Hi everyone. Jennifer Uhlarik here. Have you ever thought of what traveling along the Oregon Trail is like? While I am fascinated with the idea of our forefathers traveling months along the path to make a life in the wilds of Oregon or other western places, the thought of being that far from civilization—particularly someplace to replenish supplies—is a frightening one. Keeping it real here: I live 2 miles from the grocery store, and it’s waaaaayyyyyy too easy for me to wait until 5 pm some nights to decide what I’m making for dinner, then rush off to the store for supplies. Our ancestors on the Oregon Trail didn’t have such luxuries! They had to pack enough stores to do life until they reached a trading post or fort to buy more.
So how did these trading posts get their start and what were they like?
As early as the 1500’s, French and English fishermen were sailing to the coast of Newfoundland to fish for cod. It was here that they encountered some local Indian tribes who were anxious to trade for metal goods. In order to obtain the iron pots, pans, knives and tools they coveted, the Indians offered beaver pelts, which they could provide in great quantities. It took the fishermen little time to sell the pelts once they returned home, and people quickly realized that the soft underfur of a beaver pelt made a wonderful felt for hat-making. With a growing demand for beaver pelts, both France and England began to explore North America with the intent to colonize it. Not long after, France began setting up trading posts in Quebec. Of course, England’s Hudson Bay Company moved into the area as well, sending traders and trappers across parts of Canada and the American frontier. Wherever they went, Hudson Bay Company set up trading posts to barter with the native population.
As life on the frontier changed from a focus on the fur trade to a focus on Westward Expansion, many of the old trading posts lived on. The owners of the posts continued to trade with the Indian tribes, but they also became outposts where white travels and settlers could get supplies. These small outposts provided staples like coffee, tea, rice, tins of hardtack biscuits, dried fruit, or canned goods. They also offered tools and utensils, such as cast iron pots, kettles, knives, and axes, saddles, and flint and steel for starting fires. Customers could trade for textiles, such as beaver-felt hats, blankets, bandanas, ribbon, thread, needles, and fabric. Ornamental or decorative supplies were commonly found, anything from silver to beads and beyond. And of course, guns, ammunition, and other shooting supplies were a common item found in these trading posts.
I’m sure you can imagine, life on the frontier could be lonely and supplies might be hard to come by. You had to learn to live with what you had…and make do until you could restock. Often, these trading posts were lifesavers, keeping people from starving or doing without until they reached the next major stop on their journey west. Or they might have prevented settlers from having to make a long trek to the nearest town or city, which might be days or weeks away. They certainly weren’t as convenient as today’s 7-Eleven, but I’m betting they were welcome stopovers to more than a few of our ancestors.
It’s your turn: If you had lived in times past, would you have liked to live on the frontier where a trading post might be your nearest source of supplies, or would you have preferred to live in a town or city? I’ll be giving away one paperback copy of The Oregon Trail Romance Collection to one reader who leaves a comment.
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 several 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. Follow Jennifer at bit.ly.UhlarikNews
The Oregon Trail Romance Collection
Nine romantic adventures take readers along for a ride on the Oregon Trail where daily challenges force travelers to evaluate the things that are most precious to them—including love. Enjoy the trip through a fascinating part of history through the eyes of remarkably strong characters who stop at famous landmarks along the way. Watch as their faith is strengthened and as love is born despite unique circumstances. Discover where the journey ends for each of nine couples.
I could have a marching bank stomp across this website if I could, I’m just so delighted and relieved to have the book alive and well.
Let’s talk accomplishments. What’s the last thing you did that really gave you a sense of accomplishment.
I remember once I bought a kit (HUGE KIT) and built a shed. One of those small backyard, metal sheds for the lawmower, right?
That was a small shed but a big accomplishment for me. Getting a book done gives me a sense of accomplishment like that and, of course, I need to go right back to writing…which is good. It keeps me out of trouble.
I also once read The Winds of War and then immediately dived into War and Remembrance. Huge books. That gave me a sense of accomplishment, too.
Let’s talk accomplishments. Finished a book or finished an afghan or gave birth to a baby or finally got the grout cleaned up in a moldy bathroom. What gives you a sense of accomplishment.
First of all, I’m so thrilled to be with you today and look forward to making some new friends!
We hear about lots of brave men – and a few women, too – who faced incredible obstacles in settling the American West. This was wilderness untamed, a place where you could never be sure what you’d find… or what would find you. Their stories are the ones I like most, for the events that brought them to their destinations often were so incredibly unlikely, yet true. As the 19th century progressed, people traveled west by wagon, handcart, stagecoach, and train. To me, each of these are symbols of that wild time period, but perhaps none more thrilling than the stagecoach.
Can you imagine traveling in one?
Nine passengers could be crammed inside, twelve more squeezed onto the roof. Belongings were packed on the roof or in the front or rear boot (those leather pouch-looking spaces). It varied, of course, on the type of terrain and road conditions, but a stagecoach averaged 5 mph (8 km/h) and could travel 60-70 miles per 24 hours.
If you wanted to ride a stagecoach from your town to another that was 100 miles away, you would typically ride 24 hours a day in the coach. That’s where you would sleep, too. They had to stop every 10-15 miles to swap out the team of horses at a swing station (ideally, they were galloping that entire distance, weather and trail permitting) and passengers could get out and stretch for a minute. Home Stations were located every 50 miles or so, and that’s where you’d come inside to have a meal.
Riding across the country in a stagecoach was miserable, dusty, bumpy, and cramped. It would be a test in patience and endurance to travel in such a way, in my opinion!
As I researched stage lines and all the fascinating treasure stories involved, I came across very few women.
Charley Parkhurst was a notable stage driver in California and Nevada in the mid-1800s, though no one knew she was a woman until after her death. She wore an eye patch and could spit tobacco and shoot a gun like any man of the west. Her story intrigued me. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to write a female stage driver?”
That’s how The Stage Driver’s Daughter came to be.
Winnifred Morgan, the heroine, spends most of her childhood in the driver’s seat of a stage coach beside her pa, learning all he knew. When he is killed suddenly, Winnie has no one left. So, she forsakes her dress and bonnet for boots and trousers and turns to what she knows: driving a coach, and not through civilized, populated roads – No. Where is the fun in that? She takes on the perilous mining routes in Nevada, and does it better than anyone else, too.
When she begins conveying treasure boxes for Wells Fargo Express, they hire a shotgun guard named Benjamin Sharpe to ride with her. Wouldn’t you know, she fights her growing attraction to him as they face many a highwayman on those dusty, dangerous roads.
But a secret surfaces, something her pa took to his grave, and those who seek it are coming after Winnie… You’ll have to read it to find out what happens when they do!
The Stage Driver’s Daughter is available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited here.
To celebrate the book’s release one week ago, I’d love to give a paperback copy away here today.
I’ll pick a random winner from the comments to this post. Tell me your favorite way to travel, and why.
Thanks for having me, and I hope to see some of you on Facebook ormy newsletter!
As I conclude my Brookstone Brides series with the third book What Comes My Way, it seemed only right that I should offer some insight into the research done for this series. The Brookstone Wild West Extravaganza was a fictional wild west show I created with all-female performers. The show consisted of trick riders, Roman riders, bow and arrow trick riders, and trick shooters and because of this, I needed to know more about each of those things.
To learn more about trick riding in general, I was invited to come to a training camp at the Vold Ranch in Colorado. Karen Vold, (standing with me in the picture right) a former trick rider and rodeo company owner and her right-hand lady Linda Scholtz (also a former trick rider and in the picture below) conduct clinics each year to teach new up and coming trick riders the old art. They are a couple of amazing ladies, and I learned so much in talking with them and watching their instruction. They were always on hand to answer my questions and it turned out that both were strong Christians, as well.
With the trick shooting, I was able to talk to my husband’s uncle, John Peterson. John’s father was once asked to do performance shooting for one of the major rifle manufacturers. As an avid collector and researcher of old weapons and trick shooting, Uncle John was able to point me in the right direction for research. I was able to lay my hands on a lot of interesting accounts of trick shooting and performances thanks to the help my daughter Julie gave. We made it a family affair and I was even able to do a little shooting.
Throughout my research regarding these performing arts, I was reminded of the long history of each. Roman riding is as it suggests an art that goes back to the Romans and beyond. This is the art of standing on the backs of horses and leading them through a series of tricks or races while managing the team of 2 or 4 and sometimes more horses.
In America, we don’t have to look any further than the American frontier and Native Americas for talented abilities with trick riding. Being able to maneuver with great skill on a moving horse was something the native warriors were known for, and of course, the wild west shows of Buffalo Bill Cody and Pawnee Bill were famous along with numerous other shows for perpetuating these talents. These shows were developed to bring the wild west into the big cities where people held an absolute fascination for all things frontier. Today’s rodeos take their place for the most part and you can still catch plenty of trick riding at most.
Seeing these great performances and knowing what kind of work went into such shows gave me a much greater appreciation for those who performed and continue to do so…all in order to keep the history of the past alive for folks today. It made the perfect backdrop for my series and I hope my readers will enjoy the tales of Lizzy, Mary, and Ella as they conclude their performances in What Comes My Way.
Book 2 of the C Barb C Ranch Duo is now available!
So what does the word ‘series’ mean to you. Two? Three or more?
Merriam Webster defines series as “a succession of volumes or issues published with related subjects or authors, similar format and price, or continuous numbering.” But the respected dictionary doesn’t define at what number a series makes.
In my opinion, anything two or more, as long as they are related, fits a series. As you may know, series are extremely popular in the romance world. Authors could typically have a half-dozen books in one series. Multi-author groups could have their series stretch on for literally dozens of books.
In my case, The C Bar C Ranch series is two books with related characters on the same ranch. Two books. A duo, right? Or a series, if you will.
Let me tell you a bit about my duo of stories that will always have a special place in my heart and were a joy to write.
Carina Lockett is driven to build a legacy for her young daughter, and she doesn’t need a man to help her do it. But when her precious child is lured away and held for ransom, she must swallow her pride and ask for Penn McClure’s help.
Penn McClure had no intention of playing cowboy for any woman, especially one as strong-willed as Carina.
But driving a herd of cattle to Dodge City was no easy task. And he had a score to settle with the man waiting for them at the end of the trail.
Along the way, he discovers Carina is pure female–and that her legacy has become his own.
Callie Mae Lockett is betrayed by the man who claims he’s responsible for her young brother’s tragic death. She chooses another to help carry on her precious legacy, the C Bar C Ranch , and he’s the farthest thing from a cowboy she’s ever met.
TJ Grier has always been one of the C Bar C’s best cowboys, but one horrible night destroys all he’s ever known.
Desperate to prove his innocence, he steals Callie Mae away, and together they plunge into danger to solve the secret that has torn them apart.
And Good Morning! How are you doing today? Well, I hope.
WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE, believe it or not, is a story inspired by a legend similar to Zorro (it wasn’t Zorro, but the real legend escapes me at the moment). I must admit that such true legends are fascinating to me. This is book #4 in The Legendary Warrior series (all four books are based on different Native American/Western legends). This book is part of KindleUnlimited at Amazon, and so if you subscribe to KindleUnlimited, you can read it for free. But I’ll also be sending a copy of this e-book to some lucky blogger today, so please, don’t be shy. Come on in and leave a comment. Also, do read the Giveaway Guidelines off to the right here — these govern our give-aways. And please do come back either tomorrow evening or Thursday evening to see if you are one of winners. I rely on your doing so.
I must admit to really loving this particular cover. What do you think?
So, without further wait, I’m going to leave you with a blurb and an excerpt from the very beginning of the book. Hope you enjoy!
Wolf Shadow’s Promise
by Karen Kay
Legendary Warriors, Book 4
She saved his life. The only way he can save hers is to deny their forbidden passion…
When eight-year-old Alys Clayton saved the life of a young Blackfeet Indian, she had no idea her own life would be forever changed. To honor her bravery, Moon Wolf pledged his heart to her, vowing to marry her. But they were both too young…then.
Returning to Fort Benton in the Northwest Territory fifteen years later, Alys again encounters the deeply handsome hero who had once set her heart afire. But Moon Wolf has changed. He has become the legendary Wolf Shadow, a warrior intent on helping his people’s struggle against those who would destroy them.
Because a precious jewel like Alys warrants more from a man than risking death at every turn, Moon Wolf battles his desire for her, denying her what she needs most. But Alys has other ideas. She is determined he will not walk his chosen path alone.
Yet, how can their love survive when they are surrounded by enemies determined to destroy them, in a world where their love is forbidden?
This book has been previously published.
Warning: Sensuous romance that might renew a love that was written in the stars. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE, an excerpt
by Karen Kay
Fort Benton on the Missouri River
1857, Northwest Territory
“Two and two equals…?” The teacher slapped the ruler against the blackboard, the wap of the wooden stick an unspoken threat. The teacher—who, by invitation, had only recently arrived here—stood frowning, arms crossed at her waist. “Young lady,” the teacher threatened as she took a menacing step forward and unfolded her arms, “answer me.”
Still the young Indian girl, standing at the head of the class, didn’t make a sound. Head down, she stared fixedly at her feet.
Looking at the child, who was no older than herself, Alys Clayton felt as if her heart might break. Personally, she had never understood why the wild Indians had been brought to this school. Her mother said the whole matter was an experiment by their Indian agent, Alfred J. Vaughan, to see if the Indians could be civilized, whatever that meant.
But the project was doomed to failure because Indians didn’t learn from this kind of teaching.
At least that’s what her mother had told her: that the Indians of the plains had not been brought up with the same books and stories as the white man; that the Indians had their own legends and tales, their own way of teaching, of doing things. Indians were close to the land, were free, or at least they were supposed to be. Alys’s mother had also said, and Alys agreed, that the Indians would be better off if left independent which, Alys decided, must mean “left alone.”
So, if all these observations were true, why was their teacher making an example of this poor child? What did it matter if the girl could or could not add the two plus two on the chalkboard? Alys knew that if she were to approach the girl and promise her four beads while giving her only three, the young girl would know the difference.
Tears streamed down the youngster’s face as she endured not only the silent threat of the teacher but the sneers and scoffing of her “fellow classmates” too.
Something should be done. Such dealings were not right. Yet Alys felt helpless. She was only eight years old, a child herself. What good was she against a teacher—against the taunts of the others?
Oh, no. Alys caught her breath.
The teacher—an overly skinny, sickly-looking woman, had raised the ruler as though she might hit the girl, causing the youngster to put a hand over her eyes as though to shield them.
Then the worst happened. Down came the ruler, down across the Indian girl’s arm.
The child didn’t cry out, didn’t even flinch, although she whimpered slightly as tears streamed down her face.
The teacher shouted out a few more unmentionable words. Still the young girl remained silent.
“I’ll teach you to sass me, you heathen,” the teacher hissed, while Alys tried to make sense of what the teacher had said. The young girl hadn’t uttered a word.
Wap! Another slap across the girl’s arms. The teacher raised her arm for another blow.
It never came.
In a blur of buckskin and feathers, a young Indian boy, the same one who had been at their school for about a week, burst into the classroom, putting himself between the youngster and the teacher. In his hand, he wielded a knife.
The class went from a mass of jeers and prankish catcalls to abrupt silence.
Where had the boy come from so suddenly? And the knife? Where had he obtained that? It was well known that the wild Indians, even the children, were relieved of their weapons upon entering the fort.
Yet there was no mistaking that knife or the boy’s intent.
Good, thought Alys.
Immediately, the teacher backed up, but in doing so, she tripped over a wastebasket, losing her balance and falling into the trash can, bottom first.
Alys couldn’t help herself. She laughed.
It was the only sound in an otherwise silent classroom. No one looked at her, however. Everyone appeared…stunned.
The teacher’s face filled with color, her hands clenched over the top of the basket. “You…you savage. You pushed me—”
“This one,” the Indian responded, pointing to himself, “has not touched you. But give me good reason to”—he waved his knife in front of her—“and I will.”
The teacher spat ugly words deep in her throat, before she uttered loudly, “I’ll have your skin for this, young man.”
“Humph.” The boy approached the teacher, then said, “And I will have your hair.”
It took a moment for his meaning to register, but as the boy swung out his knife, taking hold of the teacher’s tight bun, she screamed. Whack! Off came the bun, harmlessly falling into the youngster’s hand.
“You heathen, why, I’ll…” In an almost superhuman effort, the teacher jumped up, out of the basket. The boy quickly grabbed hold of the Indian girl, and pulling her after him, fled toward the classroom’s only window.
That was all it took for the other youngsters in the room to come alive. Insults and threats reverberated through the early morning air, while the two fugitives made the best escape they could. Boys, almost all of them of mixed heritage themselves, suddenly sprang up from their chairs, leaping after the two runaways, who had by this time cleared the window.
The entire school became a mass exodus as student after student bolted out the door, out the window, chasing after the pair.
Alys, however, arose from her seat at a more leisurely pace, strolling slowly and thoughtfully toward the doorway of the tiny cabin which served as the schoolhouse. Fingering her soft auburn curls as she moved, she trudged home, concluding that school had been let out for the day.
Poor Indian kids, she mused. Wasn’t it enough that the children had been taken away from their family to be “educated”? According to her mother, the townspeople weren’t making it easy on these wild ones either, scolding them and making fun of them. Who would want to stay amidst such hatred? Alys asked herself.
Her thoughts troubled, Alys left the schoolhouse and slowly trudged toward her home.
Her house, a wooden structure and one of the nicer homes in the fort, lay situated toward the rear of the town, away from the river and isolated from most of the fort’s more rambunctious activities. It was a relatively quiet spot, a location her father had personally selected before he had passed away almost four years ago.
That Alys’s mother had refused to return east after her husband’s passing had been the fort’s greatest gossip during the first few years after his death, at least for the few white women who had come west with their husbands.
There were only two types of unmarried women on the frontier, or so it was said: Indians and the hurdy-gurdy girls. Her mother had been asked which one she was.
And it hadn’t mattered that her mother had helped found this town, right alongside her father. Nor had the richness of her purse given her immunity. As it was in many small towns, there wasn’t much to provide gossip, leaving Alys’s mother to supply fodder for the wagging tongues, a circumstance that had effectively isolated her, and her youngster, from the community.
As Alys made her way through the fort, she wondered what her mother would say about the events of this day, knowing that it was her nature to blame the townspeople, not the Indians. Hadn’t her mother often commented on the unchristian-like behavior of the few white women in this town? Hadn’t she herself observed that those here, more oft times than not, made up the grievances they complained about?
Why? Alys Clayton could little understand it.
She only wished there were something she could do, some way to help. If only she knew where the two Indians were right now, she would offer them kindness and hope. Yes, she decided, with all the naïveté of a young girl her age. She would be kind to them, make friends with them, show them that they could trust her.
Why, she would…
What was that? There is was again, a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye. Buckskin, feathers—two small arms and legs? There in the bushes? She turned to look.
A knife suddenly appeared out of nowhere, pressing close into her throat, and a hand covered her mouth as arms slipped about her waist, dragging her backward, toward that bush.
“You cry out…I kill you,” threatened a young male voice.
Alys looked up into a set of the deepest, blackest eyes she had ever seen. She nodded.
The dusty scent of the boy’s skin, the dirt on his hands assailed Alys until she thought she might gag. It wasn’t that the smell was unpleasant, it was more that he held her mouth too tightly. She squirmed.
Two young boys flew past them, more footsteps followed, more shuffling, the pounding of boots, of adult feet striking the ground, rushing by.
Alys struggled in the boy’s arms. She wanted to let him know that she was a friend, that she would help him. It was useless, however. The boy held his hand too securely over her lips.
Gunshots in the distance caught Alys’s attention, and then came more shouts and hurrying footsteps. Gunshots? Surely no one intended physical harm to these two, did they?
She had to do something. Quickly, Alys took stock of where she was. Over to her right was her home—within running distance—and beside her house was the secret place, that place known only to Alys and her mother…
It was a special locale, a part of Alys’s heritage that might prove to be the salvation of these two outcasts, if she could make them understand. Could she?
She had to try. Motioning toward the house, Alys pointed at the two Indians, then flapped her hands like wings, trying to show an image of birds, flying away free. Would he understand?
The young boy followed her hand motions for a moment, then tugged at her to remain still. He looked away.
Alys tried again. Point to the house, to the Indians, a bird flying away free. Once more, over and over. It took a few more gestures before the boy frowned, looking down at Alys, at her hands, at the house.
More voices, more footsteps coming toward them.
Alys gestured again.
With a stern frown at her, the boy loosened his grip, allowing Alys to whisper, “I know a secret way out of the fort.”
Would he believe her? Did he understand she meant to help him?
Dark eyes glared into her own.
“It’s at the side of my home.” She motioned toward the house.
“There is nothing there, white girl; a house, a wall, no more. Do you try to trap us?”
Alys didn’t say a word. And perhaps it was her silence that accounted for her redemption.
He asked, “How we escape there?”
“In our root cellar,” Alys was quick to answer, “my mother’s and mine. There is a hidden tunnel.”
“What is this…root cellar?”
Alys pointed to a set of bushes that almost, but not quite, hid the wooden doors of the cellar. “There,” she said. “See it? It goes down to a passage underground. It’s like a cave. It leads to the hills.”
She could see him hesitate, watched as indecision played across his features. At last, though, he volunteered, “You show us.”
They waited until the approaching footsteps faded away. Then he prodded her forward, and she fled as fast as her small legs would carry her, on and on toward the side of her yard, with the two Indians following close on her heels.
“Here.” She pushed her way into the bushes and pulled at the doors of the cellar. They wouldn’t give. She almost cried.
The Indian boy came to her rescue, tugging on the doors and hauling them up.
“Hurry.” She motioned to the two of them to enter. Quickly, they did as she bid, fleeing down into the cellar, Alys coming in after them and dragging the doors shut behind her. Instantly, all was darkness inside, but it didn’t bother Alys. She merely sighed in relief.
“This is trap,” the boy said, his knife coming once more to Alys’s neck. Maybe he didn’t like the darkness, Alys considered.
“No,” she insisted, unafraid. “I’ll show you.”
Lifting a rug on the floor, Alys uncovered a small earthen mound. Brushing the dirt away, Alys pointed to a meager trapdoor.
Pulling on the door, she glanced up toward the boy, barely able to make out his features in the darkness.
“Come,” she said and dropped down to the ladder. Down and down she climbed, her two charges following.
Plunging to the stone floor of the cavern below, Alys fumbled in the dark until she found the lantern her mother always kept there. Checking first to make sure it was working properly, she lit the wick, instantly throwing a shadow of light throughout the cave. Instinctively, she took the hand of the Indian boy.
“Hold hands,” she instructed and began to lead the two of them through the tunnels. The darkness of the caves, their earthy smells and coolness had never bothered Alys. They were a part of her family, a part of her.
She and her mother came here often, hunting a treasure that had been lost here long ago. Although if Alys were honest, she would admit that sometimes she sought out the comfort of the caves for pleasure alone, these caverns being a legacy to her from her father.
“If you lead us back to…that village, white girl, I will kill you.”
“I know.” Alys hesitated. “But I won’t. I promise you.”
He let out a snort. “The vow of a white girl.”
“The word of Alys Clayton.” She might not be aware of it, but Alys lifted her chin. “Not all white people are bad.”
He didn’t say a word, though another menacing growl escaped his throat.
Well, what did it matter anyway? She would show him. Wasn’t it what her mother had always told her, that actions, not words, were important? It took an hour or so of careful travel, but she didn’t falter in her step. She knew the way.
The tunnel climbed slowly, gradually, until at last, up ahead, she could see light, hear the rush of a waterfall.
Ah, the great falls, behind which lay the tunnel’s entrance. This was her most favorite spot in the world, isolated, untouched and unspoiled. No one else knew of the caverns or the beauty of these cliffs either, as far as she knew, since they were hidden on all sides by the height of the hills. At least, Alys silently corrected herself, no other white man knew of them.
Alys led their party underneath the falls, out onto the rocks and into the bright sunshine, allowing the two young people to adjust their eyesight to the light before she stated, “I don’t know where your people are, but I reckon you’ll be able to find them from here.”
The boy looked around him and inhaled a deep breath before glancing back at Alys and staring intently at her.
Then, without any expression on his face whatsoever, he murmured, “What strange manner is this? A white girl who keeps her word?”
Alys stiffened her spine before she responded, “I told you I would.”
He nodded. “So you did, white girl, so you did.”
The young Indian miss at his side didn’t seem as devoid of human emotion as her male counterpart, however, and she came up to Alys, hugging her profusely and saying something in a very strange tongue.
The lad translated, “She says something good will come to you.”
Alys nodded, smiling. Then it occurred to her. “She doesn’t speak English?”
“So she could not even understand the teacher?”
The boy remained silent, though when he gazed down at Alys, he suddenly smiled, the first cheerful emotion Alys had seen on his face. The action made him look younger still, innocent, and oh, so very handsome. Alys gaped at him, admiring his long dark hair that fell back from his face. The cooling breeze from the falls brought tiny droplets to his tanned skin; his dark eyes, surprisingly full of approval for her, watched her closely. Alys couldn’t help herself. Gazing back, she fell instantly under his spell.
Slowly, the boy took a piece of jewelry from around his neck. A round, single white shell dangled from a chain of bleached buckskin. He drew it over Alys’s head and settled it around her neck.
“Soka’pii, good.” His right hand signed the meaning of the word in a single gesture. “Looks good on you.”
With the tip of his finger, he tilted her face up toward his. “I will remember you always, young white girl, and what you have done for me and my sister.”
So, thought Alys, thè Indian girl was his sister. Pleased by the realization, she said, pointing to herself, “Alys.”
“Aa-lees,” the young lad rolled her name smoothly over on his tongue.
She pointed to him. “And your name is?”
He shook his head. “A warrior does not repeat his own name. To do so would be dishonorable.”
“But I would like to know…”
She was interrupted by the boy saying something to his sister, again in that strange tongue.
With a quick glance up at Alys, the Indian girl spoke, and, pointing to her brother, said, “Ki’somm-makoyi.”
“Ki’somm-makoyi,” Alys whispered. “That is your name?”
“What does it mean?”
“I cannot say.”
He took a deep breath, grinned at her slightly, then said, pointing to himself, “This one is called Moon Wolf.”
She smiled up at him. “Moon Wolf, I will never forget you.”
He stared into her eyes, his look serious, before he volunteered, “Come with us, young Aa-lees. Come with us and I promise that when we grow older, I will take you for wife and show you great honor for what you have done for us this day.”
Under any other circumstance, Alys might have chuckled, the thought absurd for one so young. Yet there was a somberness to his words that she couldn’t discount. “I cannot,” she replied, her voice sounding strangely adult. “I would bring you more trouble if I went with you. No one in the fort would rest until I was found.”
He inclined his head. “That is true. For a small girl, you speak with wise tongue. But still,” his chin shot up in the air, “no matter what others would do, I would honor you in this way.”
His words, or perhaps it was the pride in his manner, reached out to her, its effect on her profound, and she felt herself responding to the boy, tears of appreciation, maybe even joy, coming to her eyes. She said, “I cannot. My mother would miss me too much.”
He remained silent for many moments before he nodded at last. “So it will be,” he uttered, “but know that though you choose to stay behind, I will carry your image with me, here,” he held his hand to his heart, “for so long as this one should live.”
Alys stared. These were strong words, a powerful declaration, for a boy not much older than she, and Alys contemplated him in silence for several seconds, afraid to move lest she spoil the moment. Slowly, he brought his hand up to run his fingers over her cheek, his touch gentle; he reached up with one of his fingers to trace the path of her tears, before bringing that same finger to his own cheek. “And now,” he whispered, touching his face with her own tears, “a part of you is a part of me.”
He didn’t wait for her to respond. All at once, he turned and fled, disappearing with his sister down the rocks and into the countryside as though they belonged to it.
Alys fingered her cheek for what seemed an eternity, letting the warmth of the sunshine wash over her and dry her face. In the distance she could hear the birds sing, while closer at hand, she could smell the perfumed scent of the grasses and wildflowers. Lightly, the wind ruffled her hair, lifting her spirit gently upward until she felt herself becoming a part of all this, a part of the natural course of things.
She would never forget this, never forget him. She couldn’t.
Alys had become, in the space of a moment, infatuated: She had fallen in love. A love that would last her a lifetime, she thought, no matter the state of her youth. And in that instant, she knew she would never be the same.
This was what Ruth Smythers, wife of Reverend L.D. Smythers, wrote in 1894 in her advice book for husbands and wives. She went on to tell women that unbridled passion in bed even within marriage was seen as a dangerous pastime and should be avoided at all costs.
“Finding joy in the act and overindulgence can lead to cancer and other illnesses.”
“Refrain from having careers because working is vulgar and demeaning to husbands, declaring him incompetent and unable to provide.”
Furthermore, she instructed the wife to turn a blind eye if a husband strayed because that lifted her marriage burden.
These archaic ideas are too funny and definitely not what any of my characters adhere to. Nor did I.
Jack and Nora in Saving the Mail Order Bride (#2 of Outlaw Mail Order Brides) share a healthy marriage and view each other as equals even down to taking care of the children. Jack loves kids and sees Sawyer and Willow as his own and he adores Nora—even when she dyes his hair blonde.
In The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride (#1 of the series), Clay and Tally struggle to learn how to trust. Both had been betrayed so the lesson didn’t come easy. However, they have no trouble in bed. 🙂
In my years of living, which have been considerable, I have a little advice of my own. However, I don’t claim to be an expert. No, no.
But maybe I’ll do better than Ruth Smythers. Here we go:
Develop mutual respect and make it the cornerstone of your marriage.
Marriage is a partnership.
Share all aspects of your lives. Never keep secrets.
Share the chores and the care of the children.
Share the finances equally.
Never go to bed angry.
Find joy in being together and make time every day.
Have a date night each week or several times a month.
These are just a few things I’ve learned after two marriages. Okay, it’s your turn. What is your advice? I’ll give both books of my Outlaw Mail Order Brides series to one commenter.
In UNTAMED COWBOY, my heroine, Carina Lockett, is a cattle woman who owns the C Bar C Ranch. Unfortunately, she is blackmailed by the father of her precious daughter for a huge sum of money, her entire herd of cattle. To get her daughter back after she’s been kidnapped, Carina must drive the herd to Dodge City and pay the ransom with the sale money.
Enter Penn McClure, one of her ranch hands who has burning revenge for the man blackmailing Carina. Penn is only too happy to help Carina get to Dodge City and settle his score.
Now, my friends, cattle drives ain’t easy. All kinds of things can go wrong and usually do. One of the worst is a stampede.
You wouldn’t think animals weighing a thousand pounds each would get scared of the littlest thing, but they do. A rabbit, a fox, a coyote–or even the strike of a match on a quiet night–could spook the herd and send them running. And that’s exactly what happens in UNTAMED COWBOY.
Here’s an excerpt:
The cattle had turned themselves around and were heading south, losing the ground they’d gained all day. He had to get to the front of them and turn the leaders so the rest would follow. Their hooves hammered against the ground, surrounded him with a deafening roar. Dust clouded his vision, thickened in his throat, but he lay over the gelding’s neck and rode even faster.
In the moonlight, those three thousand head of wild-eyed, horn-swinging cattle were a dark mass of terrifying power. Penn hoped fervently none of the men would be trampled. Or gored. One wrong move, and it could happen. It’d be easy, so easy. Dangerous for anyone, but especially a woman…
He closed his mind to Carina Lockett, to the worry that she was out here with him and the rest of her outfit. He pressed on, at last passing the thundering longhorns. Moving in amongst them, he swung his bullwhip again and again, aware if his horse found a prairie dog hole, or a hidden ravine, he’d go down, stomped to his death by those heavy hooves.
Yelling, relentless, he fought to turn the animals into the center of the herd. Then, to the side of him, there was Woollie, Stinky Dale and Jesse, and damn it, the she-boss, too, lashing her quirt, as desperate as the rest of them to get her herd to shift direction.
Finally, finally, the cattle began to veer into a wide circle, changing their straight run into a giant wheel of heaving cowhide. The switch got them bellowing to one another in confusion, and relief flowed through Penn at the sound, a sign their stampede was nearing an end. Gradually, they slowed and shuddered to an exhausted halt.
Penn halted, too. Breathing hard, he vowed vengeance on the night-herders responsible. Orlin Fahey was one, and he’d better have one hell of a good reason for those steers to run like they did.
The stampede is a crucial point in the book and sends Penn and Carina’s relationship in a whole new direction. A romantic one, of course!
Like with most all disasters, someone was responsible, and I hope you’ll read UNTAMED COWBOY to learn more about the stampede that made all hell break loose for Penn and Carina.
Let’s Chat! Have you ever done something that created havoc?
Has someone in your family? Or a pet?
I’ll go first. This winter, while visiting my sister in New Mexico, our Golden Retriever had to potty at 2:00 am. I put him off for a solid hour, but by 3:00 am, the poor dog just had to go out. When I opened the door to their patio, their alarm system went off. Lights flashed and sirens peeled. Their dog barked. The kids got scared. My brother-in-law came running toward me in his underwear . . . I felt awful, and I was so embarrassed. Yikes!
Welcome! My name is Zina Abbott. I am pleased to have been invited as a guest blogger on Pistols & Petticoats today.
I have recently written two book for the series, The Widows of Wildcat Ridge. In my second book, Diantha, my character not only ends up taking over the Ridge Hotel in town after the death of her husband in a mining disaster that killed many townspeople, she also ended up taking over her late husband’s postmaster position. When readers first meet Diantha in my first book I wrote for the series, Nissa, she serves as the postmistress.
Before the Postal Reform Act of 1970, there was no United States Postal Service. Mail delivery in the United States was managed by the General Post Office Department, a federal agency based in Washington, D.C. The Post Office Department handled contracts for mail delivery, often awarding them to
freight train companies, stagecoach lines (think Butterfield and Wells &
Fargo, plus a host of one-man operations) and, later, railroads. Then there was that glorious year and a half where the freight company, Russell, Majors and Waddell, won the mail contract for the Pony Express.
Postmaster positions, however, were an entirely different matter. They were a “political plum.” Awarding postmaster positions was not controlled by the General Post Office Department. They were appointed by the local congressman for the district in which the city or town was located in recognition (payment) for either the support, both financial and other means, helping the congressman win election or achieve his political aims. Men awarded postmaster positions in large cities were guaranteed a nice salary and steady employment—at least while that congressman stayed in office. In smaller towns where the citizens’ involvement in a congressman’s career was less, the awards may have been tempered by the selections also being narrowed down to who had the facilities and ability to run a post office operation. Either way, for many years, awarding postmaster positions was one means a congressman had of rewarding those who either served their country well, or furthered the congressman’s political career.
I became aware of this when I started working for the United States Postal Service in 1980 as a relief carrier (think vacation and sick day coverage). The reform act did away with political patronage for postal positions. By the time I applied, I submitted an application to the USPS, took a test, was awarded a score based on the test results, and was called in for interviews based on my test scores.
However, I was hired to back up a man who had been hired as a rural carrier through political patronage. Like postmaster positions in his time, he submitted his application for the job to his local congressman, who took into consideration his military service, community service in addition to his political party. A second rural carrier in the office where I worked was also hired under the old rules of political patronage.
It is good to keep note that, back in the days of the old West, you might find a post office operation in a variety of businesses. Mercantile stores were good locations. Sometimes, a stagecoach business used a local hotel to pick up and drop off customers and the mail.
In my book, Diantha, Wells Fargo had its own business location. I used the hotel lobby for the local post office. Diantha, whose late husband had not involved her in either the hotel business or the post office operation prior to his death, figured once she notified the Post Office Department she was taking over her husband’s job to become the local postmistress, everything was settled. However, the local Utah Territorial Congressman had different ideas. It was his right to award the job as a reward for political support – and he did just that. Imagine how surprised Diantha, the Wells Fargo stagecoach employees, and the citizens of Wildcat Ridge were when Hank Cauley showed up in town and announced he was the new postmaster.
My two books in the series, The Widows of Wildcat Ridge, are written to be stand-alone novels. However, they do have several connections which readers will enjoy if they are read in order as a duet. Today I am offering a free ebook copy of my first book in the series, Nissa, to one person selected at random who leaves a comment in the comments section of this blog post.
Nissa and her two children used to live in the mine supervisor’s house before her husband was killed in the Gold King Mine disaster. Forced to leave, she is reduced to seeking a job washing the laundry for the Ridge Hotel. Dallin comes to Wildcat Ridge for a horse auction. Attracted to the lovely red-headed laundress, he decides he wants to leave Wildcat Ridge with more than new horses.
Hal, one of two wranglers working for Dallin, discovers the homely teller working for Crane Bank is hiding something—her beauty inside and out. He would like to take her back to the ranch where he works, but there is no place for her in a bunkhouse full of men. Birdie, hoping to earn enough to escape Wildcat Ridge and apply for a bank teller job in a large city, changes her mind after meeting the handsome wrangler.
To read the full book description and find the purchase link for Nissa, please CLICK HERE.
Diantha is forced to learn how to run a hotel and manage mail delivery after the death of her husband. Her world is turned upside down when a stranger shows up in town claiming to be the new postmaster. Hank’s business failed and he was forced to live with and work for his brother. Things look up when his brother uses his influence to get him a small postmaster position in Wildcat Ridge. However, he runs into trouble when the current postmistress is not willing to give up the job.
Buck, a wrangler who came to Wildcat Ridge for the horse auction with his boss, finds when he returns to the ranch, he cannot get that sassy, redhead, Hilaina, out of his mind. Hilaina is desperate to find a husband in a town full of widows, but will not leave Wildcat Ridge and her widowed mother behind.
To read the full book description and find the purchase link for Diantha, please CLICK HERE.
Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols
for her historical novels. A member of Women Writing the West, Western Writers of America, and American Night Writers Association. She currently lives with her husband in California near the “Gateway to Yosemite.”
When she is not piecing together novel plots, she pieces together quilt blocks.
I’ve always loved mail-order bride stories and am delighted to be currently writing one. My heroine has a good reason for taking a a chance on love, but what about the thousands of other women who’d left family and friends to travel west and into the arms of strangers?
Shortage of Men—and Women
The original mail-order bride business grew out of necessity. The lack of women in the west was partly responsible, but so was the Civil War. The war not only created thousands of widows and grieving girlfriends, but a shortage of men, especially in the south.
As a result, marriage brokers and “Heart and Hand” catalogues popped up all around the country. Ads averaged five to fifteen cents and letters were exchanged along with photographs.
According to an article in the Toledo Blade lonely men even wrote to the Sears catalogue company asking for brides (the latest such letter received was from a lonely Marine during the Vietnam War).
Marriage was thought to be the only path to female respectability. Anyone not conforming to society’s expectations was often subjected to public scorn. Also, many women needed marriage just for survival. Single women had a hard time making it alone in the East. This was especially true of widows with young children to support.
Women who had reached the “age” of spinsterhood with no promising prospects were more likely to take a chance on answering a mail-order bride ad than younger women.
Not Always Love at First Sight
For some mail-order couples, it was love (or lust) at first sight. In 1886, one man and his mail order bride were so enamored with each other they scandalized fellow passengers on the Union Pacific Railroad during their honeymoon.
Not every bride was so lucky. In her book Hearts West, Christ Enss tells the story of mail-order bride Eleanor Berry. En route to her wedding her stage was held up at gunpoint by four masked men. Shortly after saying “I do,” and while signing the marriage license, she suddenly realized that her husband was one of the outlaws who had robbed her. The marriage lasted less than an hour.
The mail-order business was not without deception. Lonely people sometimes found themselves victims of dishonest marriage brokers, who took their money and ran.
Some ads were exaggerated or misleading. Men had a tendency to overstate their financial means. Women, on the other hand, were more likely to embellish their looks. The Matrimonial News in the 1870s printed warnings by Judge Arbuckle that any man deceived by false hair, cosmetic paints, artificial bosoms, bolstered hips, or padded limbs could have his marriage nulled, if he so desired.
Despite all the things that could and sometimes did go wrong, historians say that most matches were successful.
No one seems to know how many mail-order brides there were during the 1800s, but the most successful matchmaker of all appears to be Fred Harvey. He wasn’t in the mail-order bride business, but, by the turn of the century, five thousand Harvey Girls had found husbands while working in his restaurants.
Under what circumstances might you have considered becoming a mail order bride in the Old West?