Maureen Child–Westerns, Past and Future!

maureenwmaureen-child2First, a big thank you to the P&P ladies for inviting me here! I love a good western, so I lurk here often!


The first book I sold was a western. A wonderful story with a terrible title. I called it Shadow Dancer. My publisher changed that title to Run Wild My Heart. Yes, it was almost too embarrassing to tell people about, though I managed!  


I wrote westerns for several years, under several names—long story!—but as Maureen Child, Ann Carberry, Kathleen Kane and Sarah Hart, I indulged myself in the Old West. I wrote heroes I fell in love with and heroines who were just as stalwart and proud as the men who came to love them.


maureen3Mostly, I blame Louis L’Amour for my love of western writing. The man had a way with a good story. Sure, the romance part of his books always left a lot to be desired, but that wasn’t his point anyway. He was a writer who was trying to catalogue what the west was really like. He didn’t sugar coat anything and as he always claimed, if he wrote about a spring in the desert, that spring was actually there.


And then there were his books about the Sacketts. A family that was spread all over the country, but when one of them was in trouble, “they all maureen1come running”. I loved that sense of loyalty and let’s face it, when they made the TV movies of the Sackett brothers and Sam Elliot brought William Tell Sackett to life…well come on. It doesn’t get much better than that.maureen4



Even though now I mostly write contemporaries and paranormals, I do like to include a cowboy into the mix! This October, my Silhouette Desire, CLAIMING KING’S BABY, introduces Justice King, a modern day rancher who is every inch the cowboy. Strong, stoic, loyal and proud. He’s a man most comfortable alone, but without the woman he loves, he’ll never be complete.


So what do you love about a western? And who’s your favorite cowboy?

One name will be drawn, and the winner will receive a copy of my latest Silhouette book, along with a copy of one of my westerns!  


To learn more about Maureen, visit her website:


Click on cover to order from Amazon

Strokes of Brilliance – Women Artists of the West by Charlene Sands

Talent equals talent, great art equals great art, whether done by a male or female, right?  But that wasn’t always the case.  As late as 1905,  an art dealer refused to believe the work of art in front of him was painted by a woman.   That woman was Eliza Barchus and below you’ll see some of her brilliant paintings.   A widow and a mother with young children, she supported her family by painting and teaching.


She is known in the art world now as the “The Oregon Artist” for her depictions of  the territory. By the turn of the century Eliza Barchus was the best known painter in the Northwest; she had won many awards and had exhibited at the National Academy in New York. Theodore Roosevelt placed one of her paintings in the White House, and Woodrow Wilson bought another. Eliza Barchus lived to be one hundred and two years old and passed away in 1959.




artist-4 Eliza Barchus


By 1890 there were over 1,100 woman artists and art teachers in the West.  Whether inborn talent or applying techniques of formal art training, women didn’t have an easy road.  Their work wasn’t appreciated in the art world.   Many pioneer women nurtured their talent even after a hard day of household chores, others braved the frontier on their own and some ventured into subzero temperatures to gain inspiration.   These female  artists needed plenty of courage and determination to create and compete in a field so dominated by men.  Yet, I find their paintings inspiring and honest. 


Helen Tanner Brodt was the first white woman to climb Mount Lassen in 1864.   Lake Helen in the Mount Lassen area is named after her.  She trained in New City City at the National Academy of Design then moved to Red Bluff in 1863.   In Red Bluff she painted landscapes, portraits, china, and ranch scenes, and also at the public school. She taught art in Oakland in 1867  and later exhibited her art at the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1893. Two of Mrs. Brodt’s pastels of Mount Shasta are in the collection of the Bancroft library at the University of California at Berkeley. 

Helen Tanner Brodt (1838-1908) – Mount Shasta Viewed through Trees

Mount Shasta by Helen Tanner Brodt courtesy Bancroft Library.


Grace Carpenter Hudson was born in Potter Valley near Ukiah, in California in 1865. She showed great art skill at an early age and enrolled in a local school of design. She married Dr. John Hudson in 1890 and their home on South Main, now the Grace Carpenter Hudson Museum is marked with a totem pole and is known as the “Sun House.”  She felt a kinship and great compassion for the Pomo Indians and was known by them as “Painter Lady.”  Her painting of Little Mendocino (the unhappy papoose) caused a great sensation at the 1893 World’s Fair and she focused her attention on painting the Pomos, capturing their pride and culture.  As you can see most of her subjects were babies and children.  She spent some time later in life to paint Native children in Hawaii and when she returned she earned a commission to paint the Pawnee in 1904.


I’ve always loved  VanGoghs, but until now, I’d never realized how truly talented women artists were.   I think I love the Grace Carpenter Hudson’s depictions the best so far. They show the humanity and innocence of the Pomo children. There were so many other female artists I’d learned about while doing this research that it would be impossible to post it all. Maybe  next time.   Do you have a favorite artist?  How about a favorite artist of the west?  Any other women artists that you’d care to share?  What do you think of these incredible paintings?



Stacey Kayne: Chuckwagon ~ More Than A Cowboy’s Meal-On-Wheels


Chuck away, come and get it!”


The chuckwagon has always struck me as a fun part of cowboy history. Just as kitchens were the heart of the home, the chuckwagon was the heart of any cattle drive. Movie’s generally show a colorful, jovial sort of fellow, “Cookie” as they are often fondly called, in charge of keeping a cattle outfit fed. In truth, most chuckwagon cooks were known to be ill-tempered and stern. These chefs of the open range were far more than simple campfire cooks. Cookie was also the doctor, barber, dentist, letter-writer and banker of the cattle crew, and he was regarded in high esteem only second to the trail boss. His pay also came second to the trail boss, often double or triple to that of a cowhand.


On the cattle trail chuckwagons were loaded down with all the cowboy bedding, water barrels, dough kegs (a main staple), cast iron Dutch oven as well as the food supply. Canvas usually draped the outside of the wagon in a hammock fashion, which stored fire wood, tools and dried cow chips. Packing and unpacking a wagon was a skill all its own. These wagons were usually drawn by oxen or mules and followed along behind, usually joined by the cattle crew’s “wrangler” – a young inexperienced cowpoke charged with herding the spare horses. Once parked, the chuckwagon became cattle drive headquarters–and the cook was in charge.

chuckwagon7Charles Goodnight, co-founder of the Goodnight-Loving Trail running out of Texas and through New Mexico and Colorado, needed a sturdy wagon that could withstand five months of rugged travel along the cattle trails.  He rebuilt his Army supply Studebaker wagon, adding steel axels and what became known as the “chuck box” at the back with a hinged lid that also became a work table when parked. In chuckbox1866 the first “chuckwagon” hit the Goodnight-Loving Trail.

“Chuck” is considered to be the least-expensive cut of beef. This gives some indication of the type of food served from these contraptions. There’s a misconception that most cattle crews had all the beef they could eat while on a long drive — not so in most cases.  Cattle drive chuckwagon6outfits were generally contracted to drive cattle by the owners, and those owners expected their beefs to arrive alive and kicking at the stockyards, not in the bellies of cowboys. On most drives, while beef was served occasionally, these hard working beef herders ate mostly salted pork, beans, black-eyed peas, potatoes, sour dough biscuits and cowboy coffee. A cowboy hungry for a steak must have felt a lot like a thirsty sailor…steers as far as the eye can see, and not a steak to eat! 

Cookie had no shortage of responsibilities, rising hours before the crews to prepare breakfast, chuckwagon3staying on the move and having meals ready for the returning crew—cooking rain or shine, freezing snow or brutal heat–no wonder they were cranky!  He was expected to know practiced medince and tended to any injured cowboys riding in, and truly seems to be a source of rough-handed nurturing for young cowhands far from home. If Cookie was having an agreeable day and feeling generous towards the boys, he might whip up some Spotted Pup for desert (sweetened rice with raisins) or pie using dried fruit.  

 I have read that chilies and peppers were planted by cooks along the edges of many cattle trails for added convenience. I wonder if there are still wild peppers and chilies growing in those areas.


Who remembers that Chuckwagon dogfood commercial?  YouTube link:

Did y’all know Chuckwagon Racing is competitive sport?  Here’s a couple fun You Tube links:

Houston Race:
Music Video:


"Courted by the Cowboy"  Stetsons, Spring & Wedding Rings Anthology


Doc Holliday . . . The Man and Myths

 Any western afficionado who watched any or all of the Wyatt Earp movies were probably as taken with Doc Holliday as Wyatt Earp.

Doc Holliday has been portrayed in various Wyatt Earp films by some of Hollywood’s finest actors, including Victor Mature in “My Darling Clementine,”

Jason Robards in “The Hour of the Gun,” Kirk Douglas in The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral,” Dennis Quaid in “Wyatt Earp,” and Val Kilmer in “Tombstone.” They are all portraits of a lonely, haunted and doomed man.

The portraits in the movie was fascinating enough but other parts of Doc Holliday’s life were even more intriguing, including a rumored forbidden love.

In each one, he is an enigmatic figure who has one strong admirable quality: loyalty. Loyalty to the Earp brothers, particularly Wyatt. He had one other great loyalty, and that was to a nun.

Born of moderately well-to-do parents in Georgia in 1851, he became estranged from his family when his father married a woman one half his age within a few months of his mother’s death. She died of tuberculosis, a disease he probably caught from her and that eventually killed him at age 36. Betrayal was a sin that Doc would forever despise.

The one person to whom he remained attached, though, was his cousin Mattie who lived with his family during the Civil War. More about her later.

As a young man, he was drawn to trouble, and an aura of danger began to be associated with Doc. Still, he graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery and started a practice in Atlanta. Bouts of coughing, though, plagued the young, handsome man and in late 1872 he received the diagnosis of tuberculosis. He was advised to go West for the climate. Bob Boze Bell, author of “The Illustrated Life and Times of Doc Holliday,” reports “tradition says his doctor gave the 21-year-old John Henry Holiday six months to live. We don’t know. There is no record of it. However, he banished himself to the frontier where he intended to meet Death head on and wrote many letters to his cousin Mattie.”

He used an inheritance from his mother to go west and went into the practice of dentistry in Dallas. The TB faded, but there was still pain, and he used whiskey for oblivion, and gambling as a way to focus his mind away from the disease. According to Bob Boze Bell, “The best defense is a strong offense, so Holliday assumes the persona of one whiskey-soaked, bullet-spitting Son o’ Thunder whose only saving grace is that he will soon be dead.”

He met Big Nose Kate, a prostitute who worked in a sporting house, and after a shooting involving Kate, he gave up his practice and took up gambling. He traveled with Kate on the gambling circuit and first met Wyatt Earp in Ft. Griffin.

Fiction and reality clash now. Doc killed a local man who cheated at a card game while, apparently, Wyatt looked on. Doc was arrested and was in danger of being lynched. In many films, Wyatt rescued him. Not true. Kate saved his life by setting fire to a building, and when townspeople rushed to put it out, Kate helped Doc escape and they traveled together four hundred miles to Dodge. It was there that Doc saved Wyatt’s life, and the fabled friendship started.

According to Wyatt Earp, “It wasn’t long after I returned to Dodge City that his (Holliday’s) quickness saved my life. He saw a man draw on me behind my back. ‘Look out, Wyatt!’, he shouted, but while the words were coming out of his mouth, he had jerked his pistol out of his pocket and shot the other fellow before the latter could fire. On such incidents as that our built the friendships of the frontier,’” he wrote.


They were intrinsically linked then. Wyatt was Doc’s only real friend, and Doc’s relationship with Kate faltered during this time. She bitterly resented his attachment to Wyatt and his brothers. He dropped her anytime Wyatt called. His relationship with Kate was a love hate one, with little respect between them. She saved him once, but later signed an affidavit accusing him of murder.

Wyatt left Dodge for Tombstone, and Doc and Kate followed, Kate apparently protesting all the way. It was in Tombstone, of course, that the west’s most famous gun battle occurred with the 30 second shootout at the O.K. Corral.

The day was October 16, 1881. The aftermath is as legendary as the gunfight itself. The killing led to the murder of Morgan Earp and finally Wyatt’s and Doc’s vendetta against a group of outlaws called the Cowboys.

There is no question that Doc killed many a men. But the view of him varied considerably from cold blooded killer to hero. According to the Denver Republican, “Holiday had a big reputation as a fighter, and has probably put more ‘rustlers’ and cowboys under the sod than anyone in the west. He has been the terror of the lawless element in Arizona, and with the Earps was the only man brave enough to face the bloodthirsty crowd, which has made the name of Arizona a stench in the nostrils of decent men.”

The Cincinnati Inquirer, on the other hand, contended he had killed over fifty men and that Jesse James “is a saint compared to him.”

Sometime after leaving Arizona in 1882, Doc and Wyatt quarreled – no one seems to know why – and split up. Kate also seemed to disappear from his life. Doc drifted, mostly living in Colorado. His TB worsened and he moved to a hotel in Glenwood, Colorado, where he died in 1887. Wyatt visited him the day before he died, and in his final moments Doc reverted to the Catholic religion to satisfy his cousin.

Remember Mattie, his cousin? As a nun she became Sister Mary Melanie and spent her life as a teacher and Sister Superior in Atlanta . Doc regularly corresponded with her, and Sister Melanie told her family that had she not destroyed some of Doc’s letters, “the world would have known a different man from one of western fame.” The question has always been why had Sister Melanie destroy some of the letters? Some say a member of her family burnt the rest as having been inappropriate for a Catholic nun to receive.

It is known that she is the only one with whom Doc maintained a lasting relationship, even if only by letter. It is rumored that she was his one true love.

And here’s the rest of the story. Her gentle and kindly spirit was so wildly respected that her cousin wanted to the world to know what a wonderful person she was. So when she wrote a novel, she used her beloved cousin as a character. She also based a character on Doc Holliday.

The author? Margaret Mitchell. The book? “Gone With the Wind.” The characters? Melanie and Rhett.

Doc Holliday remains an enigmatic character today. Good? Bad? Certainly a combination of the two but who is to say which dominated. He certainly seemed to enjoy his notoriety all through his short life, but I, like so many western historians, would love to know what was in those letters to Mattie.

America’s Cowboy

elizname2smallWill Rogers died before I was born.  I never saw any of his movies or heard his voice on the radio.  But I feel as if I knew him because he was my dad’s favorite movie star.  Dad talked about him a lot, especially on long car trips. 

Most movie cowboys were city boys with pretty faces.  Born in 1879 on the Dog Iron Ranch in Oklahoma’s Indian Territory,willrogers1 Will was the real thing.  Both his parents were part Cherokee (Will once quipped that his ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower, but they met the boat).  The youngest of eight children, Will quit school after the 10th grade.  He was more interested in being a cowboy than in reading, writing and arithmetic.  A freed slave taught him how to use a lasso to work Texas Longhorn cattle on the family ranch.  As he grew older, Will’s roping skills were so remarkable that he was listed in the Guiness Book of Records for throwing three lassos at the same time:  One rope caught the running horse’s neck, the other would loop around the rider and the third swooped up under the horse to loop all four legs. 

After some early adventures abroad, will returned to America and went into show business as “The Cherokee Kid.”  His skills won him jobs trick roping in wild west shows and on the vaudeville stages where, soon, he started telling small jokes.  Quickly, his wisecracks and folksy observations became more prized by audiences than his expert roping.  He became known as an informed philosopher, telling the truth in simple words so that everyone could understand.  Here are some examples:  

“A fool and his money are soon elected.” 

“Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they don’t need.” 

“Buy land.  They ain’t making any more of the stuff.” 

“Even if you’re on the right track you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” 

“If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?” 

And my favorite–“We will never have true civilization until we recognize the rights of others.” 


Will starred on Broadway and in 71 movies and was also a radio broadcaster.  He wrote more than 4,000 newspaper colums and six books.  Presidents, senators and kings sought his opinions.  Inside himself, Will Rogers remained a simple Oklahoma cowboy. “I never met a man I didn’t like,” was his credo of genuine love and respect for humanity and all people everywhere. He gave his own money to disaster victims and raised thousands for the Red Cross and Salvation Army.   

Will was also a devoted husband and father of four.  He married Betty Blake in 1908 after an 8 year courtship.  He would say, “When I roped her, that was the star performance of my life.”  In 1935, at the age of 55, Will took off on a flight around the world with a legendary pilot named Wiley Post.  The plane crashed in Alaska.  Both men lost their lives.  The outpouring of national grief over Will Rogers’s passing is generally regarded to be the greatest such show of national mourning since the death of Lincoln some seventy years earlier.   Will has been honored with postage stamps and monuments, including a statue in the U.S. Capitol building.  And his wise, simple words are still with us. 

Will Rogers was America’s cowboy for an earlier generation.  Who would you nominate for the title today?  Do you have a favorite Will Rogers saying? 

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Charles Dickens and the American West



On the heels of the holiday season, writing about Charles Dickens seems appropriate, since he is a man who epitomizes Christmas with his well-known story, THE CHRISTMAS CAROL. 

He made his first visit to the United States in 1842 when he was barely 30 years old.  Bringing his wife and her maid and some very staunch opinions–not all of them flattering–of how Americans lived their lives, he soon immersed himself in a tightly-scheduled reading and lecture tour.   He was already famous throughout the world for OLIVER TWIST and THE PICKWICK PAPERS, though his novella A CHRISTMAS CAROL wouldn’t be published until the next year.

His work reflected his own oppressive childhood and vividly described England’s povery and injustices.  It’s little wonder that he despised slavery, a practice that flourished in America at the time, and used his influence at the pulpit and his avid audiences to denounce human bondage.

He also expostulated on how Americans pirated his books (and other European writers, too) by paying nothing to the authors, calling it a ‘monstrous injustice’.  Hmmm.  Something we authors struggle with even today.

Still, his audiences idolized him, and the press treated him like royalty.  President John Tyler invited him to a reception at the White House and was rewarded with 2,000 Dickens’ fans who hovered on his every move, “like hounds, horses and riders in pursuit of a fox.”  One newspaper likened it  to “throwing corn to hungry chickens.”

His tour took in major cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Richmond, but eventually, the enthusiastic audiences began to wane.  As did the author’s impression of America when he left the Atlantic seaboard and took a stagecoach from Kentucky to Illinois, then a riverboat across the steamboatMississippi to St. Louis.

He described St. Louis as “a dismal swamp upon which half-built houses rot away,” stunted trees, unwholesome vegetation, where there are “no bird songs, no pleasant scents,” and only “the changeless glare of the hot, unwinking sky.” 

His criticism didn’t stop there.   He went on to describe those who lived along the Mississippi banks as “wretched wanderers, destined to “droop and die”, and lay their bones in the “ugly sepulcher of the hateful Mississippi, a slimy monster hideous to behold . . . running liquid mud six miles an hour.”

Well.  He certainly didn’t mince words, did he?

After returning home, he wrote of his experiences in depressing detail and prospered by them, and it was another 25 years later before he came back to twainthe United States for his second visit.

By then, he was in poor health and did not travel west, preferring to stay along the Atlantic coast.  Mark Twain took the time to attend one of his readings and described his performance as “rather monotonous . . . there is no heart, no feeling in it–it is glittering frostwork.”

Even so, Dickens scheduled 76 readings in five months and took home a $100,000 fortune.  Not too shabby.

Have you ever gone somewhere, only to leave disappointed?  Or mad?

Now that Christmas is over, was the experience happy?  All you hoped and planned for it to be?

What was the worst Christmas gift you’ve ever received?

I’ll start  by telling about a trip that ended up being a real dud.  Several years ago, Doug and I went to Cape Cod for our 30th wedding anniversary.  Both of us timed our trip verrry carefully to coincide with the fall foliage.  Everyone we talked to said the colors should be gorgeous, and I was so excited.  I’d never seen the Atlantic or travelled so far east.

We drove down from Boston, but all we saw was green.  And gray clouds.  And lots of rain.  TONS of rain.  We stayed in Hyannis of Kennedy fame, and that part of it was neat.  But our trips to the beach were cold and windy, and I have a picture of me on the National Beach hanging onto an umbrella with both hands because the wind and rain were blowing so hard.

sigh . . . we never saw a single colored leaf.  The locals explained it was because there’d been so much rain.  We stayed 4 days and never once saw the sun.  To make the trip even more miserable, our flight out of Boston was delayed until the next day, and we were forced to spend the night at the airport.  On horrible, creaking cots a few of the staff mustered up for us.

Honestly, Cape Cod is a wonderful place.  Just our luck we experienced the worst of it.

Share with us your stories!

The Love Behind the Legend

Cincinnati, Ohio

Thanksgiving Day, 1875


Frank Butler was a professional trick shooter who showed off his skill in traveling stage shows.  When a $100 prize was offered to the winner of a shooting match, he was confident the money would soon be his—especially since he’d be shooting against a pint-sized 15-year-old girl. 

     Young Phoebe Ann Mosely, known as Annie, had been hunting game to feed her family for years.   $100 was a fabulous sum, and she was determined to win it.  The two competitors took turns firing 25 shots each.  Annie hit the target 25 times.  Frank missed his last shot.  He lost the match, and his heart in the bargain.  “I was a beaten man the moment she appeared,” Frank later said, “for I was taken off guard.”

     A gracious loser, he gave Annie’s family tickets to his show.  Soon he was courting her.  An Irish charmer, older than Annie by ten years, Frank had been married before and fathered two children, but he was a kind man with no bad habits, so Annie’s mother gave her blessing.  The couple was married August 23, 1876 (a date later given as 1882, perhaps because of Annie’s age or because Frank may not have been legally divorced at the time).   

     A  man with a poetic soul, Frank would write of his wife, “Her presence would remind you/Of an angel in the skies, /And you bet I love this little girl/With the rain drops in her eyes.”   

     In the early years of their marriage, Frank performed with a male partner.  On May 1, 1882, his partner took sick.  Annie had to go on stage to hold the targets.  Frank wasn’t having his best night.  When, after some misses, the audience clamored to “let the girl shoot,” Annie gave a spectacular exhibition.  Soon the team was performing as Butler and Oakley.  But Frank soon realized that Annie was the real star of the act.  Some husbands wouldn’t have taken kindly to having a celebrity wife.  But as Annie’s fame grew, Frank became her manager, handling finance, bookings and promotions.  It was a happy partnership that would last for the rest of their lives. 

     In 1885 the pair joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, touring and performing with them for 16 years.  Annie Oakley became one of the most famous women in the world.  But in private life she was always Mrs. Frank Butler.  

In 1901, after suffering injuries in a train wreck, they left the show to rest and recover.  Frank took a job as a representative for the Union Metallic Cartridge Company.  They continued to tour and perform on their own, finally retiring in 1913.   Even then they did charity work, raising funds during World War I.  In 1922 Annie was planning a comeback when both of them were seriously injured in an auto accident.  Annie never fully recovered her health.   On November 3, 1926, at the age of 66, she passed away.    After 50 years of marriage, Frank was unable to go on living without his Annie.  He stopped eating and died 18 days later, on November 21. 

     Can you think of other couples who’ve had inspiring love stories?  My own mom and dad come to mind.  They were married sweethearts for 63 years.  I like to think they’re still together somewhere. 

Clicking on one of the small books below will take you to  My new story, THE BORROWED BRIDE will be available November 1.



Heroines of the Wild West

I had planned to blog about superstitions today but I came across an image that so captured the essence of the heroine in my next book, WILD 3, it redirected my focus. This image of my mountain woman, Maggie (aka Mad Mag), reminded me of why I truly love writing westerns. One of my main draws is the freedom to create heroines who had to be as rugged and daring as their heroes. The women who settled the west were as hard-working, adventurous and courageous as their men folk–even more so by my account, as many were also rearing children amid establishing a home, working the land, tending stock and training a husband 😉

History is bursting with dynamic western heroine inspiration.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Cattle Kate – Ellen Liddy Watson, the first woman lynched by vigilantes in Wyoming. She was a widow who worked hard to build her own herd and purchase her own homestead. She was lynched by a rival cattle baren along the Sweetwater River, Wyoming, in 1889, during the height of the Wyoming range wars. 
  • Elizabeth Simpson Bradshaw – A widow, with five children, the youngest only 6 years of age, walked across the American prairie pushing all her family possessions in a handmade, wooden handcart. After much tribulation, more than could ever be told, Elizabeth, with all of her children still alive, arrived at her destination, the Salt Lake Valley. There in the West she made her home, reared her children, and is honored by her posterity.
  • Mary Fields – Born a slave in Tennessee in 1832, this tall, powerfully built woman was ambitious, daring and liked a good fight. With no formal education, she forged her way to Ohio and on to the Montana Territory. Declaring herself the protector of the Ursuline nuns at St. Peter’s Catholic Mission near Cascade,Montana, Mary defended those she loved from predators on two legs as well as four. She delivered the mail by stagecoach, never missing a day until she was almost 80 years old.
  • Margaret Borland Heffenan – By 1873 she owned a herd of more than 10,000 cattle. She was said to be the only woman known to have led a cattle drive.
  • Cathay Williams – Female Buffalo Soldier. When Congress passed an act authorizing the establishment of the first all Black units of the military, later to become known as “Buffalo Soldiers”, Cathay Williams, a former slave, decided it was time to join the Army. In November of 1866 she enlisted in the 38th US Infantry as William Cathay. Since there were little or no medical exams required, Cathay was able to successfully (at least initially), pull off this disguise.
  • Calamity Jane –  “Heroine of the plains” was born Martha Jane Canary. A wandering American frontierswoman, she dressed like a man and was even a pony express rider. She frequented bars, telling stories of her adventures with other “personalities” of the west during the mid to late 1800’s.
  • Pearl Hart – First Known Female Stage Robber In Arizona Territory After being captured for the stage robbery, she said that she “would never consent to be tried under a law she or her sex had no voice in making, or to which a woman had no power under the law to give her consent.” She had become a strident voice for “women’s emancipation.”
  • Nellie Cashman“The Angel of Tombstone”  Pretty as a Victorian cameo and, when necessary, tougher than two-penny nails, the extraordinary Nellie Cashman wandered frontier mining camps of the 1800s seeking gold, silver and a way to help others. A lifelong, devout Catholic, Nellie convinced the owners of the Crystal Palace Saloon (one of whom was Wyatt Earp) to allow Sunday church services there until she had helped raise enough funds for construction of the Sacred Heart Church. She was also active raising money for the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, the Miner’s Hospital and amateur theatricals staged in Tombstone. She was famous for taking up collections to help those who had been injured or fallen on hard times, especially miners.

Many of these women remind me of my grandmothers–both ventured westward at a young age with little more than a suitcase and their sheer rugged will to build a better life for their families–both are wild west women in their own right and a basis of inspiration for all my heroines.

Do you have any favorite wild west heroines, either legendary, fictional or personal inspirations? For fun, what is the name of the heroine in the book you’re reading now?

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Mountain Man, Jedediah Smith




“I wanted to be the first to view a country on which the eyes of a white man had never gazed and to follow the course of rivers that run through a new land.” ~ Jedediah Smith

I have always been fascinated by mountain men, but none so much as Jedediah Smith. Unlike the mountain men of his era, Jedediah didn’t drink, swear or use tobacco and was a man of strident faith. It was said that Smith didn’t need more than his rifle and his bible. According to Smith’s family he read Biddle’s 1814 edition of the Lewis and Clark journals and was set on living a life in the wilderness. In his thirty two-year life span his influences and impacts on the American West are perhaps no less significant than those of Lewis and Clark. During his eight years in the wilderness, Smith made the effective re-discovery of South Pass and was the first American to travel overland to California, the first to cross the Sierra Nevadas and the Great Basin, and the first to reach Oregon by a journey up the California coast. He kept detailed journals of his travels in the hopes of publishing them. His accomplishments were coupled with involvement in the three greatest disasters in the fur trade. He survived the Arikara defeat of 1823, the Mojave massacre of 1827, and the Umpqua massacre of 1828 — battles which cost the lives of 40 trappers.

At the age of 22, Jedediah Smith signed on with the expedition of General William Ashley to travel to the Upper Missouri and trap beaver. On his second expedition he was attacked by a grizzly bear. The bear came out of the thicket and mauled Smith violently, throwing him to the ground, smashing his ribs and literally ripping off his scalp. When the attack was over, the scalp was hanging on to his head by an ear. Smith instructed Jim Clyman to sew it back on. Clyman did the best he could, but thought nothing could be done for the severed ear. Smith calmly insisted that he do his best to stitch it back on. After only TWO WEEKS of rest, he resumed his job as leader of the group and led his men–and become known for his comb-over hair style.

In his lifetime, Smith would travel more extensively in unknown territory than any other single mountain man. He traveled in the central Rockies, then down to Arizona, across the Mojave Desert and into California making him the first American to travel overland to California through the southwest. In a most amazing journey, he also came back from California across the desert of the Great Basin. The heat became so unbearable Smith and his men had to bury themselves in sand to keep cool. His expeditions and overland routes are said to have connected America, as the railroad later would for those who didn’t care to walk 😉

In 1830, Smith was rattled over the death of his mother and felt as though he had neglected his family duty. He went home and purchased
a farm and townhouse, complete with servants, in St. Louis. However, he
didn’t take well to a settled life. When Smith sold his shares in the Rocky Mountain Fur Company the year before, he had agreed to help procure supplies for the subsequent owners. Forming a partnership with his brothers, he left in the spring of 1831 and embarked on the Santa Fe Trail. On May 27, he left the main party to search for water. near the Cimarron River, Jed Smith was killed by Comanche Indians.


Unfortunately he did not get the chance to publish his journals but he was a man who felt accomplished in life. “I started into the mountains, with the determination of becoming a first-rate hunter, of making myself thoroughly acquainted with the character and habits of the Indians, of tracing out the sources of the Columbia River and following it to its mouth; and of making the whole profitable to me, and I have perfectly succeeded.”

Hope you enjoyed this glimpse of Jed Smith. One of the things I find fascinating about him was the influence reading had on his life. As a writer, reading has definitely had great influence on my life and my passion to become a writer. My American History college course really fueled my interest in the American West, but it was the first western romance novel I read, FORGIVING by LaVeryl Spencer, that had the greastest impact on my budding interest in becoming a writer of western romance. Can you recall something you’ve read that had a profound impact on your life’s journey?  










Black Bart ~ The Poetry Bandit

Stacey KayneNothing piques my interest quite like outlaw legends, and there is something about the polite outlaw and his misguided morals that truly tugs at the heartstrings 😉  When that legend is local—even better!  Black Bart (Charles E. Boles) was one of the most unusual stagecoach robbers in American history. There is no record of Bart every firing a shot in any of his 29 robberies.

On July 26, 1875 the Sonora to Milton stage in Calaveras County was robbed by a man wearing a flour sack over his head with two holes cut out for the eyes. The stage driver said he carried a double-barreled shotgun and wore a long linen duster and sacks on his boots as well, to hide his garb. His voice was resonant and deep and he only said, “Please throw down the box!” He was polite and used no foul language. These became the trademarks of Black Bart, who went on to stage 29 robberies. He never robbed the passengers—only taking Well’s Fargo strong boxes.

Why is he called the Poetic bandit?  He would leave behind poems for the authorities to find while searching the area.  The first poem was left tacked on a tree in 1875:

“I’ve labored long and hard for bread
for honor and for riches
But on my corns too long youve tred
You fine haired sons of Bitches
Black Bart
the PO 8
Driver, give my respects to our friend, the other driver;
but I really had a notion to hang my old disguise hat on his weather eye.
Respectfully, B.B.”

Some interesting facts: He wrote to his wife from Silver Bow, Montana in August of 1871 about a bad experience with men who worked for Wells, Fargo & Co. and swore to get back what was his…. He headed for the gold fields of California. Not much for horses he walked almost everywhere he went. Having marched 20+ miles a day with the Union army and living in the open air, California suited him nicely. Some legends have him teaching school. His wife assumed him dead when he stopped writing. Four years later he staged his first “polite” robbery. The item that led to his capture was a handkerchief accidentally left behind at his 29th robbery. Authorities traced 91 San Francisco laundries to find that the handkerchief belonged to Charles E. Bolton, a respectable mine engineer who was staying at Room 40, 37 2nd Street, San Francisco. Hume had him arrested and in his report recorded that Black Bart was, “A person of great endurance. Exhibited genuine wit under most trying circumstances (THAT is something to be admired in anyone 😉 ). Extremely proper and polite in behavior, eschews profanity.”

Bart was sentenced to six years in San Quentin Prison.  He was released after serving four on account of his good behavior 🙂

**Added Info: Black Bart’s last robbery was November 3, 1883, on the very same mountain pass as his first heist. After eight successful years as the “polite bandit”, Black Bart was fifty-four years old at the time of his capture. After his release from prison he lived in San Francisco for about a year and then disappeared. In the last letter to his wife he said he was tired of being demoralized by Wells Fargo and he wanted to get away from everyone. Wells Fargo officials traced him to a hotel in Visalia and found his valise in his room–but no Black Bart. His valise contained a can of corned beef, crackers and a hankerchief – I believe there’s a poetic messesge delivered in that 😉

Butch Cassidy is another outlaw legend who fascinates me–I believe Elizabeth did a post on him not long ago.  Doc Holiday is another favorite romantic legend that comes to mind.  Did you know that both of Doc Holiday’s parents died at age 37–his mother dying of tuberculosis.  Tuberculosis took Doc at the age of 36.  After proclaiming he would not die in bed….he died in bed.  His last words: “Now isn’t this funny…”  His tombstone reads “He died in bed.”

How about the rest of y’all?  Have any favorite western or outlaw legends?

Today I’ll give away a copy of THE GUNSLINGER’S UNTAMED BRIDE! I’m counting down 10 days to the official release date!!