The Appaloosa’s Heritage (and a PAPERBACK GIVEAWAY!)

Hello! It’s so nice to return and spend the day with you here – I had such a great time the last time I visited. Thanks for having me!

One of my favorite parts of writing a historical is the research. I can easily get lost in it (which can sometimes be a problem when I’m supposed to be productive). Most recently my wandering has taken me to the workings of a western essential: the livery stable. Why, you ask? My next release, Copper, is book three in my Heart of a Miner series set in the ghost town of Silver City, Idaho, where the main character, Mac Walley, is the owner of the town livery.


Most of us probably know that a livery stable was a place where one could find horses,

University of Idaho Library:

wagons, and other means of conveyance for rent, as well as board a horse short-term. Mac would be tasked with providing shelter, water, feeding twice a day, mucking stalls, and even turning a horse out for exercise. Mr. Walley, however, has his eye set on breeding a very special type of horse, one that you may have heard of or even recognize: The Appaloosa.

This unique spotted horse has a distinct heritage, as its ancestors were highly coveted, versatile intelligent, hardy, and courageous. Carefully bred by the Nez Perce tribe in Idaho’s Kamiah Valley, these horses gained the attention of attentive cowboys and breeders in 1877 during the flight of the Nez Perce. Led by Chief Joseph, the tribe gathered 2,000 of their prized horses and fled 1,500 miles northeast over rough, unfamiliar terrain without rest, the horses surviving solely on forage.

Despite the impressive feat, the herd’s numbers declined until only a few hundred remained. Efforts to save the faithful, reliable horses resulted in today’s Appaloosa, well-favored for their spotted coats and easy-going dispositions. The breed has its place in the American West even still, making excellent working ranch and cattle horses, pleasure and family mounts, and even sport and racing horses. The Appaloosa has become one of America’s best-loved breeds and has truly endured the test of time.

Mac Walley, recognizing their strength and beauty, can hardly pass up the chance to buy a pair when they turn up at his livery – but they don’t stick around for long. You’ll have to read the story to see what happens to his cherished horses, and whether his bride-of-convenience, Joan, can help him get them back!


Copper is scheduled to release later this month (March 26), and in celebration of its release, I’d like to send a paperback of the book to one winner here today  (Giveaway guidelines apply). To enter the giveaway, tell me about your favorite horse breed or a characteristic you admire.

You can pick it up on pre-order here, and it’ll also be available with the rest of the series on kindle unlimited.



Krystal’s website/newsletter sign-up:





Early Day Blacksmiths

“All Randall Humphrey wanted for Christmas was to be left alone and to celebrate in the only way he knew how – in solitude.  He wasn’t sure who thought up all the new fandangled Christmas festivities in Kasota Spring, Texas, but for him it only served as a reminder of the worst day of his life.”

This is the opening to my newest novella “Away in the Manager” in the anthology “A Texas Christmas” with fellow Filly, Linda Broday, along with Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace.  This is the fifth anthology I’ve written with these writing partners; and, found even more difficult to write about Christmas in September as it was to write the story when it was over one hundred degrees outside!

As a group, we made the decision to revisit Kasota Springs, Texas, where “Give Me a Cowboy” was set. And, yes, some of our characters from that book reappear in the new novellas. All of our Christmas stories take place during one of the big blizzards of 1887.

I immediately knew that my hero Rand would be the town’s blacksmith, since he was a second generation iron worker who had built the famous Waco Suspension Bridge that opened in 1869 in Waco, Texas. My first paragraph pretty much said it all … he wanted nothing but to be left alone to wallow in his gut-wrenching memories. But that wasn’t the way it turned out when a pretty woman and a set of four year old twins turn up at his door in the midst of the blizzard.

But, before I could write Rand, I needed to know more about the craft of blacksmithery, so a little history was at the top of my list.

Blacksmithing as a craft began with the Iron Age, when primitive man first began making tools from iron. The Iron Age began when some primitive person noticed that a certain type of rock yielded iron when heated by the coals of a very hot campfire. In short, we can say that blacksmithing, the art of crafting that crude metal into a useable implement has been around for longer than anyone can pinpoint.

The blacksmith who made suits of armor was an Armorer. The blacksmith who made knives and swords was a Bladesmith. The blacksmith who made locks was a Locksmith. The blacksmith who made gun barrels and triggers was a Gunsmith. Generally, the blacksmith we all relate to was a man who possessed all of these skills. Call him the “village smithy”. The differentiation lies mainly in that his shop was not geared for making one particular type of product. The blacksmith shop was generally the heart of the community.

The next thing I had to become familiar with was exactly how he went about his daily duties and the tools he used.  Tools were easy. They mainly consisted of an anvil, hammer, tongs, vise, files and a forge.

The forge was a raised brick hearth outfitted with bellows to feed its soft-coal fire and a hood to carry away the smoke.  The forge heated bars of iron yellow-hot. The color of the heated bars dictated at what stage it could be transformed on an anvil under the incessant beat of the blacksmith’s hammer, sometimes with the assistance of an apprentice or journeyman.  Randall used a sledge weighing around twelve pounds to hammer the heated bars into various shapes, reheat them, then pound and bend them into the desired shapes.

I thought blacksmiths basically made horseshoes, repaired carriages and made a few household items.  What a surprise I got when I found out about all the various items they produced such as agricultural implements for farmers, fireplace racks, pothooks, locks, gates, grilles, railings, light fixtures, furniture, sculpture, decorative and religious items, cooking utensils, and weapons.  They made hammerheads, axheads, shovelheads and other hand tools.

As you can imagine, in colonial America the village blacksmith was called upon to do many things. I read that some blacksmiths pulled teeth, no doubt meaning that a village without a dentist had to rely on the one man with a set of pliers!  Let’s just leave it at this. My hero wasn’t a dentist!

Despite common definitions, the person who shoes horses is a farrier rather than a blacksmith. The blacksmith makes the horseshoes. Many farriers have carried out both trades, but most modern day smithies do not.

What utensil or goods do you have around your house that would have been made by a blacksmith if we were living in the Texas Panhandle in 1889?

For one lucky commenter, I will give away a copy of “A Texas Christmas” which is scheduled to be released in October; but in the meantime, I’ll send the winner a $10.00 Gift Card to Bath and Body Works to tide them over until the book can be shipped.

Life at the Livery

Before I get started with my post, I just wanted to share how excited I am to be the newest filly in the corral here at the Junction! I’ve been an active follower for several years, and I know how talented and fun this group of ladies is. I couldn’t be more pleased to find myself in their company on a regular basis.

Now, back to the livery . . . take a close look at the picture below. Can you guess what’s missing?

Women. You’ll find nary a one. That’s because the livery stable was a man’s domain. Females flocked to dry good stores, dress shops, milliners, and drug emporiums but avoided the masculine hub known as the livery. Why? Mostly because of the smell. And the likelihood of stepping in something no lady would want clinging to the sole of her shoe or staining the hem of her skirt.

For a man, however, this was the western version of an English gentleman’s club. A masculine sanctuary, a place to pass the time discussing crops or swapping stories by the potbellied stove. So what if the air was a bit gamey? A little manure never hurt anyone. The only nags were out back in the corral, and they didn’t seem to mind if a fella was of a mind to spit his tobacco juice on the floor or wipe his nose on his sleeve.

But the livery was more than a gathering place for men who wanted to escape their womenfolk for a time. It was a place of business. The liveryman kept prime horseflesh on hand for harness or riding, maintained a respectable selection of carriages and wagons for rent, pitched hay, tallied accounts, and even dealt with colicky critters when the need arose. Travelers stopped by to board their mounts or rent a saddle horse for the day. Young swains coughed up hard-earned coin to impress their gals with romantic country drives in a rented rig. The livery supplied an essential service to the townsfolk.

As I researched livery stables for my debut novel, I came across a fabulous find in one of our local library’s genealogical collections—a transcribed log book from a livery in Bonham, Texas dating back to 1885. Not only did I learn what prices were charged, I also gained insight into the types of services offered. Here is a sampling:

  • Horse rental per day – $0.50
  • Horse and buggy rental – $1.00
  • Carriage and team – $2.00
  • Carriage and driver – $4.00
  • Buggy to depot – $1.00
  • Horse to pasture – $0.50
  • Feed – $0.25
  • Bucket of oats – $0.50
  • Stall rental – $1.50
  • Stall plus hay – $2.50
  • One month board on horse – $10.00
  • Currying horse – $0.10
  • Saddling horse – $0.25
  • Repairs on carriage – $0.50 to $1.50 or higher depending on extent of repair needed
  • Fee for lost horse blanket – $0.75 for regular blanket, $2.00 for double blanket

In addition to accepting cash for payment, this log book also chronicled a variety of barter offerings. Customers were known to pay in corn or cords of wood. One fellow who had accrued a rather large debt paid with a big black sow.

If a man had no goods to offer, he might pay in services like hauling hay in from area farms, working the nightshift at the stable, working as a carriage driver, or painting the livery.

Yet as the 19th century faded into the 20th, and the horse no longer held sway as the primary mode of transportation, what happened to all these livery stables? Did they simply fade away into the yore of yesteryear? Some may have. But many enterprising livery owners adapted successfully to the times and converted their stables and wagon yards into garages for the newfangled horseless carriages that dominated the streets.

So the next time you take you car to the shop, try to picture the mechanic with a handlebar mustache, hat, and boots. Who knows, maybe one of his great-great-grandfathers owned your town livery.