resulted in four times as many deaths as the better-known fracas between the Hatfields and McCoys.)
Rustling cattle already had earned Vidal’s head a dead-or-alive bounty. Stealing a Texas Ranger’s horses was the proverbial last straw. Together with fellow Ranger William A.A. “Big Foot” Wallace and another local rancher, Taylor set out to put a stop to Vidal’s unbearable insolence.
Capt. Mayne Reid’s version of a Texas Legend, published in 1865, received a mention in Charles Dickens’s final novel, Our Mutual Friend.
As a group, the early Texas Rangers were hard men. Tasked with protecting an enormous patch of land rife with outlaws and Indians, the early Rangers were expert trackers, accomplished gunmen, and not opposed to meting out immediate — and often brutal — “frontier justice.” Vidal was about to discover that in a very personal way.
After tracking the bandidos to their camp, Taylor, Wallace, and the third man mounted a surprise attack while the outlaws were asleep. Killing the desperados was not enough for Taylor and Wallace, though. The entire Ranger force was fed up with the rash of rustling plaguing Texas at the time. Not even leaving bodies hanging from trees or hacking them to pieces and using the bits for predator bait had made a strong enough statement.
So, Wallace got creative. After beheading Vidal, he secured the corpse upright on the back of the wildest of the rustled horses, lashed the bandido’s hands to the saddle horn and his feet to the stirrups, and tied the stirrups beneath the animal’s belly. Just to make sure anyone who saw the ghoulish specter got the message, he looped a rawhide thong through the head’s jaws and around Vidal’s sombrero, and slung the bloody bundle from the saddle’s pommel. Then Wallace and his friends sent the terrified mustang galloping off into the night.
Big Foot Wallace, ca. 1872
Not long thereafter, vaqueros began to report seeing a headless horseman rampaging through the scrub on a dark, wild horse. As sightings spread, some claimed flames shot from the animal’s nostrils and lightning bolts from its hooves. Bullets seemed to have no effect on the grisly marauder. They dubbed the apparition el Muerto — the dead man — and attributed all sorts of evil and misfortune to the mysterious rider.
Eventually, a posse of cowboys brought down the horse at a watering hole near Ben Bolt, Texas. By then the dried-up body had been riddled with bullets and arrows, and the head had shriveled in the sun. The posse laid Vidal’s remains to rest in an unmarked grave on the La Trinidad Ranch. Only then did Wallace and Taylor take public credit for the deed. The episode contributed to Wallace’s reputation and had the intended effect on rustling.
Even the revelation of the truth behind the legend did not end el Muerto’s reign of terror. Until nearby Fort Inge was decommissioned in 1869, soldiers reported seeing a headless rider roaming the countryside around Uvalde, near Taylor’s ranch. Thirty years later, a rise in the ground 250 miles to the southeast, near San Patricio, Texas, was christened Headless Horseman Hill after a wagon train reported an encounter with el Muerto. A sighting occurred in 1917 outside San Diego, Texas, and another near Freer in 1969.
El Muerto reportedly still roams the mesquite-covered range in Duval, Jim Wells, and Live Oak counties — still fearsome, still headless, and still reminding those who see him that Texas Rangers didn’t come by their tough-hombre reputation by accident.
I haven’t written any tales about headless horsemen — yet — but ghosts play a significant role in one of my short novellas. Family Tradition is one of two stories that compose Robbing Banks, Stealing Hearts.
Everyone should have career at which they excel. At failing to commit crimes, nobody is better than Laredo and Tombstone Hawkins. Maybe they can bumble their way into love.
Haunted by his kin’s tradition of spectacular failure, bank robber Tombstone Hawkins is honor-bound to prove his family tree produced at least one bad apple. When carnival fortuneteller Pansy Gilchrist tries to help, she accidentally summons a pair of dishonest-to-goodness ghosts. Getting into the spirit of a crime is one thing…but how do you get the spirits out?
Here’s a brief excerpt:
Stone blinked at the apparitions. If not for Madame Minerva’s confirmation, he’d have sworn he was seeing things—and he hadn’t touched a drop of whiskey in weeks.
He eased backward a step.
So did she, sidling up next to him until her hipbone collided with his leg.
The two ghosts floated around the table, one on each side, and planted themselves close enough for Stone to poke a hand through either misty shape. Forcing a swallow down his throat, he squinted at the nearest. He’d been on the receiving end of that old man’s irritated glare far too often.
Heart racing fast enough to outrun a mule with a butt full of buckshot, Stone faded back another step.
The fake gypsy stayed with him, as though she were glued to his side.
The gauzy forms kept pace.
“Emile?” Madame Minerva’s voice squeaked like a schoolgirl’s.
Even on a ghost, disappointment was easy to spot. A pained frown gripped one apparition’s face. “I’m not part of the con any longer, Pansy. You can’t call me father just once?”
Stone ducked his head and tossed the woman a sidelong glance. “Pansy?”
“Said Tombstone,” she hissed.
The second ghost spoke up, his voice strangely hollow but recognizable. “Boy, you got nothin’ to say to your ol’ pop?”
“I uh… I…” Stone’s tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth.
Thank God, Emile picked up the conversation. “I see my little girl is keeping the family tradition alive.”
“I am.” Pansy’s breathy whisper carried a hint of tears. “Oh, Emile, I wish you had stayed.”
“I’ve been here all along. You just haven’t looked for me before.” Emile’s specter extended a hand to cup his daughter’s cheek. Pansy leaned into the phantom caress.
Stone snatched her before she toppled over. Too late, he discovered she weighed little more than a ghost herself. His grab yanked her off her feet and slammed her into his chest.
He exercised quite a bit more care setting her back on the dirt floor.