I don’t know if this happens to other writers, but I’ve had some strange things happen during the writing of a book. I once turned a manuscript into my editor at the same time another writer turned in hers. Oddly, enough, our protagonists shared the same first names and professions. There were also many other similarities throughout our manuscripts, and all had to be changed.
Another time I was hiking a trail in Mammoth when I met a geologist who was the spitting image of the geologist hero in the book I was working on. Even weirder, his first name was Damian and I’d named my hero Damon. Close enough, right?
But the strangest thing that happened occurred recently. I’d been toying with the idea of taking a DNA Ancestry test for quite some time, so my daughter decided to gift me with one for Christmas. The results were pretty much what I expected, with one surprise. It turns out that the outlaw Jesse James and I share a common ancestor.
The timing was especially weird since Jesse James plays a part in the book I’m currently working on. Come to think of it, it’s not the first time Jesse James has popped up in one of my books, and I can’t count how many blogs I’ve written about the outlaw.
That’s because Jesse is a fun person to write about. Not only was he controversial, he had both a light and dark side. The son of a Baptist minister, he was known to pass out press releases to witnesses at his holdups and had no qualms about exaggerating his height. He might also be the only person on record who took a gang on his honeymoon. I don’t know what his bride did while he and his gang robbed a stage. Maybe she went shopping.
Jesse James lived for only thirty-four years, but there was never a dull moment. He was a Confederate guerrilla, was shot in the chest on two separate occasions and once overdosed on morphine. He also claimed to have murdered seventeen people.
Jesse went by many aliases, but his nickname was Dingus because he shot off the tip of his finger while cleaning his pistol. He wrote glowing articles about his gang, saying that they robbed the rich and gave to the poor, though all indications are that they kept the spoils to themselves.
Far as I know, he was also the first person to prove that housework can kill. While tidying up his house, he was fatally shot by his new hire Bob Ford in the back of the head.
I can’t tell you what it was about Jesse James that first caught my interest. I can’t even tell you why this writer, who’s allergic to horses, writes Westerns. All I can say, is that it must be in my DNA.
Have any of you had your DNA tested? If so, were there any surprises that you’re willing to share
A rough outlaw town…A man seeking redemption…A hunted woman with no place to turn except agree to be outlaw Clay Colby’s wife.
This is the scenario in The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride. In case you haven’t heard, this new series is a bleed over from my Men of Legend and Clay Colby (whom you met in The Heart of a Texas Cowboy) is tired of running. He’s determined to make a stand on the last bit of mostly unsettled Texas land in the panhandle. He yearns to settle down with a wife and have a family. To be normal. So he starts building a town on the site of an old hideout called Devil’s Crossing. While he builds, he writes to Tally Shannon and Luke Legend carries the letters back and forth. She and a group of women are hiding out in a canyon, hunted in order to be returned to the Creedmore Asylum for the Insane.
Tally and these women first made an appearance at the end of Men of Legend Book 1 – To Love a Texas Ranger when outlaw Luke Legend began providing food, clothing, and medicine.
But Tally has grown weary of living in the shadows and wants more for herself and her band of fugitives. For once she wants to know what it’s like to have someone care for her—to have strong arms around her, to be safe, protected. Although afraid to trust, she agrees to marry Clay.
“What drew Clay most was the defiance on her face, and the determined glint in her eyes. Hard eyes, that had seen too much pain. Tally wouldn’t back down easily—from anything. The Colt strapped around her waist bore witness to that.”
I’ve often thought about the line drawn between outlaws and lawmen on the American Frontier and find that at times it became so blurred it was almost invisible. A man could be a sheriff or U.S. Marshal one day and a fugitive outlaw the next, depending on the circumstances. Or vice versa.
Millions upon millions of acres of raw land comprised the American Frontier, stretching from the Missouri River all the way to the Pacific Ocean. There were no laws, no courts, and little or no government. The few lawmen that existed had to cover huge areas and there was no way they could.
Often, the only law was what a man found for himself. The gun determined the outcome.
To get an idea of what I’m talking about, consider this: A man is minding his own business and taking care of his family when someone rides up and shoots his wife and children. He catches the murderer and kills him. That makes him an outlaw and he’d be on the run.
Then maybe one of the railroad or cattle towns needed to curb their lawlessness so they would hire the outlaw and pin a badge on his chest. There are plenty of examples in history.
Many such men straddled the fence, being whatever anyone wanted. Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Virgil Earp, Bat Masterson, and Pat Garrett to name a few. You might say they were the good “bad” guys.
That’s what Clay and his friends are. Sure, they’ve killed but they only see it as administering justice. They were the law where there was none and now they’re ready to give up their role.
But will others let them?
If you’ve read the book, tell me your favorite part or favorite character. Or talk about outlaws. What is your view? Were they good? Or bad?
Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for one of three copies of the book. Or if you already have it, to win a $10 Amazon gift card.
A town of nothing but outlaws…Women needing protection, love, and hope
…People living in the shadows in desperate need of saving.
I’m launching a brand new series January 29, 2019 called Outlaw Mail Order Brides and here is the gorgeous cover for the first book!!
By the way, it’s available for preorder. Not that I’m begging or anything.
The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride is about Clay Colby and Tally Shannon. These are both characters from my Men of Legend series. Clay was Houston Legend’s right-hand man in The Heart of a Texas Cowboy and I’m thrilled to give him his own story. In fact, I’m beyond excited for my Legend series to bleed over into this one. Readers weren’t done with my Legend men and neither was I, so they’ll appear some in these. Luke probably will more than any because he and his wife Josie have formed a private mail order bride service to match men and women living outside the law for whatever reason.
I received a lot of mail asking if I’ll free the women in hiding. Yes, in this book.
You first met Tally Shannon and her band of women living in Deliverance Canyon in To Love a Texas Ranger (the first Men of Legend.) They’re in hiding after escaping the Creedmore Lunatic Asylum—only none are crazy. They were put in there by family members wanting to get rid of them. In fact, there’s quite a lucrative racket going in that horrible place.
Tally knows they can’t live in hiding forever and it’s time to walk in the sunshine. She volunteers to go first and try marriage. The outlaws can protect her but she’s struggling with trust issues. She doesn’t trust anyone—not even Clay. And this causes big problems between them. Still, she sees Clay’s huge heart and begins to lose her fear.
Tally begins to feel safe in Devil’s Crossing and loves working by Clay’s side in making it a town. He needs this as much as she. But there are lots of potholes in the road.
Can they smooth them out and stay alive long enough to make this marriage work? It’s anyone’s guess.
This cover perfectly depicts their rustic life. The big fire is in the center of the town where all the people gather and a lot of nights one of the men gets out his fiddle and they dance. I modeled Clay after the real life gunfighter and outlaw, Clay Allison, who loved to dance more than–well, shoot bad guys. So….do outlaws really dance? You bet’cha.
When we think of a Wanted poster, we think of the Old West when those handbills were tacked on the sides of buildings or poles, declaring the name of the alleged criminal and their crime, often with a grainy illustration, a reward and inscribed “Dead or Alive.”
In truth, the Wanted posters had much humbler beginnings. From about 1840, they originated as a letter or a postcard with the specific information listed (physical description, crime, locale, etc.) and were distributed among frontier lawmen, who kept the paper folded in their pockets. Occasionally, the information was printed in newspapers, but rarely were the letters circulated widely or even to the public. Travel was difficult, slow and assumed hindering to most criminals; thus, the posters were kept within a small area of local towns and counties.
The Pinkerton Agency was instrumental in improving the Wanted poster as a means of spreading the word in hopes of capturing a known lawbreaker. The admonishment of “Dead or Alive” was merely a disclaimer that if it came right down to it, shooting the guy if necessary kept the bounty hunter or vigilante virtually blameless.
And those rewards? The amount was dependent on the outlaw’s ruthlessness and how much someone was willing to pony up for it. The money was usually split between the arresting lawman and the one who had compiled the information and distributed it.
As time went on, about the turn of the century, photography improved and photos were added. With more years rolling by, Wanted posters were even used as a form of propaganda throughout the world toward capturing Adolf Hitler, and later, Osama Bin Laden, who warranted a hefty $25 million reward in 2001. In the 1950s, the FBI created their Ten Most Wanted Fugitive list, including a broader range of criminals dictated by the unfortunate sophistication in their methods, namely terrorists and fugitives as well as missing or kidnap victims.
So you could say the Wanted poster was one of history’s first form of social media, right?
In my brand new re-release, WANTED!, Lark is a former outlaw turned responsible citizen and bank teller, who through circumstances beyond her control, finds herself under the care and protection of the man who once tried to arrest her.
Here’s a peek at how a Wanted poster complicates Lark’s life… or does it?
He strode into his bedroom and closed the door. He kept assorted pharmaceuticals on a shelf above his washbasin. But it was the bureau he headed for, and the bottom drawer he kept under lock and key.
Once he opened it, he found the flat, rectangular box he was looking for. He removed the lid, tossed it aside, his urgency growing as he rifled through the papers he kept within. Reports he’d penned. Payments he’d received. Documents from his past life as a bounty hunter.
He yanked out one in particular.
And there she was.
Lark Renault. Alias Wild Red. Once part of the notorious Reno gang. The artist’s drawing was at least seven years old, crude at best, but it was her. Thick, wavy hair, spilling from beneath a wide-brimmed hat. Eyes, dark and direct. She looked young in the drawing. Thinner, too.
But it was her.
She’d been there that day at the Turf Club. Ross was hell-bent on arresting her, but things turned ugly. Out of control. He never intended to shoot her down.
Catfish Jack took care of matters with his shotgun primed and ready. Ross never saw him coming.
He shut off the memories, dragged himself back to the present. Now, at last, he could finish the case he never solved, and the one person who could help him do it was sitting on his couch at this very moment.
The Wanted poster slipped from his fingers. He rose, strode to the door and yanked it wide open.
But Lark Renault had disappeared.
At this point, poor Lark and Ross are both caught up in quite a dilemma. I hope you’ll want to read more. #kindleunlimited
Some people just aren’t cut out for a life of crime.
An example of this is the case of two cowboys named Grant Wheeler and Joe George. In 1895, they decided to try their hand at robbing the Southern Pacific Railroad. The real loot was carried by rail, so why waste time robbing stages?
After carefully working out a plan, George and Wheeler purchased a box of dynamite and boarded the train. Five miles out of Willcox, Arizona, the desperadoes got the engineer to stop the train with the help of a .45 revolver. Piece of cake.
One of the outlaws uncoupled the express car from the rest of the train and ordered the engineer to pull forward. Wheeler and George then broke into the express car. The safe had eighty-four thousand dollars in cash and their hands were itching to get hold of it.
They must have been ecstatic to discover that the Wells Fargo agent guarding the loot had escaped. In addition to the unguarded safe, they also found bags of silver pesos used as ballast on the floor. Oh, heavenly days!
Working quickly, they placed sticks of dynamite around the safe and ducked outside to escape the blast. Unfortunately, the safe remained intact.
They decided to try again with extra dynamite but got the same results. The stubborn safe refused to give up its treasure.
If at First…
Not willing to give up, the bungling robbers decided to try yet a third time. This time, they used too much dynamite and blew the entire express car to smithereens. Pieces of lumber and thousands of silver pesos filled the air. Acting like shrapnel, some of the coins were embedded in telegraph poles. It’s a miracle the two men survived.
When the smoke cleared, they found that the safe door had been blown off, but only a few dollars had escaped the blast. The real booty was the Mexican pesos, but the silver coins were scattered all over the countryside.
Meanwhile, the train has rolled into town and sounded the alarm. The sheriff tried putting together a posse with no luck. Folks were too busy racing out to the scene of the crime to hunt for silver pesos.
…Try, Try, Again!
After licking their wounds, Wheeler and George decided to give train robbery another shot. No sense letting their harrowing experience go to waste.
A week later, they showed up to rob the same train and felt confident they knew what they were doing. This time they would make careful use of the dynamite.
The fourth times a charm—or is it?
Wheeler and George ordered the crew to separate the express car from the engine and passenger cars.
Everything went according to plan. You can almost imagine the two giving each other a high-five as they entered the express car. They were, however, in for a rude awakening. For the hapless duo soon discovered that the crew had reversed the order of the rail cars. Instead of the express car, Wheeler and George were left with the mail car. They had been duped!
I’m so happy, happy to FINALLY share TO MARRY A TEXAS OUTLAW with you! This release will make me twenty published books and short stories. Whew! I can’t believe it.
It seemed this third book of Men of Legend, the story you’ve all waited so patiently for, would never come. (A watched pot never boils.) I think you might find it well worth the wait. At least I’m hoping that’s the case.
At last, Luke Weston has the location for the man who pinned a federal judges’ murder on him. He’s searched for Ned Sweeney for two long years and finally has his location. He only has a one-hour window before Sweeney goes underground again. He’s riding to Dead Horse Creek when he sees a woman bound and gagged underneath a scrawny tree and covered in blood. He’s torn about what to do but his honor won’t let him ride on.
The woman doesn’t know her name, where she belongs, or how she got there. But she’s mad enough to whip someone.
Deliverance Canyon is close by. He decides to take her there to Tally Shannon and the other woman hiding out.
I often think of how scary it would be to wake up and not know who I was or where I lived. You would have no starting point or nothing to relate anything to. I can’t imagine. But Josie somehow keeps her sense of humor and stays optimistic for the most part. She trusts the outlaw Luke Legend and feels safe with him.
As pieces of her life slowly start to emerge, she falls deeper in love with Luke. It’s at that point she begins to pray she never finds out who she is because she senses it will change things between them. Something tells her that her past is riddled with bad people and she’s found contentment with Luke and hates the thought of that ending.
Despite the seriousness of her situation, she is so funny and sweet and I love that. I think you will too. But that doesn’t mean she’ll be a doormat for anyone. She’s quite a fighter.
I think that’s what Luke likes most about her. She takes whatever life throws at her and finds a silver lining.
This story is full of twists and turns and Luke will steal your heart—all over again. Will he clear his name and get to claim the Legend name? So many forces are working against him. And Josie too. You’ll just have to see. All I can say is you’d better hold on tight.
Many secrets are revealed, and love claimed. By the end of the book, Luke and the Legend family will forever remain etched in your memory.
In Texas some legends are born, some are made
…and some are created by destiny.
In this story, the legend is that whoever sleeps beneath the Texas star will find his true worth. Luke does that in this story and gets the affirmation he seeks.
Do you know of any legends? Maybe you’ve read about some in other books. Or maybe a book about amnesia. Leave some kind of comment to be entered in my giveaway for one of three copies of the book.
There are some places that draw me over and over again. The St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico is one. Each time I pass through there, I have to stop. So much history happened there. I never fail to feel as though I brush shoulders with the many outlaws, ranchers and historic figures that once walked through those doors. Gunfights were a regular occurrence. But then, Cimarron was a rough place with no law.
The St. James Hotel was established in 1872 and continues to operate today. How I wish those adobe walls could talk. It seems as though I walk back in time. Henri Lambert, who was once a chef for President Abraham Lincoln, and his wife built the establishment–and trouble soon began.
Cimarron is Spanish for wild or unruly, and man, did the town live up to its name! The fastest guns quickly settled disputes and to say the undertaker was kept very busy is no exaggeration. The newspaper in nearby Las Vegas, New Mexico wrote in 1874 that things were awfully quiet in Cimarron because no one had been killed in three days. That must’ve been truly remarkable. At least 26 people lost their lives in the hotel and its saloon. After that they stopped counting. When the ceiling of the saloon was replaced in 1901, they discovered over 400 bullet holes. Yet, despite the gunplay, the business thrived.
Many well-known and influential people visited the St. James Hotel. The Earp Brothers stopped for several days on their way to Tombstone, Arizona. The Territorial Governor of New Mexico, Lew Wallace, wrote part of his novel BEN HUR there during visits to the area. This was where Buffalo Bill Cody laid down plans for his Wild West Show. Author Zane Grey began writing his novel, Fighting Caravans, while staying in Room 22.
The outlaws who sought lodging were too numerous to list but among them was Jesse James who always stayed in Room 14, Black Jack Ketchum, Clay Allison, Bob Ford, Pat Garrett, Doc Holliday, and Billy the Kid.
I found it interesting that David “Davy” Crockett, nephew of the famous Davy, was a regular at the hotel. He struck up a friendship with Clay Allison, then was killed one night by an unknown assailant and today lies buried in the Cimarron Cemetery.
I put Clay Allison in The Heart of a Texas Cowboy as Houston Legend’s head drover on that cattle drive and used his actual name. But my editor fell in love with him and wanted me to give Clay his own story, so I had to change his last name to Colby. I’m currently writing this story now and it’s due in two weeks. I love how the story came together and I think readers will love it too.
The real Clay Allison was responsible for killing 7 men in the St. James Hotel from 1872 to 1875. He loved to dance and did every chance he got and I incorporate that into my fictional Clay. Allison’s most quoted saying was this, “I never killed anyone who didn’t need it.” And from all the accounts he didn’t. He never bothered anyone who was doing right. He was well-liked and had a lot of friends. In 1881 he married America Medora McCulloch and they had two daughters. He bought a ranch outside of Pecos, Texas and had a freak accident in 1887 involving a wagon and was killed. He was 46 years old.
I just love visiting the St. James Hotel and do every chance I get. History presses around me and if I close my eyes, I can smell gunpowder in the air.
What do you like best about visiting historical places? Have any left a lasting impression?
If you’ve ever read a western novel or watched a western movie, no doubt you’ve run across a whole herd of quaint terms that add character to the story. Where did those terms come from, why did folks use them, and when were they popular?
Here are some of the words and phrases used to describe the bad boys of the Old West. Some of them are older than one might imagine. Western historical romance authors may be dismayed to find others are newer than they hoped.
Buscadero: gunfighter. From the Spanish buscadero, literally a searcher. The origin of the slang usage is obscure; possibly “seeking trouble.”
Bushwhacker: cowardly enemy who strikes from ambush. Americanism; arose c. 1809. Oddly, the verb “bushwhack” arose later, c. 1837. During the American Civil War (at least from 1862-1865), “bushwhacker” acquired a less-pejorative connotation, meaning any irregular who took to the woods to strike from cover and then vanish. The term was applied in equal measure to both friend and foe.
Cabrón: an outlaw of low breeding and even lower principles. In Spanish, the word means “goat.” Origin of the slang usage is obscure.
Cold-blooded: unfeeling, dispassionate, cruel. Arose c. 1828 from the old (1600s) notion that excitement increased human blood temperature. Reptiles have been called cold-blooded since about 1600, and the reptilian image also played into the description as applied to killers and other reprehensible sorts who acted without apparent regret.
Cold lead: from the mid-1800s until the 1920s, a bullet. About 1920, usage changed and “hot lead” became slang for bullets. The reason is unclear.
Cowboy of the Pecos: rustler, based on the notion safety could be found in the lawless area around Texas’ Pecos River.
Dressed to kill: double entendre meaning not only that a man wearing two guns most likely was a killer, but also that wearing a double rig (a holstered pistol on each hip) made it difficult for a gunman to do anything with either hand without implying a threat; therefor, dudes who adopted the practice were likely to be killed.
Dry-gulch: to ambush someone, particularly in a cowardly manner.
Get the drop on: to obtain a marked advantage, especially with the help of a gun. Probably dates to the California gold rush of 1849, when claim-jumpers sometimes seemed to materialize from the ether before hijacking a profitable claim at gunpoint. First documented appearance in print 1869 in Alexander K. McClure’s Three Thousand Miles through the Rocky Mountains: “So expert is he with his faithful pistol, that the most scientific of rogues have repeatedly attempted in vain to get ‘the drop’ on him.”
GTT: on the wrong side of the law. Short for “gone to Texas,” this usage dates at least to the Civil War, when deserters and other former soldiers from both armies — suddenly unemployed and inured to violence — migrated to still-wild, wide-open Texas, “lost” their names, and took up outlawry. (Originally, “Gone to Texas” was the phrase families ruined by the financial panic of 1819 painted on doors and fence signs before lighting out to begin anew in greener pastures south of the Mexican border.) In his 1857 book Journey through Texas, Frederick Law Olmstead noted that many newcomers to the state were suspected of having skipped out on something “discreditable” back home. Thomas Hughes, in his 1884 book G.T.T., wrote “When we want to say that it is all up with some fellow, we just say, ‘G.T.T.’ as you’d say, ‘gone to the devil,’ or ‘gone to the dogs.’”
Gun: until the early 20th Century, cannon or long guns like shotguns and rifles. Handguns were called pistols or — after Samuel Colt introduced his first patented repeating revolver in 1836 — six-guns or six-shooters.
Gunman: shootist; gunfighter. First recorded use 1903 in a New York newspaper. (Gunsman, with an S in the middle, arose on the American frontier during the Revolutionary period.)
Gunslinger: No such term existed in the Old West. The word is pure Hollywood, from the early days of western movies.
Gun shark: gunfighter. Arose mid-1800s from the earlier (1700s) use of “shark” to indicate a voracious or predatory person, based on the reputation of the fish.
Heeled up: armed. Arose ca. 1866 from the 1560s usage of “heel” to mean attaching spurs to a gamecock’s feet.
Hogleg: large revolver. Originally referred to the Bisley single-action Colt (first manufactured 1894), but later generalized to any big pistol.
Holdup: a robbery. American English colloquialism, 1851. The verb “to hold up,” meaning “to stop by force and rob,” didn’t arise until 1887, apparently from the robbers’ command to raise hands. “Hold up,” meaning to delay, dates to 1837.
Hustler: thief, especially one who roughs up his victims. Arose 1825. Sense of “energetic worker” is from 1884; sense of “prostitute” dates from 1924.
Lam: to run off. U.S. slang dating to 1886; of uncertain origin. “On the lam,” meaning flight to avoid prosecution or consequences, arose c. 1897.
On the cuidado: running from the law. From the Spanish warning ten cuidado, which means “be careful.”
Owlhoot: outlaw. “Riding the owlhoot trail” referred to a man who had left the straight and narrow to become an outlaw. One explanation of origin came from a man living in the Indian Territory of eastern Oklahoma around 1870. He claimed the name came about from the Indians in the area using owl hoots to signal danger or someone’s approach. Another tale indicates outlaws were called “owlhoots” because, when they were getting ready to ambush somebody in the dark, they would imitate the hooting of owls to signal one another.
Pecos swap: theft. Again, based on the reputation of Texas’s Pecos River area.
Pistolero: expert with a handgun. Adopted from Mexican Spanish, in which the word has the same meaning.
Rattlesnaked: ambushed (literally or figuratively) in a particularly devious or cunning way. Dates at least to 1818.
Safecracker (also safe-cracker): individual with a talent for liberating money from locked vaults. Arose ca. 1897, as a reference to robbers who used dynamite to thwart security boxes.
Shootist: expert marksman. Arose 1864.
Sidewinder: dangerously cunning or devious person. Arose American West ca. 1875 as a reference to some species of rattlesnakes’ “peculiar lateral movement.”
Stickup: robbery at gunpoint. Arose 1887 from the earlier (1846) verb “stick up,” meaning to rob someone at gunpoint. The phrase “stick up for,” meaning defend, is from 1823. The archaic noun “stick-up” arose ca. 1857 as a colloquial term for a stand-up collar.
Wanted posters have a long history and they existed long before America was discovered. In England, I believe the first ones came about as the sheriffs sought to get their hands on Robin Hood. Most believe the thief’s name was an alias used freely by all thieves in England. But that time period is when the first wanted posters came about.
In America, the first was for the capture of John Wilkes Booth for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. I don’t know how large a part the poster played in Booth’s capture but I do know they were used extensively afterward as a tool for catching criminals.
The money offered for the culprit was a great incentive and the amounts varied. If the crime was against railroads, stagecoach lines, or big banks, it was more because the companies put up the money. For smaller businesses for just low profile criminals, it was often around $50 or less.
Since photographs were extremely hard to come by for the most part in the 1800s, the posters usually only gave a brief description of the outlaw or maybe had a hand-drawn likeness.
The progression of cameras changed the landscape considerably. No longer were lawbreakers hidden in the shadows. Their faces were everywhere for all to see.
If the poster used the phrase, “Dead or Alive” on it, that made it okay to just kill the wanted man or woman. The person got the reward either way and it was often safer to bring them in dead.
Jesse James had a $25,000 bounty on his head and the Governor of Missouri put up the money. That’s equivalent to $115,000 in today’s currency. A whole lot of dinero.
Most were lots smaller. In 1892, a poster offered $6,500 for The Sundance Kid. That same year, Bob, Emmett, and Grat Dalton had a $5,000 reward for all three, not each. In 1874, the Texas Rangers put out one for John Wesley Hardin and didn’t state an amount. One for Billy the Kid only offered $500.
In 2007, the FBI went a step further and began to use electronic billboards. In 2014, they claimed that 53 cases had been solved as a direct result of the billboards.
I’ve used wanted posters in quite a few of my books and in my upcoming To Marry a Texas Outlaw in November, Luke Weston has a $2000 bounty on his head for killing a federal judge. It’s fun to fantasize about living in that era and thinking about all that money. It would’ve been nice for someone who made less than a dollar a week come into a windfall like this for catching an outlaw.
Do you think you’d have been a bounty hunter back then? Lots to think about. I have one copy of To Love a Texas Ranger to give away to someone who comments. The drawing will be Sunday.
Though it’s hard to imagine the likes of Wyatt Earp or Bat Masterson bowling, this was actually a popular sport in the Old West. According to True West magazine, one of the strangest bowling alleys was built in California in 1866. After felling a majestic Redwood, miners turned the flat, heavily-waxed surface into a bowling alley.
Speaking of sports, baseball was also a popular sport in the Old West. Even Wild Bill Hickok was a baseball fan and reportedly umpired a game wearing a pair of six-shooters.
We think of the old West as wild, but it pales in comparison to what’s going on in some cities today. From the 1850s to the 1890s, Texas held the title as the most gun-fighting state. But during that forty-year span, the state logged in only 160 shootouts.
The number of Old West bank robberies were also greatly exaggerated. During this same forty-year period, only eight bank robberies were recorded in the entire frontier. Today, yearly bank robberies number in the thousands. California and Texas have the highest number of bank robberies. At long last, the west lives up to its reputation.
It breaks my heart to say this, but some of the phrases associated with the Old West weren’t actually coined until the 1900s, which means I can’t use them in a book. These include “Stick em up” and “hightail.”
The one thing outlaws feared was dying with their boots on. To “die with your boots on” was a term that meant “to be hanged.” Outlaws often pleaded with the sheriff to take their boots off so their mothers would never know the truth of how they died.
Before the days of GPS, it was the chuck wagon cook’s job to keep the cattle drives heading in the right direction. Before retiring, his last chore of the day was to place the tongue of the chuck wagon facing the North Star. This was so the trail master would know which direction to move the herd in the morning.
It might be hard to believe, but most cowboys didn’t carry guns while riding. Carrying a gun was a nuisance to the riders and firing it would scare cattle and horses.
Of the 45000 cowboys working during the heyday of cattle drives, some 5000 were African-American.
The tradition of spreading sawdust on saloon floors supposedly started in Deadwood, South Dakota. The sawdust was used to hide the gold dust that fell out of customer pockets, and was swept up at the end of the night.
So what Old West fact did you find most surprising or interesting?
There’s a new sheriff in town and she almost always gets her man!