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

A New Year … New Beginnings!

I hope 2021 has started off with a bang!  Mine has.  I found some things in the Old Farmer’s Almanac I want to share with you.

Some New Year Traditions I found interesting are:

  • Let’s Make Some Noise
    • In the early American colonies, the sounds of pistol shots range through the air.
    • Today, Italians let their church bells peal, the Swiss beat drums, and North Americans sound sirens and part horns to bid the old year farewell.
  • Eat Something Special
    • In the Southern United States, black-eyed peas and pork foretell good fortune. I thought we had some for New Years Day but didn’t; and, of course, no grocery stores were open, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ve eaten enough black-eyed peas in my life to have good fortune in 2021.
    • Apples dipped in honey are a Rosh Hashanah tradition.
  • Drink a Beverage
    • Wassail, the Gaelic term for “good health”, is served in some parts of England.
    • In Holland, toasts are made with hot, spiced wine.
  • Give a Gift
    • New Year’s Day was once the time to swap presents.
    • In Scotland, coal, shortbread, and silverware were traditionally exchanged for good luck.

Now, I ask you all, do you have a traditional you follow each year?

I waited until the end to add more to my part of yesterday’s Yee-Haw Day.  I’m so excited to share some personal news with you all. 

Oh, I have so much good news and things to be thankful for that I can hardly restraint myself.

First, the holiday weather was pretty. I didn’t get to join the family for Christmas in Dallas because of the virus but I got zoomed in, while everyone opened their presents. I received my traditional Tootsie Rolls from my youngest grandson, and a pink fitbit from one of my other grandsons. What a wonderful day. Hubby watched football and after holiday gift exchange I watched Hallmark movies. I’m so thankful for my family.

I’m so proud of my two oldest granddaughters who are essential workers, both in hospitals here and in Dallas. They are called our “trailblazers” since they got the pandemic shots first out of the box with no adverse reactions.

My oldest granddaughter became engaged to a wonderful man right before Christmas. They knew one another when she was in school and he was stationed at the airbase.  Now Daddy was in the Army Air Corp, as it was called at the time, here in Amarillo. He met and married Mother, so he was called our “Flyboy” since he was in the Air Force.  I call Dylin that.  July here we come!

Since my middle Grandson was an Eagle Scout, he was sworn into the Navy just before the schools were closed down due to the Pandemic.  He left for Chicago in April and then to begin his submarine training in Connecticut. He’ll be graduating with Honors!  I’m so proud of him.  He doesn’t know where he’ll be stationed next, but it’ll happen pretty soon.  We are extremely proud of our Sailor.

 

I’m so proud of my family that I can hardly breath because of the excitement.

 

Since love is in the air, answer my question to be in the drawing

to win an autographed copy of one of our favorite anthologies,

Be My Texas Valentine. 

I ask you all, do you have a traditional you follow each year?

May 2021 be a great year for all of us!

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Easy Tex Mex Baked Eggs

Holiday Greetings!

I don’t know about you, but when I have a houseful of guests, I love to cook, but three meals a day gets a tad overwhelming. That’s why I love this recipe. It’s quick and easy, and I get rave reviews, even from people who don’t think of themselves as Tex Mex folk.

Here we go:

6 large eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream (I cheat and use half and half)

1 cup of grated cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 4 oz. can mild diced chilies

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray or butter a shallow baking pan. I often use a 9×9 brownie pan. In this case I used my fancy pan.

In a medium size bowl, beat the eggs. Mix in cream, salt and pepper.

Add chilies to egg mixture.

Spread the cheese in the bottom of the baking dish. Pour egg mixture over the top.

Bake for 25 minutes or until eggs are set. (Living at altitude, it always takes longer where I live–usually between 35-40 minutes. Keep an eye on it.)

Broil the top if you want more browning.

Serves 6.

I’ve doubled the recipe and cooked it in a larger pan quite successfully, because funny thing–in our house, this only serves 4. Hmmm…

We always top the eggs with hot sauce or salsa and serve with bacon or ham. 

Looking forward to seeing everyone in 2021!

Cheers,

Jeannie

Come Along with Alicia Fannin!

Hello, fellow book lovers!

I’m so honored to be here today!  When I received the invitation to write this guest blog post, I was beyond thrilled! So thank you so much for the invitation, Karen!

I thought the best thing to do was tell you about my debut novel which just launched.  

I’ve always been drawn to mail order bride stories.  My heart has felt so compassionate for the women who found themselves in the position of needing to marry for financial survival in times gone by.  I marvel at the bravery of the couples that took that risk.

“The Expectant Mail Order Bride” is such a story.  Meggie James is heartbroken and hopeless when she loses her husband in a tragic accident.  Her options are few and her situation is dire, complicated by the fact that she has a baby on the way.  With little family to turn to, she sees an ad for a mail order bride.

Thomas Kellen has suffered his own losses.  He’s lost his wife and is left with a beautiful little boy to raise on his own.  It’s a task that’s proving to be too much with a ranch to run and he’s desperate for a solution.  Though it’s unconventional, he advertises for a wife. 

When Meggie arrives in Springwater, Texas, there’s a little detail she may have neglected to mention.  She’s expecting and that’s something Thomas never expected!

In addition to that little tidbit, other issues arise.  Thomas can be gruff when afraid, which is practically all the time since he lost his first wife in childbirth and his new wife is facing just that.  He’s also very much a man’s man (don’t we just love those?!) and Meggie has a very independent spirit!  Clashes are bound to happen.

Then there’s the more tender element that they don’t have a matching faith and Meggie is discovering that her hurts can only be healed by The One she’s ran from for so long.

I hope you’ll come along as their story unfolds. 

You’ll also meet other characters that will have their own personal journeys and love stories in books yet to come.  “The Expectant Mail Order Bride” is book one in the “Springwater Sweethearts” series.  

It’s available on both eBook and paperback on Amazon.  https://amzn.to/3nZUltT

                                      Have you ever been caught in an unexpected situation?                                                  

To one reader who leaves a comment, I will send you a copy of

                                                                      “The Expectant Mail Order Bride.”

I’ll see you in Springwater.

Until next time,

Alicia Fannin

P.S. You can follow along my writing journey at https://www.instagram.com/aliciafanninauthor/

Jan Sikes Gets Lost in Music and Romance

You’re in for a treat. Jan Sikes is sitting in for Linda Broday today and she has a heck of a new book to tell you about. Oh, by the way, she’s also Linda’s talented little sister. Please welcome her to the Junction!

I’m so happy to be here at P&P talking about my first contemporary romance. Thank you for having me. I’ve written four full-length biographical fictions about my life with country/western performer Rick Sikes. But now I’m writing romance and it’s so much fun. My creative juices are flowing in a totally different way.

One of my greatest joys in life is going to hear live music. I loved it as a little girl and even more now as an adult. COVID-19 has put a halt to all live music for the time being, but I miss it and long for it to return.

In Ghostly Interference, Jag Peters plays an electric keyboard. Music is his passion. He loves every aspect of it. He longs to play on the big stages to sold-out crowds. It’s the dream he holds and protects deep in his heart.

In a scene early in the book, he confesses this desire to Rena, then questions himself at his willingness to share that secret.

So, when his mother sets up a benefit concert and brings a man out of retirement to perform that Jag has idolized his entire life, he is on cloud nine. All his life, he’s wanted to meet his idol and now he has the chance. Little does he know this will change everything.

BOOK BLURB

Jag Peters has one goal in his quiet comfortable life—to keep his karma slate wiped clean. A near-miss crash with a candy apple red Harley threatens to upend his safe world. He tracks down the rider to apologize properly. Slipping into a seedy biker bar, he discovers the rider isn’t a “he”, it’s a “she”, a dark-haired beauty.

Rena Jett is a troubled soul, who lives in a rough world. She wants no part of Jag’s apology, but even while she pushes him away, she is attracted to him. When he claims to see a ghost—her brother—can she trust him? And could her brother’s final gift, a magical rune stone with the symbol for “happily ever after” have the power to heal her wounds and allow opposites to find common ground—perhaps even love?

EXCERPT

A local radio DJ personality took to the stage and slipped a microphone off the stand. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ll all take your seats, we’re just about ready to get this show started. Are you excited to be here?”

The crowd applauded and some whistled.

“All right! But first, I want to say a word about the charity you’re supporting here tonight. The Exodus Project has helped women escape from abusive situations for over six years here in Cedar Springs. And without your contributions and fundraisers like this one, it wouldn’t have the outreach that it currently does. So, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.”

Jag grinned and winked at his mother when she slipped into the empty seat next to Rena. Again, he had a strong feeling something was up with her.

The DJ continued. “So, without further ado, I present to you a man who has graced stages around the world, and we’re honored to have him here in Cedar Springs on this stage tonight, Damien Blue!”

Jag held his breath. The band came on first kicking it off with the intro to Damien’s first big hit. The high-energy straight-ahead rock, heavy on the backbeat sound, they were famous for poured out of them. 

The crowd cheered.

Thirty seconds later, Damien strolled onto the stage, guitar slung across his back, both hands in the air greeting the audience.

Jag felt Rena shift beside him and glanced at her to see her eyes wide and mouth slack.

Mesmerized, he focused on the man he’d admired for a lifetime. Tall and lean, he had a commanding presence. Dressed in black pinstripe pants, white silk shirt open to mid-chest and matching pinstripe vest, he could have stepped out of a fifties gangster movie. The fedora pulled low over his eyes and sharp-toed shiny black Spats completed the look.

People were on their feet, clapping, whistling and yelling. One woman’s voice rang out. “I love you, Damien!”

He flashed a dazzling grin and stepped up to the microphone. “I love you too, darlin’.”

Even under the fedora, Jag could see streaks of gray in his brown hair. He was close enough to see small lines at the edges of his idol’s blue-gray eyes. Eyes that held intrigue, mystery, and power.

When Damien shifted his vintage Les Paul Gold Top guitar around to the front and delivered a blistering riff, the audience went wild before they finally took their seats. Damien’s soulful whiskey flavored voice filled the auditorium.

Jag knew every word and every chord. He immersed his entire being into the music, unaware of anything else. He never took his eyes off his hero. The electricity he’d felt earlier settled down to a low steady hum under his skin and rang in his ears along with the amplifiers.

***

Tell me about the most amazing concert you ever attended. Did you get to meet the artist? I want to hear about it! I’m giving away one ebook copy of the book to two people who comment.

 

BOOK PURCHASE LINKS

AMAZON  |  B&N

You can contact Jan at:   WEBSITE  |  BLOG  |  TWITTER  |  FACEBOOK  AUTHOR PAGE  |

Buy a Ticket, Win a Baby

We are pleased to welcome Regina Jennings as our guest blogger today!  No doubt you’ll be amazed with the circumstances surrounding her topic…”Buy a Ticket, Win a Baby.”  Enjoy!

You’ve probably heard of some crazy raffle prizes, but they all pale in comparison to what I found in the Joplin News Herald of 1910. First, some background.

After the Civil War, Joplin became the land of opportunity. It didn’t seem you could dig a hole in the ground without hitting either lead or zinc. Stories were told of poor families traveling through the region who decided to do a little digging around their campfire one night and a few years later they might be living in a mansion in the expensive Murphysburg neighborhood.

But with easy riches came a host of other problems. First off, there were purported to be seventy-five saloons in the newly-settled town, along with gambling dens and houses of ill-repute. Before long, the respectable citizens of Joplin thought to establish a Children’s Home to accommodate the children abandoned by the less-responsible and less-fortunate among them.

Not surprisingly, the Joplin Children’s Home had trouble keeping up with the needs of the community. In an attempt to raise money for the Children’s Home, the Elks planned a charity fair in 1910 and M. B. Peltz, the new manager of the Electric Light Park, offered his services to promote the amusements, including a raffle.

Now, to Mr. Peltz’s thinking, raffling off a baby was a practical solution. Not only would the Children’s Home raise funds, but it would also be left with one less mouth to feed if the raffle was a success. And Mr. Peltz wasn’t alone in his thinking. This was a trend of the times.

In 1911, A Foundling Hospital in Paris had a baby raffle, and in 1909 a baby named Ernest was put up as a prize during the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Washington State. Who knows how many other orphaned children were placed in that way? To many early 20th Century humanitarians, it was a pragmatic solution.

But the fine citizens of Joplin wouldn’t hear of such a thing. While the Elks were divided on the idea, the mayor said he’d call out the militia to prevent a baby from being raffled. Despite the threat, Mr. Peltz continued to share the tragic (and often contradictory) history of the orphaned child, along with promoting the other amusements of the charitable fair.

When Peltz failed to disavow the plans, he was arrested, but the publicity only encouraged Peltz. Even after he posted bail and was released from jail, he couldn’t help but drop hints to the newspapers about the poor kid that would be rescued by someone willing to buy a ticket. After all, his goal was to get people talking about the carnival and to raise funds. People were talking all right. A promoter, through and through.

The day of the Joplin fair arrived with its parade, carnival, and games. There was no baby among the raffled items, but the controversy seemed to have achieved its purpose. One thousand and two hundred dollars were raised for the Children’s Home, and Mr. Peltz undoubtedly credited himself and the scandal for the success. How did he explain the absence of a kid to be given away? The newspapers don’t say specifically but stories passed down over the years say he produced a goat “kid” while others say there was a kitten.

While some places might have raffled off a baby, Joplin, for all its scandalous ways, avoided that trespass. But barely. And in my new release Courting Misfortune, a baby raffle does take place, with disastrous consequences.

What are some things you’ve seen raffled off? What would you like to win? What would you refuse?

To one person who leaves a comment I will give away a copy of Courting Misfortune. 

Here’s a quick excerpt of the book.

“Courting Misfortune”– Calista York needs one more successful case as a Pinkerton operative to secure her job. When she’s assigned to find the kidnapped daughter of a mob boss, she’s sent to the rowdy mining town of Joplin, Missouri, despite having extended family in the area. Will their meddling expose her mission and keep Lila Seaton from being recovered?

When Matthew Cook decided to be a missionary, he never expected to be sent only a short train ride away. While fighting against corruption of all sorts, Matthew hears of a baby raffle being held to raise funds for a children’s home. He’ll do what he can to stop it, but he also wants to stop the reckless Miss York, whose bad judgment consistently seems to be putting her in harm’s way.

Calista doesn’t need the handsome pastor interfering with her investigation, and she can’t let her disguise slip. Her job and the life of a young lady depend on keeping Matthew in the dark.  

Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a minor in history. She’s a Christy Award finalist, the winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award, a two-time Golden Quill finalist and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book of the Year Award. Regina has worked at the Mustang News and at the Oklahoma National Stockyards. She lives outside of Oklahoma City with her husband and four children and can be found online. Her link to purchase is: http://www.reginajennings.com/courting-misfortune/  

The Crown Jewel of Louisiana’s River Road


 

I love the South! Several years ago my hubby and I went to Baton Rogue, Louisiana, and visited the South’s oldest and most beautiful plantation estates the renowned “The Sugar Palace” Crown Jewel of Louisiana’s River Road the Houmas House Plantation and Gardens situated between Baton Rogue and New Orleans. Although I was familiar with the Southern Plantations of yesteryear, I was astonished at the beauty and mystic of this now thirty-two acre estate with it’s five hundred year old oaks, scenic bridges, and pathways that crisscross the former sugar plantation. Some of my blog today will be facts as I interpreted them during our tour.

Warning:  This is a bit longer blog than I usual do, but there’s just too much to tell you all and I want you to enjoy my adventure.

French Explorer LaSalle first landed at this site in 1682 and described The Houmas Indians and the great herds of bison on the river banks surrounding the Houmas Village.  By the 1720’s, French settlers acquired a Spanish Land Grant and were living there amongst the indigenous Indians, in the fertile plain between the Mississippi and Lake Maurepas to the north.

The Houmas sold the land to Alexander Latil in the mid 1700’s and he immediately began construction of the two story brick dwelling (now the rear wing of the mansion).  Wade Hampton, the largest sugar producer in Louisiana and the largest slave holder in the South, built the present mansion in the late 1820’s, making Houmas House one of the first great columned mansions on the Mississippi River.

The original French Provincial house erected by Latil is situated directly behind the “Mansion”, adjoined by a carriageway to the grand home described during its antebellum heyday as “The Sugar Palace.”  The original home was later used as living quarters for the staff that served the great house.  The day we were there, they were having a wedding, so we had lunch in the beautiful Café Burnside overlooking the beautiful fountain and gardens.

In 1810, Revolutionary War hero General Wade Hampton of Virginia purchased the property and shortly thereafter began construction on the Mansion. It wasn’t until 1825 when Hampton’s daughter, Caroline, and her husband, Col. John Preston, took over the property that the grand house truly began to take shape.

Irishman John Burnside, assumed ownership of the plantation in the mid-1850’s for a whopping $1 million. After purchasing the property, he began accumulating sugar cane plantations and became the largest sugar planter in America, boasting over 300,000 acres giving him the title “The Sugar Prince of Louisiana”.  A businessman and a character, Burnside increased production of sugar until Houmas House was the largest producer in the country, actively working the crop on 98,000 acres. During the Civil War, Burnside saved the Mansion from destruction at the hands of advancing Union forces by declaring immunity as a subject of the British Crown. In addition to building a railway to carry his products to market —“The Sugar Cane Train (1862)” — Burnside, a bachelor, is also said to have offered payment to any parents in the parish who would name their sons “John.”

An avid sportsman who wagered heavily in horse races, Burnside once secretly purchased a champion thoroughbred back East with the intent of defeating the steeds of fellow local businessmen in a big race. He quietly slipped the racehorse into the billiard room of the Mansion where it was “stabled” until Burnside’s surprise was unveiled at the starting line and hailed in the winner’s circle.

Houmas House flourished under Burnside’s ownership, but it was under a successor, Col. Williams Porcher Miles that the plantation grew to its apex in the late 1800’s when it was producing a monumental 20 millions pounds of sugar each year.

In 1927, the Mississippi roared out of its banks in the epic “great flood.”  While Houmas House was spared, the surrounding areas were inundated. I learned on the tour that there was originally a tunnel of ancient trees that rose from the banks of the Mississippi up to the Houmas House, thus creating a wind tunnel and kept the house cool.  After the flood, many of these trees were destroyed and a levee was built to protect the property.

The plantation then withered away, fell into disrepair, and closed. It remained that way until 1940 when Dr. George B. Crozat purchased it to be a summer home away from his native New Orleans. He renovated the property with the intent to give it a more “Federal” look than the stately Greek Revival style in which it was conceived. The structure was painted white inside and out. Crown moldings and ceiling medallions were removed and both interior and exterior forms and finishes were simplified.

Eventually, the Crozat heirs opened the property to tourists. In 1963, the defining Bette Davis film Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte was shot on the property. The room in which Ms. Davis stayed while filming is preserved as part of today’s Houmas House tour.

When New Orleans businessman and preservationist Kevin Kelly fulfilled a lifelong dream by purchasing the home in early summer, 2003, he set about recreating the experience of encountering Houmas House circa 1840. He still resides on the property.

There were a few things I’ll never forget and one would have to see to visualize. The mansion’s faux marble exterior is painted in rich ochre which reflects the influence of Mediterranean villas owned by the wealthy Europeans that the southern planters emulated. The belvedere that crowns the house has been restored, and interior features and finishes have been reinstalled in their original form. The twin Garconierre that distinguish the property have been renovated, and the central hallway of the grand house bears a room-size mural with a sugar cane motif that characterizes the original entryway artwork common in many plantation homes along the Mississippi.

But, the most interesting of all to me from a writer’s view point is Col. John Preston’s 1847 Louisiana Census Map by LaTourette that was found in the attic in the 1980’s.  Yes, 1980’s!  It was preserved because it was stored in native cypress, which is totally unaffected by moisture, varmints, including termites, and other elements that would have destroyed it.  According to our tour guide, if this map had gotten into the hands of the Union they would have known the location of every plantation in Louisiana, but without it all they could do was guess and roam around the bayous and swamps. It’s my opinion, with my writer’s imagination, that very likely this is the reason the Civil War didn’t reach Texas until a month after the war was over.

Oh by the way, I learned from our tour guide that the men were not being rude when they ascended the stairs ahead of the women, but were being gentlemen, as it would be inappropriate for them to view the ankles of the women as they had to lift their skirts to go up the stairs. Very inappropriate.  Also, if a Southern Belle’s petticoats were showing, they were told “It’s snowing down South”.  I don’t want to tell my age, but I can remember being told that when we wore can-can petticoats.

I wonder in this picture, if Miss Scarlett knew it was snowing down South?

I’d love to hear about the most interesting house you’ve ever visited.

       To two lucky readers who leaves a comment, I will send you your choice of an iBook of

              trade size copy of my latest Kasota Spring Romance “Out of a Texas Night”.