Up, Up, and Away!

After a very long eighteen months of isolation that tried my very soul, this year I wanted to get away on July 4th. I wanted to go somewhere very special to celebrate being alive. I think many, many others had the same idea. So when a writer friend, Dee Burks, who lives in Raton, New Mexico urged me to come for their balloon festival, I didn’t hesitate.

Lord, I was glad I didn’t. It was the perfect getaway. Since this was much smaller than most of the festivals, it was very easy to get that coveted ride in a hot air balloon. There were only something like fourteen balloons—the perfect number.

The first morning, my friend and I got up around five so we’d have time to get ready and get to the pancake breakfast served by the Kiwanis Club. Cool mountain air. Lots of smiling faces.

   

It was after swallowing that last bite that Dee broke the news that we were going to have to crew a balloon called Any Way The Wind Blows that was piloted by Rick Moors of Albuquerque. The ground crew had to spreading the balloon out on the ground so the pilot could fill it with hot air.

Then I found out the balloon weighed 690 pounds!! It took some doing to lay it out. This is me trying my darndest. But, we made it.

The clouds went away and Pilot Rick gave my friend and I the first ride. I was excited and apprehensive and nervous but I climbed in and got a crash course in what to do if something went wrong. I had faith it wouldn’t though. We were far away from power lines and other obstructions.

Then we took off. There was no motion. I could not tell we were rising other than by looking at the ground. We were drifting higher and higher. This was our balloon.

It was quiet up there. And so beautiful. I took a picture of these horses down below. They didn’t even notice us.

We were up about twenty minutes or so then Pilot Rick set us down in a pasture. I have to say the landing was pretty rough but understandable since that thing has no brakes on it. My friend grabbed me or I would’ve fallen out of the basket.

I did it!! It was the ride of a lifetime and I had no regrets. I wasn’t a bit afraid.

After we climbed out, we discovered we had to fold the balloon up and we had already started by the time a four person chase team arrived. I saw every aspect up close and personal. Lord, I was exhausted by the time we finished for the day!!

The next day we went back, although not as excited, and after more pancakes helped out again. Thankfully, we had a little more help so it wasn’t as hard on us ladies.

But, my vacation wasn’t over. The second afternoon, we drove two thousand feet higher up to the top of Johnson Mesa and we found a little church that was built in 1879 by a small group of settlers who once lived up there. It looks like prairie land and not up almost 9,000 ft. A sense of utter desolation came over me and I wondered what lured anyone to that spot of ground. A little cemetery was across the road and inside the church was list of everyone buried there (a lot were children) as well as the names of the former residents.

     

It was such a lonely place I wanted to weep. Once the snows began, the people would’ve been completely cut off from the world with no way to get help or a doctor if they needed one. It sure put me in the right mindset for my next series about three sisters having to live away from everyone because of their father’s reputation.

Then, Dee drove us by the cemetery in Raton and told me that people have put solar lights on the graves and after sundown it’s all lit up. I wanted to see that but couldn’t stay awake for night. I got a picture of this little doe that was right by the cemetery. She was posing for me and not scared at all. Deer and bear wander all through town, into people’s yards and wherever else they take a notion.

Every so often we have these moments that fill us up and make us very grateful to be alive. This trip was that for me and I’m glad I could experience it.

Have you ever gone anywhere or done anything that was out of the ordinary? I’m giving away a $15.00 Amazon gift card to one commenter.

FOR EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON!

I selected my blog title, For Everything There’s a Season, for a reason. It’s so true and I believe the majority of us know that the pandemic changed our lives … some for better but some not as good. I think due to Covid we’ve all had to make changes.  Being quarantined didn’t help a dern bit.

To begin with, my big publishing house closed my line; but, I’m fortunate to have been picked up by Prairie Rose Publishing, who I’ve done several single title releases and anthologies with. My first new book, tentatively named Santa and the Texan, should be out for Christmas. I’m very excited to be working with these awesome authors and their house.

During the beginning of the pandemic, I broke my tailbone. Yelp, it hurt a lot and I spent most of my days medicated and laying on my side watching TV.

Then if things couldn’t get worse, I ended up tripping over my husband’s dog who typically isn’t in the house.  That put me back on the couch with my leg extended, a walker to get around, and a wheelchair.  I’m getting much better. That’s good news, but I can’t walk long distances, squat, or lift anything heavy.

Over the last five or six months, I’ve had to depend on precious Sister Fillies, Pam and Linda, to format and post most of my blogs, as I can’t sit in a chair for any length of time. Thanks to the love and caring of all of the Fillies, I think I’m getting better, but not there yet.

Now for the good news, no knee replacement just continue with shots in my knee and pain meds, which I don’t take anymore than is necessary, and keeping my knee resting on pillows. I’ve never conquered using my laptop on my lap: so,  I’m therefore resorting to my iPad to keep up with things.

This is all leading up to there’s definitely a time for everything.  After 12 years and 221 blogs as a Filly, I’m leaving the corral.  I’m not leaving Petticoats and Pistols, just going out to pasture, so I can get better; and, help my husband who has macular degeneration. He’s very close to having to stop driving.  Family first! That’s my moto.

The good news, I’ll still do periodic guest blogs, as well as being able to help any of the other Fillies who needs a fill in.  That’ll take a little pressure off of everyone.  You’ll love the new Filly who is taking my regular blog spot.  Watch for her announcement…you’ll be as excited to have her as we are.

Oh by the way, the Fillies found me a blanket, so I won’t get cold in winter and a computer, so I can keep up on the news while out in the pasture.

My blessings and much love to each of our readers.  And, as they’d say in the Old West “Happy Trails to you until we meet again.”

 

To three lucky winners, I’m giving away your choice of any of my books.

 

 

Keeping Cool in the Old West

I lived in Nevada desert without benefit of air conditioning for 22 years. We lived on a generator and since we didn’t run the gen during the heat of the day, there was no way to cool down the house. We lived in the northern part of the state, so the hot, hot weather only lasted for three to four months and then it was time to get ready for the cold, cold months. I loved that house, and our isolation, but summer months could be trying.

To deal with the heat, we’d shut down the house by pulling blinds and keeping windows and doors shut after 10 a.m. We opened the house back up at 9 or 10 p.m. to let the cool(er) air blow through. Most importantly, we slept in the basement instead of our actual bedroom for at least two months every summer.  I lived in loose fitting dresses. My husband, who hated shorts, wore shorts. Once the sun started to go down, we escaped the now super hot house and hung out in the shade of our favorite tree. And we drank a lot of water.

So how did people with no electricity for AC units and swamp coolers keep cool(er) in the Old West?

In the Southwest, Native Americans taught settlers to build homes with shady breezeways to keep air circulating. Wind and moving air was the one thing that could ease stifling heat. Some people soaked blankets with water and hung them over windows to create a swamp cooler effect when the wind blew.

Many houses were made with thick walls to keep out the heat–adobe houses  in the southwest, and sod houses on the Great Plains. Also, people understood the benefit of cool earth. I’ve read of people that had “caves” or earthen places to escape to. I think I would have sat in the cellar, if I’d had one.

During the height of the summer, people slept outside if possible. If it was impracticable, or too dangerous to sleep outside, they would damped their bed sheets with water to cool them before going to sleep.

According to True West magazine, one shouldn’t believe all the pictures showing people in dark heavy clothing during the summer months. People wore lighter colors and looser clothing to deal with the heat when necessary.

And, of course, people tended to work in the morning and evening to avoid the super hot part of the day. They sought out shade and drank a lot of water.

Have you heard of any ways that people kept cool back before AC and electricity? If so, please share. I’m going fishing tomorrow (waving at Laura Drake) but will check in as soon as possible. I’m hoping to learn some stuff.

Cheers,

Jeannie

Have Belongings Will Travel

Have you ever noticed the restlessness of people? We’re rather a shiftless lot and maybe for the most part it’s due to getting bored with our surroundings. I’m not one to embrace change. I’m not spontaneous and I’m not brave. I’m a Taurus and we like deep roots that go down into the earth. The kind that takes a bulldozer to get out. But I’ve just completed a move from one city to another and I’m totally exhausted.

I envy the people in Biblical days who threw a burlap bag stuffed full of their belongings onto a camel and took off across the desert.

We humans have stuff—a lot of stuff, most of which takes five men and a boy to lift. My kids have threatened me with bodily harm if I buy another tote bag, piece of clothing or jacket. I do have a lot but I need them all

As with each move, I’ve said this is the last time. However, I mean this one. Here I will stay.

Unless something entices me.

I’ve thought a lot about women who had to whittle down a houseful of belongings to what would fit in a covered wagon. Did I mention I was not brave? I know in my heart I wouldn’t have been a wife who meekly climbed aboard and rode over some of the roughest country God ever created to settle somewhere unknown. They left family and friends. Everything they knew.

It must’ve been very hard.

A dear writer friend of mine is packing up in a few months and moving to Mexico. By herself. Far away from the life she knows here. I can’t imagine doing that.

But then a lot of people live abroad. One of my readers joined the U.S. Civil Service when she was younger and lived overseas for a good number of years working with other nationalities.

Did I mention I was a big chicken?

So I guess my point is…I have a reason for moving. I wanted to be near my children. See my grandkids. Get acquainted with my two-year-old great grandson who doesn’t know me or what to even call me. It’s time to fix that. So I am.

I’m settling in and have most everything unpacked. I’m planting my flag. This is it. I mean it.

What is the farthest you’ve ever moved? Did you lose anything? I lost an entire medicine cabinet full of essentials.

Oh, and I welcome any name suggestions my great grandson can call me. Just simple ones.

Growing Things Underground

I would like to introduce you to my Christmas cactus. She’s huge and she blooms year round and she has an interesting history. You may not know this, but I was once an underground worker. I worked in two different mines. One, the Star Morning, was the deepest mine in the United States, and I believe it still holds the record even though it has been out of production for decades. The other was the historic Bunker Hill Mine in Kellogg, Idaho. That is where my cactus and I first met in 1981.

 

Plants grow very well underground, as long as they have light and water. Incandescent light works just fine, and the lights rarely go out in a mine. One limiting factor is the temperature. The deeper you go in a mine, the hotter it gets. I worked close to 7,000 feet below the surface in the Star. The rock was warm to the touch, and the water coming out of the cracks was also warm. (We had a cooling system that made it possible to work, but it was still warmish.) The upper levels of a mine, however, are cooler and since plants love moist environments with a constant temperature, it wasn’t unusual to see sprouted orange trees here and there, although they didn’t last long due to the working environment.

There were places, however, where it was safe for a plant to grow, and one of those was the hoistroom, where the spools of cable that raise and lower the cages (elevators) were located (the Bunker Hill had an inclined shaft, so they transported men and ore in a slightly different way, but the theory is the same). I visited the hoistroom of the Bunker Hill shortly after I was hired, and there, on a table near the operator’s station, was a blooming Christmas cactus. Being a unapologetic plant thief, I pinched off a small start. It was the beginning of a long relationship.

The hoistroom cactus wasn’t the only thing grown in the Bunker Hill in the 1970s.  Thousands of trees were grown in underground greenhouses on the levels of the mine where the temperature was between 75-90 degrees. The humidity was favorable and there were no plant diseases present. All that was needed was fertilizer and light.

A University of Idaho forestry graduate student, Ed Pommerening, was the brainchild behind the operation,  and in the first year of operation, 4000 lodgepole pine, scotch pine and ponderosa pine were grown. Within five months, the trees were five inches high–70% larger than trees of the same age grown in conventional surface greenhouses. After the first successful year, the capacity increased to 13,000 trees. And after that…I do not know. The mine closed in 1981, shortly after I went to work there, and I assume the greenhouse closed with the mine.

But my cactus and I keep on keeping on. We’ve shared a lot of history and she’s the only plant I’ve had for my entire married life. She and I will celebrate our 40th anniversary this September.

 

Hand Work and a Give Away!

Hi everyone! I’m going to be on the road today, traveling in the first time in forever, on my way to meet my new granddaughter. I’m excited beyond words.

It’s very possible that due to travel, etc, I may not be able to answer comments in a timely fashion, so I am doing a give away, which I will explain at the end of the post.

I love handwork and I have to have something to do while I watch television or I go a little nuts. Guess what? Handwork and new grandbabies go hand in hand, so I thought I’d show you my work in progress and a few things I’ve made that I’ll be taking along with me for the visit.

First of all, I am not a quilter. I love sewing, but piecing is difficult for me. I’ve accepted that I’m not a quilter and moved on; however, I’ve made an exception for my little granddaughter, because she really needs this kitty quilt when she’s a little older. These blocks are fresh off the embroidery hoop after hand embroidering the faces. Embroidery is also not my thing, but this was kind of fun.

 

I plan on hand quilting it, learning as I go. I figure grandbabies are probably pretty forgiving of newbie errors, right?

I smocked several items when my daughter was a baby and toddler, using the gathered dot method. I pulled out one of the patterns I’d used for her and smocked this little dress and bonnet. I love to smock. I almost bought a smocking machine on eBay, then decided that I wouldn’t use it enough, so I’m sticking with the dots.

And I tried my hand at knitting. I enjoy knitting, but I’m by no means a master. I found my first stabs at intarsia knitting to be challenging, so hats off to those who can do it! Intarsia is done with the different colors wound onto bobbins and dropped and added as needed. Imagine, if you will, the half-finished penguin sweater with probably 10 bobbins hanging from the back, in the mouth of my Aussie puppy who is racing around the room with her new prize. It was an adventure getting it back onto the needles.

Having learned my lesson about intarsia, I knit this sweater first with no pattern on it, then used duplicate stitches to embroider the flamingo and foliage after I was done. Much easier!

And now the give away. I’m offering a $15 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky responder. To be eligible, tell me what you like to do in your free time. It doesn’t have to be handwork. 🙂 The randomly chosen winner will be announced on Saturday.

Best wishes,

Jeannie

 

A New Pup in Town

Greetings everyone!

Today I’d like to introduce you to the newest member of our family–Zoey. After our Belgian Malinois passed over the rainbow bridge over a year ago, we decided that we were fine with just one dog, our rescue Aussie, Kimmy. Life was simpler with one dog, right? It was, until last summer when my husband said, out of the blue, “I think it’s time to look for a puppy.” I did not disagree. 🙂 Enter Zoey. She’s really kept us on our toes for the last four months and it’s been a joy watching her grow from lively puppy into a young lady dog. I hope you enjoy the photos.

I don’t know what happened to the Christmas tree.

Do you have a pet? If so, I’d love to hear about him or her.

Best!

Jeannie

 

 

Nature’s Fury and a Giveaway

Every so often Mother Nature has to throw a fit. That’s just the way it is and the havoc can come in the form of floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados and many other disasters. Sometimes these weather occurrences make their way into our stories.

Living in Tornado Alley, I’m most familiar with tornados. I survived an enormous North Texas twister on April 10, 1979 that took 52 lives when three vortexes merged into one. Meteorologists still refer to that day as Terrible Tuesday because of the immense devastation and the sheer numbers. There were 59 reported tornados on the ground in the area on that Tuesday. The F-5 monster that hit Wichita Falls left a path of destruction 8 miles wide and 47 miles long.

Pretty unbelievable and so frightening.

The impact it made on my life remains 42 years later and to this day get very emotional when I talk about it. The sirens had been going off all day so I didn’t pay any mind to the last one that went off a little before 6:00 pm. I was cooking supper and the kids were playing as normal. It was my first husband and my wedding anniversary and we’d planned to go out to celebrate.

Our kids were 7, 5, and 8 months old—much too young to learn about life and death and the kind of terror that freezes the screams in a person’s throat.

My husband went out to look at the sky and saw the massive thing coming. It resembled a hungry beast gobbling up everything in its path. The rumble was one of the most terrifying sounds I’d ever heard before or since. We had no time to pull mattresses off the beds or blankets over us. We rushed the kids to a narrow hallway that ran the length of the three bedrooms and laid down on top of them. My baby daughter laid under me so very still. I had my eyes clenched shut, praying. I didn’t know of anyone who’d lived through something like that with minimal protection. Here are some pictures. The camera wasn’t very good.

         

It tore right through our house, our neighborhood where we’d felt so safe. I heard when the roof went and boards and debris reined down on top of us. I never felt anything though and thought that was odd. I was just too terrified and in shock. I’m sure that’s probably the way soldiers are in war. You just never think anything like that will happen to you.

Time moved in slow motion and seemed to take hours for the tornado to pass on when in reality it only lasted a few minutes. Then hail the size of golf balls pounded us as we climbed out from under the pile of debris on top of us. We checked the kids and the only injury was a minor cut on top of the baby’s head. So miraculous, especially when we got the first look at our flattened neighborhood. In each direction we stared, it looked like a bomb had gone off and a pungent, sickening smell hung in the air. The smell lasted for months afterward. So did the roofing tar embedded in our scalps. This picture is of me in bell bottom pants with Baby Girl. 

But then, we didn’t know what to do next. Did we hang around and wait for someone to come tell us something? But if we left, where did we go? Our car was sitting on top of a tree, besides we had no close relatives. It was getting dark and the baby was hungry.

We started to set off walking, then realized the older children were barefoot. The tornado had sucked the shoes off their feet. My husband carried our 5-year-old and our son had to pick his way very carefully. Trees and power lines were down everywhere. Thankfully, a man with a carload of others like us stopped and picked us up. We went to a woman I worked with and spent the night with her.

People have asked over the years why I’ve never written my account, but the truth is I couldn’t relive that horror. Or the year of homelessness after that. It had stolen far too much of me. It took everything we owned.  

However, I did insert a tornado scene in Once Upon a Mail Order Bride. But, the only way I was able to do it was by putting Ridge and Addie in open country, somewhere totally different from my experience. They had to run for their lives and leap into a ravine to beat death. But the horrendous sounds, smells, heart pounding fear that rose in their throats, strangling them came from what I remembered and felt.

Have you ever had something happen so powerful that it left a lasting effect on you and maybe altered the course of your life? Or have you read about a big weather event in a book? I know Sharon Sala has written about Hurricane Katrina. I’m giving away a copy of Once Upon a Mail Order Bride to someone who comments. I wish I had room for the excerpt of that scene but this post is getting really long.

A Day on the Ranch

I love the winter when the cows and horses are on pasture and daily feeding isn’t a thing, unless the snow gets too deep. We’ve had very little snow this year, although February may have something up its sleeve–it did the last time we had a snowless January. But despite being snowless, it’s been cold at night–this is what a stock waterer looks like when it breaks and no one notices until it’s too late.

Anyway, today we moved the cattle off the big winter pasture onto the smaller pasture. It started off cold, 2 degrees F, so I dressed appropriately. Without the mask, the cheeks burn. When its really cold we wear snowmobile goggles, too. 

Of course the cattle were scattered over a large area on the far side of the acreage. Really scattered. So instead of taking the side by side and attempting to herd them, we decided to try the old Pied Piper routine. We loaded a bale of hay in the bucket of the tractor and headed off across the field to see if we could lure them in. My stepfather has no luck doing this, but we decided to give it a go, even though it meant crossing a big field at approximately 5 miles per hour.  The tractor has a heater and the side by side does not.

The cows recalled that the tractor means food, and came to see what was on the menu. It was grass hay, not their preferred rich alfalfa, but they decided it was worth trying to get a bite. We let them have one little taste, then headed for home. Thankfully, they followed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is 5X, our lead cow. Where she goes, so goes the herd, and thankfully, she wanted the hay–even if it was substandard. She walked beside my window the entire way back to the ranch.

After we got the animals in, we had to give shots to the heifers, then turn everyone out onto the new pasture.

And here are my parents, taking their daily walk across the field with the horses, now the lone occupants of  160 acres, drifting behind them.

It was a good day on the ranch.

 

Those Hunky Colorado Cowboys! (And a Giveaway!) with Jody Hedlund

Most readers know me for my historical romances about lighthouses, orphan trains, and bride ships. But a western? Whoa! What’s that all about?

No, I’m not switching genres. My friends here on Petticoat and Pistols have the western genre well covered! But I am delving into a five-book family saga set in the high country of Colorado in the ranching area of South Park.

The Colorado Cowboys Series has all my usual trademarks—deeply emotional characters, fun plot twists, and sizzling romance. But this time the package includes hunky cowboys!

Most of the time when we think about cowboys in Colorado, we think of the ranches on the eastern plains, not the mountainous high country. But believe it or not, ranches started popping up in the mountains very early in Colorado’s history.

One of the first ranches in South Park (near Fairplay), was Hartsel Springs Ranch, founded as a homestead in 1862 by Samuel Hartsel. He started his ranch by buying oxen brought into the mountains by men arriving to mine for gold. The oxen were often worn out and worth little after making the long trek to the West. But Samuel fattened them and then turned around and sold them as beef to the mining community.

By 1864 Hartsel decided to branch out and diversify his livestock. He went to Missouri and purchased a herd of shorthorns that he then drove to Colorado along the Santa Fe Trail. It was a tough trip, but he eventually completed the cattle drive and made it back to his ranch with 150 head of short-horned cattle. 

Figure 1 Picture in South Park that I took of a cattle ranch during my research trip

Hartsel went on to become a very successful rancher, capitalizing on the rich grassland in South Park that fed his cattle. He also took advantage of a natural hot spring near his land that he developed and used for tourists who wanted a chance to bathe in the “healing waters.”

A Cowboy for Keeps, the first book in the series, is inspired by this real life cowboy and ranch. The hero, Wyatt McQuaid, is attempting to make a go of homesteading and ranching. But with all the obstacles he faces, he’s having a hard time making a new home. When Fairplay’s mayor offers him a deal, one that involves taking a bride in exchange for cattle, Wyatt can’t resist.

If you like hunky cowboys, mail-order brides, and marriages of convenience, then I invite you to give A Cowboy for Keeps a chance!

Leave a comment on this post if you’d like the chance to win a signed copy of the book! (Sorry, U.S. mailing addresses only.) I will choose a random winner on January 16.

What’s your favorite thing about cowboy stories?

Jody Hedlund is the best-selling author of over thirty historicals for both adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards including the Christy, Carol, and Christian Book Award. She lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy teens, and five spoiled cats. Visit her at jodyhedlund.com