The Legacy of Rocking K Ranch is something I’ve wanted to do myself for a long time, but it’s just never quite worked out.
That is, take a dynastic western family and follow them through the generations.
Start when they first go west on the Oregon Trail maybe, then found a ranch. Next raise up some tough cowboys and cowgirls.
Just follow them generation after generation. I AM TELLING YOU I THOUGHT OF THIS BEFORE YELLOWSTONE! I SWEAR!
When a chance came to team up with three other authors and do this, I jumped at it, and it became the Legacy of Rocking K Ranch.
I wrote this a long time ago…maybe before Covid even. And kinda forgot about it. The release date was first probably not even going to happen, then all of a sudden it’s back on…where’d I put that book again?
And now, finally, here it is. My book is the beginning. Then Darcie Gruger has the child from my book all grown up.
Next is Becca Whitham then on to Kimberley Woodhouse whose story is the next generation looking back at where she came from, and finding her own future through the strength of her forebearers. Especially the women.
The Legacy of Rocking K Ranch
Six Decades of History Unfurls on a Wyoming Ranch Journey to untamed Wyoming where four generations of women experience love, loss, grace, adoption, struggles with the law, relationships with natives, and through it all, family bonds. Eleanor by Mary Connealy 1850 – Wagon train guide, Ray “Wild Cat” Manning, can’t ignore the abandoned wagon stricken with smallpox. Eleanor Yates, now widowed with an ailing daughter, says yes to Wild Cat’s marriage of convenience. It is her only choice—but far from her romantic dreams. Grace by D. J. Gudger 1867 – Grace Manning abandons her journey east at Fort Laramie. The ranch is where she belongs. Unable to reach her father, Grace scrambles to find a way home. Captain Winfield Cooper is mustering out in a few short days. The gold fields at South Pass City are calling but a lonely laundress pleads to tag along with him and his motley men. Will this woman who refuses to unveil her face derail his dreams? Caroline by Becca Whitham 1886 – Ray Cooper escaped reservation life by pursuing a degree from Harvard, but it hasn’t granted him the respect he craves in Washington, DC. Caroline Forrester longs to be more than a society hostess for her father. As the two fight against the Dawes Act, they also fight their growing attraction. Penelope by Kimberley Woodhouse 1910 – Penelope Cooper, an ambitious writer, is commissioned by her publisher—and future husband—to present tales of the American West. She returns to her family’s ranch in Wyoming along with photographer, Jason Miller, to interview the women of her family. But will rediscovering her past make Penelope reconsider her future?
Are you watching Yellowstone?
Do you like books that come from history and go all the way to more modern times?
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A big welcome to Charlene Raddon who is joining us today to talk about jobs women could have in the 1800s.
Women in the 1800s could not make contracts, own property or vote. A woman was seen as a servant to her husband. However, by the 1830s and 1840, that began to change when they started to champion social reforms of prisons, war, alcohol, and slavery. But life remained difficult for them. Jobs were scarce and often unbearable.
In 1841, the census included occupations and provided some of the best information about working women, but it was more accurate for men. Women’s work was often part-time, casual, and not regarded as important enough to declare.
It might have been illegal (as with prostitution) or performed in unregulated sweatshops (a further reason for failure to record). Women may have preferred their husbands not know they earned any income. They could earn small amounts at home by sewing, mending, knitting, canning, spinning, lacemaking, quilting, and even box-making.
Female employment in the 1850s, 60s, and 70s appears to have been higher than any recorded until after World War II. Family budget evidence suggests that around 30-40 percent of women from working-class families contributed significantly to household incomes in the mid-Victorian years. This might have been even higher during the Industrial Revolution decades, before the rise of State and trade union policies regulating female labor and the promotion of the male as the ideal breadwinner. After the Industrial Revolution in the U.S. some women worked in factories, sometimes with their children. In 1840, 10% of women had jobs outside the home, and by 1850 that number increased to 15%.
Domestic service was the largest employer for women, closely followed by work in clothing and textiles. Other jobs included confectioner, brewer, seamstress, laundress, maid, housekeeper, waitress, midwife, gardener, dressmaker, charwoman, clerk, and innkeeper.In some areas, they worked in mines alongside children, dirty, unhealthy, miserable labor.
For my heroine in Maisy’s Gamble, dealing faro in saloons proved a better choice for its earning power and safety since her nemesis considered ordinary saloons beneath him. Being born in a brothel and raised in a gutter gave Gold Kingsley an exaggerated disdain for the type of life his mother lived. Maisy used this to her advantage.
Dealing faro also allowed her to move around a lot, making her more difficult to find. She spent her adult years raising her son and finding ways to evade Gold. But time is against us all, and she knew he would find her someday. Fortunately, that day waited until the hero, The Preacher, came into her life.
The Preacher spent his adult years allowing the vagaries of life to rule him. That ended once Maisy entered his life. Bonded by a common enemy and the need to stay alive, Maisy and Preacher joined forces to battle Gold, but only time could calculate their odds of winning the biggest gamble of their lives.
In this scene, a patron in the saloon where Maisy works is mistreating his dog.
On impulse, Maisy stood and said, “Play me for him, Mr. Siddens. One hand of Draw. I’ll wager twenty dollars I can beat you. If you lose, the animal is mine, and you leave Pandora.”
Crude laughter burst out of the man, splattering her with spit. “Ya joshing me, Maisy? He ain’t worth a plugged nickel.”
Marshal Harker moved to her side. “What are you doing?”
She ignored him. “Well, Mr. Siddens…?”
The drunken bully looked from her to the marshal and shrugged. “Why not? I don’t mind takin’ money from a woman.”
Harker leaned close and whispered, “He’s drunk and cheats.”
“I know. Don’t worry. I can beat him.”
Shaking his head, the marshal lifted his hands in resignation. “Fine. One hand of Draw. But win or lose, Mr. Siddens, you’re done tonight.”
“Whatever ya say, Marshal.” With that, Siddens righted the chair he’d knocked over, sat down, and gathered up the scattered pasteboards.
Taking the opposite seat, Maisy drew a sealed deck from her skirt pocket. “You don’t truly think I’d let you use your cards, do you? I’ve known too many gamblers who cheat.”
“Why, you…” He raised a hand, ready once more to strike out. At the cocking of a six-gun, Siddens dropped his arm and sat back.
Maisy looked up surprised to see Preacher slip his Colt back into its holster. He tipped his hat, and she acknowledged it with a nod. Why had he protected her? Did it mean he didn’t work for Gold, or had Gold ordered that she be kept alive until he got his hands on her?
“Maisy?” Jake said, bringing her back to herself.
Determined to finish what she’d started, she reached into the small drawstring purse dangling from her wrist to find a gold eagle, which she placed on the table.
Eyeing the coin, Siddens sneered, “Want me ta put the dawg on the table, too?”
She forced a smile. “We’ll just pretend, shall we?” She shuffled and offered him the deck to cut. After dealing, she picked up her cards. An ace, two jacks, a ten, and a five. After setting the ten and the five aside, she placed the remaining three cards face down on the table. “How many would you like, Mr. Siddens?”
“Three shiny new ones,” he said, tossing down his discards.
She dealt the cards. “Dealer takes two.”
Aware of the mob gathered around the table, Maisy let her eyes roam the faces, quickly passing over Preacher’s. The spectators murmured among themselves, and money exchanged hands.
“Well, Mr. Siddens, what do you have?” she asked.
He grinned as he spread out three queens on the table. “Three ladies. Can’t top that, now can ya, sugar?” He laughed and swapped grins with a few men.
She smiled and laid down her cards—three aces and two jacks—a full house.
“What the…?” Siddens leaped to his feet. “Marshal, arrest her. She musta cheated.”
Jake gave his head a firm shake. “No, she’s just a damned fine player.”
Grumbles erupted from losers as bets were paid off. Maisy called for paper and a pencil. When they arrived, she set them in front of Siddens and ordered him to write out a bill of sale.
“Bill o’ sale!” he ranted. “I didn’t sell the mutt. I got cheated out o’ ‘im.”
Siddens did. “Damned dawg ain’t no good nohow.”
The crowd dispersed. A deputy appeared to escort the gambler from the saloon.
Back at her table, she settled the dog on the floor in the warmth of the stove and called for food scraps and a wet cloth to clean the animal’s wounds. “I think I’ll call you Hock,” she told him, “after the last card played in a hand of faro. When we go home, you’ll meet Soda. She’s named after the first card played.”
He wagged his tail as if he approved.
Jake Harker returned and took his usual seat, grinning at her. “Dammit, Maisy, I can’t believe you pulled that off. That piece of crap is a good card player, even without cheating.”
“Yes, well, two can play at that game.”
He stared at her a moment. “You mean what I think you mean?” Leaning forward, he gave her a stern look. “Did you cheat, Maisy?”
Avoiding his gaze, she began arranging her faro gear on the table. “Someone had to get the poor animal away from him. He’s a brute, and you know it.”
Charlene is giving away two prizes today!
To enter for a chance to win a copy of Maisy’s Gamble OR a $5 Amazon gift card, just share what type of work you might have done if you’d lived in the 1800s!
Charlene Raddon is a bestselling author of Western historical romance novels. Originally published by Kensington Books, she is now an Indie author. She grew up on old western movies and loved them, but never intended to be a writer. That part of her life just happened. Besides writing and reading, she raises orchids, designs book covers, and crochets.
I’m a Nebraska girl, born and bred. Never lived anywhere else. So when I was browsing through one of my research books on American history, one story in particular, titled “Nebraska’s Fearless Maid,” caught my interest.
The winter of 1888 was brutal for its blizzards, and the one on January 12, 1888, was no different. The relatively warm morning showed no hint of snow, and Minnie Freeman was teaching school like any other day in her small sod schoolhouse in Mira Valley, Nebraska. Mid-afternoon, sudden 45 mph winds came up and blew the door in. As Minnie helped her thirteen pupils bundle up in their coats and hats, raging winds blew the windows in and ripped off the roof. Snow dumped from dark, dense clouds and whirled over the Nebraska and South Dakota prairie, quickly obliterating nearby landmarks.
Minnie could not simply wait out the storm. Her schoolhouse was falling apart, and she had to get the children to safer shelter. Having confiscated a ball of twine from one mischievous boy earlier that day, Minnie tied all the children together in a group, leashing them to her own body. Holding the youngest in her arms, a girl of about five, she set out into the gale-force winds with biting sleet and trudged 3/4 of a mile to the nearest home, all the while coaxing the children to keep walking and not to be afraid.
In truth, exhaustion was setting in for Minnie from the rigors of holding the little girl, constant encouragements to the others, and the very real worries they could get lost. But thankfully, they made it to the farm house and safety.
Temperatures dipped to 40 degrees below zero that night, and the storm raged for twelve hours. Because of the storm’s timing during the school day, and that so many were caught unaware, the blizzard of January 12, 1888, has been dubbed the “Schoolchildren’s Blizzard” and is still remembered to this day.
Unfortunately, for some parents in the area, it would be several days before they could learn if their children survived–and some didn’t.
“I’ve never felt such a wind,” she told a reporter from the Ord Quiz, a local newspaper, shortly after the disaster. “It blew the snow so hard that the flakes stung your face like arrows. All you could see ahead of you was a blinding, blowing sheet of snow.”
Minnie was hailed a hero after the ordeal. Newspapers across the nation picked up her story and celebrated her actions, netting her – get this! – 200 proposals of marriage. School-children as far away as Boston wrote essays in her honor, but perhaps the most enduring accolade was a song and chorus written by William Vincent in her honor.
Today, Mira Valley is a ghost town located in north-central Nebraska, near present-day Ord, and Minnie’s heroics is a testament to the selfless dedication teachers show every day.
Have you ever experienced a scary weather-related incident?
Years ago, when I first inquired about being a guest author on the Petticoats & Pistols blog, I had a fan-girl moment when Karen Witemeyer replied to me. I’ve been a fan of her books since I first discovered them!
She was so gracious and welcomed me with kindness. I admired the women who were part of this group and wished I could be one of their “Fillies” too.
Sometimes wishes do come true! In 2017, I was invited to join them as a regular author, and I’ve loved being one of the Fillies in their corral of western authors. So, when Pam and Karen started kicking around the idea of a legacy project for Petticoats & Pistols, something we could all participate in, I was excited at the prospect. Then the decision was made to tie the stories in our series to Annie Oakley, which made it even better.
In case you’ve missed all the announcements, our joint endeavor is called the Pink Pistol Sisterhood. Eleven of us have written sweet western romances, all tied to the journey of a pink-handled pistol that Annie passes on to the heroine in the first book, which just happens to be written by Karen. Make sure you read In Her Sights! It releases March 30!
Captain Cavedweller happened to be in an antique shop last fall and found a book about Annie Oakley that he knew I needed to have. Written in 1981 by Isabelle S. Sayers, Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West from Dover Publications features more than a hundred photos, illustrations, posters and advertisements. Being able to see so many visuals of Annie really helped not only clarify in my mind the hero she would be to Rena (my heroine), but also how her influence would help shape Rena’s character in my book (#2 in the series), Love on Target.
When I was thinking about my story and the characters, I knew I wanted it to be set in the town of Holiday, a place that exists only in my imagination, but it’s at the heart of several of my books, both historical and contemporary. (You can read the beginning of the town in Holiday Hope. )
My hero in Love on Target, Josh Gatlin, was a character who had a brief mention in my book Henley. I thought he’d be wonderful for the hero in this story. Since nine years had passed from then, though, I wanted him to have experienced love and loss, and it provided a perfect way to include the character of his five-year-old daughter, Gabi.
Rena is strong and courageous, but she’s also soft-hearted, and whether she admitted it or not, she really, really just wanted someone to accept her for who she was, scars and all, and love her.
Here’s one of my favorite scenes from the book!
“Laura has lost her mind if she believes all this romantic nonsense,” Rena groused as she returned the letter to the pocket in the case and set Laura’s letter aside to tuck into the packet of letters she’d kept from both of her cousins over the years.
“Of all the silly, pretentious …” A snort rolled out of her. “True love my foot. I’m more likely to lasso the moon than I am to fall in love because I held this gun. Although, it is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.”
She started to close the case, but changed her mind and lifted out the pistol. The thought that the gun had been in the possession of her hero, Annie Oakley, made her long to shoot it. Just once.
With a plan in mind, Rena set aside the case, tugged on her boots, and rushed down the ladder. She gathered a pocket full of cartridges and her pistol in the gun belt, which was the same caliber as the pink-handled weapon, and headed outside. She stopped by the woodpile and selected a large slab of bark that had fallen off a chunk of wood, then went to the barn where she painted a red heart on the bark, then added a white circle in the center of it.
She experienced an almost giddy sensation as she carried the bark and the pistols to what had once served as a corral. The whole thing needed to be rebuilt, which was on Theo’s long list of tasks he wanted to finish before summer arrived.
Rena knew he wouldn’t care if she practiced her shooting there since there was nothing behind the fence she could damage.
She used a nail to hang the bark on the fence, then retreated to the burn pile by the outhouse where she retrieved half a dozen tin cans that had once held peaches. It had been a while since she’d practiced shooting targets.
To make sure she hadn’t lost the skill, she lined up the cans on fence posts on either side of the heart she’d painted on the bark, took out her pistol, moved back several yards, and loaded rounds into the cylinder.
After widening her stance, she lined up her first shot, released a breath, and pulled the trigger.
The sound of the bullet pinging the target rang out as the can flew backward off the post. Rena shot the remaining cans, then smiled with satisfaction as she climbed over the fence to retrieve them. She set them back up on the posts, rested for a minute on the top pole of the fence, face turned to the sunshine as she soaked up the warmth. Then she hopped down and riddled the cans full of more holes before she stowed her gun in the gun belt and draped it over a fence post, then took the pistol with the delicate pink handle from where she’d set it on a stump.
“Promise of true love,” she whispered, rubbing her thumb over the handle before she loaded five shots in the revolver and took aim at the target she’d painted. “True love. What an absurd notion. Laura really should mind her own business and cease meddling in mine. If she thinks this gun will lead me to romance, she needs to have her thinker checked for defects. Instead of dreaming of true love, setting love on target seems like a much better idea.”
She blasted five holes in the middle of the white circle she’d painted inside the heart on the slab of bark, taking a great deal of satisfaction in blasting holes into something that represented romance and love, at least in her mind.
“Now that’s some fine shooting, Miss Burke.”
Rena yelped in surprise and spun around, pistol still in her hand as she pointed it at the intruder who dared to interrupt her target practice.
Will romance hit its mark when true love is the target?
Desperate for a fresh start, Rena Burke journeys from Texas to Oregon with only her father’s pistol and a plodding old mule for company. She takes a job working with explosives at a mine, spends her free time emulating her hero Annie Oakley, and secretly longs to be loved.
Saddle maker Josh Gatlin has one purpose in life and that is his daughter. Gabi is his joy and the sunshine in his days. Then he meets a trouser-wearing woman living life on her own terms. Rena is nothing like his perception of what he wants in a wife and mother for his child, but she might just prove to be everything he needs.
When tragedy strikes, will the two of them be able to release past wounds and embrace the possibilities tomorrow may bring? Find out in this sweet historical romance full of hope, humor, and love.
If you were in Rena’s shoes (or boots), what would you do?
Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of Holiday Hope and Henley –
Book #1 of the Wyoming Sunrise Series releasing February 28
When sparks begin to fly, can a friendship cast in iron be shaped into something more?
After surviving a brutal stagecoach robbery, Mariah Stover attempts to rebuild her life as she takes over her father’s blacksmith business, but the townspeople meet her work with disdain. She is drawn to the new diner owner as he faces similar trials in the town. When danger descends upon them, will they survive to build a life forged in love?
It’s finally here! After a year of googling Women’s Suffrage and all related topics to bring Forged in Love to life!!! It hits the shelves next week!!!
My tough wild west blacksmith begins banging iron and falling in love on February 28th
She’s against type more than most any other character I’ve created, second in line, that comes to mind is a western painter from Wrangler in Petticoats. A guy painting in the old west, now that was a weird one.
I’m doing a giveaway. Leave a comment about how it suits you to read about characters are out of the ordinary.
Do you like damsels in distress…although honest, Mariah’s in danger so in a sense, tough as she is, she’s in some distress.
Do you like heroes that protect a weaker woman?
What are your favorite kind of heroes and heroines?
I’ll draw a name from the comments to win a copy of Forged in Love
Thanks to the Homestead Act of 1862, the West was populated by farmers and ranchers who took their chances with 160 acres and a dream. But from 1828 in Georgia through the early 1900s in Alaska, thousands more flocked across the U.S. and its territories seeking their fortune.
Have you seen photographs of those intrepid miners: scruffy-looking, bearded men in dirt-encrusted garments, a man wearing a broad smile and holding a lump of ore, and men on mules or standing in a river gripping what looks like an oversized dinner plate? If you look further, you might stumble on pictures of women in these same poses.
You didn’t misread that last sentence. A small percentage of women worked alongside the men who converged on the the gold, silver, and copper fields. The reasons for the women’s presence are as varied as the women themselves. Some came with husbands, fathers, or brothers, then stayed after said male relative died. Other ladies were already in the area and decided to give mining a go. Still others heard about the possibilities for riches and were adventuresome enough to try mining on their own. A few came out of desperation.
However, men were not happy to have the women “horn in” on their domain, so many of the ladies dressed as men to blend in or fool their competitors. Apparently, the practice was so common during the California gold rush that when a newspaper photographer advertised for a “lad” to help him, he specified that “no women in disguise need apply.”
Widespread prejudice from the men made life as a female prospector difficult. Claim jumping and stealing by the men were common practices among themselves, but some reports indicate it may have been worse for the ladies. The women also had a tough time selling the claims they did keep. Then it became official when the United States National Bureau of Mines banned the women from mining in 1915. But still they persevered.
Because of the lack of sources, it is unknown how many women prospectors were successful, but there are articles and books about some of the more “colorful” characters such as Fannie Quigley who started her career as a dance hall girl, then headed to the Alaskan gold fields to cook for the miners.
She eventually staked her first claim in 1907, going on to own twenty-five more. Her personal life was less successful-she left two husbands during her search for gold. Then there’s Lillian Malcom (also part of the Klondike rush) who was a Broadway actress. Several of her claims were stolen by men, so she moved to Nevada, acting out her Alaskan adventures along the way to fund her journey. The picture below is of a gold nugget in 1920.
Panning for gold the old-fashioned way is a simple, yet backbreaking process of scooping gravel from a river into a pan, swirling and dipping the pan to let the current carry most of the silt away, then repeating the action until there are about three tablespoons of sand from which to pick out the eyelash-sized flakes. And just in case you’re wondering, prospectors typically worked from sunup to sundown.
Would you have taken your chances as a prospector in the Old West?
I WILL GIVE AWAY AN EBOOK EDITION OF GOLD RUSH BRIDE HANNAH TO ONE RANDOMLY SELECTED COMMENTER.
Gold Rush Bride Hannah
(Book 1, Gold Rush Brides):
A brand-new widow, she doesn’t need another man in her life. He’s not looking for a wife. But when danger thrusts them together, will they change their minds…and hearts?
Hannah Lauman’s husband has been murdered, but rather than grief, she feels…relief. She decides to remain in Georgia to work their gold claim, but a series of incidents makes it clear someone wants her gone…dead or alive. Is a chance at being a woman of means and independence worth risking her life?
Jess Vogel never breaks a promise, so when he receives a letter from a former platoon mate about being in danger, he drops everything to help his old friend. Unfortunately, he arrives just in time for the funeral. Can he convince the man’s widow he’s there for her protection not for her money?
Hey, y’all! It’s an honor and a thrill to be back visiting you here at Petticoats and Pistols. You know, the name of this blog says it all. At least for me. Women can be feminine and still be downright dangerous.
My new book, A Scout for Skyler, from the Mail-Order Mama series, has been described as Pride and Prejudice meets The Beverly Hillbillies.
Yes, it’s a comedy, but my heroine, Priscilla Jones, was written as a serious tribute to some of the most amazing pioneer women in American history.
Over the years, my research has introduced me to some gals who defied expectations and overcame some impossible situations. Sometimes, it was life-and-death. Other times, it was a matter of life—hers, and how she wanted to live it.
As I was writing A Scout for Skyler, I had these historical figures in my head:
Of course, when we think of rough-and-rowdy frontier women, the first one to come to mind should be Calamity Jane. She lived in a man’s world. Smoke, drank, chewed, and fought with the best of them.
Orphaned at twelve, left to care for five brothers and sisters, Calamity did not shirk her duty. Most likely she did work as a prostitute early on to provide for the family. She left the lifestyle behind, though, by learning to shoot and throw a respectable punch. Everyone who knew Calamity did respect her courage and her kindness. She rescued a runaway stage from a Cheyenne war party and nursed some Deadwood residents back to health during a smallpox epidemic. The only thing Calamity couldn’t do was win Hickock’s heart.
Susan McSween watched her husband get gunned down in the street during the Lincoln County War. Livid over his murder by a US Army colonel in cahoots with the Murphy-Dolan gang, she stayed in town and hired an attorney to fight for justice. He was soon murdered, as well. Susan still didn’t back down or leave. She changed tactics. She figured out the best way to get back at the corrupt forces in Lincoln County was to hit them in the pocketbook.
Susan McSween was a shrewd businesswoman and she put all her efforts into frustrating her nemesis, James Dolan. Eventually, she became the Cattle Queen of New Mexico, at one point running nearly 5,000 head of cattle. Best of all, she outlived all her enemies.
And I thought of Nancy Hart, a patriot on the frontier of North Georgia. The Cherokee named her War Woman because she was fearless and an accurate shot (even with crossed eyes). Her real legend came about when she killed six British soldiers with their own guns.
I could go on and on. The women who built this country were tough, stubborn, and courageous. Suffice it to say, the things my girl Priscilla Jones does in A Scout for Skyler—she’s totally capable of them. Because real heroines have gone before her.
My hero, Captain Corbett, is an arrogant Scotsman who believes women should have babies not opinions. How well do you think an attitude like that would have gone over with the rough-and-tumble Calamity Jane, or the fiery, refined Susan McSween?
In A Scout for Skyler, all these ladies have a voice, and the story was a hoot to write. Talk about fireworks and sassy dialogue.
A Scout for Skyler is part of the multi-author series, Mail-Order Mama. All the stories are stand-alones but have one thing in common: the mail-order bride is a surprise. I hope you’ll check them all out.
Today, three-quarters of teachers in primary schools are women. It wasn’t always that way. Prior to 1850, teaching was primarily a male occupation. Men received an education, and women were taught how to run a household.
Industrialization changed all that. The new economy led men into business and better wages, creating a teacher shortage. This left the door open for women to step in.
It was a tough job. Teachers taught in one-room schools with as many as sixty pupils. Female teachers commanded less pay than their male counterparts, but the job did give women more independence.
In my book, Wooing the Schoolmarm, Miss Maddie Percy has come all the way from Washington D.C. to teach school in Colton Kansas. Instead, the feisty red-haired schoolmarm finds the town burned to the ground and her only shelter an isolated sod house belonging to widower Luke Tyler and his young son, Matthew. Never one to be deterred by setbacks, Maddie is soon making friends with the local Indians, setting up a tepee to live in, and finding her blood racing every time Luke comes near.
Luke Tyler has no room in his life for a woman—especially one as eccentric, spunky, and smart as Maddie Percy. His prairie farm life is too harsh, his memories too painful and his secrets too dark to give in to the feelings she has awakened in him. She might be stealing his son’s heart, but he is keeping his own out of reach. If only he could keep the sparks between them from igniting something as dangerous as lo
For a chance to win a copy of Wooing the Schoolmarm, tell us the challenges you’ve had with homeschooling during the pandemic or share a favorite memory of your early school years.
Step back in time—how do you celebrate a barn raising in the Old West? A wagon train coming to town? A wedding? The end of a cattle drive? Or something as regular as a Saturday night?
The towns in the West were full of independent, rugged people, looking to make a mark on the world or at least on their own pockets. Town dances invited all to attend; cowboys and miners, outlaws and lawmen, bankers and merchants, cultured women and soiled doves. Dances were important to bring a community together for courtship and friendshipping. It was also a vehicle that mixed the social classes, giving people opportunities for advancing one’s class. America’s class system wasn’t as rigid as had been the countries of Europe and the attendees of the dances proved this especially in the West.
Immigrants found it easy to hoe-down with their neighbors as many of the dances originated in Europe and changed very little from the folk dances people already knew. The Polka was a favorite in the new West, but other common dances were the Quadrille, Grand March, Waltz and Scottish Fling. As dances evolved, new steps became incorporated and a dance master would call out the steps to keep the group in sync. This evolved into an American original, the square dance. It seemed to fit the American ideal of a mixture of people and ideas that work together to create a new culture.
In many western towns, women were scarce. And just as in Shakespeare’s plays, men would assume the female role. “Heifer branding” solved the problem as burly men would don a piece of fabric tied round their arm or strap on a bonnet or apron to take the place of the fairer sex and the party continued.
Hurdy-Gurdy Girls traveled to western towns in a group of several women, chaperoned by a married couple, often with children. They hired out for dances and then traveled on to another town.
Saloons found that dancing brought in more men and more money, and employed women as dance hall girls. These women were looked down upon by “proper” ladies, but they were not prostitutes as they were accused. Men would buy a dance ticket for a dollar, then spend it on a partner of his choice, dancing together for a quarter of an hour. The interaction allowed for dance and conversation with men starved for female companionship.
The women generally earned half the price of the tickets they claimed. If they took the man to the bar after the dance, they received a commission on the drinks as well. The dance hall girls could make more in a week than most men made in a month. They also made more money than the prostitutes did, and when given an opportunity, the soiled doves made their way into the dance hall ranks.
Towns also sponsored regular dancing events. In Albert Benard de Russailh’s travel journal, Last Adventure, published in 1851, he wrote of dances in San Francisco. “I am occasionally reminded of our balls at the Salle Valentine on the Rue St. Honoré. There is one important difference: Parisian rowdies often come to blows; but in San Francisco hardly an evening passes without drunken brawls during which shots are fired.”
Dance in the Old West is part of the mystique of the era and was as vital to building their culture, as it is today. It was used to release energy, bring together neighbors, socialize, and provide recreation. So come on out to the barn—let’s dance.
One lucky commenter chosen at random will receive her choice of one of Jo Noelle’s ebooks! To be entered in the giveaway leave a comment on your favorite dance or your favorite dancing memory.
Photo Attribution Public Domain: American Vaudeville Museum Collection (MS 421), MS 421 Box 66 Folder 1, azu_ms421_b66_f1_pg034a003_m.jpg, courtesy of University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections.
Please join us in welcoming our guest Cynthia Woolf! She’s sharing about her latest book with us today. Thank you, Cynthia, for stopping in to chat!
My latest book is a novella titled A Husband for Victoria. It is a mail-order bride book, since that is what I write and what I’m known for.
I set the book in Golden City, Colorado Territory. It’s just called Golden now and is the home of the Colorado School of Mines, first opened in 1870, and Coors Brewing Company, opened in 1873.
The reason I set it there is because that’s where I grew up. Yup. I’m a Colorado native.
When I was sixteen, I worked for the Pioneer Museum in Golden. It was a fascinating place and I fell in love with the history of my town.
I’ve set several of my books in Golden, all historical Western romance. Golden was once the capital of the Colorado Territory but lost out to Denver when the town snagged the capital title when Colorado became a state in 1876.
I like Golden. It was a gold rush town though the gold found there was not nearly the amount found in Central City which is about twenty miles up in the mountains from Golden.
Today there is still ranching and farming going on. Some of these ranches have been in the same family since the town was founded in 1859. These ranchers may have been miners that didn’t make their fortune in gold mining and took up ranching as a way to make a living.
There are many buildings in Golden that have been there for more than one hundred years. The Astor House was built in 1867. It was a boarding and rooming house. At one time, they charged twenty-five cents for a bath and it was said they made more off the baths than they did the rooming house!
The stagecoach driver helped her down from the coach and handed her the two carpetbags that held everything she owned.
“Thank you, Mr. Jones.”
He tipped his hat. “You’re welcome, Mrs. Coleman. You take care.”
“Thank you, I will.”
She looked around and walked up the steps to the boardwalk in front of the Golden West Hotel. The location gave her a slightly higher vantage point from which to survey the surrounding town and look for Mr. Mayfield. Surveying the town up and down the street, she was too busy to pay attention to those behind her.
The air was cold and her breath was visible. The buildings kept her from seeing much and to be honest, the scenery didn’t interest her as much as finding her prospective husband.
She screeched and jumped. “Good grief. You startled me, sir. Are you Mr. Andrew Mayfield?” She raised her gaze to the face of the tall man next to her. He was taller than her by a good six inches, even in her boots, and though she couldn’t see his eyes, she saw his chiseled jaw and the firm set of his mouth. His lips were not too full and not too thin, though right now, they weren’t very welcoming either.
“I am. Are these all your bags?” He picked up her two carpetbags.
“Yes. That’s it.”
“Follow me.” He turned and started walking.
At the end of the boardwalk, in the alley next to the Golden City Mercantile, stood a wagon. As they got closer she saw that it was filled with large bags and boxes of canned goods and smaller bags. She looked up and saw the bench was just a plain wooden plank and stifled a groan. Great, another ride on a board with no padding. Her poor bottom was already hurting.
He helped her into the wagon before going around the back and climbing in next to her. Then he released the brake and slapped the reins on the animals’ bottoms.
She did her best to stay on her side of the bench but it was narrow and her skirts rode against his leg. His very muscular leg. She’d noticed when he walked the way the muscles moved. The man definitely worked for a living.
“Are we going to your ranch now?”
He shook his head. “Not until we visit the preacher. He knows we’re coming. I won’t have my wife’s reputation besmirched.”
Now for my giveaway, I’ll give away 3 copies of A Husband for Victoria in ebook and one $5 Amazon Gift Card. That’s four chances to win!
Cynthia Woolf is the award winning and best-selling author of more than forty-four historical western romance books and two short stories with more books on the way. She also has six scifi romance novels. She also has three boxed sets of her books available
Cynthia loves writing and reading romance. Her first western romance Tame A Wild Heart, was inspired by the story her mother told her of meeting Cynthia’s father on a ranch in Creede, Colorado. Although Tame A Wild Heart takes place in Creede that is the only similarity between the stories. Her father was a cowboy not a bounty hunter and her mother was a nursemaid (called a nanny now) not the ranch owner.
Cynthia credits her wonderfully supportive husband Jim and her great critique partners for saving her sanity and allowing her to explore her creativity. WEBSITE NEWSLETTER
You can also find her on Facebook