Category: Wagon Trains

Water Dictated Wagon Train Routes …

 

For the brave souls who undertook the arduous, twenty-one-hundred-seventy-mile journey along the Oregon Trail, there
was a constant struggle to provide enough water for themselves and their animals. Their prairie schooner could carry only one-ton of supplies. Typically, a water barrel strapped to the side of the wagon only held fifteen to twenty gallons.

Most wagon masters encouraged their charges to have six or seven pair of oxen, and each animal needed fifteen to twenty gallons of water per day. Each person used a gallon or less for their needs, so no one could carry enough water. Consequently, all the well-traveled trails leading to Oregon or California followed a river. In addition to the water supply, that’s where the grass was the best as well.

Most wagon trains averaged covering fifteen to twenty miles in a day—that’s going approximately a ten-hour day with a noon hour dinner break. Of the remaining fourteen hours, a considerable portion was devoted to water needs—either taking the oxen to water, the easiest, or hauling water to the animals at ten gallons a trip.
With water weighing eight-point-three pounds per gallon. That’s about all any grown man would want to carry in two five-gallon water buckets per trip. It didn’t leave a whole lot of time for doing much else, other than trying to sleep a bit.
The emigrants first crossed the Missouri River then went northwest to pick up the Platte River which would provide all the wagon trains water for about half of their journey. It took them west through what is today Nebraska then more north and still west across Wyoming. They traveled beside the Sweetwater River and Green River before picking up the Snake River in what is Idaho today. Those going on to Oregon kept with it.

Settlers headed to California broke off the Oregon Trail at Fort Hall then started south along the Humboldt and later the Truckee River. For those sojourners, water became an even greater consideration. The closer the train got to the Forty Mile Desert, located in Nevada. It ran from the end of the Humboldt River to either the Carson River or the Truckee River.
This was the most dreaded section of their travels. The closer the trains got to it, the more alkaline the water became. Experienced wagon train masters encouraged their people to bring vinegar to neutralize some of the alkaline and make it more drinkable.

The reason crossing the Forty Mile Desert was the most difficult challenge of course was the lack of water, but also the extreme temperatures.

Most trains hit the desert in August, trying to get over the Sierra Nevada mountain range before the first snow. Being the hottest part of summer, they traveled only at night. Before 1850 almost a thousand people died there and ten thousand animals.

Mark Twain went across it and said of his journey, “It was a dreary pull and a long and thirsty one, for we had no water. From one extremity of this desert to the other, the road was white with the bones of oxen and horses. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that we could have walked the forty miles and set our feet on a bone at every step!”

Would you have undertaken such a perilous journey?

My newest novel LILAH released on May 3rd, my seventieth birthday! It is book five in the Prairie Roses Collection for Mother’s Day each year, offering strong-hearted heroines who traveled in the 1800s by covered wagon. It’d be a blessing to me for you to try this story, especially if I’m a new author to you! LILAH at AMAZON
((TO LINK:  https://amzn.to/2xBFhxs

 

 

 

GIVEAWAY
Wanting to BE a blessing, I’ve arranged a gift for all the Petticoats & Pistols’ readers today. JEWEL’S GOLD will be FREE at AMAZON ((TO LINK: https://amzn.to/2YIYvMT from Friday, May 8th through Tuesday, May 12th! Y’all enjoy! (UPDATE: There was a snafu with Amazon. Caryl has reset the book to be free, but it won’t start until tomorrow Saturday, May 9. The freebie will extend through Wednesday, May 13. She apologizes profusely!)

 

 

 

 

 

Bio : Award-winning, hybrid author Caryl McAdoo prays her story gives God glory. Her best-selling novels have garnered over 1000 5-Star reviews, attesting to the Father’s love and favor. Readers love her historical Christian romance family sagas best, but she also writes Christian contemporary romance, Biblical fiction, and for young adults and mid-grade booklovers. They count Caryl’s characters as family or close friends. The prolific writer loves singing the new songs God gives her almost as much as penning tales—hear a few at YouTube! Married to Ron over fifty years, she shares four children and nineteen grandsugars. The McAdoos live in the woods south of Clarksville, seat of Red River County in far Northeast Texas, waiting expectantly for God to open the next door.

Links :
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Caryl-McAdoo/e/B00E963CFG?tag=pettpist-20

BookBub – https://www.bookbub.com/authors/caryl-mcadoo?follow=true

Website: http://www.CarylMcAdoo.com

Newsletter: http://carylmcadoo.com/sign-up-to-the-caryler/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_1hQx6UZbWi3OYwmKKxh6Q
(Hear Caryl sing her New Songs!)

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CarylMcAdoo.author

Secrets of My Heart and Book Giveaway

Secrets of My Heart comes out March first and is part of the Willamette Brides series (a sequel to the Heart of the Frontier series which came out several years ago).  The story deals with three women who are caught up in the racial conflicts of 1879 Oregon. As I researched for this story, I kept finding a lot of issues that reminded me of problems we’re continuing to deal with today.

For instance, did you know that early in Oregon’s history, exclusion laws went into place that made it illegal for African Americans to even take up residency in Oregon Country.  Wagon train masters signed agreements to not allow blacks in their trains. In one of the museums I visited they had a display that told the story of former slave Rose Jackson who was forced to hide in a specially made wagon box all day, every day, as the wagon train came west. She was only able to come out at night after everyone had gone to bed.

Freed slave in Oregon.

There were three exclusion acts – Peter Burnett’s Lash Law was one of these that called for African Americans to be expelled from Oregon, and if they refused to go, they were to be lashed. The law was rescinded in 1845 when it was determined lashing too harsh. The next exclusion law was made in 1849 and stated, it was unlawful for any “negro or mulatto” to enter or reside in Oregon Territory.  It was rescinded in 1854.  The third and final exclusion act was passed in 1857 and actually written into Oregon’s Bill of Rights. The clause prohibited African American from being in the state, owning property, and making contracts. Oregon became the only free state admitted to the Union with an exclusion clause in its constitution. It wasn’t repealed by voters until 1926, with final racist language not removed until 2002.

While the exclusion laws were generally not enforced, they hung as a threat over the heads of African Americans who feared that at any given moment new laws might be passed to strip away their possessions and force them from the state.  This was especially driven home when the Fourteenth Amendment issue came up.

The Fourteenth Amendment which grants citizenship to all people born or naturalized in the United States, including former slaves, was ratified by a very narrow margin in 1866.  Oregon then rescinded that ratification in 1868.  The Fourteenth Amendment in Oregon was not re-ratified until 1973. They also refused to ratify the 15th Amendment which allows African American men the right to vote. That law wasn’t ratified in Oregon until 1959.  For more information go to:

https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/exclusion_laws/#.XRf4A-tTmpo

https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/14th_amendment/#.XRfyZetTmpo

https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/15th_amendment/#.XRfxxutTmpo

Of course, along with these laws, were laws against the Native Americans. Including making it illegal for whites to marry a person who was at least half Native American or even a quarter black, Chinese or Pacific Islander. This law wasn’t rescinded until 1951.

Learning about these laws and the problems they caused was quite fascinating and reminded me that as Solomon said in the Bible there truly is nothing new under the sun.  It also reminded me that as Christians we should love others as Jesus loved us and when we do that, it allows for no prejudice or negativity based on the color of our skin. 

I hope you’ll enjoy the series.

Soli Deo Gloria

 

What do you think would be the hardest part of traveling the Oregon trail in a covered wagon?

Tracie is giving away a print copy of Secrets of My Heart to one person who comments today.

Amazon

Tracie had an unexpected travel engagement arise today and will not be available to respond to comments here today, but she welcomes readers to contacted her directly at tjpbooks@aol.com or through her website http://www.traciepeterson.com.

Updated: March 9, 2020 — 11:13 am

The Oregon Trail Trading Post with Jennifer Uhlarik!

Hi everyone. Jennifer Uhlarik here. Have you ever thought of what traveling along the Oregon Trail is like? While I am fascinated with the idea of our forefathers traveling months along the path to make a life in the wilds of Oregon or other western places, the thought of being that far from civilization—particularly someplace to replenish supplies—is a frightening one. Keeping it real here: I live 2 miles from the grocery store, and it’s waaaaayyyyyy too easy for me to wait until 5 pm some nights to decide what I’m making for dinner, then rush off to the store for supplies. Our ancestors on the Oregon Trail didn’t have such luxuries! They had to pack enough stores to do life until they reached a trading post or fort to buy more.

So how did these trading posts get their start and what were they like?

As early as the 1500’s, French and English fishermen were sailing to the coast of Newfoundland to fish for cod. It was here that they encountered some local Indian tribes who were anxious to trade for metal goods. In order to obtain the iron pots, pans, knives and tools they coveted, the Indians offered beaver pelts, which they could provide in great quantities. It took the fishermen little time to sell the pelts once they returned home, and people quickly realized that the soft underfur of a beaver pelt made a wonderful felt for hat-making. With a growing demand for beaver pelts, both France and England began to explore North America with the intent to colonize it. Not long after, France began setting up trading posts in Quebec. Of course, England’s Hudson Bay Company moved into the area as well, sending traders and trappers across parts of Canada and the American frontier. Wherever they went, Hudson Bay Company set up trading posts to barter with the native population.

As life on the frontier changed from a focus on the fur trade to a focus on Westward Expansion, many of the old trading posts lived on. The owners of the posts continued to trade with the Indian tribes, but they also became outposts where white travels and settlers could get supplies. These small outposts provided staples like coffee, tea, rice, tins of hardtack biscuits, dried fruit, or canned goods. They also offered tools and utensils, such as cast iron pots, kettles, knives, and axes, saddles, and flint and steel for starting fires. Customers could trade for textiles, such as beaver-felt hats, blankets, bandanas, ribbon, thread, needles, and fabric. Ornamental or decorative supplies were commonly found, anything from silver to beads and beyond. And of course, guns, ammunition, and other shooting supplies were a common item found in these trading posts.

I’m sure you can imagine, life on the frontier could be lonely and supplies might be hard to come by. You had to learn to live with what you had…and make do until you could restock. Often, these trading posts were lifesavers, keeping people from starving or doing without until they reached the next major stop on their journey west. Or they might have prevented settlers from having to make a long trek to the nearest town or city, which might be days or weeks away. They certainly weren’t as convenient as today’s 7-Eleven, but I’m betting they were welcome stopovers to more than a few of our ancestors.

 

It’s your turn: If you had lived in times past, would you have liked to live on the frontier where a trading post might be your nearest source of supplies, or would you have preferred to live in a town or city? I’ll be giving away one paperback copy of The Oregon Trail Romance Collection to one reader who leaves a comment.

 

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list several times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers, Women Writing the West, and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children. Follow Jennifer at bit.ly.UhlarikNews

 

The Oregon Trail Romance Collection

Nine romantic adventures take readers along for a ride on the Oregon Trail where daily challenges force travelers to evaluate the things that are most precious to them—including love. Enjoy the trip through a fascinating part of history through the eyes of remarkably strong characters who stop at famous landmarks along the way. Watch as their faith is strengthened and as love is born despite unique circumstances. Discover where the journey ends for each of nine couples.

 

Click HERE to buy

 

Santa Fe, Where History Collides With the Present!

After writing two books without much of a break, I decided it was time to get away. Actually, a good friend of mine twisted my arm. She kept talking about making adobe bricks in Santa Fe, NM and before I knew it, I told her I’d go along…just to keep her out of trouble. *wink*  But it didn’t take much persuasion. Despite being born in New Mexico and living there the early part of my life, I’d never been to Santa Fe or made real adobe bricks. And I wanted to go. Darn it, I earned the trip! 

So, on a recent Friday morning, we left Raton, NM and started down. These are buffalo we saw just outside of Cimarron.

                      

Then we meandered our way, enjoying the fresh air of the mountains. We met her parents for lunch in Española. I thought that would be a sleepy little town but it was pretty big. Lunch was excellent by the way. From there we wound around through several small communities to Chimaýo where there’s an amazing story. Sometime about 1810, a friar was performing penance when he saw a light bursting from a hill. He went up and found a crucifix. Three times a priest tried to take it to another place but it always disappeared and reappeared in Chimaýo so they built an adobe mission in 1816 and it quickly became known as a curative place. The sick and infirm came by the droves and claimed to be cured. They still do. The crucifix still resides on the chapel altar. The chapel is on the left and a children’s chapel on the right.

                                                 

Here’s camel rock, an usual rock formation outside of Santa Fe that we had to stop and take a picture of. 

We arrived in Santa Fe mid-afternoon and our first stop was the Loretto Chapel and it’s miraculous staircase that was built without nails (only wooden pegs) and has perplexed experts. The entire weight of the staircase rests on the bottom step. It has two 360° turns with no visible sign of support and the rare wood is not native to the American Southwest. Legend has it that a poor peasant appeared with a donkey and he only worked at night. When it was completed, he vanished without being paid.

In the center of Santa Fe is a beautiful park with the Hall of Governors building sitting across the street that was built in 1610 out of adobe. It looks exactly the same as it did when it was first built. Each Saturday, the Native Americans come with their jewelry and a large variety of other things they make by hand, spread a blanket and sell to the tourists. I loved this and bought several items.

The Palace of the Governors as it appears today. It is the oldest, continually occupied public building in the United States. Courtesy of Patricia Drury, Flickr-Commons

Then, we went down the street where they were making adobe bricks using the same method as their forefathers. Adobe is a mixture of clay, water, and straw. They let us try our hand and I found it a lot of fun. It’s a lot like working with dough. I had to pack it down firm into the form, being sure to get it into each corner. After I did that, they lifted the form and there was a brick. They leave it to dry for a week on each side and it takes about 6 weeks to get all the moisture content out of them. But an adobe building can last for hundreds of years. Each brick we made was four inches thick and weighs approx 25 pounds so a wall would be very solid.

                       

Drying Adobe Bricks

And of course, wagons on the Santa Fe Trail passed through here and provided a welcome stop where settlers could replenish their supplies and rest. They truly must’ve enjoyed it.

Art is everywhere in Santa Fe and it’s all beautiful. We ended our trip with a visit to the New Mexico History Museum and found so many interesting things there.

                                                     

Santa Fe was settled in 1609 by the Spanish and is the oldest capital city in the U.S. History is all around you as you walk through the streets. If you’re looking for an usual place to visit, this will be the one to come to.

Have you ever made adobe bricks or visited a place that seems lost in time? I’m giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card so leave a comment!

 

 

My Last Trip to Hearts Crossing Ranch~Tanya Hanson

 

My eight-novella inspirational series is now compiled in one big anthology, at Pelican Book Group, including the never-published finale, Cross Your Heart. Each of the eight Martin siblings of Hearts Crossing Ranch in Mountain Cove Colorado, has a story of heartbreak and triumph, success or lost faith, sickness or health, and finds a western-style happily-ever after. (Even their widowed matriarch Elaine finds love again!)

My May post showed how a real-life wagon train trip inspired the entire series, but it was my husband’s 2008 cancer battle that led me down the inspirational road. (God be praised, he is now cured.)

Below is a nutshell synopsis about each of the stories.

  1. Hearts Crossing Ranch~ Losing her father to a drunk driver has shattered Christy Forrest’s faith and hope. Going solo on the city slicker wagon trip her dad had planned before his death gets her alongside a handsome wagon master. But the last thing she needs is a faith-filled cowboy…

Kenn Martin, himself jaded by a woman’s betrayal, realizes he could heal his heart with the lovely landscape architect—if Christy gives them the chance.

  1. Redeeming Daisy~ The ranch’s large-animal vet Pike Martin should steer clear from bad-girl Daisy Densmore, the woman who broke his brother Kenn’s heart, but something about her wounded soul can’t be ignored.

Broken and humiliated by bad decisions, Daisy has no choice but to fall back to Mountain Cove…and literally into Pike’s arms when he saves her from herself.

  1. Sanctuary~ Cancer survivor and ranch foreman Hooper Martin doesn’t dare fall in love again. The single dad has been through loss and a horrific physical struggle. But meeting Mallie Cameron at Kenn and Christy’s wedding lets him know love can bloom again

But Mallie is battling an incurable brain tumor and won’t get involved…

(My husband battled the same horrific cancer as Hooper’s, and Mallie is based on my daughter’s beloved sorority sister who left us in 2012 and tore out my heart. Even when you know it’s going to happen, nothing prepares you for when it does.)

  1. Right to Bragg~ Nanny and paralegal Tiffany Vickers has been disowned by her own family, and the guilt wants to drown her. Coming to work for attorney Rachel Martin is starting to give her a sense of family again.

Accountant and cowboy Bragg Martin, himself bearing guilt for faking tests during his star-athlete turn, knows in his heart that he and Tiffany could be a perfect couple in spite of everything. And then Daisy’s ex-husband puts the move on…

It’s Christmas, though, the time of hope and love.

  1. Soul Food~ Kelley Martin has no qualms about being a vegetarian in cattle country, but her failed restaurant brings her back home. She realizes the value of roots and family. Chuck cook on a Hearts Crossing wagon train gets her up close with geneticist Jason Easterday, a self-acclaimed vagabond. How can she get him to stick around?
  1. Angel Child~ Graphic artist and cowboy Scott Martin holds himself back from falling for his high school art teacher. Of course they’re adults now and it’s perfectly acceptable. But Mary Grace holds herself back. Not many men, not even a committed Christian like Scott, will accept her severely disabled little son…
  1. Seeing Daylight~ When her Army husband returns safely from his long deployment in the Middle East, attorney Rachel Martin knows they’ll make it. Until he dies in a foolish mishap. Meeting Brayton Metcalf doesn’t make life any better. He keeps secrets, too, and bears the burden of causing his wife’s death.
  1. The Finale, not available as a singleton: Cross Your Heart~ The youngest Martin, Chelsea has grown up, but nobody takes her seriously despite her college degree and travels abroad. Will her older siblings always consider her a baby? Or will they accept her commitment as an environmental scientist? Saving a wounded horse to prove her maturity is a start. Until she runs into her college love. Once a spoiled surfer with tons of money, Dutton Morse’s new heritage threatens to derail their reunion from the start: he’s an oil man…

I enjoyed writing my “ride” through the trails of Hearts Crossing Ranch and hope you do, too.

Updated: May 31, 2017 — 2:20 pm

Wagon-training around the Tetons~Tanya Hanson

 

                                                            

A while back,  I and my hubby T.L., brother-in-law Timmy and sis Roberta (l-r in the pic above) had the experience of a lifetime, taking a wagon train around the Tetons with an amazing group, Teton Wagon Train and Horse Adventures headed by wagonmaster Jeff Warburton out of Jackson, Wyoming. He’s a true cowboy and a gentleman and guested here in Wildflower Junction not long after we got back.

Anyway, this fantastic trip helped inspire my eight-novella series Hearts Crossing Ranch, about the lives and loves of eight siblings of a Colorado working ranch that also runs city slicker wagon trains. The entire series–including the never-before-published finale about the baby sister Chelsea–has been compiled in one big anthology, available next month, and available for pre-order.

 

Anyway….We spent four days circling the Tetons through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest bordering Yellowstone bear country. We didn’t see any bear– likely the thundering horses skeered ’em away.

We got our start in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

First stop on the bus taking us to the wagons were photo-ops of the Grand lady herself..followed by her neighbor Mount Moran reflected perfectly in a oxbow lake.

These scenes were practically perfection in itself..but all breath stopped when we reached The Wagons.

 There was nothing quite like chuck wagon cooking in the open mountain air.

Pulling our wagons were magnificent draft horses, Percherons and Belgians. They are named in teams, such as Lady and Tramp, Gun and Smoke, Sandy and Sage, Jack and Jill. The first name is always the horse on the left. These glorious beasts are capable of pulling up to 4,000 pounds as a team, and they love to work. In winter, they lead sleighs to the elk refuge outside Jackson.                                                              

While the wagons do have rubber tires and padded benches, the gravel roads are nothing like a modern freeway. Most times our route was called the “cowboy rollercoaster.”

Most of our hard-working, helpful cowpokes were college students working for the summer. I promise you they remembered everybody’s name from the get-go. No question was too dumb.

 

 

I think everybody’s favorite “crew member” was Buddy, probably the cutest dog ever. He accompanied every trail ride after following the draft horses from camp to camp…he romped in every stream and lake, caught mice, and totally stole everybody’s heart. Jeff says, Buddy’s pretty disgusted to become a backyard dog after the summertime.

Our tents were comfy—all sleeping essentials are provided–, and there was nothing so fine as a cup of Arbuckle’s to warm us up on a chilly evening.  After supper—cowboy potatoes, Indian frybread, and raspberry butter are among our favorites—we gathered around the campfire for Jeff’s tall tales, historical accounts of the Old West, legends, guitar strumming, cowboy poetry and songs, S’mores, and delicious Dutch oven desserts such as peach cobbler and cherry chocolate cake always served to the ladies first.

One of the nicest parts of the meals was Jeff leading us in a blessing first. Nobody had to join in…but seems like everybody did.

 

Days were full of Wyoming wildflowers, lakes and pine trees reaching for the clouds.   Nights after the camp quieted down were almost beyond description: the stars are endless, multi-layered, sparkling on forever and ever amen. What a sight.                                                   

But the most fun of all was riding horses!  Folks either rode, hiked, or wagonned it to the next camp each day.   My favorite mount was Copper. You can see her ears in the photo below–I’m astride and taking a pic of my hubby, ahead in the red ball cap.

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Our last day, the Pony Express rode through camp and brought us all mail.

Me and mine, well, we had the time of our life.

 

As Jeff said when we left, “There’s always be a campfire burnin’ for ya here in Wyomin.”

 

Yep. I’m feeling the warmth right now.

Sigh.

 

Updated: April 6, 2017 — 11:40 pm

Following the Oregon Trail

Source: Wikipedia Commons, photo by Mike Tigas

Before I was a romance writer, I was a voracious romance reader. My reading of choice in those early days was historical romance, particularly American-set historicals. There were two facets of American history that drew me more than any others — Colonial/Revolution and Westerns. So it wasn’t a stretch that the first manuscript I ever wrote was set along the Oregon Trail. And since my sister moved to the Northwest, I’ve taken opportunities over the years to go on road trips to see her instead of flying (which I don’t like anyway).

During one of these trips, I got to see with my own eyes several of the Oregon Trail sites that I’d researched and written about in that first manuscript. I was fascinated to travel in the steps of those brave men and women who headed out for a new life, who traveled into the largely unknown landscape that was filled with danger on a daily basis.

Source: Wikipedia Commons, Scotts Bluff National Monument – Panorama. August 2006. Author: Kahvc7

Nebraska and Wyoming are often considered flyover states, but there’s so much to see, so much history to be absorbed if you take to the roads instead. One of the famous landmarks Oregon Trail travelers looked for on their journey was Chimney Rock in present Morrill County, Nebraska. This geological feature made of a combination of clay, volcanic ash and sandstone has a peak nearly 300 feet above the surrounding North Platte River valley. Travelers along the California and Mormon trails also used it as a landmark. You can see it today from US Route 26 and Nebraska Highway 92. Learn more at the Chimney Rock National Historic Site website.

Source: Wikipedia Commons, photo by Chris Light

About 20 miles to the northwest of Chimney Rock, also along Nebraska Highway 92, is Scotts Bluff National Monument near the town of Gering. This collection of bluffs on the south side of the North Platte River was first documented by non-native people when fur traders began traveling through the area in the early 1800s. It was noted to be among the first indications that the flatness of the Great Plains was beginning to give way to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s named after Hiram Scott, a fur trader who died near the bluff in 1828, though the Native peoples of the area called it “Me-a-pa-te” or “the hill that is hard to go around.”

Oregon Trail Ruts near Guernsey, WY. Source: Wikipedia Commons, photo by Paul Hermans

After crossing into Wyoming, another National Park Service site preserving trail history is Fort Laramie National Historic Site, which sits at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte rivers. It has a rich history as a frontier trading post and then an Army post up until its decommission and transfer out of the final troops in 1890. The fort also has appeared in pop culture, including in the Oregon Trail and Age of Empires video games, the 1955 movie White Feather, and a 1950s CBS radio drama called, appropriately, Fort Laramie. You can learn more at the Fort Laramie NHS website.

Perhaps one of the most amazing things you can still see today along the Oregon Trail are actual ruts made by the thousands of heavily loaded wagons heading west. This physical evidence made me feel closer to those long-ago travelers than anything else. One of the places you can see these ruts is Oregon Trail Ruts, a National Historic Landmark near Guernsey, Wyoming.

To learn more about the Oregon National Historic Trail overseen by the National Park Service throughout seven states, visit their site. I hope to be able to visit even more trail sites in the future. I’d especially like to see Independence Rock in Wyoming and more end-of-the-trail sites in Oregon.

Have you ever traveled to historic sites you’ve either written or read about? What were your favorites? I’ll give away a signed copy of A Rancher to Love, part of my Blue Falls, Texas series from Harlequin Western Romance to one commenter.

Happy trails!

Updated: February 26, 2017 — 2:56 pm

A Life-Long Love of Westerns

Howdy, everyone! I’m happy to be joining the Petticoats & Pistols as the newest member today, partly because it’s always nice to hang out with other writers and readers but also because of the focus on westerns. You see, I’ve loved westerns for as long as I can remember. I recently had to answer a questionnaire for my publisher, and one of the questions was why I liked cowboy stories. I had to sit and think about it because it was just something that had always been true. As I was growing up in rural western Kentucky, we only had three TV channels and had to go outside to physically turn the antennae if the reception was bad. I distinctly remember that old movies played on Saturday afternoons, and a lot of those were westerns. When I think back on them now, I can identify why they attracted me and why I still love western-set TV shows, movies and books.

  • The landscape was so wide open with impossibly wide skies and a rugged type of beauty. This was completely different than the wooded, rolling hills where I grew up. At that point in my life, I’d barely been out of the state with brief trips a few miles down the road and across the river into Illinois and a Girl Scout trip to Opryland theme park in Nashville, Tenn., both of which looked pretty much like Kentucky. So those western landscapes, even if some of them were created on Hollywood lots, were like a different planet that I longed to visit.
  • Even though it was romanticized and still is to some extent, cowboys were iconic American heroes. They could live off the land, were honest (at least if they were wearing a white or light-colored hat), chivalrous, and a force for good. Even back then in the 1970s and ’80s, I knew that things were rarely that black and white in real life. Reality was more complicated and filled with shades of gray.
  • I love stories set in the past. I haven’t met a costume drama I didn’t love, and westerns — at least for me — fall into that category. It’s a bit like being a time-traveler and being transported to a different time and place, but you don’t have to worry about the lack of hygiene or modern medicine.
  • While I love my modern conveniences, I for some reason have always loved stories about survival and living off the land. When I think about people who set off in wagon trains west, not knowing if they’d make it or if they’d ever seen friends and family again, I’m awed by how much courage that took. Kind of like people who boarded ships in England and sailed for America. Even though modern-day cowboys and ranchers have the modern conveniences the rest of us do, they are still men of the land and work out under those wide-open skies.

While I write contemporary romance, many of which have cowboys as heroes, I still have a great love for western historicals. These were the first romances I read back in high school and continued to read in the years that followed — stories by Lorraine Heath, Kathleen Eagle, Elizabeth Grayson, among others. My first manuscript was even a historical set along the Oregon Trail, inspired partly because of that old video game called Oregon Trail. A friend even got me a shirt once that said, “You have died of dysentery,” which is a familiar phrase to anyone who played the game.

If a new movie comes out that is a western, I do my best to go see it in the theater so they’ll continue to make more. If there’s a western-themed TV series, I’m parked in front of the small screen. My all-time favorite show, Firefly, actually is a mixture of western and my other favorite genre, sci-fi. Yes, space western, and it was awesome!

In the months ahead, I look forward to blogging about various western-themed topics — my trips across the American West, my love for western-themed decor, rodeo, etc. And I look forward to interacting with the readers of Petticoats & Pistols.

Updated: January 23, 2017 — 1:26 am

Welcome Guest – Mona Hodgson!!!

Convenient Bride BannerKeeper of My Heart Wagon Train Trivia

Just about any Western movie or TV show captured my attention, pulling me into the adventure and possibilities. Shows like Wagon Train led to my fascination with wagon train travel, which inspired Prairie Song and Keeper of My Heart.

While researching wagon train history, I found some fun tidbits.

Ready for a wagon train trivia quiz?

  1.  Horses were the preferred animal for pulling a covered wagon across the prairie. True or false?

False. While some folks did have horses pull their covered wagon, more chose burros or mules for the job. Most pioneers, however, yoked four or more oxen steer to their wagons because of the superior strength and stamina that allowed the oxen to pull the 2500 pounds or more. Besides, horses are more skittish and easily spooked. Which animal would you prefer to trust to ford a stream or descend a mountain with all of your earthly possessions?The Convenient Bride Collection--Lrg

  1.  TV shows and movies correctly depicted covered wagon overlanders riding on the wagon seat.

False. That was something that seldom happened. Would you want to sit on a narrow, hardwood seat suspended between side rails with no springs? Most trail conveyances were simple farm wagons with no thought given to comfort. The wagon beds rode on steel tires mounted on wooden wheels, on solid wood axles, for fifteen or so miles on a rutted road. That’d be quite the bone rattling ride. I’d rather walk, thank you.

Most healthy travelers walked alongside the team of oxen or took shifts riding a horse.

  1. Need some butter for the biscuits you plan to cook over the supper campfire? Just hang the milk on the wagon.

True. Milk the cow first thing in the morning then, before you set out for the day, secure the crock of milk to a hook on the side of the wagon. All the jostling over rocks and through ruts will churn the butter for you.

  1.  The TV screen and paintings of the period got it right when they showed wagons circled for defense against hostile Indians.   

False. The wagon companies didn’t typically circle their wagons. When they did, it was usually to corral the livestock. Most wagon train roads led through safe territory, and hostilities were rare. But if a caravan of wagons was attacked, they didn’t have time to find an area big enough to arrange the wagons.

  1.   Wagons were covered, which made them into a 19th century recreational vehicle.Wagon with women and children

False. Ready to curl up for a night of sweet dreams in the covered wagon? We’re talking about an eleven foot long by four foot wide, ten foot tall space crammed full of barrels, casks, trunks, and miscellaneous household items. Things the pioneers would need for the journey as well as items and heirlooms packed for their new home.

Most overlanders slept outdoors, on the ground, with or without a tent overhead, or in a hammock suspended between trees or between a tree and the wagon. Exceptions to that rule included travelers who were sick and sometimes children. Excessive rain might have warranted taking shelter inside of the wagon, but it would’ve been an uncomfortable night.

Woman ShootistReading Prairie Song and Keeper of My Heart, you’ll discover that I busted many of the perpetuated myths in my telling of two 1866 wagon train stories.

Neelie “Shott”, the heroine in Keeper of My Heart, is headed for San Francisco, where she’s been promised a job in a Wild West Show. When Neelie set out on the road going West, she thought she knew where she was going. That was before she encountered The Boone’s Lick Wagon Train Company and the widowed, spine-stiffening wheelwright named Ian Kamden.

Nor had she met his five children. As it turns out, Maisie, the youngest, is fond of picking black-eyed Susans and awarding the bouquets to those she loves.

I can’t wait for you to meet Neelie, Ian, and the others on their quest for a fresh beginning in Keeper of My Heart, one of nine novellas in The Convenient Bride Collection.

Thanks so much to the Petticoats & Pistols fillies for the invitation to come by and many thanks to you for joining me here. I hope you’ll stop by and chat with me. Do you have a favorite wagon train novel, nonfiction, or movie?

I’m excited to give away a copy of The Convenient Bride Collection, which includes Neelie’s story in Keeper of My Heart. I’d love to hear from everyone, but can only mail the book to a USA address.

 

Please find me online and join the conversation: Mona Hodgson chin on hands

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Mona Hodgson is the author of 40 books, historical novels and novellas for adults and children’s books, including her popular Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series, The Quilted Heart novellas, and Prairie Song. Her children’s books include Bedtime in the Southwest, Real Girls of the Bible: A 31-Day Devotional, six Zonderkidz I Can Read books, and more.

How Wild Was the Old West—Really?

MargaretBrownley-header
I heard a TV commentator liken the violence of Baltimore back to the Old West. Is that a fair comparison? Some historians would probably disagree. Some have even gone as far as to describe the Old West as “a quiet, peaceful and law-abiding place.” Hard as that is to believe they may be on to something for the following reasons:

The Old West Practiced Gun Control

dodge-gunsYep, that’s right. In fact, the very first law passed in Dodge City was a gun control law. Many towns including Tombstone had similar strict laws barring guns. Visitors were required to turn guns over to the stable owner or sheriff. Checks or receipts were issued much like they are today when checking coats at a restaurant. Gun owners could reclaim their weapons upon leaving town.

Not everyone followed the law, of course. Drunkenness and disorderly conduct would get you a free pass to the hoosegow, but so would toting a gun. The gunfight of OK corral was actually sparked by an effort to enforce the “no gun” law.

Gun control made economical sense. Towns wishing to attract businesses and commerce or even the railroad couldn’t afford to let crime run amok.

The Law of Wagon Trainswagon
Some wagon trains reportedly contained more than a hundred wagons and as many as 800 people, so keeping law and order was of primary concern. Many of these trains had their own constitutions which spelled out a judicial system. Ostracism and threats of banishment kept most travelers in line and there are few reported instances of violence on these trains. That’s pretty amazing considering the conditions and long months on the trail.

What About All That Cattle Rustling?

cowsIf we believed all those old time Western movies there wasn’t a steer in the land that hadn’t been rustled at least once. No question; Cattle rustling was a problem. That is until ranch owners got together and formed cattlemen associations. These groups hired private protection agencies, which pretty much put cattle rustlers out of business.

Bank Robbers Ruled, Right?

Wrong again. According to the book Banking in the American West from the Gold Rush to Deregulation by bankLynne Pierson and Larry Schweikart, only eight actual bank heists occurred in the 15 states that made up the frontier west during the forty year period between 1859-1900. (Holy Toledo! My little hometown has had more bank robberies than that just in the last decade.)

Why so few bank robberies in the Old West? The answer is simple; Banks were hard to rob. Banks were located downtown often next the sheriff’s office. People slept above shops so the town was far from deserted. The bank’s walls were often doubly-reinforced. Blasting through the walls would wake everyone in town including the sheriff.

Some, like Butch Cassidy simply walked in the front door, but even that type of bank holdup was rare. Robbing stagecoaches was easier. But transporting money by stage fell out of favor when trains came along. Robbers who shifted attention to trains soon had to contend with Pinkerton detectives.

What About All Those Gunslingers?

gunDime novels, old newspapers and movies would have us believe that shooting from the hip and quick draw duels were the norm. In reality, gunfights were few and far between.

Some well-known shootists (the word gunslinger didn’t come into play until the 1920s) deserved their reputations but, by today’s standards, most would be considered lousy shots. Some, like Wyatt Earp, killed nowhere near as many men as they were given credit for. A gunslinger’s reputation, however exaggerated, was sometimes more valuable than his skills.

Peter Hill, co-author of  the Not so Wild, Wild, West wrote “If one wants to see the “Wild, Wild West” in action one should turn to congressional hearings, political demonstrations and arguments over recreational and consumptive vs. non-consumptive uses of forest lands.”  Now there’s a thought…It kind of makes you wonder what those old cowpokes would have thought about the recent riots.

So what do you think? Was the Old West a quiet, peaceful and law-abiding place or wasn’t it?

Speaking of Wild:

Maggie Michaels is sent to Arizona Territory as an undercover mail order bride to track down the notorious Whistle-Stop Bandit. If she doesn’t prove the suspect guilty before the wedding—she could end up as his wife!

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