Folks Coming Together and a Giveaway!


I’ve been racking my brain about what to write for this month’s blog post, but then there’s always the obvious. I’ve been evacuated from my home for three weeks now due to the wildfires going on in Oregon.

Yes, my house is still standing, but it’s been touch and go. I must say, this isn’t my first wildfire rodeo, but this has certainly been the most I’ve seen folks come together.

I have a new appreciation for the old west or any period in history that didn’t have the fire departments and crews we have today. My sister, nephew, and I have had to come out to the house over the course of the last few weeks and water everything down. The power was out for the first week or so, and we had to haul buckets up from the creek to get the job done. It was grueling, but you do what you have to do.
Thank Heaven it rained like the dickens for a few days. That helps contain the fire, but it doesn’t put it out. This is another week of touch and go as the hot spots are being re-ignited by the warmer temperatures and east winds.

But through it all, I’ve watched my little community of Estacada come together like never before. Around here you grow up knowing the same folks from kindergarten through high school. Everyone knows everybody else. And thus, everyone knows who suffered the most damage. The outpouring of help and aid has been such that the donation centers have had to turn donations away. The quick organization of groups of people making lunches and snacks for the fire and brush crews, not to mention the huge amount of volunteers has also been outstanding. It’s great to not only see signs of gratitude to the fire crews in people’s driveways, but this time around there are coolers full of snacks, sandwiches, and drinks. The crews can just stop, hop out, grab what they need, and go.

I live at the end of a mile-long driveway in a log cabin. There are six residences, five in the canyon where I live. The one neighbor had a crew of thirty men made up of his friends and relatives fighting alongside the fire crews to keep the fire from burning down our homes. One house came particularly close but was saved. There are groups of folks like this all over the area. Many more homes would have been lost if not for their bravery, and I along with friends and neighbors commend them. They are still fighting in areas and working to keep the fire contained this week so it doesn’t travel any further into the canyon than it already has.

This has been both an amazing and devastating time, but it just goes to show how kind, generous. and loving folks are. My sister, a professional horsewoman, had to help evacuate 57 horses from the barn she works at. She put a post on Facebook about what she had to do, (at around midnight no less) she never asked for help. She was just giving folks a heads up to take care of their own barns and livestock. Ten folks showed up at her barn with their horse trailers ready to help within the hour. She was floored. 

I’m hoping we’ll be able to return home in another week or so. It will be nice to get back to a normal routine. For some, there is no more normal for a time and our hearts and prayers go out to them. But with the incredible outpouring of love from the community, I know everyone will be all right in the end. After all, we’re all in this together.

Ironically, the book I released on 9/14 starts off with a fire. But like now, folks pull together and are there for each other. 

So, for a free e-copy of Hearts of the Northwest, what acts of kindness and generosity have you seen lately? I’ll pick a random person from the comments below.

A Summer of limited Boot Scootin’ – Mary Connealy

This was going to be about my favorite trip this summer. And I guess I have one, but I didn’t TAKE the trip that was supposed to be my favorite. So the one trip is my favorite.

My Cowboy retired January 1st.


Among other things, I found out he’s got ADHD (maybe???) A hyperactive energizer bunny! Except he’s always worked so HARD I couldn’t tell!

So now, finally, he’s got some spare time and energy and we had PLANS!!!

We had TRIPS planned. A daughter who had a baby in March!! Grandma and Grandpa are ON THE WAY!

A research trip following the Oregon Trail.

A possible return trip to Durango. We went in the winter and my current book series is set there. (so it’s too late to help the book! Still I’m interested in the area! And I didn’t get to see Mesa Verdi when I was there!!! The Government was shut down!!!)

We had this one GRAND trip planned to see a friend in Missouri, then on to see My Cowboy’s brother in Pensicola, Florida, then maybe on that trip swing up to Washington DC where my daughter lives in time to see a newborn.

And then 


Shut down the country.


PionThe one trip we did manage this year was a very modest two day journey to some Nebraska museums I love and have only seen once before and My Cowboy, never. I posted one day about the Stuhr Museum and the Earthen Lodge of the Pawnee Indian tribe.

But there was so much more.

Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska, was on that trip. I seriously love that museum.

Pioneer Village in Minden, NE

And then on to the … well, we call it

The Kearney Arch…it’s really (I have to go look it up…The Great Platte River Road Archway Monument-imagine forgetting that!?)

Anyway, it’s super cool, all of it. And I’m glad my books managed to scoot at least that far.

And as a grand finale of my boots scooting!!! Or the lack thereof.

Here’s sweet baby Adrian

Grinning at me to mock my loneliness!

Boot Scootin’ Boogey one of these daysto see her!

Any favorite trips for this low down spook of a year? Leave a comment and get your name in the drawing for a signed copy of Her Secret Song.

Click Here to Buy Her Secret Song

Scootin’ the Boot

A size 11 woman’s foot never looks good in cowboy boots, trust me on this. So when Boot Scootin’ came up as a topic, I panicked. But then Pam Crooks set off bells in my head – there’s more than one kind of boot. Sadly, my kind aren’t cute, or sexy.

First, let it be known right up front, I’m a klutz. I admit it. Nothing to do but laugh at myself. I’m also an adventurer – I push the envelope on a routine basis.

The two together? Recipe for disaster.

You know those boot-casts they put you in nowadays? Yeah, I’ve been in those as best I can remember, FOUR times.

The first was a freak fly fishing accident. I’ve got a bad knee from a motorcycling accident (Oh, make it 5 incidents-was in a boot from ankle to hip, that time) and the knee gave out on a hill. I felt the bone snap, but was in denial, and had my girlfriends haul me down to the jacuzzi on the luggage cart (wine may have been involved – but only as a painkiller).

The good thing about that, was I had tickets to the PBR Finals in Vegas the next week, and no way I was going to miss it. So we rented a wheelchair. The handicapped entrance was right next to the bull riders’ locker room. I call that a score!


Then I had two separate foot surgeries, right after the other. Between the two, I was in a boot  for a year.  My neighbor broke his ankle in a freak golf accident (yeah, two klutzs in the same neighborhood-what are the odds?) We used to race our knee scooters on the sidewalk.





Then came the one that had zero humor. I was out fly fishing in the back of beyond, Oregon, stepped in a hole with a branch across it, and snapped both bones in my lower right leg. Thank God there was cell service – I called 911 – a sheriff’s deputy zeroed on in the signal and found me about a 1/2 hour later. Problem was, it was an area of mud and downed trees – no way to get a stretcher to me – someone else would’ve broken their leg.

So everyone stood around (by then a few locals heard the yelling and stopped by) chatting about what to do (not me, I was the one doing the yelling). They finally came up with the idea of bringing a boat down the river, loading me on, and taking me to the ambulance waiting at a boat ramp. So that’s what they did. 


Then it was just 30 minutes on a dirt road (I felt every rut) and another 15 min to the hospital – all in all I think it was 2 hours from when I broke it until I got good drugs at the hospital. I was so happy I asked the doctor to marry me.

Surgery, a plate, 13 pins and a wire later, I was back together. The doctor released me two days later, but wouldn’t let me fly for another week. An angel stepped in – a lady I’d worked with years before lived in the area and gave up her BED to me for a week! 


That was it. I learned my lesson. No, I’m still riding motorcycles and fly fishing, but I’m being veeeeeery careful, now.


Growing up in Oklahoma, camping was not something we did as a family. My mom was not the “outdoorsy” type, and my dad worked in the oilfield, so his schedule was erratic. Many of my friends had been camping—but I had never gone. I didn’t count the times we went to our family reunion on Lake Texoma and rented a huge barracks-like building with men on one side, women on the other, and a massive kitchen and dining area in between. That was not “real” camping!

My camping debut finally came as an adult when I had my daughter’s Brownie troop dumped in my lap the day before we were all set to have our first meeting. The woman who had asked me to be a co-leader decided she was not up to being a leader, and told me if I didn’t take it over there were going to be 24 very disappointed little girls—including her own! I had never been a Girl Scout, never gone camping, never done any of the things that were “scouting” things—but what could I do?

Well…with a lot of misgivings, I agreed to be the leader if she would be the co-leader. Another mom also said she would be a co-leader. By the end of the first month, another mom stepped forward, Sherry, who knew “all things Girl Scout” and what a lifesaver she was!

One of our first Brownie meetings!



I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.


Here we are, having fun at Investiture–Jessica in the middle. Lots of great memories!

… Even though we were one tired Mommy and little brother!


I didn’t think I would like camping, but surprisingly, I did—we had so much fun. We went to a Girl Scout campground at Red Rock State Park in Oklahoma. There is a huge variety of things to do there, and the scenery is just beautiful. We had small cabins with cots, and brought all our own food in coolers.


PHOTO CREDIT: By taylorandayumi – OklahomaUploaded by Fredlyfish4, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The girls loved being outdoors in the crisp fall weather, and seeing such wonders as the changing colors of the tree leaves, learning about plants, the history of the park, and simple survival skills. We gathered firewood, and of course, we made S’mores that evening! We learned how to make “buddy burners” and cooked a meal on top of a metal coffee can!

Jessica taking her turn at sawing some firewood.

There are videos online that show different ways to make a “buddy burner” but ours was an empty tuna can with a coiled wick in it, under an inverted empty metal coffee can with a few holes punched in the side near the top to allow air to get to the tuna can that is burning. The top of the coffee can is like a stove burner—you can make two different kinds of breakfast on it: cook bacon first, so there’ll be drippings, and then you can make a) French toast, or b) scrambled eggs.

At Camp Red Rock–my Jessica, 3rd from left. We learned to always wear a cap–lots and lots of bugs!

I think we all ate more than we normally did because of the fresh air, and the novelty of being able to cook a meal on the buddy burners we had all made for ourselves!

But when we think of how our cowboy heroes had to camp “back in the day” without the amenities we had (a cooler, bacon in a package, eggs in a carton, and so on) it makes a person realize that camping out of necessity was not the fun, exciting time we had as a giggly group of elementary school girls and their leaders. It was the serious business of trying to survive.

We had a wonderful time—there was very little homesickness, as everyone was so busy all the time and the time flew by. Hubby and I don’t camp, but I was so grateful to have those times with my daughter, Jessica, and the girls in our Girl Scout troop! Thinking back on it, those were some of my favorite days.

Were you ever a Girl Scout? Whether you were a scout or not, do you have a favorite camping experience? Please share!

Winner! Winner!


Thanks so much to everyone who came to the blog yesterday or today and who left their comment or viewpoint on the somewhat controversial post.  I enjoyed reading your comments and thoughts on the matter.  We do have a winner, and that winner is:



Congratulations Alice.  Now, in order to get the e-book to you, could you please email me privately?  

My address is:  karenkay(dot)author(at)earthlink(dot)net

Again, many, many thanks to all those who spent some time reading and then also commenting on the post.


Riding Sidesaddle …

Ah, the sidesaddle, a piece of horse tack designed in the old west to make those flowing skirts women wore to flow equally well on horseback … NOT!

In actuality, the sidesaddle was invented way back in the fourteenth century to … wait for it … protect the virginity of a teenaged princess as she made her way across Europe to wed the young King of England. Wow. Just wow.

So, the assumption the sidesaddle was a product of fashion because of long flowing skirts and dresses, isn’t how this particular piece of tack came about. Instead, it was to protect the physical proof of a princess’s royal virtue. And the rest is history.

This bright idea (I’d really like to know who came up with it) set forth the notion that the only way for a proper lady to ride was “sideways.” Never mind the fact you had to hang on like your life depended on it (which for many it did) it’s how you were supposed to ride. So, for some five hundred years this was how it was done. YIKES!

The sidesaddle we still know today was invented in the 1830s by Jules Pellier. His version has a fixed pommel to support the rider’s right thigh. He also came up with a revolutionary second pommel for the left leg. This allowed more security and control, giving the woman the freedom to stay on at a gallop and to jump fences. It was a far cry from early sidesaddles, The earliest of which was nothing more than a pillow and a piece of wood that had the woman facing left. Horses are mounted on the left side, so even the earliest versions were made this way.

Fast forward to the early twentieth century where the sidesaddle was a permanent fixture for women when it came to the proper way to ride. Worse, the slightest suggestion to the contrary could get you an earful. Take for example an article in the Los Angeles Times from 1905 (and yes, this was written by a guy): “The woman does not live who can throw her leg over the back of a horse without profaning the grace of femininity; or grasp with her separated knees the shoulders of her mount without violating the laws of good taste; or appear in the cross-saddle with any semblance of dignity, elegance or poise.”

There were women writers of the time who agreed. But as with anything, rumblings against this mode of riding were bound to start. In this case, it was British author Alice Hayes who made some of the first complaints against a sidesaddle, despite the fact she argued women should ride sidesaddle. But she also saw the sidesaddle’s impractical design and how it placed women in harm’s way.

“The fact of a lady having to ride in a sidesaddle, subjects her to three disadvantages: she is unable, without assistance, to mount as readily as a man; she cannot apply the pressure of the leg to the right side of the horse, and she cannot ‘drop her hands’ in order to pull her horse together to the same extent as he can,” wrote Hayes, in her 1893 book, The Horsewoman: A Practical Guide to Side-Saddle Riding.



By 1900, American women were geographically split on the issue. Women in the East clung to the sidesaddle as
proper and necessary, while Western women saw them as impractical and dangerous. Women out west were far more likely to use a horse for farm and ranch labor than those in the East, who were more likely to use a horse for weekend entertainment. Now there are sidesaddle riding clubs, events in horse shows for the sidesaddle and of course, other interesting places in the horse world where riding sidesaddle is the used.

 My sister and I grew up with horses, and we tried riding side-saddle by wrapping our right leg around the saddle horn. Dangerous? Yep, but we were Tomboys, what did we care about the danger? And yeah, we worked our way up to a canter riding that way. But we weren’t going to go for a gallop! Have any of your seen women riding sidesaddle in parades or at horse shows? Have you ever ridden a horse that way or thought it an elegant way to ride?