A Sydney Duck Doesn’t Quack

Question: What is a Sydney Duck?

Answer: Someone you wanted to avoid if you lived in San Francisco in the late 1840s.

In 1848, word of the California gold discoveries reached Sydney, Australia, and merchants there, recognizing an opportunity, began loading ships with goods to sell to the booming California population. A voyage took three to four months, which was considered a reasonable length of time to provide a return on their investment—particularly if the stories they heard were true.

The stories were true and by mid-1849 the rush from Sydney to the gold fields of California, to search for gold rather than sell goods, began. By the end of 1849, forty-eight ships had left Sydney for California. The people who traveled to California gold country tended to be older and Irish, and, of course, some were ex-convicts of the Australian penal colonies.

Gold mining, it turned out, was harder work than expected, and many of the Australian immigrants ended up becoming service people or tradesmen, such as dressmakers, washer women, shipwrights, longshoremen, sailors, bartenders or saloon keepers. Others became, or reverted to being, criminals.

Many Australians settled in Sydney Town, at the foot of Telegraph Hill, and the more criminally oriented residents formed a gang known as the Sydney Ducks. The Sydney Ducks specialized in arson and were allegedly responsible for several devastating fires between 1849 and 1851. They would light fires, then loot stores and warehouses while everyone was busy fighting the fire. They organized protection rackets in which business owners paid to not have their store burned or looted. They also engaged in robberies, murder and general mayhem, to the point that law enforcement officials refused to enter Sydney Town. The law-abiding Australian residents resented being linked to The Sydney Ducks by virtue of nationality, but there wasn’t much they—or anyone, it seemed—could do about the lawlessness. The fact that many of the city officials were either corrupt or incompetent did not help matters.

In 1851, that changed. In June of that year, the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance was formed with the specific intention of ending the Sydney Ducks’ reign of terror. The first “victim” of the vigilante committee was a man caught stealing a safe. He was chased down, caught, tried and hung within five hours. The vigilantes continued to conduct secret trials, followed by lynchings, or in some cases, deportations.

Eventually the Sydney Ducks had enough and faded away. There was a new gold rush going on—this one in Australia—and many of the surviving members of the Sydney Ducks returned home. By the 1880’s, Sydney Town had acquired a new name and another fierce reputation—it was now called The Barbary Coast.

Up, Up, and Away!

After a very long eighteen months of isolation that tried my very soul, this year I wanted to get away on July 4th. I wanted to go somewhere very special to celebrate being alive. I think many, many others had the same idea. So when a writer friend, Dee Burks, who lives in Raton, New Mexico urged me to come for their balloon festival, I didn’t hesitate.

Lord, I was glad I didn’t. It was the perfect getaway. Since this was much smaller than most of the festivals, it was very easy to get that coveted ride in a hot air balloon. There were only something like fourteen balloons—the perfect number.

The first morning, my friend and I got up around five so we’d have time to get ready and get to the pancake breakfast served by the Kiwanis Club. Cool mountain air. Lots of smiling faces.

   

It was after swallowing that last bite that Dee broke the news that we were going to have to crew a balloon called Any Way The Wind Blows that was piloted by Rick Moors of Albuquerque. The ground crew had to spreading the balloon out on the ground so the pilot could fill it with hot air.

Then I found out the balloon weighed 690 pounds!! It took some doing to lay it out. This is me trying my darndest. But, we made it.

The clouds went away and Pilot Rick gave my friend and I the first ride. I was excited and apprehensive and nervous but I climbed in and got a crash course in what to do if something went wrong. I had faith it wouldn’t though. We were far away from power lines and other obstructions.

Then we took off. There was no motion. I could not tell we were rising other than by looking at the ground. We were drifting higher and higher. This was our balloon.

It was quiet up there. And so beautiful. I took a picture of these horses down below. They didn’t even notice us.

We were up about twenty minutes or so then Pilot Rick set us down in a pasture. I have to say the landing was pretty rough but understandable since that thing has no brakes on it. My friend grabbed me or I would’ve fallen out of the basket.

I did it!! It was the ride of a lifetime and I had no regrets. I wasn’t a bit afraid.

After we climbed out, we discovered we had to fold the balloon up and we had already started by the time a four person chase team arrived. I saw every aspect up close and personal. Lord, I was exhausted by the time we finished for the day!!

The next day we went back, although not as excited, and after more pancakes helped out again. Thankfully, we had a little more help so it wasn’t as hard on us ladies.

But, my vacation wasn’t over. The second afternoon, we drove two thousand feet higher up to the top of Johnson Mesa and we found a little church that was built in 1879 by a small group of settlers who once lived up there. It looks like prairie land and not up almost 9,000 ft. A sense of utter desolation came over me and I wondered what lured anyone to that spot of ground. A little cemetery was across the road and inside the church was list of everyone buried there (a lot were children) as well as the names of the former residents.

     

It was such a lonely place I wanted to weep. Once the snows began, the people would’ve been completely cut off from the world with no way to get help or a doctor if they needed one. It sure put me in the right mindset for my next series about three sisters having to live away from everyone because of their father’s reputation.

Then, Dee drove us by the cemetery in Raton and told me that people have put solar lights on the graves and after sundown it’s all lit up. I wanted to see that but couldn’t stay awake for night. I got a picture of this little doe that was right by the cemetery. She was posing for me and not scared at all. Deer and bear wander all through town, into people’s yards and wherever else they take a notion.

Every so often we have these moments that fill us up and make us very grateful to be alive. This trip was that for me and I’m glad I could experience it.

Have you ever gone anywhere or done anything that was out of the ordinary? I’m giving away a $15.00 Amazon gift card to one commenter.

The Spirit of the Wolf on sale and E-book Giveaway

 

Good Morning!

Happy Tuesday!  Before I get into the blog today, would like y’all to know that THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF and also RED HAWK’S WOMAN are on sale for $.99 cents for a short time.  THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF is #2 in the series The Lost Clan and RED HAWK’S WOMAN is #3.

It’s a series of four books and each is related, but is a stand alone book.

THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF was a book written around and about the 200th year anniversary of the Lewis and Clark exposition.  And so, in honor of that exposition, I wrote a little about the game played at that time on all the Plains and by every tribe on the Plains — the game of Cos-coo, a game of chance and a game of war.

Sacagawea was won by the French trapper and trader, Charbonneau in a game of chance.  Charbonneau had been playing the game with a man who had five (I believe) wives.  Sacagawea was his youngest wife.  Interesting how this game of chance was to influence events that helped to found our country, isn’t it?

Cos-soo is a game played only by the men and it is played sometimes within one’s own tribe, but mostly it is played by men from enemy tribes.  It is a game of war.  No one is killed.  However, once embarked upon, the game is played until one or the other of the players is ruined utterly.  It can go on for days, breaking only to eat (not to sleep).  And, unless agreed upon before the game is begun, it is played until one player loses everything:  his lodge, his horses, his gun, his knives, his clothes and even his WIFE.  This is what happened in the life of Sacagawea.

And so, let me leave you with an excerpt from the book where the two players (one is the hero of the story) is playing in a desperate game of Cos-soo.

THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF

by

Karen Kay

The end of a curse hides behind a riddle—and the final clue in the heart of a woman.

The Lost Clan, Book 2

Grey Coyote stands on the knife edge of desperation. An ancient curse dooms his people to a half-life in the mists, neither living nor dead—unless he can solve a deceptively simple riddle. As time runs short, he’s sure the answer lies in beating a white trapper in a game of chance.

Among the trapper’s possessions, though, is a prize he never expected: A golden-haired woman as beautiful, delicate and stubborn as a prairie rose.

One moment Marietta Welsford is wondering how long it will take her hired guide to finish his game so she can hurry home to Rosemead, the English estate to which she hopes to lay claim. The next, she is abandoned with a man whose magnetism tugs at her body and soul, and makes her heart out-thunder the storm.

With so little time to lift the enchantment, Grey Coyote at first views Marietta as a trickster-sent distraction. But as sure as the star that guides him, it soon becomes clear she is the clue that could ultimately free his people…and capture his heart.

EXCERPT:

THE GAME OF Cos-soo

Cos-soo, sometimes called the game of the Bowl, was a common game known to the Indians on the plains—all tribes. A game of chance, it was played only by men, and the stakes were often desperate.

The rules of Cos-soo were as follows: Players used a wooden bowl slightly less than a foot long, highly polished with a rim of about two inches. The “dice” were not dice as we might think of them, but were instead common objects on the plains at this time. These small objects were assigned certain values.

The highest value went to the large crow’s claw—there was only one per game—which was painted red on one side and black on the other. When after a throw it was standing, it counted for twenty-five points (or sticks). The count was kept by sticks. It also counted for five on its side if the red side was up—and so a total of thirty points would go to the large claw, if it were standing. No points were given if the black side was up. If it wasn’t standing, it counted for only five.

Next were four small crow’s claws, also painted red on one side and black on the other. They counted for five if landed on the red side, and nothing if on the black.

Next there were five plum stones. These were white on one side and black on the other. If the black side was up, it counted four; if the white side was up, it counted for nothing.

Then there were five pieces of blue china—they were small and round. Blue side up was worth three points; white side counted as nothing.

Farther down the line were five buttons. The eye side up counted for two each, the smooth side for nothing.

And last there were five brass tack heads. The sunken side counted for one, the raised side as nothing.

Each man kept his opponent’s score, not his own, by means of handing his opponent a number of sticks equal to his throw. The sticks were kept in view so that all could see them. In the early 1800s Edwin Thompson Denig (a trader married to an Assiniboine woman) noted: “It has been observed in these pages in reference to their gambling that it is much fairer in its nature than the same as carried on by the whites and this is worthy of attention, inasmuch as it shows how the loser is propitiated so that the game may not result in quarrel or bloodshed…”

The game was often kept up for forty-eight to seventy-two hours without a break except for meals. And it was usually played until one or the other of the players was ruined totally.

Horses, guns, weapons, clothing and women were all stakes in these games. Again, Edwin Thompson Denig observed, “We have known Indians to lose everything—horses, dogs, cooking utensils, lodge, wife, even to his wearing apparel…”

 

CHAPTER TWO

The Minnetaree Village

A Permanent Indian Village of mud huts on the Knife River

Upper Missouri Territory—in what is today the State of North Dakota

Summer 1835

From the corner of his eye Grey Coyote watched the white man sneak a stick into line beside those that were already present, giving the white man eleven sticks instead of the ten he had won fairly.

So, the white man has no honor.

Grey Coyote raised a single eyebrow and cast a glance across the few feet that separated him from the white man, the man the Minnetaree Indians called the scout, LaCroix. LaCroix was French, as were many of the white men in this country. His face was pale and bearded, his hair long, dark and scraggly. His breath stank of the white man’s whisky, and his body smelled of dirt and grime.

None of this bothered Grey Coyote. In truth, he was smiling at the man, although the expression could hardly be called one of good humor. After a moment, Grey Coyote said, “Darkness has fallen again. We have been playing for longer than a full day now.”

LaCroix grunted.

“As you know, we are both guests here, in my friend’s lodge, in the Minnetaree village,” continued Grey Coyote. “And I would hardly be the cause of a fight if I could avoid it, for it would bring shame to our host, Big Eagle.”

Grunting again, LaCroix looked away. His gaze shifted from one object in the room to another, not centering on anything in particular, not even on the lovely white woman who reposed on one of their host’s beds in a corner of the hut.

As discreetly as possible, Grey Coyote let his gaze rest on that golden-haired beauty. He had never before seen a white woman, and to say that Grey Coyote was surprised at her appearance would have been an understatement.

He would have assumed the white man’s woman would be as unkempt and perhaps as hairy as her male counterpart. But this simply was not so. The woman was uncommonly pretty. Slim, small and curvy, with tawny hair that reached well to her waist, the woman’s coloring reminded him of a pale sunset—luminous, translucent, mysterious.

Her eyes were as tawny as her hair, like those of a mountain lion’s. Even at this distance, and despite the ever-growing darkness in the one-room hut, Grey Coyote could discern their color. It was a rare shade to be found here on the plains, where the eye colors of dark brown and black dominated.

Warming to his subject, he noted thoughtfully that the white woman’s skin was also quite fair, unblemished. Her cheeks were glowing, as pale and pink as the prairie rose. To his eye, she was a beautiful sight.

But she paid no heed to the people sharing this hut, not sparing so much as a glance at another being, except perhaps the Indian maid who appeared to serve her. In truth, the white woman seemed lost in her own thoughts.

Maybe this was best. From the looks of her, she might prove to be more than a mere distraction to him if he took a liking to her, something Grey Coyote could ill afford.

Slowly, Grey Coyote returned his attention to the matter at hand. The game of Cos-soo had been started a day ago, Grey Coyote being more than ready to gamble with this particular white man.

After all, LaCroix fit the description of the white man whom he sought. Perhaps this was the chance Grey Coyote awaited.

But to find the man cheating?

Clearing his throat, Grey Coyote spoke again. “I admit it is dark, growing ever darker as we sit here. I concede, too, that a good many hours have passed since we decided to begin this game, but do not think that because of this my eyes are so tired that they do not see.”

“What? What is it that monsieur insinuates?” asked LaCroix, his look incredulous.

Grey Coyote nodded toward LaCroix’s sticks with his forehead. “I am keeping track of the number of your sticks.” Grey Coyote raised one of his eyebrows. “There should be ten sticks that you hold, for as you see, you received ten points for your roll. Remember, you had lost all of your other sticks in the previous roll.”

“That is not true. I kept one stick that was left over from before. I should have eleven sticks, not ten.”

Grey Coyote’s stare was bold. “You lost the last bet.”

LaCroix’s eyes grew round, though he could still not match Grey Coyote’s direct gaze. “Is it true? I thought that… Oui, oui,” he blurted out, his words accompanied by a chuckle. “Ye are right. What was I thinking? I do not know how this other stick came to be here, for I had taken all my sticks away. Perhaps two sticks stuck together. Oui, I am sure that is it.”

Hau, hau,” said Grey Coyote, using the Assiniboine word for “yes”. “Let us hope that no other sticks see fit to stick together.” Grey Coyote once more nodded toward LaCroix, and reaching across the playing space handed LaCroix fifty sticks. “These are for my last roll.”

Oui, oui.” LaCroix accepted the twigs and commenced to set them out along the ground beside the two men.

Grey Coyote carefully watched the man at his work, not fooled by LaCroix’s attempt at sleight of hand. “Scout LaCroix, I gave you fifty sticks, the amount of my throw. But you have only set out twenty.”

“But, monsieur, I have done this because it is the number of sticks that is appropriate for your roll. Do ye see? Ye rolled five burnt sides, which is four points each, or twenty.”

Grey Coyote narrowed his brow. “You should look closely at the bowl. Do you not see that the big claw stands on end, red side up? As you and I know, that is worth thirty.”

“Is it standing? Surely you jest, monsieur, for I do not see the big claw stand on end.” LaCroix leaned over, as though to more carefully peer into the polished wooden bowl that was used to throw the dice. The man came so close to his target that he bumped into it, though it was surely no accident. The big claw—the one dice that garnered the highest points—fell to a different position. “Monsieur, you make a mistake. You see, the claw, it does not appear to be on end. However, if ye insist, I will take yer word that it landed that way, and will set out the extra thirty sticks.” His eyes didn’t quite meet Grey Coyote’s.

“Do not bother,” Grey Coyote spoke after a long pause. Though LaCroix’s actions more than alarmed him, Grey Coyote trained his features into a bland expression. He would let the incident pass. After all, it was not in his mind that he had to win everything that this man owned. All he needed was the possession, the one thing that would help Grey Coyote solve the riddle, though at present what that particular possession was escaped him. He said evenly, “We must both pay more attention in the future.”

Oui, oui, monsieur. And now, if ye insist, ye may have another turn, since ye believed that the big claw stood on end.”

Grey Coyote shrugged. “It is not necessary. I will give you the next roll.”

Oui, oui,” uttered LaCroix, and after picking up the bowl with four fingers placed inside its immaculately polished rim, he threw the dice up by striking the bowl on the ground.


Well, that’s all for today.  Please do leave a comment.  That’s all you need to do to enter into the drawing for a free e-book of your choice.  I look forward to hearing from y’all.

https://tinyurl.com/svyqbxt

The Grave of Douglas the Camel

Rachel Fordham

Our family recently travelled from Denver to Orlando, then up to the Outer Banks area of North Carolina and back to Denver making a giant loop. We stopped at historical sites all along the way and loved every minute of it (that’s not true, there were a few minutes of bathroom emergencies we could have done without and an encounter with fire ants that was less than pleasant).

In order to see as much as we could I planned ahead. This trip was three weeks and I wanted to make the most of it.

I found a road trip app that let me put in stops and map my route out (I got so much use out of this tool). Confession- I became slightly addicted to this app. It was so much fun! If you zoomed in on an area it would show you suggestions of things to see there and with one click you could add it to your route. Not only was this awesome for finding stops for our road trip, it was also fantastic for finding lesser-known pieces of history.

Today I want to tell you about Douglas the Camel (and his friends). I zoomed in near Vicksburg, Mississippi and discovered Ironclad ships, a coca cola museum and the Grave of Douglas the camel. Most people would have clicked the little x but wouldn’t read on, because who has time because who has time for a camel grave while on vacation, but I’m an author of historical novels and am always on the lookout for historical tidbits. So, I of course read more. Not only did I learn about Douglas who fought with the 43rd Mississippi Infantry, Company A (also known as the camel company), died in this battle and was rumored to have been eaten by Union soldiers but I went down a rabbit hole and discovered more.

Douglas the Camel

Jefferson Davies (before becoming the President of the Confederacy) was Secretary of War for the U.S. and he gathered funding to have camels shipped to the US for use in the conflicts in the southwest and for exploration. The idea was that they would do better on long journeys and in areas with less water. The experiment was granted funding and soon camels were brought from the Mediterranean and North Africa. To the founders of the project’s dismay, they proved unmanageable and spooked the horses. Essentially the project failed and the camels were sold at auctions to work in circuses and in mines (among other things). Some even were let go and roamed the American southwest for years.

My imagination has been running since learning about Douglas (one of the few camels to actually fight in the civil war). I’ve been wondering about the other camels, and ideas of camels and cowboys have been running through my brain like a stampede.

A lot of my story ideas start with a trigger moment. One tour of an old post office and Yours Truly, Thomas started percolating. One mention of orphan trains and The Hope of Azure Springs niggled its way into the forefront of my brain. One viewing of Blossoms in the Dust and I wanted to write A Life Once Dreamed and one handsome dentist husband led me to writing A Lady in Attendance.

Will Camels meandering across the American southwest become a story? I don’t know, but I love that I now know about Douglas and the failed camel experiment that left these hardy desert animals behind!

Rachel Fordham is the author of The Hope of Azure Springs, Yours Truly, Thomas, and A Life Once Dreamed. Fans expect stories with heart, and she delivers, diving
deep into the human experience and tugging at reader emotions. She loves connecting with people, traveling to new places, and daydreaming about future
projects that will have sigh-worthy endings and memorable characters. She is a busy mom, raising both biological and foster children (a cause she feels passionate
about). She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.

Today, Rachel is giving away a signed copy of A Lady in Attendance. To be entered in the random drawing answer this question–What’s the most interesting or unusual historical fact you’ve discovered on a vacation or when reading?

Get your copy of  A Lady in Attendance HERE.

Links:

Website    Instagram: @rachel_fordham

Facebook.com/rachelfordhamfans

 

 

Horsepower – History and Trivia

 

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Last moth I did a post on the Transcontinental Railroad. While I was doing my research I came across a little footnote on the term horsepower, one of those little trivia nuggets that led me down a rabbit trail. Today I thought I’d share the results of that little research sidetrack.

The concept of horsepower was created in the eighteenth century by a man named James Watt. And believe it or not, it was created as a last ditch marketing gimmick.

In the 1760s, Watt was tasked with repairing a defective steam engine. But Watt was an enterprising inventor and noted some inefficiency problems with the overall design that he thought he could correct.

So instead of completing his assigned task, Watt created a new and improved steam engine that was far and away better than anything on the market at that time. However he had trouble finding any customers willing to give his product a try. The problem was, previous steam engines had failed, in sometimes spectacular ways, making folks unwilling to replace their familiar and reliable horses with yet another version of the engine.

But Watt was not one to give up easily. He decided the answer to his marketing problem was to come up with a unit of measure that would allow him to compare his engine to horses. He poured a lot of time and thought into how he would do this. Watt eventually came up with a unit of measure that was defined as the power exerted by a single horse to move 33,000 pounds of material one foot in one minute. He dubbed this unit of measure the horsepower.

 

His calculations went something like this: He had observed ponies at a coal mine and  figured out that on average the animals were able to move 220 pounds of product over a mineshaft 100 feet long in one minute. By his calculation, that was equivalent to 22,000 pounds over one foot in one minute. Then he made one additional tweak to his calculation – he figured a horse could do 50 percent more work than a pony, thus his new horsepower measurement would equal 33,000 foot-pounds of force per minute.

As you can see, the manner in which he computed his horsepower measurement was not truly scientific, nor was it entirely accurate, but the important thing to Watt was that it gave him a method to convey the power of his engine in a manner people could visualize. Armed with this new way of measuring his engine’s power, he claimed his machine had the power of ten horses, in other words ten horsepower. It worked – people were receptive to this new way of looking at his engine and so were willing to reconsider the value of his machine.  This tactic proved so successful that his competitors began using horsepower in their advertisements and sales pitches too.  And this unscientific measurement that was developed as a marketing tactic is still in use today, more than 240 years later.

A couple of additional bits of trivia

  • Because of The Watt Engine’s rapid incorporation into many industries, many consider the Watt engine to be one of the defining developments of the Industrial Revolution.
  • James Watt was later recognized for his contributions to science and industry, the unit of power in the International System of Units, the watt, was named for him.
  • An actual horse’s peak power has been measured at  just under 15hp. However, for prolonged periods of time, the average horse can’t deliver even one horsepower.

There you have it, a short accounting of what I discovered about the origins of the term horsepower. So what do you think, did any of the information in this post surprise you?  Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a copy of any of my backlist books.

GRAY HAWK’S LADY, 25th Anniversary Edition Excerpt & Give-Away

Howdy!

Welcome to another terrific Tuesday.  Well, GRAY HAWK’S LADY has just been re-released for its 25th Year Anniversary Edition.  Although it is not yet in paperback, we hope to have it up and ready for sale soon.  Once it’s published again in paperback, it will be about 25 years since it was in print.

Meanwhile, the e-book is on sale right now for $4.99 at Amazon.  It’s also on Kindle Unlimited, so you can read it for free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.

Isn’t this a beautiful cover?  It’s quickly becoming one of my favorites.

When a 25th Year Anniversary Book is released, it’s gone through another series of editing.  When the original mass market paperback books were put into e-book format, I didn’t realize how many errors can be made on the conversion.  And so slowly, one by one, we’re re-editing them and getting them released again.  One of the wonderful things we’re doing is putting back in the original maps.  These are special because they were drawn by my then teen-aged daughter, Trina.  And so getting the maps put back in them is exciting for me.

This book is also special for me because I met and married my husband while I was writing this book, which makes this a very, very special book for me.

I’ll be giving away an e-book of this today for a lucky blogger, so do please leave a comment.

I’ll leave this here with the synopsis for the book and an excerpt.

Hope you’ll enjoy!

GRAY HAWK’S LADY

BY

KAREN KAY

Different worlds, one heart.

Blackfoot Warriors, Book 1

 

When Lady Genevieve Rohan joins her father in the farthest reaches of the American West, she expects to bring a bit of genteel English charm to his dry, academic existence. Instead, she finds her father desperately ill, and it’s up to her to finish his study of the Indian and publish his work—or face the wrath of his creditors.

Her troubles mount when the men hired to capture a member of the Blackfoot tribe don’t bring her a docile maid to study. They present her with a magnificent warrior—proud, outrageously handsome and simmering with fury at the loss of his freedom.

The white woman is beautiful beyond compare, but Gray Hawk can’t think past his plan to exact revenge against this meddling foreigner. It’s ridiculously easy to escape, then turn the tables and take her captive. When anger turns to passion, then to love, he embarks on a new quest. To claim the stubborn, red-headed vixen as his own.

Yet as their hearts strain toward each other, pride conspires to pull them apart…unless they can each find a way for their hearts to become one.  

 

 

Why didn’t the savage look away? And why didn’t he join in the laughter? Laughter the others in his tribe were enjoying…at her expense.

Genevieve shuddered and glanced away from the window, her gaze catching on to and lingering over the simple, hand-carved furniture that had been given to her for her “use.”

The room was clean, but that was all it was.

There was nothing in the room to recommend it—no feminine touches here and there, no lacy curtains to cushion the windows, no crystal or china to brighten each nook and cranny, no tablecloths, no rugs…no white women, period. Except for her.

She groaned.

She had thought, when she and her father had reached St. Louis, that she had come to the very edge of civilization, but she had been wrong. At least there, she and her father had been able to rent a house where they had enjoyed all the comforts to which they were both accustomed.

But here, away from any sort of civilization, she felt destitute.

Genevieve sighed, her white-gloved hand coming up to bat at a fly hovering around her face.

“Robert,” she spoke out. He bent toward her where she sat at the crude wooden table at one side of the room, and said, “Go ask Mr. McKenzie if there is any truth to the rumor that these Blackfoot Indians are leaving today. Oh, and Robert,” she added as her manservant rose to do her bidding, “please ask Mr. McKenzie if those two half-breed trappers I met yesterday are still in residence at the fort, and if they are, please tell him that I wish to see those men at once.”

Robert nodded, and, as he set off to carry out her wishes, Lady Genevieve turned back toward the window and looked out at the Indians, her gaze riveted by the dark, ominous regard of that one mysterious Indian man, but only for a moment.

She averted her glance, a certain amount of healthy fear coursing through her.

And why not? These Indians, though dignified enough in their savage appearance and dress, wielded enough untamed presence to instill terror into the hearts of even the most stouthearted of trappers and traders.

A shiver raced over her skin, the sensation bringing with it…what? Fear? Assuredly so. She had been gently raised. And yet…

She lowered her lashes, again studying the Indian in question, her head turned away and her hat, she hoped, hiding her expression. The man stood there among his peers, all ten or eleven of them. All were here at the fort to trade; all had come to this room to see—what the interpreter had said they called her—the mad white woman.

But none of the other Indians affected her like this one Indian man. He, alone, stood out; he, alone, captured her attention. Why?

Perhaps it was because he was too handsome by far, primitive and savage though he might be.

Was that it? She concentrated on him again. Perhaps it was the energy that radiated from him…maybe….

She tried to look away, to fix her gaze on something else, someone else, but she found she couldn’t. No, she examined him more fully.

He wore a long skin tunic or shirt, generously adorned with blue and white geometric designs. His leggings fell to his moccasins, and everywhere, at every seam and extending down each arm and the length of his tunic and the leggings themselves, hung scalp locks, hair taken from the human head. Though black was the main color of those locks, now and again she saw a blond or brown swatch of hair: white man’s hair. It made her shiver just to think of it.

The Indian’s own black mane hung loose and long, the front locks of it extending well down over his chest. His eyes were dark, black, piercing, and he seemed to see past her guard and defenses, peering into her every thought. In truth, she felt as though he glimpsed into her very soul.

Genevieve tossed her head and looked up, the brim of her fashionable hat sweeping upward with the movement. She tried to pretend she hadn’t been staring, hadn’t been inspecting. It was useless, however.

Had she but known, the sunlight, pouring in from the open window right then, caught the green chiffon of her hat, accentuating the color of it. And her hair, the auburn-red locks of it, glowed with a health and vitality equally appealing, and there wasn’t a savage or civilized gaze in the place that didn’t note the lady’s every move, her every expression. She, however, tried not to notice theirs.

She forced herself to look away…from him. She didn’t want to think about him. She needed to concentrate on her own purpose for being here. She hadn’t made such a long, grueling journey to sit here and gawk at one Indian man, compelling though he might be.

She had to find some Indian child or maiden here, now, today, willing to come back with her to St. Louis. She must.

She would not accept defeat.

It should have been a simpler task than it was turning out to be. Hadn’t she made it plain that she meant no harm to these people? That she and her father would only detain the person for a few months?

Hadn’t she told these people that she would return the person who volunteered back to their tribe at the end of that time, handsomely rewarded?

She had thought, back there in St. Louis, to lure one of the Indians with a trinket or two, a gown, a necklace for the women, money—anything, but some treasure no one could ignore. It should have been simple.

She had reckoned, however, without any knowledge of the dignity of the tribe in residence here at the fort: the Piegan or Pikuni band of the Blackfeet.  It was a grave miscalculation on her part.

If only she had been more prepared to offer them something they might consider valuable. But how could she have known this?

Wasn’t this the problem? No one knew the Blackfoot Indians.  It was this fact and this fact alone that made her father’s manuscript so valuable.

Genevieve sighed. It got worse.

She had such a short time in which to work, too. Only today and perhaps tomorrow.

She had tried to convince Mr. Chouteau, the part-owner and captain of the steamship, to stay at Fort Union a little longer. She had argued with him, using every bit of feminine guile that she possessed, but to no avail. He had remained adamant about leaving on his scheduled date.

The river was falling, he’d said. He had to get his steamship, the Yellow Stone, back to St. Louis before the Missouri fell so low that the ship would run aground.

It was not what she wanted to hear.  It meant she had only a few days to accomplish her ends. It also meant that she might be facing failure.

No, she would not allow herself to fail.

“Milady.” Robert materialized at her side, his large frame blocking out the light as he bent down toward her. “Mr. Kenneth McKenzie says the Indians are preparing to leave on a buffalo hunt and will most likely be gone by tomorrow. I have taken the liberty of arranging for the two trappers that you seek to come here to see you.” Robert seemed to hesitate.  “Milady, might I offer a word of caution?” he asked, though he went on without awaiting her reply. “The two men that you seek are known to be scoundrels. It has also been said of them that they have often been dishonest in their dealings with the trading post here as well as with Indians. It is my opinion that you would do well to—”

“What else am I to do?” Lady Genevieve interrupted, though she spoke quietly. “Robert,” she said, not even looking at him, “you know the dire circumstances of this venture. How can I possibly go back to St. Louis with nothing to show for my journey? And worse, how could I ever face my father again? You know that his condition is even more delicate now. If I were to fail…”

“But, milady, surely there must be another way besides dealing with these trappers.”

Genevieve raised her chin. Focusing her gaze upon Robert, she said, “Name one.”

Robert opened his mouth, but when he didn’t speak, Genevieve once again glanced away.

“You see,” she said, “even you know it is true, though you won’t say it. There is no other way. Mr. Chouteau keeps telling me that the steamship is to leave tomorrow or the next day. I must be on it, and I must have an Indian on board, too. I wish it were different. I truly wish it were. You must know that if I could change things, if I could make them different, I would.” She paused. “I cannot.”

Robert stared at her for a moment before he finally shook his head, but he offered no other advice.

Genevieve said, “I will see the two gentlemen as soon as they arrive. Please ensure, then, that they are shown to me immediately.”

“Yes, milady,” Robert said, rising. He stood up straight, and, as Genevieve glanced toward him, she was certain that her trusted bodyguard stared over at the Indian, that one Indian man.

But the Indian’s menacing black gaze didn’t acknowledge Robert at all. Not in the least. No, the Indian stared at her. Only at her.

Genevieve rose to her feet, averting her eyes from the Indian, although in her peripheral vision she noted every detail of the man. She shook her head, intent on shifting her attention away.

And then it happened. Despite herself, she turned her head. Despite herself, she slowly, so very leisurely, lifted her gaze toward his.

Her stomach fell at once, and the two of them stared at one another through the panes of glass for innumerable seconds.

She knew she should look away, but she couldn’t. She watched the man as though she wished to memorize his every feature, as though she needed the memory for some time distant, to be brought to mind again and again. And as Genevieve kept the man’s steady gaze, she felt her breathing quicken.

Suddenly he smiled at her, a simple gesture. It should have had no effect on her whatsoever.

But it did, and Genevieve felt herself go limp.

All at once, as though caught in a storm, her senses exploded. Her heartbeat pounded furiously, making her bring her hand up to her chest.

And, even as she felt herself beginning to swoon, she wondered why she was reacting so. One would think she had never before caught a man’s smile, had never before seized the attention of one simple man.

She heard Robert calling her name, and she breathed out a silent prayer of thanks for the interruption. She shut her eyes, which proved to be her only means of defense, and, taking as many deep breaths as she could, tried to steady the beating of her heart.

“Lady Genevieve.” She heard Robert call to her again.

“Yes, Robert, I’ll be right there.” Her voice sounded steady, though she hadn’t been certain she would be able to speak at all.

She opened her eyes, but she didn’t dare glance at the Indian again. She couldn’t risk meeting his gaze even one more time. And so she turned away from him, walking as swiftly as possible from the spot where she had been so recently seated, her silky gown of lace and chiffon whispering over the crude wooden floor as though it alone protested her departure.

She would never see the man again, never think of him again; of this she was certain. But even as this thought materialized, another one struck her with an even greater force: she fooled herself.

She would think of him, perhaps too often, over and over again, and in the not-too-distant future. She wouldn’t be able to help herself.

She knew it. Truly the Indian was a magnificent specimen of man. Yes, that was the right word. Impressive, splendid.

Utterly, completely and without question magnificent.

 

https://tinyurl.com/qtl7hsu

A Navajo Hex and Giveaway

When I was nine years old, I lived on the Navajo Indian Reservation. My dad, who has long had a deep and abiding respect for Native Americans, saw this as a chance to give back with his life, so he took a job as an accountant with an arts and crafts store in Window Rock, Arizona—capital of the Navajo Nation. We obtained a house just across the border in New Mexico, in a small town aptly called “Navajo,” supported by a local sawmill. It was 1975.

Navajo, New Mexico (photo taken by author)

One day at one of the stores that employed my father a worker found a Styrofoam cup tucked away on a shelf. Inside were various items that included a torn corner of a $5, $10 and $20 bill. It was immediately clear to those who discovered it that a hex had been placed. Soon thereafter, a medicine man was called. Since it involved all the employees, my dad was allowed, despite being a white man, to participate in the ceremonies conducted.

 

Window Rock, Arizona (photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

At the first ritual, the medicine man found a buried pot outside the building at the base of the famous local landmark, the window rock. This was accomplished when his hand trembled over the exact location. On the outside of the pot, stick figures represented the employees, and lightning bolts painted above indicated death by lightning strike. At the time, we were having terrible storms every day. Inside were pieces of coral, turquoise, and silver, and a section of human skull.

At the second ceremony, a bowl filled with some type of tea was passed around to ingest, and then each employee was asked to look into a crystal to identify who had placed the hex. My dad says he saw nothing, but it was generally agreed that the perpetrator was a former employee who had been fired. She was part of a major Navajo clan, and her dismissal had possibly angered the wrong people. But the curse spoke of deeper problems within the Navajo and their way of life. The crafts people—those who made Indian jewelry and the iconic Navajo weavings—were at odds with the administration, which included my dad. There were those who wanted progress, and those who didn’t. At the conclusion of the ceremony, after a sand painting was created, the piece of skull inside the pot was burned. Two female employees reported instant relief from a terrible headache that had plagued them all evening. Back at home, at the same time, my mother said I’d been distraught and crying for hours from pains in my head, which immediately stopped when the bone was destroyed. It seemed family members had also been included in the hex.

My dad never attended the third, and final, observance—the Blessing Way—because we had moved back to Phoenix. He has always joked that the hex was never fully removed. As evidence, he cites various mishaps that occur whenever he and my mother return to the Navajo Reservation: car breakdowns, money stolen, and in one instance missing a critical turnoff because five Indians stood in front of a directional sign.

In my recently re-released standalone historical western novel INTO THE LAND OF SHADOWS, I included the hex in the story. Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy.

It’s been five years since a woman came between Ethan Barstow and his brother, Charley, and it’s high time they buried the hatchet. When Ethan travels to Arizona Territory to make amends, he learns that Charley has abruptly disappeared after breaking more than one heart in town. And an indignant fiancée is hot on his trail.

When Charley Barstow abandons a local girl after getting her pregnant, Kate Kinsella pursues him without a second thought. She’s determined he set things right, and even more determined to end her own engagement to him, a sham from the beginning. But an ill-timed encounter with a group of ruffians lands her in the company of Charley’s brother, Ethan, who suggests they search together.

As Ethan and Kate move deeper INTO THE LAND OF SHADOWS, family tensions and past tragedies threaten to destroy a love neither of them expected.

A sensuous historical western romance set in 1893 Arizona Territory. Into The Land Of Shadows is a stand-alone, full-length novel with paranormal elements.

This book was previously published in 2013 under the same title. While the text and cover have been updated, the story remains the same.

Read Chapter One and find buy links at https://kmccaffrey.com/into-the-land-of-shadows/

So, have you or anyone you know ever had any experience with hexes? Ever read about any in books?

Kristy McCaffrey writes contemporary adventure stories packed with smoldering romance and spine-tingling suspense, as well as award-winning historical western romances brimming with grit and emotion. Her work is filled with compelling heroes, determined heroines, and her trademark mysticism. An Arizona native, she resides in the desert north of Phoenix.

Website:  https://kmccaffrey.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKristyMcCaffre

 

 

 

Texas Ranger Museum

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Waco with my daughter was visiting the Texas Ranger Museum. If you love westerns, this is the place to go. The guns alone were spectacular. I don’t own guns, nor do I like them outside of my stories, but seeing these centuries-old weapons in pristine condition was a researcher’s dream. I especially loved seeing the guns I’ve described in my stories close-up.
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Reading the stories of the early Rangers and their amazing bravery and skill made me feel like Matthew Hanger and his Horsemen would’ve felt right at home.
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The most interesting tidbit I learned was that most 19th century Rangers did not wear badges. The state did not provide them, so a Ranger would have to purchase his own. Instead, a Ranger carried his credentials in paper form – A Warrant of Authority and Descriptive List. It provided proof of his authority along with a physical description. I couldn’t help but wonder what could have happened if a Ranger’s credentials were stolen. Especially if he were killed and unable to report it. Could make for an interesting plot twist in a book someday.
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Scattered throughout the museum were a collection of small bronze statues depicting western scenes and lawmen. I loved these! I snapped pictures of three of my favorites. The first is a Texas Ranger standing proud and ready to do battle. The second made me smile. It’s titled Free Legal Advice and it shows a man on horseback stopping to jaw with a professional man in a buggy. The third is my favorite. Nothing touches my heart more than a tough man holding a baby. In this statue titles Compassion, a man in buckskin cradles an infant. It makes my mind whirl with story possibilities. And reminds me a bit of my upcoming story The Heart’s Charge, where two of my Horsemen find a newborn and have to deliver her on horseback to a foundling home several miles away.
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Me with my dangerous finger pistols posing with a hero of the west.

There were more modern displays in the museum as well, starting with Frank Hamer, the Texas Ranger who tracked down and killed Bonnie and Clyde in the 1930s, and moving into contemporary times.

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Visiting this hall of fame made me think of all the old westerns I would watch growing up. Especially shows like the Rifleman. But it also made me think of the two most famous fictional ranger heroes.
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If you had to pick one favorite fictional ranger, which would you choose?
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HAPPY 25th ANNIVERSARY TO US!

Howdy!

It’s my husband’s and my 25th anniversary today!!

So, I thought we might talk about love today, and, if you will bear with me, I thought I’d tell you a bit about my own very personal story of finding love with my husband, Paul.  The year was 1995 — late in the year — and my third book, PROUD WOLF’S WOMAN had recently been turned in to AVON/HarperCollins for editing.  As I awaited the editing process, my attention went to another story and I had begun work on that.  That story is GRAY HAWK’S LADY.

My own tale of finding love again began with a kiss.  But let me backtrack.  I had in 1992-1993 gone through a divorce and had come back to California, because at that time I had considered California my home, although I wasn’t born there.  Unfortunately for me, I jumped right into a relationship that was very bad for…many reasons.  After that relationship, I wanted nothing to do with men, love, marriage again.  Sigh…and here I was a romance writer.

So I was on my own and definitely enjoying being on my own.  One of my best friends (whom I have known and loved since 1970) was pushing me to go on a blind date.  I didn’t want to go and told her I wanted nothing to do with men, relationships, marriage, dating…nothing….

But she insisted and I found my self consenting to one date.  That was in January of 1996.  GRAY HAWK’S LADY was due to my publisher (AVON) in July of 1996, but I had plenty of time to write it and had, indeed, started writing it when I went on this first date.

So off I went on this first ever in my life blind date.  (I believe it was Paul’s first blind date, also.)  The gentleman (Paul) picked me up at my house and I noticed he was wearing cowboy boots, and, since I am interested in the West and Cowboys and Indians, this was great.  He was also born and raised in Montana, and I was very interested in Montana because the story of GRAY HAWK’ S LADY was to take place in Montana.

The date was good, but perhaps a little conservative.  I think I was a little stand-offish.  (Remember I wanted nothing to do with men, romance, marriage.)  We went out to eat, but I was left with the impression that he wasn’t really interested in me.  So, I put it behind me.  He never called during the week that followed, never asked me back out and never told me what was happening and so eventually, just to end my wondering about it, I called my friend, told her I was sorry it hadn’t worked out and … well, “so long” sort of thing.  To my surprise she wouldn’t let it go — I had just wanted to put it behind me.  She said, “Oh, no, he’s really interested in you.”  and I said, “Oh, no, I don’t think so.  Let’s just relegate that date to the past and we’ll just get on with our lives” …or something like that.  And she said, “No, I’m sure he really liked you.”

I had no idea that she would call his brother.  I am told that they talked, and that the upshot of it was that Paul then called me and asked me for another date.  Well, it had been a good first date, I thought, and he was a nice gentleman and perhaps we could be friends.  So I accepted.

Goodness!  Little did I know what was in store.  On the second date, we were both more relaxed, held hands, and I thought, okay, we’ll be friends.  He took me home, walked me to the door and just as I was about ready to go inside, he took me in his arms and kissed me.  Now, this was quite some kiss.  He meant it. And I became very aware he meant it.   His hands caressed my cheeks, my eyes, my face, my hair, my neck. It went on and on and on, and when he was done, I felt as though my world were spinning — but in a good way.  Afterwards I stared at him and for the first time, thought to myself, “Who is this man who can make me pay attention to him with no more than a kiss?”

Well, that was that.  We had a date the next week, and within 2-3 weeks, I had moved in with him and we were married in May 1996.  Our first date was February 3rd 1996.  So it definitely was a whirlwind romance.

Now you may be wondering what this has to do with the book, GRAY HAWK’S LADY.  Well, a lot, I’m afraid.  As I mentioned earlier, I was in the middle of writing that book, and I fell so deeply in love with this man, who is now my husband, that of course that love was written all over the printed pages of GRAY HAWK’S LADY.  That first kiss and my emotional reaction to it is recorded in that work.  Also, my gradual coming to understand that this man was the most important man in my life is in that book.  His calmness, his teasing, his care…it’s all written there as I fell head over heels in love.  Interestingly, I’ve recently had the occasion to read the book again, as it will be coming out soon in the 25th Anniversary edition of the book, and I was reminded while reading the book how much I fell in love with this man.  As I was reading it, I said to my husband that all the love I felt for him is in that book.  Indeed, I think the character of Gray Hawk underwent a change in personality and became more and more the personality of the man I love.

Interestingly, I still have the pictures of our wedding on my website http://www.novels-by-KarenKay.com — can not bring myself to take them down, even though it’s 25 years later.  People sometimes write to me and congratulate me on my recent marriage — and I smile.  To me, in many ways, it does seem like a recent marriage, as I fall in love with this man all over again every day.

I’ll tell you true that I love this man with all my heart — and as the years have gone by, that love does not diminish; it grows and grows and grows.   He stole my heart with that first kiss.  (I’ll knock on wood here.)  As the — gee, was it the Ronettes who once sang the song, “And Then He Kissed Me,” —  it has always seemed to me that it started with that kiss.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog today and I hope you’ll come in and leave a message.  I would love to hear about your own personal love stories.

To the left here is the e-book cover of GRAY HAWK’S LADY, but, as I said, it’s going to be coming out fairly soon as a 25th Year Anniversary book so instead of giving this book away, I’ll be giving away a paperback copy of the book, THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR.

And please remember to check back on Wednesday or Thursday evening to see if you are a winner!

Happy Anniversary to the man I love!

 

The Transcontinental Railroad

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. According to my This Day In History Calendar, today is the 152nd anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad (May 10, 1869), an event that had a profound effect on everything from commerce to the environment of this country.

So today I thought I’d share a bit of history and trivia around this event.

First a timeline of key events:

  • 1832 – Dr. Hartwell Carver made his first push for construction of a railroad to connect the east coast to the west coast. That proposal didn’t make it through, but Dr. Carver didn’t give up and over the next several years continued to write articles supporting his proposal.
  • 1853 – Congress commissions a survey of 5 possible routes. These were completed by 1855
  • 1862 – The Pacific Railroad Bill signed by Abraham Lincoln. The act offered government incentives to assist “men of talent, men of character, men who are willing to invest” in developing the nation’s first transcontinental rail line.
  • 1863 (Jan) – The Central Pacific Railroad breaks ground in Sacramento. They lay the first rail in October of that same year.
  • 1863 (Dec) – The Union Pacific Railroad breaks ground in Omaha. But because of the Civil War it isn’t until July of 1865 that the first rail on the eastern end is laid.
  • 1869 – Transcontinental Railroad completed

Now on to some other Interesting facts and trivia:

  • The railroad line followed a route similar to that used as the central route of the Pony Express primarily because this route had been proven navigable in winter.
  • There were two main railroad companies involved in constructing the historic line. The Central Pacific Railroad received the contract to construct the line from Sacramento to points east. The Union Pacific Railroad was awarded the contract  to forge the path from Council Bluffs, Iowa west. As noted above, construction began in 1862 and in the early days the place where the two legs would meet up and become one was not decided.
  • As the project neared completion, President Ulysses Grant set Promontory Point Utah as the place where the two rails would meet. On May 10, 1869, the final spike was driven and the Transcontinental Railroad was deemed complete.
  • The final spike driven is often called the Golden Spike. However the spike was actually gold plated, a solid gold spike would have been much too soft to drive into the rail.
  • The total length of the rail line was 1,776 miles. 1086 miles was laid by the Union Pacific crew and 690 miles by Central Pacific. At the time of its completion it was one of the longest contiguous railroad in the world
  • The chosen route required 19 tunnels to be drilled through the mountains. This was no easy task during this time period and it managed to push forward barely a foot per day. Even when  nitroglycerin was introduced to blast through the rock it only increased their progress to 2 feet per day.
  • When completed, the Transcontinental Railroad allowed passengers to cross the country in just one week as opposed to the four to six months it had taken before.
  • The fare to travel from Omaha to San Francisco was $65 for a third class bench seat, $110 for a second class seat and $136 if you wanted to ride first class in a Pullman sleeping car.

And there you have it, a short and sweet lesson on the Transcontinental Railway. So what about you, do you have any experience with trains and railways you’d like to share? If not, would you like to ride a train someday?

My only personal experience was on a vacation to the Grand Canyon – we road the train from Williams AZ to the south rim, a trip of about 2 hours. It was a really fun addition to our vacation experience.

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a choice of any book from my backlist.