Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer

Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer is a museum in Nebraska…not really near me because let’s face it, Nebraska is HUGE.

But it’s near enough that I’ve gotten there a couple of times.

It’s absolutely fascinating. A laid-out circle of buildings that have been brought it, that date to the 1800s.

I may write five blogs about it because there is SO MUCH. I could spend days there and just look and read and look and read.

But today I’m writing about the recreated Earthen Lodge built there.

In the early 1800s the Pawnee lived mainly in only a few towns. Six or seven.

In each town were 40 to 200 of these earthen lodges.

Each lodge held around 20 Pawnee and each village could contain from 800 to 3500 tribal members.

These were big towns.

The smallest one is larger than my hometown.

 

This first picture is a diagram of the lodge. It’s laid out to respect the power the Native people gave to the earth. It was called The Circle of Life. Both symbolic and literally the source of their family, their safety, their food, their shelter. Truly a circle of life for them.

For me, museums are most fun when there are lots of words. This picture above is for the Pawnee History that is celebrated with this earthen lodge. I hope you can read it. I spend more time READING in museums than looking at the objects contained there.

This is the side view of the lodge from outside. It’s exactly as you’d think it would be. A hole dug into a hill. Remember this is Nebraska. It gets cold! The insulation from dirt is excellent, though it still seems like it’s be a little cold to me. 

Here it is from the front, this is the entrance. It’s full size and we were able to go inside.

This is the inside edge of the lodge. You can see there is a layer of grassy seating off the ground. The Pawnee would sit here, around the fire, and could sleep here at night. A single lodge could house dozens of tribal members.

Here you can see the tree trunks that support the ceiling, even though it’s inside an earthen mount it is hollowed out and they need to keep the ceiling up. Note the opening in the ceiling. A fire was built in the center of the lodge and it would warm everyone, the smoke would rise up through the hole, they could cook over it and heat water to wash.

Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. A fascinating slice of history in Minden Nebraska in the heart of the Nebraska prairie.

Mary Connealy

 

SETTING is a Character ~ by Tracy Garrett

It’s always a special day when one of our fillies return to the corral!  We’re so happy to have you with us again, Tracy!

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Have you ever noticed how the setting of a book is an essential part of a story? There may be exceptions, but I don’t think you can pick up a story and drop it into another place—state, landscape, town versus farm. It just wouldn’t work well.

 

When I started writing JAMES, I decide to set it in Nebraska for several reasons. First, I needed the town of King’s Ford to be close enough to a mining area that my heroine could make the trip, but far enough away that it would be dangerous for her. Since there was gold mining in the Black Hills of the Dakota territory, I grabbed my atlas (yes, I still have one) and looked for the path she would have to take. It led me to a place near Chadron, Nebraska, a real town in the northwestern corner of the state.

 

The location gave me a wagon route to Cheyenne, Wyoming, that a wagon train might take, and a grassland that would support a yearly cattle drive to the railhead in North Platte. Perfect, I thought.

 

Trout Ranch near Chadron, NE
Chadron, NE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, I’d been through Nebraska once while on a tour with my college choir. We sang in Lincoln, then lit out for Colorado. All I really remember is that I could see the Rocky Mountains coming for hours and hours—it felt like days!

Eastern NE is flat!

So, my memory of Nebraska is flat. Research, however, made me realize that wasn’t the case for the area I’d chosen. Back to editing.

 

JAMES is set in the rolling hills of northwestern Nebraska. And those hills come into play in the story. So does the weather, but that’s another blog.

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? Do you care where a story is set or does it not really matter to you?

Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win one of two electronic copies of JAMES.

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JAMES by Tracy Garrett

After five years leading the Lord’s flock in King’s Ford, Nebraska, The Reverend James Hathaway is used to the demands on his time. But nothing could prepare him to find a baby in a basket on his front step. He always expected to marry before becoming a father. Then a young widow agrees to help him learn to care for the child and he wonders if he hasn’t found his future.

 

Widow Esther Travers is still reeling over the loss of her newborn baby girl when she’s asked to help care for another baby. Vowing to get the little one off to a good start, she doesn’t plan to fall for the very handsome preacher, too.

EXCERPT

“Reverend! Reverend Hathaway!”

James heard Tad shouting long before he reached the cabin at the north end of King’s Ford, the town he’d called home for nearly five years now. The seven-year-old ran errands for many folks in town, though most often it was for the doctor. If Doctor Finney was sending for a preacher this early in the morning, it couldn’t be good news. James buttoned his vest and pulled on his frock coat then glanced in the small mirror hung beside the front door to be sure his collar was tucked in properly, then studied his face.

He looked tired. A wagon had creaked and rumbled past his home well before dawn and the noise had dragged him from a sound sleep. He’d been sitting at the table since then, trying to write his Sunday sermon, but inspiration hadn’t gotten out of bed with him. Ah, well. It was only Tuesday.

James glanced around his small home. The parsonage, if you could call the drafty, poorly lit cabin by so lofty a title, sat at the far north end of town. The church sat to the south of the parsonage, which meant the larger building did nothing to block the winter winds that howled down from the Dakota hills thirty or so miles away.

Deciding he wouldn’t scandalize any parishioner he passed, he lifted his hat from the small table under the mirror and opened the door. He was so focused on Tad that he nearly tripped over a basket left on his stoop.

“What on earth?”

“A basket.”

“Yes, Tad, I see that. Who left it here?” He immediately thought of the wagon that had awoken him. “Why didn’t they knock? I’ve been home since nightfall.”

Tad crept closer, lifted a corner of the cloth covering the contents, and jumped back like there was a snake inside. “Baby!” Tad yelled.

“Don’t play games, Tad. Tell me what’s…” James didn’t jump away, though he wanted to. “Merciful heavens, there’s a baby in here.”

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Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

Tracy

19th century email…the Homing Pigeon

When I’m writing, I often find myself with a problem that stumps me.

This time it was communication. But SECRET communication. Sure by the time I’m setting my books there was a telegraph. But I needed two men to communicate with each other and no one knows there’s a connection.

.……………Mary Connealy’s Website……………..

I got some good suggestions. Did you know native Americans communicated with arrows? The tribe might be spread over a great expanse, but they’d stay close enough for an arrow to reach. One man would an arrow a great distance and when it reached it’s goal, those waiting them would know it was a signal for whatever had been agreed upon, then that group would send an arrow to the next group.

One can only wonder is anyone got an arrow in their backsides but it seemed to work.

Of course there were smoke signals.

And there were runners. 

None of these things worked for me.

Click for Woman of Sunlight

And then my fevered brain came up with homing pigeons.

And then the research began.

I found out there were already homing pigeons 1000 years before Christ.

I found out homing pigeons were used a lot in war. And were in fact called War Pigeons.

And I found out the birds could fly as far as 600 miles at a speed of 100 miles per hour. Six hours to reach 600 miles. Of course these were records, but I didn’t need my pigeons to go 600 miles. I needed more like twenty. No problem.

But how did the pigeons figure it out? How did they designate ‘home.’ Could ‘home’ be changed? Could the birds go back and forth? Did that mean they have two ‘homes.’

Oh, it was confusing, but also fascinating. ‘Home’ can be split. Like ‘home’ can be two places, the place they eat and the place they sleep. So that explains why they’d go back and forth. But more simply,, I figured out that the pigeons could send a message for two men to meet. Then they could exchange their pigeons.

Well, it was fun. And fascinating. It reminded me of the stories you hear of a dog finding his way home over hundreds of miles and even years. But these birds are born with this inbred instinct to go home. No matter where you take them, they will fly back home.

 

 

Popcorn, Anyone?

 

I don’t know why in all the stories I’ve published that I’ve never written about popcorn until this Christmas book I’m writing. A great oversight on my part!

Anyway, I’ve done some research and what I found is interesting.

Even though popcorn is grown on ears, it’s very different altogether from sweet or field corn. The hull of popcorn is just the right thickness to allow it to burst open. Inside each kernel of popcorn is a small droplet. It needs between 13.5-14% moisture to pop. Don’t ask me how it gets the water inside there.

All I know is that the water turns to steam when heated and pressure builds.

 

 

The oldest ears of popcorn were found in a cave in New Mexico in 1948. The oldest found there were 4,000 years old, so it’s been around an awfully long time.

The Aztecs used popcorn in their ceremonies, decorations, and dances. It was an important food for them as well. When Spanish explorers invaded Mexico, they were astounded by these little exploding kernels of corn.

In South America, popcorn was found in 1,000 year old burial grounds and was so well-preserved it still popped.

Long before corn flakes made an appearance, Ella Kellogg ate ground popped popcorn with milk every morning for breakfast. Her husband, John Kellogg, praised popcorn as being easily digested and highly wholesome. I don’t know if I’d want it in a bowl with milk.

 

 

In Victorian times, popcorn decorated fireplace mantels, doorways, and Christmas trees. Kids used to string popcorn and cranberries and was often the only thing on trees unless paper ornaments.

 

 

Here are some Corny facts:

Today, Americans consume 15 billion quarts of popped popcorn yearly.

Most of the popcorn consumed throughout the world comes from the U.S.

Major states producing it are Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio.

National Popcorn Day is January 19th or whatever day the Superbowl falls on.

* * *

Darn, I’m itching to go to the movies! I can smell the popcorn now.

So, I’ve just added a scene in my Christmas book where my heroine pops popcorn for two little kids and they also string some to decorate with. In case you’re curious, the title of the book is A Cowboy Christmas Legend. Look for it September 2021.

Okay, your turn. How much popcorn do you eat? And what is the most surprising fact you learned?

Research Road Trip

As an author of historical novels, I love it when I get a chance to walk over the same ground as my characters. Most of my research is done online, but every once in a while, I get the chance to get my boots walking in the actual setting of a book I’m writing. This past January was just such an occasion.

During the last weekend of January, I took a research trip to explore the setting of my current work in progress. Not only did I get to dig into the local history of Kingsland, TX, but three writing friends met up with there and turned the weekend into a writing retreat. So wonderful to be blessed by the fellowship of fellow writers and friends.

Anne Mateer and I are in the ticket window with Nancy Kimball (left) and Crystal Barnes (right) in the main living area.

I love staying in historic places whenever possible, and especially when I’m trying to immerse myself in an historic setting. We pulled that off in Kingsland with The Antlers Hotel. The hotel was built by the railroad in 1901 a few years after the rail line came through town in 1892. Unfortunately, it’s about 6 years too modern to include in my story, but it offered fabulous accommodations. I took some photos inside the lobby as well as the exterior.

Since there were four of us, and retreats are much more fun when we can all stay together, we rented a separate building on the property. The Depot cabin we rented had been an actual railroad depot in Muldoon, TX in the 1890’s. I loved opening the door to discover two ticket windows still in place. So fun! Creaky wooden floorboards added to the historical ambiance.

After spending a couple hours on Friday afternoon in the local library’s genealogical section reading up on local families, I drove down to the railroad bridge that is still standing from 1892. I found a really cool tidbit about how folks from the Burnet side of the Colorado River could only get into Kingsland by rails – either on the train or by walking across the railroad bridge. I took a photo from the Burnet side showing the top of the track. I also took a picture from the Kingsland side to show the underside and the pillars. The 4 stone ones are original. The concrete supports were added later.At some point, one or more of my characters is going to be in peril on this bridge. I just need to figure out who and why.

Saturday morning, I took a drive down a country road (and I mean country – dirt, cattle guards, livestock free and ranging) to get some photos of Packsaddle Mountain. It was named for the dip in the middle that makes it resemble a packsaddle on a horse. A major plot point in my novel revolves around this mountain, so being able to see it in person will help me get the details right. A couple decades before my novel’s timeline, this was also the site of the last Indian battle in the region. The settlers, while greatly outnumbered, routed the raiding Apaches and ushered in a time of peace.

On my drive, I also ran into this fellow. Probably not historically accurate, but fun nonetheless.

We finished off the weekend by having brunch on Sunday at the Grand Central Cafe located on the same property where we were staying. It is a grand Victorian home built around the turn of the century and serves wonderful food.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. So much history, so many great conversations, and great food for the imagination and the taste buds . (Crystal Barnes made us her famous farm fresh breakfast with ingredients straight from her very own cow and chickens Saturday morning and fried us up some fresh-off-the-hoof hamburgers for dinner. Yum!)

What are some of your favorite historical locations to visit?

Kingsland was only about a 3-hour drive from my home. Do you have places close to you that are rich in history?

 

Welcome Guest Jodie Wolfe!

Traveling to Texas and Learning How to Shoot

A few years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Texas and see the area that I featured in my new release, Taming Julia. I actually wrote the story back in 2012, but at the time I visited my husband’s aunt and uncle in 2017, my book had not found a publishing home yet. When I arrived, they asked what I’d like to do while I was in Texas. I wanted to see an area called the Narrows as well as learn how to shoot a derringer, pistol, and rifle.

First order of business was learning how to shoot. My uncle was happy to give me lessons and provided different weapons for me to try. I have to admit, I was a little intimidated by it, but I wanted to see firsthand what my heroine, Jules Montgomery, experienced. Jules is way handier with a gun than I am, but I was able to see and feel what the kick-back after you fire is like. The deafening sound, etc.

One of my husband’s other uncles brought out the big gun for me to shoot. I forget now what it was called. They filled a pumpkin with explosives and instructed me on how to fire the weapon. While you can’t see the pumpkin blowing up on the video, it was a glorious sight of orange falling to the ground after it exploded. I have to admit, shooting was way more fun than I thought it would be. Click here for a chance to see my target practice in Texas.

Next on my list was a visit to the Narrows.

This one took a little more doing since it’s on private property in Texas hill country. My uncle arranged it, and we were given a person tour of the rough terrain. It’s a rocky area that all of a sudden drops off into a wide crevice that’s been carved by the Blanco River during flood stage.

While the scene only takes place in a small portion of my novel, I was able to describe it much better having seen it myself. There also is a small cave in the area. It’s harder to get inside than it was years ago (according to my uncle), but I was still able to envision my heroine and the scene.

While some of my settings in the novels I created are made up, I love being able to travel to the areas where some of them take place so I can see it, and also learn some of the history too. It’s always fun to learn new things too, like how to shoot.

Jules has many new things to learn in Taming Julia. After years on the trail, she’s not exactly wife material, but she longs for home and family, and will do anything to ensure her husband never discovers what she really is.

I’m giving away an e-copy of Taming Julia to one person who leaves a comment.
Share something new that you’ve learned recently.

Jodie Wolfe creates novels where hope and quirky meet. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Romance Writers of America (RWA), and COMPEL Training. She’s a contributor and co-founder of Stitches Thru Time blog. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband in Pennsylvania, reading, walking, and being a Grammie. Learn more at http://www.jodiewolfe.com.

 

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Matrimony Vine

I was flipping through an old book about the Oregon desert the other day when a photo caught my eye of a vine climbing up the side of an old cabin.

The caption beneath the photo said, “Homesteaders’ wives needed something green in the middle of the gray desert.” 

Of course the photo was black and white, but the description went on to state that most women planted a matrimony vine. 

Matrimony vine? 

Although I loved the name, I’d never heard of it. 

A quick search revealed matrimony vine is also known as Chinese Wolfberry, Chinese Boxthorn, Himalayan Goji, Tibetan Goji. The deciduous shrub has roots that go back to Japan, Korea, and China. 

As the book I was reading stated, homesteaders who were trying to make a living in the sagebrush-dotted desert lands longed for a spot of color, something that would grow with minimal attention and water.  Many of them found what they were searching for with the matrimony vine. 

I could so easily picture a hardworking farm wife dumping her dishwater on the plant, eager to keep it green and growing in the sometimes harsh desert climate, especially those found in the dry interior of California, eastern Washington and eastern Oregon. 

Legends state a newlywed couple would plant the vine at their homestead to bless their marriage.

Matrimony vine was also a “pass along” plant that could be easily dug up and shared with others. Can’t you just see a mother digging up a bit of her beloved plant to share with her daughter when she wed?  The “lifted and gifted” plants seemed to thrive amid the desert climate.

Another way the plants came to America where with Chinese workers. The berries, popularly known as Goji, have been used for centuries by the Chinese in teas, as dried condiments, additions to stews and soups, as well as for medicinal purposes.

Waves of Chinese immigrants began arriving in San Francisco in the 1850s, and with these immigrants came components of their native culture, including the Goji berry. Tens of thousands of immigrants arrived, escaping poverty and civil war in China, initially bound for the gold fields of California. As they journeyed throughout the west for work, the Goji berry traveled along with them.

Today, stands of matrimony vine mark where homesteads long ago lost to time, fire, or other causes, once stood. The shrubs can also be found growing near old Chinese cemeteries.

Sadly, the plants have become host to the potato psyllid which is related to aphids and secretes a toxic saliva during feeding that causes great harm to potato plants. 

During my growing up years on our farm, we had one of these plants growing out behind our milk barn near the shed where we bottle fed calves. I had no idea what it was, but each spring, it burst forth with beautiful purple blossoms and each autumn, bright red berries begged to be picked. My mother told me it was poisonous and to leave it alone. Now I’m kind of wishing I’d plucked a few of those berries anyway. 

And there you have it, how matrimony vine came to be an invasive plant in the Pacific Northwest!

If you close your eyes and envision a homesteader dutifully keeping alive a plant in the midst of dirt and sagebrush, what do you picture?  

Behind the Book ~ The Oak Grove Series

With the release of Christmas with the Outlaw over the holidays, the Oak Grove Series 
that I wrote with Lauri Robinson came to its conclusion. I loved writing this sweet series set in Kansas,
diving into the history of the land and  the people there so that the stories would come alive with authenticity.
I thought I’d share some of the behind the scenes facts that helped drive and layer the plots of each book.

For example ~

 

BOOK #1

FACT:  

A year after the 1878 setting of the first book in the series, I learned that a prominent issue in the state legislature was prohibition. Carrie A. Nation, was living at Medicine Lodge, KS at this time before she began her famous crusade against alcohol. By 1880, an amendment to the state constitution was in place that prohibited the manufacture, sale, or gift of liquor. And by 1881, Kansas had become the first state to prohibit all alcoholic beverages.

FICTION:

So, in Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove (set in 1878) when twin sisters, Mary and Maggie, were “railroaded” into the fledgling town as obstinate mail-order brides-to-be, it was only natural for them to try to escape their predicament. As daughters of a snake-oil salesman, and in the midst of the brewing controversy (pun intended,) they resurrected their past livelihoods and began making their meade-based family health elixir.

 

BOOK #2

FACT:  

Flooding of the Smoky Hill River often occurred in the spring and eventually dams were built along the river to try to control the worst of it. While bridges were slowly being built along the more populated areas of the river (Salina), Oak Grove still had a ferry crossing. In the spring of 1879, the heavy rains brought intense flooding that destroyed the crops and land to the south of the river. In soddies, it wasn’t unusual for the roof to cave in. (For more on this, see Homesteading on the Prairie, a previous post of mine.)

FICTION:

In The Prairie Doctor’s Bride, it was this torrential rain and flooding that necessitated that independent, isolationist Sylvia Marks leave her soggy soddie and brave the river so that she and her son could survive. It also forced her to leave her comfort zone and look to others for help. Eastern-educated Doctor Nelson had a lot to learn about women and life on the prairie, and Sylvia was just the one to teach him, if he’d only put aside his prejudices.

 

BOOK #3

FACT: 

In 1873, George Grant transported four Angus bulls from Scotland to Kansas and showed them at the Kansas City Livestock Exposition. Breeding these bulls with Texas longhorns produced a much heartier breed. (For more see my post From Longhorns to No-Horns.)  In 1874 four Kansas Railroads shipped 122,914 head of Texas cattle to the east. Mennonites from Russia introduced Turkey Red wheat to the state. And the Native Americans were forced to move to the reservation in Oklahoma Territory. In 1878, the last Native American uprising in Kansas occurred in Decatur County.

FICTION:

In Wedding at Rocking S Ranch, Raymond Wolf is looking out for the ranch of his best friend. The ranch had once been an encampment of his mother’s people – the Wichita. He is studying the breeding of the Texas longhorns with Angus cattle. When his best friend’s widow arrives in the autumn with news that she intends to sell the ranch, Wolf’s life is suddenly upended. Amid the arduous work of branding and driving the cattle to market, they discover that the truths they have believed were an illusion, and that what matters most is far more important.

 

BOOK #4

FACT:

Newspaper work is dangerous! Missing fingers and long hours. (See The 19th Century Newspaper Office)  It was fun gathering facts about small-town newspaper offices and touring Midway Village ~ a nearby living history museum. I was able to speak with the docent there who just happened to be a small-town newspaper man!

FICTION:  

In Christmas With the Outlaw, my novella in A Western Christmas Homecoming, Abigail White is a straight-laced, just-the-facts, unemotional journalist. It’s safer for her heart that way. When a man from her past stumbles into her newspaper office to hide from the law, suddenly she is confronted with an emotional crisis. Should she be true to her journalistic sensibilities and report him to the sheriff? Or will her heart win out? She must learn that not all is what it appears on the surface of a person’s life.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

Researching my stories always gives my plots more layers ~ even though often I disappear for hours down the “research rabbit hole” chasing trails that are down right fun, but don’t lead anywhere productive. But then…sometimes they do!

 

 

I have been a filly in P&P’s corral for the past four years and the time has come to say an affectionate goodbye. It has been a delight to get to know each of the “fillies” and also the many women who have commented frequently on my posts. Thank you for joining in the fun here! Thank you for the camaraderie and the friendship. Saying goodbye is bittersweet and I will miss being a part of this group.

I wish you all the best!

                                                                                                                                        

HAPPY 2019!

 

Please visit me!

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  |  GOODREADS

And find my books at

AMAZON  |  BARNES & NOBLE 

 

A Luxury Resort–Was it Really a Ghost Town?

 

My first contemporary western romance, A COWBOY AND A PROMISE, will be released on January 24th by Tule Publishing.  Yee-Haw!

I just loved writing this book!  From the moment I envisioned Beau Paxton and Ava Howell in my mind, I fell in love with them.  I used the classic ‘fish out of water’ storyline, and the words just flowed.

Ava has a degree in construction management and drives all the way from New York City to take on a ghost town renovation project to honor a promise she made to her friend, who had made a promise to Beau’s mother. 

And of course, Beau doesn’t WANT his beloved ghost town renovated.  He doesn’t want strangers on his family’s land, he doesn’t want to spend the money, he doesn’t want his grandfather’s legacy (the ghost town) touched or changed from the way he’s always known it, and how it’s been for decades.

Sparks fly, for sure. 

I enjoyed the research, too.  But even before I dug in with Google, I wasn’t sure there was such a thing as renovating a ghost town into a guest resort.

Indeed, there was.

Dunton Hot Springs is located near Telluride, Colorado.  Dunton was first established in 1895 as a mining camp, and as was normal for mining communities springing up in less-than-ideal locations, once the mining peaked, the town died a slow death, eventually becoming deserted in 1918. 

A pair of long-time residents bought the entire town and a few mining claims, operating the land as a cattle ranch, then a dude ranch for a number of years.  Finally, in 1994, the current owners purchased the entire town and devoted seven years to renovating it into the luxury resort it is today.

Visitors can enjoy winter sport activities or bask in the captivating summer landscapes.  They can go glamping in a camp of eight luxury tents, enjoy hot springs that steam in the winter and entice in the summer, or head to Telluride for a stay in the historic Dunton Town House.  For the adventurous, or for those who just want to put their cell phones away and relax in the wilderness, Dunton promises a get-away not to be forgotten.

Rooms at the Town House rent from $350 – $500 per night. Cabin rates range from $1,200 to $2,020 per night. 

Um, yeah.

From its website:

“Apart from the beautiful landscape, Dunton Hot Springs is also the number one all inclusive resort in the US according to TripAdvisor, and number 8 in the entire world. Each cabin is different, but shares some things in common. They are all immaculately decorated with elements that find that spectacular combination of rustic and luxury. Oh, and did we mention one cabin has a private hot spring all to itself?”

Sounds fabulous, doesn’t it?  Of course, luxury comes with a cost, and this resort taps into a clientele that is willing to pay the price.

What about you?  Have you ever stayed at a luxury resort or hotel?  Are you willing to splurge on lavish accommodations as part of your vacation?  Can you justify the cost of an expensive room?  Do you love a spa treatment?  Massage?  Is atmosphere an important part of your get-away?  Do you prefer an outdoors vacation?  Or an urban one with all the comforts of home?

Let’s chat!

 

 

Join in, and you might win a $5 Amazon Gift Card!

 

                                                 

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Send in the Cavalry! by Regina Jennings

Regina Jennings

 

Please welcome Regina Jennings

who starts off our Friday Guest Posts for the New Year!

 

Regina is a wife, a homeschooling mother of four,
a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University, and a voracious reader.
She is also the author of award-winning humorous,
inspirational, historical romantic fiction.

Miss Regina is giving away a print copy of her newest release ~
The Lieutenant’s Bargain
to one lucky person who comments!

 

By Regina Jennings

When I first heard about the competition, I couldn’t believe my luck. You mean there will be cavalry re-enactors showing off their cavalry skills at Fort Reno, the setting of my current series? Yeah, sign me up!

In late September, the U.S. Cavalry Association held their Bivouac and National Cavalry Competition at Fort Reno, Oklahoma—the setting of my current series. Once again, the fort sounded with pounding hooves, stirring bugles and that bluster and swagger that occurs before any contest. Now, I’m always supportive of events that honor our past, but this was at the fort…my fort! It was like I was standing beside Louisa and Major Adams watching the goings-on at the parade grounds.

In the first book of the series, Holding the Fort, most of the story takes place in the General’s House, which was the residence of the highest-ranking officer on the post. The General’s House had a central view of the parade grounds where the men drilled.

Jennings Reno

 

Here, in front of the General’s House, a participant competes in the Mounted Saber competition. The obstacle course includes spearing rings on the blade, slicing through apples, popping balloons and stabbing targets on the ground.

Another competition was Military Field Jumping. Behind this soldier you can see the long barracks that the troopers like Bradley Willis stayed in.

Jennings horse jumping

 

Besides combat horsemanship, mounted sabers, and military field jumping, they were also judged on the authenticity of the era they were portraying. Participants had several different categories that they could choose from. Naturally, I was drawn to those portraying soldiers from the Plains Indian Campaigns, since that’s the time I’m writing about.

These two soldiers are currently stationed at Fort Carson, but they were representing troopers from Fort Concho, Texas, during the Plains Indian Conflicts.

 

They are judged on the historical detail of their uniforms, weapons, gear and tack. Finding these guys is a researcher’s dream! I learned that they would’ve carried more ammo than food, because if you have ammo, usually you can get food. There’s not much room in those bags for fluff, but they liked having both a canteen and a tin cup.

And even though it was a toasty day, they favor the caped overcoat when they want to make an impression. I have to agree with them.

See the heart on the breast collar of the horse –

 

According to these presenters, the heart meant that the horse had already seen combat. Is that true? I haven’t found that referenced anywhere else, but I’m open to the possibility.

One of the funniest moments of the competition was when this guy was doing his historical authenticity interview. He rode up to the judges in a full Lawrence of Arabia get-up. He did his presentation to the cavalry judges, explaining that he’d been stationed in the Middle East and had put together his gear and clothing while there.

 

The two judges just listened in wonderment. Finally one of them said, “You’re giving me a lot of information, but I don’t have the foggiest idea of how to judge an Arab outfit. All I know is that horse is not an Arabian.”

Being at the Cavalry Competition set up the moment that will always be one of my favorite writer memories– the time my book cover came to life. One of the contestants was competing in the Mounted Saber course, when I realized that it was a scene straight out of The Lieutenant’s Bargain.

See that house behind him?

 

See the house on my book cover?

It’s the same! And while Lieutenant Jack isn’t wearing his caped coat on the cover, you’d better believe it’s a big part of the story!

I’m so grateful that our military encourages their young members to keep the legacy of their units alive through events like this, and I’m doubly grateful that they choose to hold the contests at historical sites. I’d imagine if walls could talk, the buildings at Fort Reno would say that they miss the rowdy cavalrymen and the spirited horses that used to populate their grounds.

If you’re free next September, get yourself to Oklahoma to support these brave men as they honor the heroes that came before them. And not to be pushy, but you might enjoy your visit even more if you’ve read a few fun books set there. Then you too can feel like you’re walking into history.

There’s just something right about bringing the cavalry back to Fort Reno.

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Find out more about Miss Regina Jennings and her books at ~ 

 http://www.reginajennings.com

 

To purchase a copy of The Lieutenant’s Bargain ~ 

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