In UNTAMED COWBOY, my heroine, Carina Lockett, is a cattle woman who owns the C Bar C Ranch. Unfortunately, she is blackmailed by the father of her precious daughter for a huge sum of money, her entire herd of cattle. To get her daughter back after she’s been kidnapped, Carina must drive the herd to Dodge City and pay the ransom with the sale money.
Enter Penn McClure, one of her ranch hands who has burning revenge for the man blackmailing Carina. Penn is only too happy to help Carina get to Dodge City and settle his score.
Now, my friends, cattle drives ain’t easy. All kinds of things can go wrong and usually do. One of the worst is a stampede.
You wouldn’t think animals weighing a thousand pounds each would get scared of the littlest thing, but they do. A rabbit, a fox, a coyote–or even the strike of a match on a quiet night–could spook the herd and send them running. And that’s exactly what happens in UNTAMED COWBOY.
Here’s an excerpt:
The cattle had turned themselves around and were heading south, losing the ground they’d gained all day. He had to get to the front of them and turn the leaders so the rest would follow. Their hooves hammered against the ground, surrounded him with a deafening roar. Dust clouded his vision, thickened in his throat, but he lay over the gelding’s neck and rode even faster.
In the moonlight, those three thousand head of wild-eyed, horn-swinging cattle were a dark mass of terrifying power. Penn hoped fervently none of the men would be trampled. Or gored. One wrong move, and it could happen. It’d be easy, so easy. Dangerous for anyone, but especially a woman…
He closed his mind to Carina Lockett, to the worry that she was out here with him and the rest of her outfit. He pressed on, at last passing the thundering longhorns. Moving in amongst them, he swung his bullwhip again and again, aware if his horse found a prairie dog hole, or a hidden ravine, he’d go down, stomped to his death by those heavy hooves.
Yelling, relentless, he fought to turn the animals into the center of the herd. Then, to the side of him, there was Woollie, Stinky Dale and Jesse, and damn it, the she-boss, too, lashing her quirt, as desperate as the rest of them to get her herd to shift direction.
Finally, finally, the cattle began to veer into a wide circle, changing their straight run into a giant wheel of heaving cowhide. The switch got them bellowing to one another in confusion, and relief flowed through Penn at the sound, a sign their stampede was nearing an end. Gradually, they slowed and shuddered to an exhausted halt.
Penn halted, too. Breathing hard, he vowed vengeance on the night-herders responsible. Orlin Fahey was one, and he’d better have one hell of a good reason for those steers to run like they did.
The stampede is a crucial point in the book and sends Penn and Carina’s relationship in a whole new direction. A romantic one, of course!
Like with most all disasters, someone was responsible, and I hope you’ll read UNTAMED COWBOY to learn more about the stampede that made all hell break loose for Penn and Carina.
Let’s Chat! Have you ever done something that created havoc?
Has someone in your family? Or a pet?
I’ll go first. This winter, while visiting my sister in New Mexico, our Golden Retriever had to potty at 2:00 am. I put him off for a solid hour, but by 3:00 am, the poor dog just had to go out. When I opened the door to their patio, their alarm system went off. Lights flashed and sirens peeled. Their dog barked. The kids got scared. My brother-in-law came running toward me in his underwear . . . I felt awful, and I was so embarrassed. Yikes!
Texas has seen a number of mass migrations since the Mexican government opened the territory to Anglo settlers in the 1820s, but perhaps none were as transformative as the influx that took place immediately following the Civil War. Carpetbaggers, footloose former Union soldiers, and dispossessed former Confederates all found attractive the state’s untamed rangeland brimming with feral cattle called longhorns. Many a man with nothing more than guts and grit built a fortune and a legacy by shagging longhorns from deep scrub and driving the tough, stubborn, nasty-tempered critters north to the railheads in Kansas and Nebraska. Others pushed herds to Montana and Wyoming to begin new lives where the West was even wilder.
Between 1866 and 1890, cowboys drove an estimated twelve million longhorns and one million horses north. A crew of twelve to twenty men could push a herd of 2,000 to 3,000 beeves about ten to fifteen miles a day, reaching Kansas railheads in three to four months.
The development of barbed wire in the mid-1870s — along with an incursion of sheepmen and farmers — put a crimp in the cattle drives by crisscrossing Texas’s wide-open spaces with miles and miles and miles of fence. To protect themselves and their herds from the yahoos who would use Texas range for something besides Texas cattle, wealthy ranchers strung wire around the land they owned or leased, often extending their fences across public land, as well. What once had been open range across which cowboys drove enormous herds of steak on the hoof became parceled off, causing no end of frustration and unfriendly behavior.
Fence-cutting began almost as soon as the first of the wire went up. Small confrontations over “the Devil’s rope” happened frequently, with wire-nipping taking place in more than half of Texas counties.
In 1883, the conflict turned bloody. Instead of merely cutting fences that got in the way during trail drives, bands of armed cowboy vigilantes calling themselves names like Owls, Javelinas, and Blue Devils destroyed fences simply because the fences existed. Fence-cutting raids usually occurred at night, and often the vigilantes left messages warning the fence’s owner not to rebuild. Some went so far as to leave coffins nailed to fenceposts or on ranchers’ porches. During one sortie, vigilantes pulled down nineteen miles of fence, piled the wire on a stack of cedar posts, and lit a $6,000 bonfire.
In response, cattlemen hired armed men to guard their wire…with predictable results. Clashes became more violent, more frequent, and deadlier. In 1883 alone, at least three men were killed in Brown County, a hotspot of fence-cutting activity, during what came to be known as the Texas Fence-Cutter War.
The bloodiest period of the Fence-Cutter War lasted for only about a year, but in that period damages from fence-cutting and range fires totaled an estimated $20 million — $1 million in Brown County alone.
Although politicians stayed well away from the hot-button issue for about a decade, in early 1884 the Texas legislature declared fence-cutting a felony punishable by a prison term of one to five years. The following year, the U.S. Congress outlawed stringing fence across public land. Together, the new laws ended the worst of the clashes, although the occasional fracas broke out in the far western portion of Texas into the early part of the 20th Century.
The Texas Rangers were assigned to stop several fence-cutting outbreaks, and being the Texas Rangers, they proved remarkably effective…with one notable exception. In February 1885, Texas Ranger Ben Warren was shot and killed outside Sweetwater while trying to serve a warrant for three suspected fence-cutters. Two of the three were convicted of Warren’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.
In 1888, a brief resurgence of fence-cutting violence erupted in Navarro County, prompting famed Texas Ranger Ira Aten to place dynamite charges at intervals along one fence line. Aten’s method was a mite too extreme for the Texas Adjutant General, who ordered the dynamite removed. The mere rumor of the explosive’s presence brought fence-cutting to a rapid halt in the area, though.
Though Civil War battles left few scars on Texas, the war’s aftermath was devastating — and not just because barbed-wire fence appeared. Texas existed under federal martial law for five long years after the war ended, becoming the final member of the Confederacy to repatriate only under duress. During Reconstruction, lingering animosity led some of the occupation forces to plunder and terrorize their jurisdictions. Bearing their own grudges and determined to become an independent republic again, Texans demanded “the invading foreign army” remove its boots from sovereign soil. A U.S. Supreme Court decision finally ran the rebellious Lone Star State back in with the rest of the herd in 1870, at last reunifying a divided nation.
My newest story, The Trouble with Honey, takes place during Reconstruction in Texas: A marshal’s widow can escape a Union Army manhunt only with the help of an outlaw condemned to hang. The novella is part of the trilogy The Dumont Way, which begins a saga chronicling the lives and loves of a Texas ranching dynasty from before the Civil War to the turn of the 20th Century.
Boots meandered across the stone floor. The marshal’s snicker slapped Daniel between the shoulder blades. “Injun Creek hasn’t seen this much excitement in a month of Sundays. We’re planning quite a celebration for you.”
One of life’s great mysteries: Had Halverson been born arrogant, or had the skill required practice? “Always did fancy a crowd of folks looking up to me.”
Whistling, the marshal moved away. Daniel stared at the dingy clapboard across the alley. That wall wouldn’t present much challenge. This wall, on the other hand… A barrel of black powder and a lucifer would come in handy right about now.
He rested his forehead against the bars. Daisy would dig up his body and throw a second hemp party if he didn’t show up for the wedding.
The jailhouse door scraped open, and a swirl of fresh air tapped him on the shoulder. Fingering the tender crease running from his eyebrow to his hairline, he pivoted. If Halverson’s lucky shot hadn’t dropped him—
His fingertips stilled. So did his breath.
The marshal ushered in a voluptuous vision and lifted a tin plate from her hands. An abundance of golden hair, gathered in soft swirls at the crown, framed her head like a halo. Curls fell beside rounded cheeks.
“What’re you doing here?” Judging by the pucker in his tone, Halverson had eaten one too many sour apples. “Where’s that old drunk you insist on keeping around?”
“Henry hasn’t touched a drop in—”
“What? Twenty-four hours?”
The angel raised her chin. “He isn’t feeling well.”
Daniel drifted to the front of the cell and slouched onto the forearms he draped over a horizontal bar. The familiar voice… Nectar, fresh from a hive.
Gracing Halverson with a shallow smile, the buxom beauty tipped her head toward the plate. “Chicken and dumplings for your prisoner’s supper.”
Steam rising from the lump meant to be his meal carried a whiff of old socks. Daniel’s thoughts churned right along with his stomach. High point of the day: bad vittles. Now, the lady… She was downright mouthwatering.
A Kiss to Rememberis available exclusively on Amazon (free for those who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited). I’ll give an e-copy to one of today’s commenters who answers this question: If you had migrated to Texas after the Civil War, would you have settled in town or on a ranch or farm? Why?
Thanks for stopping by today! I’m looking forward to your comments. 🙂
I love good dialogue, especially when it delivers the unexpected or makes me laugh. Dialogue sparkles when it reveals insight into the character, adds conflict, or moves the plot forward. I also like dialogue that adds sexual tension—hee haw! Here are a few of my favorite western movie quotes.
The Outlaw Josey Wales
Josey Wales: When I get to liking someone, they ain’t around long. Lone Watie: I notice when you get to disliking someone they ain’t around for long neither.
Once Upon a Time in the West
Wobbles: You can trust me, Frank. Frank: Trust ya? How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders, a man who can’t even trust his own pants?
Rooster Cogburn: Damn that Texan, when you need him he’s dead.
The Magnificent Seven
Chico: Ah, that was the greatest shot I’ve ever seen. Britt: The worst! I was aiming at the horse.
Wyatt Earp: You gonna do something or just stand there and bleed?
The kid: Well, I guess they had it comin’. Munny: We all got it comin’, kid.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Man with no name: See, in this world, there’s two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.
Jebediah: Above all, forgive me for the men I’ve killed in anger…and those I am about to.
Preacher (played by Clint Eastwood): Well, if you’re waitin’ for a woman to make up her mind, you may have a long wait.
Support Your Local Sheriff
Jake: You want me to tell Joe Danby that he’s under arrest for murder? What’re you gonna do after he kills me? Jason: Then I’ll arrest him for both murders.
Martin: I hope you die! Ethan: That’ll be the day.
Lamarr: Taggart. Taggart: Yes, sir. Lamarr: I’ve decided to launch an attack that will reduce Rock Ridge to ashes. Taggart: What do you want me to do, sir? Lamarr: I want you to round up every vicious criminal and gunslinger in the West. Take this down: I want rustlers, cut-throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, mugs, pugs, thugs, nit-wits, half-wits, dim-wits, vipers, snipers, con-men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bush-whackers, horn-swagglers, horse-thieves, bull-dykes, train-robbers, bank-robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers, and Methodists! Taggart: Could you repeat that, sir?
Western movies aren’t known for love or romance, so I offer one of my favorite romantic quotes from Gone with The Wind:
Rhett Butler (who else?) You should be kissed — and often — and by someone who knows how.
And finally, here’s one from my soon-to-be-released bookLeft at the Altar
Josie (when the groom fails to show up for the wedding) You don’t suppose something might have happened to Tommy, do you? An accident? Meg (the bride) It better have!
Do you have a favorite book or movie quote to share? If not, which of the movie quotes above did you like best?
Before James Marshall discovered those shiny nuggets at Sutter’s Mill that sparked the Gold Rush and made the precious metal the focus of fortune-seekers around the globe, longhorn cattle were California’s primary product. Sadly they were raised for their hides and tallow. Much of the meat was left to rot on the beaches while the valued items were loaded on longboats anchored off shore.
That changed in 1849 when California was overrun by miners pouring in by the thousands. Food was scarce in the gold fields of the north, so the cattle ranchers of the south found a ready market for their beef. At that point, nearly half a million head of longhorn roamed the countryside in the sparsely populated area around Los Angeles.
Some believe the California longhorn was closely related to its Texas counterpart, with both tracing their heritage to the Andalusian Iberian longhorn of southwestern Spain. The records kept at the time didn’t document the physical appearance or attributes of the California longhorn, so one can only speculate.
A series of droughts in the mid-1800s all but obliterated the herds. The disastrous drought of 1864 brought about the loss of 50-75% of the longhorn cattle in Los Angeles County due to thirst or starvation. The remaining cattle ranches were broken up into smaller ranches, with many of the ranchers diversifying into more stable and financially beneficial agricultural ventures.
One rancher, Henry Miller, originally a butcher in San Francisco, did well despite the disastrous losses of others. He expanded his herd and his holdings. It’s thought he might have been the largest owner of private lands in the state. Miller was one of the first to bring in Durham and Hereford bulls to breed with the longhorn cows, providing the public with beef from the British breeds the rapidly increasing population preferred. And thus the end of the longhorn legacy in California came about.
Cattle ranching increased in northern California as gold became harder to find and more expensive to extract. The small town of Shingle Springs, in which my debut Love Inspired Historical, Family of Her Dreams, takes place, shifted from mining to cattle ranching. Sprawling ranches sprang up in the area, and cattle could be seen grazing there for much of the year.
During the hot, dry summers, ranchers herded their cattle up the mountain to pastures high in the Sierras. Oftentimes the womenfolk would stay with the herds while the men remained in the valley and saw to things there. Since the temperatures in the valley can top one hundred for a number of days each summer, I think the ladies got the better end of the deal.
In my story, the hero, Spencer Abbott, dreams of leaving his stationmaster duties behind and becoming a cattle rancher, as was his father back in Texas. Spencer pays to have a longhorn bull brought to him, which he intends to breed. With payment in calves, he plans to grow a herd of his own. Whether or not he succeeds shall remain a mystery—until you read the story anyhow. 🙂
If you’d like a chance to win a copy of Family of Her Dreams, just leave a comment with the answer to one (or more) of the questions below by midnight EDT on Saturday, June 20.
Do you like rancher heroes in romances?
How prevalent are cattle ranches in your part of the country?
Have you ever seen a longhorn bull in person? If so, what was your impression of it?
Award-winning author Keli Gwyn, a native Californian, transports readers to the early days of the Golden State. She and her husband live in the heart of California’s Gold Country. Her favorite places to visit are her fictional worlds, historical museums and other Gold Rush-era towns. Keli loves hearing from readers and invites you to visit her Victorian-style cyber home at www.keligwyn.com, where you’ll find her contact information.
A Family to Cherish
Headstrong Tess Grimsby loves her new job caring for the children of a recently widowed man. But she never imagined that she’d fall for her handsome employer. Yet Spencer Abbott is as caring as he is attractive, and Tess can’t help but feel for him and his family. Though, for the sake of her job, she’ll keep any emotions about her boss to herself.
Between his stationmaster responsibilities in a gold-rush town and trying to put his family back together, Spencer has his hands full. He soon finds his new hire’s kind personality warming his frosty exterior. But could he ever admit to seeing her as more than just an employee?
Leave a comment to enter her drawing on here for an autographed copy of Family of Her Dreams.