I’ve wanted to write a Valentine’s story for years, and was lucky enough to do so before my beloved Harlequin Western Romance line closes this year. WRANGLING CUPID’S COWBOY is not only a holiday romance, it has allowed me to share my fascination with the age-old art of farriering.
Many moons ago, I worked on a large reining horse ranch in Northern New Jersey. Up until that point I had always thought of farriers as people who trimmed hooves and put shoes on horses. I hadn’t realized that many farriers work alongside equine veterinarians and provide therapeutic and corrective shoeing to horses suffering from hoof disorders, trauma, neglect and other injuries.
The reddish orange glow of our resident farrier’s forge drew me in and I became captivated watching him precisely sculpt each shoe with what seemed like the most primitive of tools. From the first rise of steam when the shoe met the horse’s hoof, I knew I wanted to write a farrier story. Back then I had always assumed it would be about a male farrier because that’s all I had ever heard about. Years later, I moved to the deep south and discovered most of the farriers in my area are women. The story idea once again began to rattle around in my brain, but I hadn’t given it the attention it deserved until I stumbled across a photo of country singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves with her horse Mismo. The name Delta Grace immediately sprung to mind and I knew I had my female farrier. I just needed a rugged family man to round out my story…and like a sign from above, singer Luke Bryant began playing on the radio. The man epitomizes family and I had all the inspiration I needed to write WRANGLING CUPID’S COWBOY. While this is by far my most heart wrenching story to date, it was one of my favorites to write. I hope you enjoy reading it.
FALLING HEAD OVER BOOTS…
Farrier Delta Grace has a strict rule about not getting involved with clients. Rugged ranch owner Garrett Slade is exactly why. The attraction between them is instant. He’s also her biggest client and the epitome of complicated. A widowed father of two, he’s moved back to Saddle Ridge, Montana, for a fresh start.
Despite her better judgment, Delta can’t stay away from Garrett or his kids. And it’s not long before her heart melts completely, along with her rules. However, when life deals Delta a devastating blow, she needs to distance herself from Garrett—their family has already experienced too much heartache. All is not lost, though, because with Valentine’s Day around the corner, love may actually conquer all!
Want to win a copy of WRANGLING CUPID’S COWBOY?
Tell me what fascinates you most about ranch life in the comments section and one winner will be randomly chosen to receive a copy (your choice: digital or paperback).
Amanda Renee was raised in the Northeast and now wriggles her toes in the warm coastal Carolina sands. Her career began when she was discovered through Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest. When not creating stories about love and laughter, she enjoys the company of her schnoodle—Duffy—camping, playing guitar and piano, photography and anything involving animals. You can visit her at amandarenee.com.
Today kicks off a 107-year-old tradition — the Pendleton Round-Up.
This rodeo, held in the western town of Pendleton, Oregon, began when a group of community and area leaders developed the idea of an annual event. It all started, really, with a successful 4th of July celebration in 1909 that included bronc riding, horse races, Indian dances, foot races and fireworks.
The Pendleton Round-Up was incorporated as a non-profit organization at the end of July in 1910. The legal name was the “Northwestern Frontier Exhibition Association.” The group decided to stage the event in September to allow the grain farmers time to complete their harvest and the ranchers time to make a late summer check-up on their grazing cattle.
The first Pendleton Round-Up was to be a frontier exhibition that brought the old west back to life and offered the crowd entertaining Indian, cowboy, and military spectacles, held in conjunction with the Eastern Oregon District Fair.
People responded so enthusiastically to the idea, special trains ran from Portland to Pendleton to make sure the “city crowd” could witness the event.
The stores in town closed for the first performance. In fact, so many people showed up at that first performance, workers jumped in after the rodeo and added an additional 3,000 seats to accommodate the crowds the next day. More than 7,000 people attended the first event (which far exceeded the number of people living in town at the time).
In just a few short years, the wooden grandstand and surrounding bleachers were completed, offering seating to more than 20,000 spectators.
Before women received the right to vote in Oregon, the Pendleton Round-Up gave them a chance to compete in a variety of events. In 1914, Bertha Blanchett came within a dozen points of winning the all-around title, right alongside the men.
Many famous names competed in the Round-Up arena including people like Slim Pickens, Hoot Gibson, Jackson Sundown, and Yakima Canutt (a stuntman who doubled for Clark Gable and John Wayne, to name a few).
Pendleton is home to the Umatilla Reservation and from that very first show in 1910, many Indians have participated in the event. There are Indian races at the rodeo, the special Happy Canyon pageant, and the Indian Village that is one of the largest in North America with more than 300 teepees set up annually.
Tribal members also ride into the arena before the Indian dancing at the rodeo (right before the bull riding) and wow spectators with their beautiful regalia, some that dates back more than a century.
There are unique facets to the Pendleton Round-Up that make it different from many rodeos. For one thing, the rodeo arena’s grass floor is one-of-a-kind in the world of rodeo, adding a unique challenge for competitors. It provides the largest barrel racing pattern on the professional rodeo circuit, too.
Also, the Pendleton Round-Up was the first rodeo to have rodeo royalty, beginning in 1910. Today, the queen and her court race into the arena, jumping over the fence surrounding the grassy expanse not once, but twice.
The first year of the rodeo also saw the introduction of the Westward Ho Parade, one of the longest non-motorized parades in the country. The parade tradition carries on today with entries from all around the region.
Since 1910, the Pendleton Round-Up has been a popular event. Other than two years it was not held during World War II, it has run continuously each September. Today, more than 50,000 attendees fill the bleachers to watch the four-day long event.
And on their lips, you’ll hear them shout the slogan that was first used in 1910…
Let’ Er Buck!
Dally (Pendleton Petticoats, Book 8) is a sweet romance that encompasses the first year of the Pendleton Round-Up. In fact, the girl on the cover is one of the 2017 rodeo court.
I’m going to give three lucky winners a digital copy of Dally .
To enter for a chance to win, all you have to do is answer this question:
What’s your favorite rodeo event or thing to see in a parade?
We’re happy to have another wonderful guest with us today. Award-winning author Myra Johnson writes emotionally gripping stories about love, life, and faith. Myra is a two-time finalist for the prestigious ACFW Carol Awards, winner of Christian Retailing’s Best for historical fiction, and winner in the Inspirational category of the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Awards. Originally from Texas but now residing in the beautiful Carolinas, Myra and her husband love the climate and scenery, but they may never get used to the pulled pork Carolinians call “barbecue”! The Johnsons share their home with two very pampered rescue doggies who don’t always understand the meaning of “Mom’s trying to write.” They have also inherited the cute little cat (complete with attitude) their daughter and family had to leave behind when they recently moved overseas.
I wasn’t always a city girl. The first four years of my life were spent on my parents’ farm outside Mission, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley. My two brothers, already adults when I came along (surprise!!), lived on the property and had their own horses, Red and Rusty.
I still remember my first “cowgirl” initiation. My mother set me on Rusty’s bare back, ostensibly for a lazy ride around the corral. But I had other ideas. I gripped Rusty’s mane, gleefully leaned toward his ears, and commanded, “Go, Rusty, go!”
He did. Except Mommy still had hold of my ankle, which pulled me off Rusty’s back and headfirst into, um, something very, very soft and squishy.
Next stop: the bathtub.
So began my lifelong love of horses—with one significant problem. Shortly before I turned four, my dad passed away, and soon afterward Mom moved us into town. From that point forward, my future as a city girl was fixed.
It wasn’t long before both my brothers left the Valley and settled in the Texas Hill Country. The younger brother, married with three children, had a small ranch with horses and cattle, so whenever my mother and I visited, I got to be a country girl again, even if only for a few days.
The years passed, and when I was a young teen, circumstances brought my mother and me back to the farm that was my first home. Still, my mother wouldn’t agree to having a horse—too much responsibility, she insisted.
Then one day a stray horse wandered up our driveway. My mom placed a lost-and-found ad, but for days no one responded. The horse looked gentle enough, and I was itching to try riding him. Finally I talked my mom into helping me, so with an old rag rug for a saddle and makeshift rope reins, I carefully climbed onto his back.
For the next few days, we enjoyed leisurely strolls down the lane, and I was the happiest girl in the West—er, South—until a woman and her and two ecstatic children arrived to claim their missing horse. I cried to watch him go.
More years passed. I grew up, got married, and had kids of my own. Horse adventures were limited to the occasional trail ride while on vacation . . .
. . . until the year I signed up to volunteer at a therapeutic horseback riding center. Working directly with the horses was a dream fulfilled, even more so when another volunteer encouraged me to take dressage lessons (not exactly cowgirl-type horsemanship, but nearing 50 by then, I was okay with a tamer kind of riding).
My volunteer friend eventually introduced me to a horsewoman who owned a sweet old gelding that needed extra attention. When she offered to let me ride him for lessons and practice, it was the best of both worlds—a “free” horse I could ride whenever I wanted, without the responsibility of feeding, mucking stalls, vet care, etc.
Those years of dressage lessons and volunteering at the therapeutic riding center also brought knowledge, skills, and priceless firsthand experiences. Besides the basics of horse care and tack, I learned ground driving and lunge-lining, and I exulted in the thrill of “joining up” with horses in the round pen. I could even harness a horse to a small carriage for a ride down the lane!
After seven wonderful (and wonder-filled) years of such experiences, my husband and I moved far away from Texas and my “horsey” friends, and for the past eleven years I have been utterly horseless [cue the violins]. My only recourse has been to write books with horses in them, and there have been several, including my “Horseman” trilogy, set in North Carolina and featuring three handsome horsemen and the women they love.
My recent Love Inspired contemporary romance, Her Hill Country Cowboy, returns to Texas and is set on a small guest ranch in the fictional town of Juniper Bluff, about an hour’s drive northwest of San Antonio. I’m delighted to give away two copies today (U.S. postal addresses only, please). You can read more about the story below.
So let’s chat. Do you harbor a cherished lifelong dream? Has it come true? If so, in what ways? If not, what can you do or have you done to fill that empty place in your heart?
About the book: Single father Seth Austin will do anything for his children. So when he discovers the new housekeeper his grandmother hired for their guest ranch is a former social worker, he plans to keep his family far away from Christina Hunter. Seth once almost lost custody of his beloved kids because of an overzealous social worker. Problem is his children adore Christina and her sweet service dog—and he’s starting to fall for her, too. Recuperating from an accident, Christina is determined to slowly ease back into her old life. But the more time she spends with them, the more she realizes that her future might be with the cowboy and his family.
No, that post title isn’t also the title of an upcoming book. After all, I’m not sure it’d be flying off the shelves if it were. Instead, it’s a clue to today’s topic, that of farriers.
As you might expect from a long-running western series, many of my heroes in my Blue Falls, Texas series are ranchers and/or rodeo cowboys. Every now and then, I throw in a little something extra, too. That was the case for A Rancher to Love, which was book eight in the series. Tyler Lowe not only has a ranch, but he’s the local farrier — or the man you call when your horse needs a hoof trim or new shoes. When you think about it, farrier seems an odd word for such a profession. But not surprisingly, it’s because the term has its roots in other languages — this time French and Latin. It’s comes from the Middle French word ferrier,
meaning blacksmith, and the Latin word for iron, ferrum.
Although in the past, farriers did blacksmithing work as well, today the two professions are more distinct. Unlike podiatrists, farriers in the United States don’t have to have any formal education or certification. In fact, scary as it might seem, farriery is not regulated at all in the U.S. There are voluntary certification programs through three organizations — the American Farrier’s Association, the Guild of Professional Farriers, and the Brotherhood of Working Farriers.
By contrast, in the UK it is illegal for anyone to call themselves a farrier or to carry out any farriery work. This is so that no harm or suffering are endured by horses through the unskilled efforts of someone who isn’t qualified. They are organized as the Worshipful Company of Farriers and have been around since 1356!
While trimming hooves and shoeing (including for such special purposes such as racing) are the farrier’s main duties, they also take care of damaged or diseased hooves.
It was fun to write a different aspect of life surrounding ranching and the cowboy life, but next month I’m back to rodeo cowboys with the release of book number 12 in the Blue Falls, Texas series — Her Texas Rodeo Cowboy. Hero Jason Till is in hot pursuit of a national championship in steer wrestling.
Lately I’ve wondered how an Iowa city girl ended up writing romances with cowboy heroes. Or, I’ve wondered about the reasons other than the obvious—that cowboys are incredibly sexy. For my first official blog as a filly at Petticoats and Pistols, I’m sharing what fascinates me about cowboys.
For me, a cowboy isn’t as much about the occupation as the state of mind and attitude. Sure when I think of a cowboy, I see a man in form fitting Levi’s or Wranglers. I see dusty, worn cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, but it’s more than that, too. There’s something about the way he moves in a slow, yet deliberate way, that says he’ll take his time with what matters in life. If you’ve seen Scott Eastwood in The Longest Ride, you know what I mean. If not, watch it now. I’ll wait.
Now that we’re done drooling over Scott, back to the topic at hand. Cowboys have a connection to the land that goes deeper than most people’s. That taps into my love of my grandparents’ farm in Decorah, Iowa. I spent hours wandering over that land spinning stories and imaging my life living on a similar place. Writing about my heroes and heroines strolling over their land or walking along Wishing’s streets fill me with the same warm affection. That intense bond with the ZSAER%^land was a big inspiration behind my Wishing, Texas series. For those heroes, their link Ty Barnett’s ranch, The Bar 7 and each other anchor their lives.
As to a cowboy’s attitude and mind-set—people see him as a loner, and he is, but I also see his strong tie to family. Family, however he defines it, is allowed past his guard. When I wrote my first novel for Harlequin, I wanted my hero so desperate for money he’d model in New York. But I wanted something different. What does a cowboy love more than his ranch and horse? His mama. That one detail told me everything I needed to know about my hero.
A cowboy has a sense of honor that factors into every decision. In my first Wishing, Texas book, To Love A Texas Cowboy, Ty Barnett’s world is turned upside down because of a promise to a friend. One he’ll keep even if it means dealing with Cassie Reynolds. This unwavering honor paired with a good dose of Alpha male, makes writing stories with cowboy heroes fun when I turn the tables on them. In To Catch A Texas Cowboy, AJ Quinn’s sick of hearing “let’s just be friends” from women. Poor cowboy. I had a blast torturing AJ giving him what he asked, but not what he bargained for, in New Yorker Grace Henry.
For me, these characteristics make cowboys fascinating, and oh so hero-worthy. Now it’s your turn. Tell me what it about cowboys makes you swoon or say that’s a hero?
I’m giving away a copy of To Catch A Texas Cowboy and a wine glass. Post a comment to enter.
First, I would like to thank Petticoats and Pistols, for being kind enough to host our bestselling contemporary western romance boxed set, A Cowboy to Keep.
My latest release, Border Romance is one of seven stories in the set, and it’s the third book of my On the Border Series. These books take place on the Texas-Mexican border and feature a ranch that trains horses for the Mexican specialty of charro riding, as well as rodeo events such as barrel racing and calf roping, and cutting horses, too. Since charro riding is not widely understood in the United States, I wanted to explain how these specialty horses perform.
Charro riding is an event in a charreada or charrería, which is a competitive event similar to our rodeos and was developed from animal husbandry practices used on the haciendas of old México. The sport has been described as “living history,” or as an art form drawn from the demands of working life. Evolving from the traditions brought from Spain in the 16th century, the first charreadas were ranch work competitions between haciendas. The modern Charreada developed after the Mexican Revolution when charro traditions were disappearing. The charreada consists of nine events for men plus one for women, all of which involve horses, cattle or both.
The participants in the charreada wear traditional charro clothing, including a closely fitted suit, chaps, boots, and a wide brim sombrero. The body-fitting suit of the charro, while decorative, is also practical; it fits closely to insure there is no flapping cloth to be caught by the horns of steers. The botinas, or little boots, prevent feet from slipping through the stirrups. Spurs are worn on the botinas.
The saddle of the charro has a wider horn than that of that of a western saddle, which helps safeguard the charro from being pitched off and from being hung up. There are two grips at the back of the saddle, in case the charro needs to have a handhold during certain trick maneuvers.
In a charreada, the most common competition is called cala de caballo or reining. Literally the demonstration of the horse rein, as the horse is required to show its talents in the canter, gallop, slide stop, spins on its hind legs as well as backing. It is one of the hardest events to master and also the most elaborately scored. The running slide, left and right spinning, rear leg pivoting, and backing abilities are tested. The charro rider and horse are evaluated carefully. Horses are judged for vigor, manageability, docility, gait and obedience. Carriage of head and tail are all critically evaluated and scored accordingly.
Charro horses also perform tricks, very similar to those of the famous Lippazzaner stallions in Austria. Trick riding such as rearing on signal, backing up on the horse’s two back feet, and spinning, have given these horses the moniker of “dancing horses.” In addition, they can be trained to prance in time to music, making them appear to dance with the strains of popular Mexican ballads.
They often are the lead feature in Texas-México border parades and rodeos. Charro horses are also used to showcase a charro rider’s elaborate rope tricks while calmly cantering around an
arena. And of course, if you’re a horse lover, all charro horses are selected for their beautiful conformation and flowing manes and tails.
For you western lovers, I hope you have enjoyed this explanation of a fascinating sport, featuring beautiful and very talented horses. And I hope you will read more about charro horses in my story, “Border Romance.” You can find more about my books at my website or my Facebook page. For beautiful pictures of charro horses, visit my “A Cowboy To Keep” Board on Pinterest.
Catch a cowboy … Keep a cowboy …
Don’t miss this great collection from USA Today, Amazon Bestselling, and Award-Winning authors!! Available here.
THE LEGEND OF BAD MOON RISING by Carra Copelin
Sheriff Ben Hammond is finally over the woman who shattered his heart, but when Dinah Horne suddenly returns, can he ignore the passion still burning bright between them?
CITY BOY, COUNTRY HEART by Andrea Downing
Trading horses for subways for two years seemed like a good idea to cowboy Chay Ridgway, but can city girl K.C. Daniels keep a rein on his country heart?
BLUE SAGE by Kristy McCaffrey
Archaeologist Audrey Driggs rolls off a mountain and lands at the feet of rugged cowboy Braden Delaney. Together, they’ll uncover a long-lost secret.
THE DRIFTER’S KISS by Devon McKay
Determined to take back what belongs to her, Addison Reed will do anything. Even trust a complete stranger.
HER MAN by Hildie McQueen
Deputy Mark Hunter falls for Eliza Brock during a murder investigation. Is it fate or bad luck, especially when she may be involved?
BORDER ROMANCE by Hebby Roman
Widow Leticia Villarreal wants to establish a horse-racing stable and old acquaintance John Clay Laidlaw offers to help. But can she trust him with her business and her heart?
PHOENIX HEAT by Patti Sherry-Crews
After losing her fiancé and her New York City business, Harper Donovan returns to Arizona and meets cowboy Frank Flynn. Will his past and their differences extinguish the heat between them?
Thanks, western readers for stopping by and chatting with me today on Petticoats and Pistols. Charro horses are mostly an unknown quantity for most rodeo goers, unless you’re in the Southwestern part of the United States, close to the Mexican border. These are beautiful and very talented horses that I wanted to highlight for readers.
If you leave a comment, you will be included in the drawing for my Giveaway today: a $25 Amazon Gift Card. So, please, fire away with those comments or questions!
Eadweard Muybridge, born Edward Muggeridge in Kingston-upon-Thames, London, (April 30, 1820) became an American icon. How? By inventing the motion picture! When I first read about him years ago, I knew someday, somehow, he would be a character in one of my books—and he finally did, in my latest release, When Hearts Fly.(I’m giving an e-copy away today to one commenter, so please leave some words behind before you ride off.)
What made him stand out to me? Well, first of all, was the name change. I grew up with such an odd name myself, I would never have made it worse. But when he came to America in 1850, Edward Muggeridge spelled it Eadweard Muybridge because he believed the archaic spellings were truer to his Old English roots.
However, he took “Helois” as his professional name as a photographic artist in San Francisco where he earned a stellar reputation. In a traveling darkroom, he produced breathtaking landscapes of the West, most famously Yosemite and Alaska.
At thirty, Muybridge suffered a head injury in a stagecoach accident. Changes in his behavior and vision alarmed his friends. It is believed now the accident damaged his frontal cortex, an explanation for his increasingly eccentric behavior…
…which culminated in the cold-blooded, shot-through-the-heart murder of his wife Flora’s lover in 1874. He had become convinced her baby had been fathered by Major Harry Larkins. Although his lawyers used the stagecoach injury in an insanity defense, the jurors didn’t buy it. Nonetheless, they did acquit Muybridge on the grounds of justifiable homicide.
(His penchant for killing an adulterous male is a plot point in my novella, when my hero’s past behavior with Muybridge’s fictional niece is misconstrued.)
The early 1870’s saw the rise of Muybridge’s place in history. Railroad tycoon, former California governor, and soon-to-be-founder of a great University, Leland Stanford hired Eadweard to settle a bet.
A fiery controversy blazed at this time: was there ever a moment in a horse’s gait when all four hooves left the ground? Prevailing attitudes claimed NO—if horses were meant to fly God would have given them wings.
But Stanford believed differently and wanted Muybridge to capture the moment. However, the moment happened too fast for the human eye to see.
During some five years of experiments at Stanford’s farm in Palo Alto, California, Muybridge’s primitive results did show a horse “in flight” but the results did not survive. Finally, he and Stanford were ready to face the crowds. In June, 1878, at a racetrack at the farm, Muybridge set up 12 cameras with strings tripping the shutters to capture the images against a screen. In front of enthusiastic spectators, a horse named Sallie Gardener proved four feet off the ground.
The achievement was featured in the October 1878 issue of Scientific American.
In 1883, Muybridge went to the University of Pennsylvania to continue his photographic studies of animals—and humans, some nude!—in motion. He had access to the veterinary college and the local zoo. And unclothed athletes as well.
His invention, the zoopraxiscope, showed images on a rotating glass plate projected against a screen. However, the images on the scope, about the size of a dinner plate, had to be drawn on. At that time, they were not his actual photographs. He toured the country and Europe giving demonstrations of “motion pictures.”
Muybridge’s techniques inspired Thomas Edison back then, and still inspire artists and film makers today. He died of cancer in 1904.
Are you a fan of motion pictures? What’s your favorite movie Western?
Innkeeper Cordy Meeker wants a cowboy all her own and to head to the mountains to find him. But she faces financial ruin thanks to her late gambler brother and a hopeless winter of no paying guests. With the bank threatening foreclosure, she needs help fast.
On his way to his family’s holdings in Colorado, British nobleman Hawk Shockley lands in Paradise, Nebraska on a whim, robbed and penniless. Concocting a money-making scheme with the beautiful Cordy is easy, and giving his heart easier, but a woman has gotten him into a pickle before. So…when Eadweard Muybridge threatens to come to town, will a last-minute wedding make things better? Or worse?
Cordy tightened the shawl so she didn’t scream. But cry, never that. No man would ever make her cry again. Not even the foolish banker. Never. Not after Lambert Truefitt. In some way, she would outwit Mr. Pelikan and his ilk at the bank. True, she hadn’t had a guest for weeks. True, her Sunday chicken dinners were wildly popular. But also true, locals hurried home after church before it snowed again.
So bills had mounted. She and her horses had to eat. The mercantile allowed her to pay down her debt of nine dollars and twenty cents two bits at a time.
Clancy. She clenched her fists. A trudge to the cemetery would be muddy, but the urge to kick her brother’s headstone wouldn’t be stifled. Finally, anger outranked grief, relief, and guilt. On her way to the tiny vestibule where she kept her rubber boots, the little counter bell clanged. But she didn’t hurry. With her present luck, it would be Sheriff Pelton arresting her on behalf of her felonious brother, and she couldn’t afford bail. Finally she called out on the fourth ring.
“I’ll be right with you.” Then she tripped on a boot, stumbled, flailed.
And landed in the arms of a man just in time to break her fall. His warmth scented from the outdoors snuggled around her. Cordy managed to toss her arms around his neck. He held her panting form against his mighty chest.
Then her breath stopped. The sight of him heated her blood. Here he was, as if stepping out from a dream. Her Wild West cowboy, with his Stetson and scruffy cheeks and lake-blue eyes she wanted to drown in.
“Are you all right?” His voice rumbled from his chest to her ear. A drawl mixed with someplace else.
“Yes.” She saddened when he broke contact and set her down. He kept hold of her hand, and she practically fell in love on the spot. “I’m fine. Thank you.”
“I am Keaton Shockley.” He touched his brim and removed his Stetson. Weather and leather ruffled his rugged coffee-brown hair. “And I’d like to let a room. I must find C. Meeker, proprietor.”
Her heart flipped inside itself. Not only a paying customer, but a handsome one. Oh, and how magnificently that duster tightened around his shoulder muscles when he moved.
“You have found her. I’m Miss Cordelia Meeker. Welcome to my inn.” She held out her hand. Adding the Miss risked her appearing a stuffy spinster, but it was a surefire way to inform him she was unmarried. “But do call me Cordy.” There.
“Do call me Hawk.”
“Hawk?” Oh, so…cowboy!
She sparked to her toes when they touched. He raised the hand he held, slowly, then placed it against his warm lips. “Keaton supposedly means where hawks fly.”
Writers who pen westerns must have a deep-seated respect for animals. All those horses and cattle. The loyal dogs. The villainous rattlesnakes. Shoot, even the chickens have a role to play. Out on the lonely prairie, a fella was more apt to talk to his horse than another person for days on end.
I love animals. But I have a confession to make . . . I don’t own any. Part of the reason is that my husband has allergies, especially where cats and other long-haired critters are concerned. Another contributing factor is the three children living with us who already demand a lot of attention and cleaning up after. Also, with all the traveling I do for my writing career, the hassle of finding and paying for dog sitters is not terribly attractive at this point. Maybe once our nest is empty and all the kids have left, we’ll consider some four-legged children, but for now we only support the two-legged variety.
I had dogs and cats as a child – all outdoor animals. We had seven acres with lots of room to roam. But even then, the animals always loved my brother more than me. It seemed dreadfully unfair until I realized that he was the one who lived outside with them. Playing. Going on adventures. More often than not I was in my room reading about animals. All those great Black Stallion books. Old Yeller. Sounder. Where the Red Fern Grows. (Why are the dog books always so sad???) I would imagine myself racing across the plains on my trusty steed, but in truth I’ve only ever ridden about a dozen times in my life and mostly those were at a walking pace. Sigh.
But the imagination is a wonderful thing. I can create heroines who ride, shoot, and spit better than any man if I so desire. Or give a boy a dog that becomes his most trusted confidant. So that’s what I do. I add animals to my books, name them, and give them special connections with their owners. Then I live vicariously through my characters to enjoy all the benefits of animal love without any of the unromantic poop scooping or hair vacuuming.
In my latest release, my animal-loving heart had free reign. My hero, Benjamin Porter, is a freighter who is a gifted horse trainer. He has a pair of beautifully matched black Shires who pull his heavy freight wagon. They both have white socks and blazes, but only one has a white belly. It’s the only way others can tell the two draft horses apart. Thanks to a childhood fascination with Greek mythology, he named them Helios and Hermes. Hermes for the Greek god of trade and the guardian of travelers; and Helios for the Greek god of the sun who relied on mighty steeds to pull his golden chariot through the sky.
In my story, Ben is attempting to court his business partner, shopkeeper Victoria Adams. Tori has a young son named Lewis, and on one of their business trips, she barters goods in exchange for a puppy for Lewis. I, of course decided to keep with the black and white color scheme and adorableness, so I chose an Australian shepherd pup.
Here’s the scene where the puppy comes into play:
“Sarah said I could name him.” Lewis grinned, all trepidation vanishing as excitement took over. “He’s the biggest pup of the litter, so I thought I’d call him Hercules. What do you think? Just like the strong man in the stories you tell me.”
Satisfied that the horses were calm, Ben put a hand to Lewis’s shoulder and steered him a couple paces away. He hunkered down and offered his fingers for the pup to smell, enduring the friendly licks and shameless begging for attention before giving in and ruffling the dog’s ears.
When he and his brother had been kids, they’d run across a book on Greek mythology in their teacher’s collection and had enjoyed the adventure stories so well, they’d started naming all their animals after the ancient characters. They still did as adults, though Bartholomew had more of an opportunity, running a livery in Seymour. Ben had saved the names he’d chosen until he’d found the draft horses that lived up to them. Hermes for the Greek god of trade and the guardian of travelers; and Helios for the Greek god of the sun who relied on mighty steeds to pull his golden chariot through the sky.
“Hercules is a big name for such a little pup.” Ben raised a brow in feigned concern. “You sure he deserves such a tag?”
Lewis looked down at the fuzzy fur ball, scrunched his forehead in thought, then lifted his chin in the same stubborn way his ma did. “Well, even Hercules started as a baby.” He lifted the puppy into Ben’s face until they practically touched noses. “He’ll grow, just like the other Hercules did. He’ll get strong and brave and be the best dog ever!”
“I reckon you’re right.” Ben eased the pup away from his face then pushed to his feet, rubbing Lewis’s hair as he stood. “It was Hercules’s actions that made him a legend, not his name. A man should always remember that. It isn’t his name or his clothes or how much money he has that matters. It’s the way he conducts himself—with honor, kindness, and courage—that makes a lasting difference in the world.”
“So you like the name?” The boy blinked up at him, giving Ben no idea if his attempt at conveying a life lesson had penetrated.
Oh, well. He winked at the boy. “I think it’s an outstanding name.” He tilted his head and scrutinized the pup a second time. “This one’s definitely hero material. You picked well, Lewis.”
The boy beamed and ran back to the little girl waiting for him by the trough. Ben’s heart gave a tug as he watched the two put their heads together and giggle over the puppies’ antics. Lewis had wormed his way into Ben’s heart months ago. It hadn’t taken long. The kid was so eager to please and so hungry for male attention, a rare commodity in a town full of womenfolk. Now, Ben couldn’t imagine his life without the little guy.
Although . . . a secret smile slid across Ben’s face as he watched the two young’uns crawl around in the dirt like pups themselves . . . he could imagine giving Lewis a little brother or sister to play with. That would be a pleasure indeed.
So what are your favorite animals to share real or imagined adventures with?
In my new release THE TEXAN’S ONE-NIGHT STANDOFF, my heroine Ruby Lopez is an expert horse wrangler and trainer. As a result I had to do some extensive research on the subject of training horses. I found some inspiration in the Australian television series Downunder Horseman, a tutorial on how to train horses. Believe it or not, horses aren’t exactly docile and they have many fears that they need to overcome, such as approaching a body of water, or going into the water. It is not necessarily an inherent trait. Ruby is a gentle soul when it comes to animals, but she’s a spitfire and an independent woman, who isn’t opposed to flipping a man over her shoulders when he deserves it. She was so much fun to write, seeing how the man she nicknamed Galahad, because he rushed to her defense one night, softens her rough edges.
How many of these fun horse facts did you know? I was amazed at some of them!
Horses can sleep both lying down and standing up.
Horses can run shortly after birth.
Domestic horses have a lifespan of around 25 years.
A 19th century horse named ‘Old Billy’ is said to have lived 62 years.
Horses have around 205 bones in their skeleton
Horses have been domesticated for over 5000 years
A horse’s teeth take up more space in the head than a horse’s brain.
Horses drink at least 25 gallons of water a day, more in hotter climates.
Horses are herbivores (plant eaters).
Because horse’s eyes are on the side of their head they are capable of seeing nearly 360 degrees at one time.
Horses gallop at around 27 mph.
The fastest recorded sprinting speed of a horse was 55 mph.
Estimates suggest that there are around 60 million horses in the world.
Scientists believe that horses have evolved over the past 50 million years from much smaller creatures.
When horses look like they’re laughing, they’re actually engaging in a special nose-enhancing technique known as “flehmen” to determine if the smell is bad or good.
Horses have bigger eyes than any other mammal that lives on land. (That’s amazing!)
I’ve been running this fun prize package on Facebook, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Prize includes DVD, Bracelet Bling, two Charlene Sands’ books and Santa Kisses! Please stop by and enter to win my Twelve Days of Desire Giveaway!
We all know to be on our guard when buying a used car. But a clever Old West horse dealer could make even the slickest car dealer look like Honest Abe.
Those early cowboys in the market for a horse didn’t have to worry about odometer fraud or hidden accident damage, but there were plenty of other ways they could be duped.
Many an old mare was made to appear young again by a method called bishoping. The horse traders of yesteryear often filed the teeth of elderly horses and stained them with silver nitrate. This little trick could shave years off a horse’s age. A story in a 1910 newspaper reported that one man paid dearly for a seventeen-year-old horse thinking it was but seven.
Horses with sore muscles were temporarily cured by the gasoline trick. Gasoline was rubbed into a horse’s back and withers. Supposedly, this allowed horses to move pain-free long enough to allow an unscrupulous horse trainer to pocket his money and leave town.
Another trick involved removing a shoe to disguise a lame horse. The horse trader would convince a prospective buyer that once the shoe was replaced, the horse would be fine.
It wasn’t just old age and limps that could be concealed. Sponges shoved up a horse’s nostrils would hide the sound of labored breathing or a runny nose. Irritants hidden in other parts of the body made a sickly horse hold its tail high and appear active. This was called gingering.
Droopy ears could be easily fixed by running a thread under the forelock.
A Pennsylvania newspaper dated 1897 reported that when a prospective buyer voiced concern over a horse’s slow speed, the horse trader took him for a ride. Unbeknownst to the buyer, the horse trader had arranged to be arrested for “speeding” and willingly paid the five dollar fine. The duped buyer was so impressed, he immediately bought the horse.
White horses were often made to look more attractive by the addition of black spots. This was accomplished by a combination of powdered lime and litharge. A handsome star was often added to a black horse’s forehead by spreading warm pitch to a spot shaved in the shape of a star. The pitch was left on for three days and then washed away with elixir of vitriol. The hair grew back white.
One horse trader received a complaint that the horse he sold the day before must be blind as it kept walking into things. “Well, he ain’t blind,” the trader explained. “He just don’t care.”
Anyone ever come across an unscrupulous dealer or pushy salesman?