I was watching an old movie the other night – okay, it was Hang “Em High with Clint Eastwood – and I noticed the truly handsome horse he was riding (bet you thought I was going to say handsome leading man). This particular sorrel horse had a nice white blaze and four matching white stockings. I once knew a cowboy who referred to horses with this particular set of markings as “having a lot of chrome.”
There are entire books on horse markings, and I could go on and on. But I thought it would be fun to just take a look at some common white markings, which can occur with many breeds and color variations, but are often found on sorrels.
On the face and head:
Blaze – stripe down the center of the face (can be narrow to wide).
Bald face – very wide blaze extending past the eyes.
Star – star or circular-shaped marking between or above the eyes.
Diamond – diamond-shaped marking between or above the eyes.
Heart – heart-shaped marking between or above the eyes.
Snip – marking on the muzzle between the nostrils.
Combinations – a mix of the above
On the legs and feet:
Stockings -white that extends to bottom of the knee or hock or higher. Can have one, two, three or four.
Socks – white that doesn’t extend as high as a stocking.
Pastern – white that extends above the hoof but stops below the fetlock.
Coronet – white just above the hoof.
Combinations – a mix of any of the above.
I love that many horses are named after their markings – like Blaze (there’s a well-known children’s book series about Billy and his horse Blaze), Socks, Star, and Baldy. I once owned a sorrel horse with a nice blaze and three matching stockings and named him Tiger because the blaze resembled a tiger’s arm and paw – well, if you used your imagination.
So, what might you name a horse with a unique white marking?
I also realized I’d never made this novella into a print book. So if anyone prefers print, go grab a copy, it’s on sale, too, the lowest price Kindle would allow.
Tom MacKinnon rides up driving a wagon with a second wagon trailing him. He and his sister builds windmills.
They’ll ask for very little money and, in exchange Lauren Drummond, newly widowed mother of four nearly grown sons, will help them learn to survive in the Sandhills of Nebraska. What to grow, what to hunt, how to build a sod house.
Tom’s windmills will save her ranch during a terrible drought.
Lauren needs three windmills before the oncoming winter freezes her few remaining, extremely shallow, ponds, or her growing herd of cattle is going to die of thirst.
She eagerly agrees to teach him the ways of the Sandhills. She’s not ready to think of another man. But Tom changes her mind. His little sister and one of her sons find love together before Tom and Lauren do.
It’s an exciting week for me – the release of my first Love Inspired Suspense – WILDFIRE THREAT was the 24th. Whoo, hoo! I loved every moment of writing this book, and I realized why when I recently gave an interview. So many things about Wildfire Threat are very personal and special for me, and not just because it’s my first Love Inspired Suspense.
I’ve been writing for Harlequin a long time. I admit it, I sometimes don’t have to work as hard as other authors to land a new contract. My editor knows me and can depend on me to deliver a book in good shape and on time. But when this opportunity came around, I had to work hard for it and go up against a lot of other authors. There was no golden ticket or cutting to the head of the line. When I got the call, I felt really good. My hard work paid off.
As you can guess from the title, the story is about a wildfire. In this case, it’s headed straight for the fictional Arizona small town of Happenstance. For many, many years, we owned a small vacation home in Young, Arizona, a place that’s considered the most remote town in the state. One year, a wildfire came close enough we could watch it from our front porch. That inspired the book that became my first Harlequin sale about a Hotshot. About ten years ago, the Young fire came “this” close to destroying the town. Yes, it was the inspiration for Wildfire Threat.
My son, an avid outdoor enthusiast, helped me brainstorm the book. We had several long sessions where we tossed ideas back and forth. Okay, I tossed ideas out there, and he told me why they wouldn’t work. He is the source for much of my information about herding cattle and driving trucks and ATV through the burning wilderness.
Lastly, the heroine’s grandfather suffers from dementia. My own sweet mother, who I lost last year, suffered greatly from this terrible disease. It did my heart good to write about the love and devotion my heroine has for her grandfather, the tender, kind and respectful way my hero treats the older man, and how the family copes — which isn’t always easily. Writing the grandfather allowed me to honor my mother in a small but meaningful way.
To celebrate the release, I’m having a giveaway — one of my coffee mugs, a Starbucks gift card, some author bling and couple of previous books. To enter, you just have to make a comment. That’s all.
For anyone interested joining my newsletter, you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org It’s not necessary for entering this giveaway. Just if you’d like to keep up on the latest news about me.
Thank you for letting me share my good news with you and tell you about my newest book.
So, I’ve been mulling over this new story idea (I’m always thinking of the next book while I’m writing the current one). It takes place on a fictional small hobby ranch converted into a retirement home. I’ve decided to call the retirement home Rocking Chair Ranch. Cute, right? My first step was to come up with a logo for the retirement home that resembles a brand. This is solely to cement the place in my head and give it the kind of personality I want. I played around and this is what I came up with. I like it.
Then, I did a Google search to see if there are any real retirement homes called Rocking Chair Ranch. No, but there are two large cattle ranches. There’s also a peach farm with the same name. I don’t think this is going to be problem, so I’m keeping my little fictional brand.
Well, if you’ve been reading my blogs here for any length of time, you know already that this took me down a strange rabbit hole. Out of curiosity, and because I’m a romance writer, I decided to see if there were any brands with hearts. I mean, if I had a ranch, I’d want a heart in my name. I found a couple cute ones and some okay ones and one I…ew. You’ll have to form your own opinion.
The upside down Js make me think of cane, not Js. The flying heart is okay. Don’t really like the hanging heart.
I’d say the double heart is my favorite. The broken heart looks like it’s medical for some reason. I think they could have done better.
Okay. This one. Yes, it is what you think it is. I suppose they were trying to be funny. For me, the joke didn’t land. Maybe others will find it hysterical.
Truthfully, I could have spent an entire day looking at brands. There are websites where you can design your own brand which you can then take to your state’s appropriate agency and register. Did I visit that website? Um, maybe. What do you think of this one? What would your brand look like?
It’s a fact that communication on a large ranch was one of the biggest problems. At times it was crucial to get some way to relay information to the cowboys on the range as quickly as possible. Or for them to notify headquarters in the event of a medical emergency or wildfire. Before the late 1800s, it was done by sending a fast rider out.
I found an interesting article in my Texas Electric Co-op magazine about this and have to share.
One of the largest ranches in the world was the massive XIT in the Texas Panhandle at over three million acres, all fenced. That’s hard to fathom. The powers that be there heard about a way of attaching a very basic form of telephone onto the barbed wire fences and letting the wire carry the transmission. Though the quality was horrible, it sure proved to be a blessing. And all at no charge. They didn’t have to pay the phone service anything and they could even connect neighboring ranches with each other.
Later, when the phone company began to provide rural service, they took that idea and used existing power lines instead of stringing new.
I have a new release on March 29th—A Man of Legend. It takes place in 1908 in the middle of an industrialization boom and although the patriarch Stoker Legend wouldn’t allow telephones or automobiles on the Lone Star Ranch, they were widely available.
There’s a crucial scene near the end of the book where Crockett Legend needs to get word quickly to his grandfather of the trouble and bemoans the lack of telephone access. It all works out and Crockett had to hitch a ride in an acquaintance’s new automobile to arrive in time to help save the day.
Here’s a short excerpt from that scene:
Crockett glanced up into John’s laughing eyes. The only person the man would do a favor like this for was Farrel Mahone. His gut twisted, and he broke out in a cold sweat. Suddenly, it all made sense. John was supposed to get Crockett off the ranch. He froze.
Farrel was going to make good on his promise to kill either Paisley or Hilda or both.
Or maybe he intended to abduct Tye. Maybe all three.
Crockett stood so fast, he knocked his chair over. He had to get to a telegraph. He hurried out and collided with a woman in the hall. “Pardon me, ma’am. This is life and death.”
Cursing the fact that Stoker had yet to install a telephone at headquarters, Crockett rushed down the street and sent a message to the Lone Star.
“I’ll wait for a reply,” he told the operator. Ten minutes passed. Crockett paced, praying for a miracle. Then the machine began to tap while the man scribbled it down.
“Here you go.” The operator handed the paper to him.
Too late. Boy has disappeared, and women riding to get him back.
A moment later, Crockett fired off another, asking about his dad. The return message said he and Stoker had gone to Medicine Springs to pick up a shipment.
He sagged. Too late. He read the first message again. What women? Paisley and Hilda? Where were the men? Had they all left the ranch? He thrust a hand through his hair. He had to get home.
“Isn’t there a noon train to Medicine Springs?” he asked the operator.
“Thank you.” Crockett‘s thoughts whirled. He couldn’t wait that long. He was eighty miles away. If he bought a horse and rode it hard, he still wouldn’t make it by dark. He’d have to wait on the train. That would get him to Medicine Springs by eight, then forty-five minutes to the ranch.
That was it. All the air went out of him. Whatever was going on, the women were on their own. He dropped into the nearest seat and put his head in his hands.
* * * *
I put a talking parrot named Casanova in this book that provides a lot of comical relief. He is quite taken with Paisley Mahone and fancies himself her boyfriend. And since Paisley becomes a nurse on the ranch, there are heartwarming scenes with her patients. Crockett watches all with love in his heart for this special woman.
This is the first series I’ve written set in the 1900s. What is your favorite time period to read? Do modern conveniences bother you? I’m giving away a copy of A Man of Legend (print or ebook) to three people who comment.
This book concludes the Lone Star Legends. I have another exciting project that’s completely different that I’ll talk more about in the coming days so stay tuned.
We’re so happy to have USA Today Bestselling author Paula Altenburg with us. She has a giveaway so scroll down.
Thank you to Petticoats & Pistols for having me here!
Cowboys are made, not born.
But being a cowboy takes a certain type of personality, and those are the heroes I love to write. Even though I write contemporary western romance, I do a significant amount of historical research, because real people are a product of their histories and their cultures. That’s one reason why you see so many successful marriages among childhood sweethearts. It’s also why no one will ever know you as well as your siblings do—they shared the same upbringing and understand where you come from. I say this from experience. (Not the childhood sweetheart part, though. My husband is Dutch. I will say that the majority of our disagreements over the years can be directly attributed to language nuances and having been raised in very different cultures.) This is a segue into European colonization, by the way.
The Irish in particular formed a strong presence in the American Old West. You can read a fascinating article on them here. Irish surnames show up all over the present-day west. In fact, two authors I use as writing resources have Irish names—Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove) and David McCumber (The Cowboy Way). McMurtry is Texan and McCumber is from Montana.
Grand, Montana was set up in my first series, The McGregor Brothers of Montana, as an Irish community. Grand’s fictional founders were two enterprising young Irish brothers (and ancestors of the contemporary McGregors) who made their money off selling liquor to soldiers. I’ve loosely based my Grand on real-life Miles City, Montana, which sits where the Tongue River flows into the Yellowstone River. I love the opportunities doing this offers me as a writer. If I need a setting detail, I can dip into the Miles City websiteand let my imagination run wild. The Miles City Chamber of Commerce is another great resource.
But setting Grand up as a fictional town means I get to make it my own. I read Lonesome Dove to get a feel for the landscape and what cowboys were like in the latter part of the 19th century. I read The Cowboy Way because I wanted to see how ranching has evolved. While ranch practices have changed with the times, cowboys, as it turns out, have not evolved in the least.
Sheriff Dan McKillop is definitely a product of his history and his environment. He’s hardworking, he loves women (maybe a little too much) and he’s uncomfortable with money. When he and two friends inherit the Endeavour Ranch and billions of dollars, the only positive he sees is the opportunity to give back to his community. It takes a lot to knock him off his stride, but firefighter Jazz O’Reilly manages to do exactly that. The Montana Sheriff is the first book in the Grand, Montana series.
Four books will release this year with two more arriving in 2023.
Also in 2023, USA Today bestselling author Roxanne Snopek will be joining me with a series of her own. It’s tentatively titled The Lost Malones and familiar faces will appear.
And now, as a thank you to Petticoats & Pistols for having me here, I’m going to give away three electronic copies of another Grand, Montana book (and my USA Today bestseller!), The Rancher Takes a Family. You can check it out on my website.
All you have to do to qualify to win a copy is answer the following question and drop it in the comments below. “If you could live in any story world, what world would it be, and why?” I’ll be stopping by throughout the day to chat and answer any questions.
It seems like whenever I take a break and write about somewhere else, I long to go back. So, that’s exactly what I’ve done.
In this new series, The Belle Fourche Chronicles, The Johlman and Douglas families are feuding over a lush valley about an hour outside of town. Both feel they have claim to it and both families try to rout out the other.
In book one, we meet the Johlmans, and specifically, the second son Gideon. I really enjoyed writing him because he has all the tendencies of a second born son. He listens and is attentive, is good at following his father’s orders and he knows he’s not going to inherit, but works hard.
But that’s not the main thing I learned while writing this story. I got back to my roots in more ways than one.
I learned about sheep. You see, the Johlmans live on a sheep ranch while the Douglas family raise cattle. The valley they both want would provide exceptional pasture land. The Johlmans own it for now, but we’ll see how long they can keep their hold.
When I was very young, about age 5, my family raised sheep. Writing this book reminded me of so many things I experienced as a young girl.
I remember bringing lambs into the house and bottle feeding them. They would make so much noise! I remember “lamb boxes” with blankets where those lambs would be kept for a few days until they were strong enough to go back outside.
Most of my research didn’t end up in the book, however, because a romance just doesn’t need to know what goes in on a barn, generally speaking. But I do love having an excuse to broaden my knowledge.
I learned, and was surprised to know, that sheep used to be one of the largest income producers in South Dakota, only surpassed by cattle (as far as livestock). Cattle is still king in the area.
Another thing I learned that was fascinating about sheep ranching is that it was remarkably similar to cattle ranching. They used dogs for both herding and protection and the ranchers often rode out on horseback to check on sheep or do other chores. This was unexpected, I never equated raising sheep with needing a wrangler, but I found that to be a misconception.
I’ll leave you with one last bit of information. The tools used for sheering sheep then were obviously much different from what they are now. Prior to electric sheers, they used a model that looked similar to a sewing scissors only wider and certainly more sinister. I hate to think how closely and how quickly they would have to shave a sheep with these. I’m glad I didn’t have to do it!
To a Brighter Tomorrow is the first book in the Brothers of Belle Fourche series and releases on February 25th! It’s on a special discount preorder price right now, you can grab it HERE
The life of Ellen Watson, aka Cattle Kate, was defined for us by greedy cattle barons, and dutifully reported by a cowardly, boot-licking press. According to these men, Ellen was a prostitute, a cattle thief, and a fornicator. She traded sex for cows and had no compunctions about doing a little cattle rustling on the side.
All that was a smear campaign to protect the cattle barons.
So, what was the truth about Ellen Watson? For one thing, she was a woman with a brain in her head and a fire in her eye.
At 18, Ellen married an abusive drunk who beat her with a horse whip. She put it up with it for a couple of years, then left the loser and filed for divorce. Truly a rare thing in 1883. Strong-willed and stubborn, she moved away to escape the ex. Life took her from Nebraska, to Denver, to, finally, fatefully, Wyoming. She made her living alternately as a seamstress and cook. There is no evidence she ever worked as a prostitute at any time in her life. She did drink, smoke, and cuss, though.
She met Jim Averill while she was cooking at the Rawlins House. Jim had a road ranch on his homestead, catering to travelers and cowboys. Ellen worked as his cook and was paid for her time. She eventually bought her own land—adjacent to Jim’s—started her own ranch and acquired her own legally registered brand. All while she and Jim were courting.
The couple applied for a marriage license in 1886, but never filed it. Homesteads were limited in size per family so it would have been to their benefit to keep the marriage a secret. Ellen also took in two young boys who came from abusive homes and they, in turn, worked her ranch.
Ellen’s independent ways brought her into direct conflict with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and a neighboring rancher named Bothwell. Still big on the open range way of ranching, he despised Ellen and Jim’s piddly ranches. For nearly two years, Bothwell saw to it that the couple were threatened, harassed, and watched incessantly by riders from the WSGA.
Not interested in kowtowing to the cattle barons, Jim wrote fiery letters to the newspapers, decrying the men’s greed and tyranny. Ellen just kept on ranching, and to the devil with anyone who didn’t like it. Eventually, Bothwell ran out of patience.
On July 20, 1889, Ellen and Jim were accused of rustling cattle from his ranch. He and some his riders took the couple to a gulch and hung them from a stunted pine, not more than two feet off the ground. Witnesses said Jim begged for mercy, but Ellen went down cussing and swinging.
At the time of her death, 28-year-old Ellen had 41 head of cattle, a little over 300 acres, and a tenacious fighting
spirit that burnt bright right up to the last second of her life. If there is any justice here, it is that we remember her to this day, not the cowards who hung her.
My book, Grace be a Lady, is set during the Johnson County War, in the aftermath of Ellen’s murder. I’ll give two winners paperback versions of the book. Just comment on Ellen and tell me what you think of her life and death. Was she a heroine or a fool? Did she bring this on herself? Should she have sold out and left Wyoming?
Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for one of the 2 print copies of Grace be a Lady.
Please tell me it’s not too early to celebrate Christmas ? I sure hope not because I had a new book coming out this month on the 26th — A Secret Christmas Wish. Of course, all my books hold a special place in my heart, but this one has become a favorite. I’ve included a lot of familiar hooks: handsome cowboy hero, single mother heroine, baby, ranch setting, weddings, and, yes, Christmas.
But my publisher took a chance and let me write a hero you don’t typically find in romance books. Brent Hayes is suffering from acute depression. Not a trait you expect in a strong, tough cowboy hero. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to bring awareness to the struggles individuals with mental illness face in a format that might reach readers needing to know they aren’t alone.
Rest assured, there’s also the usual fun, touching, romantic, and western stuff I love to write about — plus a really cute little boy guaranteed to steal your heart. And plenty of Christmas happenings to put readers in the spirit.
Here’s a short excerpt:
Brent did as Ansel suggested, ladling a portion of the steaming cider into a mug. He’d skipped lunch, not wanting to spoil his appetite for today, and considered filling a plate with stuffed mushrooms and deviled eggs. Before he could, he felt a heavy weight knock into him and almost spilled his cider.
Looking down, he saw TJ on his knees and clutching Brent’s boot with his chubby arms.
“Hey, buddy. What’s going on?” He set down his cider on the table.
TJ tugged harder on the boot, the same one he’d pushed around the bunkhouse floor the previous evening. “Want.”
Brent understood that word well enough. “Maybe later. Not sure your grandma fancies me walking around her house in my socks.”
TJ plunked down onto his behind, wrapped his legs around Brent and pulled with all his might, his small face turning nearly the same shade of red as his sweatshirt. “Want!”
Brent chuckled. “We’re going to have to reach a compromise.”
“TJ!” Maia hurried over. “I’m so sorry.” She bent and retrieved her son. “He’s been a little stinker since we got here. It’s all the people and commotion.
TJ squirmed and grunted in an attempt to break free of Maia’s grasp. When she held fast, he started to cry. She put him down but kept hold of his hand.
“What am I going to do with you?” she complained with mock sternness, her expression filled with tenderness.
She wore a red sweatshirt identical to her son’s. It was then Brent saw MacKenzie Family Thanksgiving printed on the front over a cartoon turkey. He glanced at Ansel and Darla. They wore the same sweatshirt, as did Lois and two of TJ’s cousins.
Corny. Also kind of nice. Brent’s family hadn’t done those kinds of things, and until today he’d have cringed at the idea. Funny how one’s perspective could change.
“Here.” Brent slipped out of his denim jacket and extended it to TJ, who grabbed the jacket with the same joyous abandon he had Brent’s boot.
Struggling, TJ managed to insert an arm into the sleeve. Before Maia could stop him, he scooted off, dragging half the jacket on the floor behind him.
“Come back.” She started after him.
Brent waylaid her with a hand on her wrist. “It’s all right.”
“What if he—”
“Then he does.”
She shook her head and grumbled, “You’re as bad as he is.”
Only then did Brent notice his hand remained on Maia’s wrist. Reluctantly, he let go. He’d been here less than ten minutes and already experienced human contact twice after an incredibly long dry spell.
Lois’s hug had been nice, but touching Maia was far nicer. He wouldn’t lie.
We’re very thrilled to have author and rancher Natalie Bright visit and tell us of her observations about the cowboys of yesterday and today. There’s little difference it seems. She has a new cookbook out full of recipes they serve to the men on the Sanford Ranch. Nobody appreciates good food like cowboys! She’s also giving away a copy.
Thank you all for having me. It’s great to be back. Over a year and a half of research went into my most recent book about the history of the cattle driving era and the food of the chuck wagon. As I searched through countless archived images, I realized that the work cowboys did over 150 years ago continues today. My photos of the Sanford Ranch cowboys are almost identical. The traditions established then are still practiced.
In the early days, fences did not block the route from pastures to the railheads north. Neighboring outfits drove their combined herds to central locations and the trail drives usually consisted of thousands of head. Livestock was rounded up in early spring and branded to establish ownership. Charles Goodnight is credited as inventor of the chuck wagon used to feed cowboys during the months long drive to market.
On the Sanford Ranch we hold spring branding and the tradition of feeding the branding crews continues. These crews consist of seasonal dayworkers, skilled cowboys who travel from ranch to ranch providing extra labor during the busy times of spring and fall workings. A rope, a saddle, and a good ‘cowey’ horse remain the primary tools of the trade. Some ranches treat the cowboys at a local café, while others utilize an SUV or cook trailer to carry food to the pasture. We have an actual cookhouse on our ranch, and we employ a cook who relies on friends and volunteers who enjoy being a part of branding every year. Here are some pictures I took of our cookhouse and branding season.
After breakfast, everyone is saddled and ready to go before first light. Instead of the grit and grime of a trail drive over thousands of miles, horses and riders are transported by pickup truck and trailer. The Ranch foreman makes assignments and explains the route, just as the trail boss did long ago.
A cow’s way of thinking hasn’t changed much in 150 years, and the necessary work of a cowboy remains. The most efficient positioning of driving a herd of cattle is still in practice today. The point man rides in front of the few older cows who naturally become leaders, flankers are on either side and the drag riders follow behind in ‘the dust of the drag’, as it’s called.
Ownership of livestock and land was respected and held in high esteem then as it is now. Our pastures are large, several sections in size (a section equals 640 acres) and the fence line neighbor is notified when we gather. If we have any of their strays, then they can pick them up or we deliver them back home.
I’m the photographer on the ranch and you’ll see me with a camera when I’m out. I love this ranch life and the way I see it I’m recording history and trying to make sure it doesn’t get lost.
My newest book, KEEP ‘EM FULL AND KEEP ‘EM ROLLIN’, is classified as cookbook but it contains so much more. Along with history and photos, the book includes over 100 recipes from authentic cow camp meals to modern recipes from our own cookhouse. You don’t need a fire pit or a chuck wagon. You can prepare these dishes in your own kitchen…and you can bet they’re all cowboy approved. (Click on the cover to go to Amazon.)
In my new western romance series, THE WILD COW RANCH, my co-author Denise and I include some of these long-held traditions of cattle ranching as well as the small-town sense of community and faith. Elements that are very much alive today. (Click on the picture and it’ll take you to Amazon.)
What interests you the most about the American cowboy and the cattle ranching legacy?
For a chance to win a FREE copy of my cookbook, KEEP ‘EM FULL AND KEEP ‘EM ROLLIN’, please leave a comment below. And if you enjoy pictures of cows and the Texas sky, follow me on Instagram @natsgrams #sanfordranch and Pinterest.