Two Astounding Women and their Sidesaddle Jumping Records

When I first started riding as a youngster in Arizona, like so many, I began with a good old Western saddle. But that didn’t last long. I had a fascination with the English style of hunter/jumper. My mom was surprised hut decided to indulge this temporary fad of mine — which wound up lasting a decade before I switched back to Western because, well, my boyfriend at the time was a cowboy. No judging, okay 🙂

While people probably think of jumping horses as eloquent and graceful, like dressage, and not as rough and tumble and difficult as Western, jumping tall fences and walls is, in fact, quite hard and requires a lot of skill from both the rider and the horse. So, when I recently stumbled upon this story about Esther Stace, an Australian woman who set the sidesaddle jumping record of 6’6” in 1915, I was naturally intrigued. Especially when I learned her record stood for an impressive 98 years until October 24, 2013.

Susan Oakes, the woman who eventually broke the record, is an Irish equestrian who trained extensively for her event. Susan not only broke the record, she beat it by two inches, clearing a wall 6’8” high. Wow! I mean, how does an animal weighing 1200 pounds get that much air?

It wasn’t until months later that The Guinness World Records contacted her to say they wanted to verify and recognize her record. Fortunately, Susan had her jump videoed and photographed and several officials presents. She is now and still the proud holder of the record these past five years. Let’s see how long she can go.

Myself, I can’t imagine jumping a 6’8” wall, much less in a sidesaddle. My hat off to these incredible women — and their horses. What an amazing accomplishment.

Lacy Williams Is our Friday Guest!

There’s going to be a lot of happy people! Miss Lacy Williams will visit us on Friday, May 26, 2023!

How detailed do you want your characters? That is her topic of discussion.

She’s arrive with a book under her arm and a gift card in hand.

It’s gonna be fun, y’all!

So shake the wrinkles out of your bustle and get over here.

You’ll kick yourself if you miss it.

Homesteads. Grandmothers, and a Give Away

My latest book, Cowboy Meets Cowgirl  features a homestead house on the family ranch, which the heroine wants to renovate. The house in the story has four-rooms—a kitchen, living room, bedroom and a bathroom that was added on in the 1940s. Most homestead houses, however, were not that grand.

This is a photo of my great grandmother, Lillie Belle Howland, in front of her homestead house with two of her children. She had thirteen children total, ten of whom lived, and I’m sure that several of them were born in this house. She told my mother stories about giving birth alone, which boggles my modern mind, but I’m certain that she had many homestead “sisters” who were equally amazing.

The Homestead Act of 1862 created a means by which hardworking people, men or women, could claim 160 acres of land. The settler had to be over 21 years of age, settle on the land, improve the land (farm) and then file for the deed after five years of residency. That was where the rub came in. Residency. In order for that to happen, at least one of the settlers had to be physically present on the land. In my great-grandmother’s case, she stayed while my great-grandfather worked in mines far away from the homestead to provide the money needed to keep the farm running. I do not know who did the actual farming, but I imagine that my great grandfather came back to the homestead to handle the farming chores, then headed back to wherever he was working. Meanwhile, Lillie Belle raised children and did the hard work involved in building a household in the middle of nowhere.

I’m happy to say that Grandma Lillie lived to be 103 years old and had several great-great-grandchildren, including my daughter. She was a devout Christian Scientist, sweet, unassuming and humble. Upon meeting her, one would never dream that she’d held down the homestead singlehandedly in the middle of a prairie.

When I wrote about my “fancy” homestead house with three rooms, I thought a lot about Grandma Lillie. She will always be one of my greatest inspirations.

My question, for a $10 Amazon gift certificate, is who in your family has inspired you?

A little Father’s Day History…

Spring has sprung and so have the spring and early summer holidays. In May alone we’ve had May day, National Teachers Day, Star Wars Day, Cinco de Mayo, Kentucky Derby Day, VE Day for World War II, Mother’s Day of course, Lilacs Sunday, Armed Forces Day, and we have Memorial day coming up on Monday the 29th.
The holidays continue in June including National Donut Day (yes, that’s a thing!) The Belmont Stakes, World Bicycle Day, National Egg Day, National Cheese Day, National Gingerbread Day, (what’s with all the food?) D-Day, National Best Friends Day, National Bourbon Day (for those that like a little something to go with their cheese and donuts) National Iced Tea Day (for those that aren’t into Bourbon) and of course Father’s Day.

Now, while we may not know how some of these holidays came about, (egad, do we really want to?) Father’s Day has an interesting history. Back in the early 20th century of the United States it was created, like Mother’s Day, to celebrate father’s and fatherhood. History says Father’s Day was founded in Spokane, Washington at a YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd whose dad was a Civil War vet named William Smart. Poor William had to raise his six children by himself after the war which back then, couldn’t have been easy. So his daughter Sonora, after hearing a sermon all about Mother’s Day at church in 1909, mentioned to her pastor something like, “You know what, fathers really should have their own holiday to honor them. After all, is just as hard to be a single father left with six children to raise as it would a mother. And hey, she was right! She even suggested her father William’s birthday of June 5th to become Father’s Day.

Unfortunately, the pastors considering her idea, couldn’t throw together things in time to present this to their congregation on June 5th, and needed a couple more weeks to prepare. So that’s how Father’s Day became the third Sunday of June. They preached, presented, and were stared at with a lot of blank looks as the idea didn’t go over as well as Sonora thought. For one, men didn’t want to be associated with any role mothers had and a lot of them looked at Father’s Day as another word for mother. Maybe it was a blow to their manhood, but they definitely weren’t keen on it.
But Sonora never gave up and kept promoting it until she skipped off to the Art Institute of Chicago, after which her Father’s Day campaigning drifted into the sunset for a while. But when the 1930s rolled around she returned to Spokane and started raising awareness. This time, however, she did it at a national level. Sonora got involved with whatever trade groups would benefit the most from Father’s Day. There were companies that made razors, ties, slippers, robes, basically anything dear old dad might purchase or be given as a gift. Naturally these companies thought it was a great idea. It would make them sales and raise their profits. And so, the New York Associated Menswear Retailers decided to commercialize it and the rest is history.
Americans as a whole weren’t hot for the holiday at the onset either. To them it was just a bunch of merchants getting together and trying to part them with their money. Newspapers and magazines joined the ranks with sarcastic remarks, jokes, and put downs. But the retailers didn’t give up and even went so far as to incorporate jokes about it in their own advertisements!
In time, they succeeded in winning over the general populance. In fact, Woodrow Wilson, decided to go to Spokane and make Father’s Day official. But then wouldn’t you know, Congress said, “are you kidding?” They were in the camp that thought the retailers were just trying to make another commercialized holiday. Not even Calvin Coolidge, who recommended back in 1924 that Father’s Day be observed, had any effect on them. The past was the past and it could stay there. And everyone’s money could stay in their wallets.

Then Margaret Smith, a senator from Maine wrote a scathing proposal that accused Congress of ignoring fathers for over forty years while honoring only mothers. Why shouldn’t both parents be honored? Margaret’s efforts were made in 1957 and had some affect. Lyndon B. Johnson’s own efforts were in 1966, when he issued the first presidential proclamation to honor dad’s. And he picked the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day just like the pastors from Spokane. It took another six years for the day to finally be made a permanent national holiday when President Nixon signed it into law in 1972. Whew!

But did you know, we don’t just have Father’s Day? There’s an international men’s day celebrated in a lot of countries on November 19. This holiday is for men and boys and not just dads. So though Father’s Day wasn’t fully accepted until 1972, there has been some sort of day for dads throughout history dating as far back as the 16th century.
So the next time you think of purchasing a tie for dad or grandpa, or maybe a new golf club, think of how much work went into getting Father’s Day the national recognition it deserved. It’s been over 50 years since it was signed into law, and six years afterwards, William’s daughter Sonora passed at the age of 96. I’m sure she was proud to see that her father and fathers everywhere were finally, and fully honored.
Fathers play a large role in fiction too. Who doesn’t love the single dad next door romance? Or a secret baby? Or the single dad who needs help raising the kiddos, and so creates a marriage of convenience where he falls in love with the woman helping with his kids? We love these tropes and many of us also have our own Father’s Day traditions.
What’s your favorite romance trope involving dads, and/or what’s a Father’s Day tradition in your family that you do or used to do? For our family, as we lost our mother back in 1980, so our dad got Father’s Day and Mother’s day! We gathered on both holidays and pampered Pops. A tradition that lasted until he passed in June of 2009.

Cowgirls in the Kitchen – Cathy McDavid

Good Morning Everyone.

I’m going to let you all in on a well kept secret. I’m not much of a cook. I manage in that you won’t starve. And my homemade soups are actually pretty good. But I just don’t have the touch. Not like my mother did. She was a wonderful cook, which is why I’m amazed and a little shocked I wasn’t born with the good cook gene.

So, both in honor of my mom, and because she left me her collection of recipes, I’m going to share one her hers and a particular favorite of mine: apricot cream pie. This recipe does take a little effort to prepare, but I guarantee you, the results are worth it. So delicious. A real treat for a Sunday dinner or any special occasion.


2 4-oz packages of Jell-O Vanilla pudding mix

1 pkg (6-oz) dried apricots (more if desired)

1 qt. milk

1/2 pint whipping cream (can used store bought )

1 baked pie crust (store bought or make your own)



Cook apricots in water until tender – time can vary depending on the apricots and how many

Chop cooled apricots into tiny pieces

Make pudding according to directions on box

Cool slightly, then stir in apricots

Fill pie shell (there may be some filling left over) and chill till firm

Whip the whipping cream with two teaspoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla (if desired)

Top pie and continue chilling until set

coconut cream pie

Charlene Raddon Has a Winner!

Thank you for visiting, Miss Charlene! I learned a lot about dugouts–enough to know I don’t want to live in one!

Now for the drawing……..

One person will get a copy of the book and a $5 Amazon gift card!

And the lucky winner is……..


Yippee! I’m so happy for you, Lindsay! Now watch for Miss Charlene’s email.

Everyone come back tomorrow for Cathy McDavid’s Cowgirl in the Kitchen!

Charlene Raddon Tells About Life in a Dugout

Unbelievable as it might seem, some pioneer settlers liked living in dugouts. Letters and diaries of pioneers recorded that these dwellings were surprisingly comfortable; cool in summer, snug and easily heated in winter. Thick walls and sod roofs supplied good insulation at a time when few people knew the value of insulated homes, and wooden houses lacked in this feature.

Most dugouts consisted of a single room (average 12’ x 12’) dug into the lee side of a low hill. Walls were created by cutting and stacking sod blocks to a height of seven or eight feet. For a roof, cottonwood poles were placed side by side and spread with a thick layer of coarse prairie grass for insulation and to cut down on the dirt that sifted through. Over the grass a double layer of sod building blocks was carefully fitted. The first good rain prompted the sod to grow, and a tall growth of waving prairie grass soon covered the roof, almost concealing it.

Old house in the ground


Of course, all this waving grass attracted livestock, which could be a real problem. More than one story is told of cows and horses putting a hoof through the roof where a weak spot existed. This happens in my newest e-book, To Have And To Hold, in which the heroine, Tempest Whitney, lives in a dugout. A rainstorm softens the dirt packed over the roof, allowing a cow or mule to damage it further, and right at a key point in the story, the roof caves in.

Rough wooden planks were laid to provide flooring in some dugouts. Dirt floors were sprinkled with water daily and swept with crude grass brooms until the surface was as hard and smooth as finished concrete. To help keep dirt out, walls and ceilings were lined with newspapers and pinned in place with small, sharpened sticks. Ambitious families located outcroppings of limestone rock which they burned and mixed with sand to provide a plaster coating for the walls—a vast improvement over untreated walls that could not keep out all the dirt, or insects.

Dugouts housed families well into the twentieth century. My paternal grandparents moved from Kansas to the Oklahoma panhandle in 1916 and lived in a dugout until a house could be built. My mother’s folks did the same thing a bit later. Mother was the eldest of twelve. Her father was a great farm worker much in demand by other farmers. Unluckily, Grandfather didn’t want to work for someone else; he wanted to farm his own land. But without someone to tell him what to do, he failed dismally. The family lived frequently with other family members or inhabited abandoned homes, including several dugouts.

Robicheaux Trading Post, Chadron, NE

Mother told me numerous tales of life in such dwellings and didn’t seem terribly enamored of them. I used a few of her stories in To Have And To Hold, due to be released on January 24th. One tale has to do with 7” long centipedes that found their way down onto the newspaper tacked onto the ceiling. The sound of their feet scratching on the paper drove Grandfather crazy. Mother’s complaint, besides the dirt, was snakes. She hated being asked to fetch wood because too often a resident rattler would be hiding inside the wood box. Of course, snakes liked nice warm beds too, and the pallets laid on the floor where the children slept were very convenient. Frankly, I’m glad it was my mother and not me who had these experiences.

Have any of your grandparents or great-grandparents lived in a dugout?

Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card and a free copy of To Have And To Hold.

Charlene first serious writing attempt came in 1980 when she awoke one morning from an unusually vivid and compelling dream. Deciding that dream needed to be made into a book, she dug out an old portable typewriter and went to work. That book never sold, but her second one, Tender Touch, became a Golden Heart finalist and earned her an agent. Soon after, she signed a three book contract with Kensington Books. Five of Charlene’s western historical romances were published between 1994 and 1999: Taming Jenna, Tender Touch (1994 Golden Heart Finalist under the title Brianna), Forever Mine (1996 Romantic Times Magazine Reviewer’s Choice Award Nominee and Affaire de Coeur Reader/Writer Poll finalist), To Have and To Hold Affaire de Coeur Reader/Writer Poll finalist); and writing as Rachel Summers, The Scent of Roses. Forever Mine and Tender Touch are available as e-books and after January 24, To Have and To Hold will be as well. When not writing, Charlene loves to travel, crochet, needlepoint, research genealogy, scrapbook, and dye Ukrainian eggs.

Find Charlene at:

Charlene’s e-books on

Pioneer Courage Park–and a giveaway!!!

We are always talking about history and the frontier and courage here on this blog.

So I went to a park in Omaha, that’s one of my favorite places ever, called Pioneer Courage Park.

I take people who visit Omaha to this place and once or twice I have just gone to downtown Omaha and walked around. I’m just in love with this wagon train sulpture.

If you look carefully at the bottom of this picture below it says Pioneer Courage.

There are four wagons. One each pulled by a different team. (well, one is drawn by hand)

One drawn by a team of Oxen. (hint, below, I’m the one on the right)

and mules.

There’s also a hand drawn cart which is mostly how the Mormon pioneers crossed the country. It boggles the mind that they had such small carts. what in the world did they eat?

Amazing desire for religious freedom.

There are also people, women walking, women carrying a baby. They say that everyone who wasn’t driving the wagons walked. It not only took weight off the wagon, and made it easier on the horses/mules/oxen. But it also was more comfortable to walk. the wagons shook and rattled along, no wind could get in past the cover, it was a miserable way to travel. Imagine that. Walking ALL THE WAY ACROSS AMERICA WAS MORE COMFORTABLE THAN RIDING IN A COVERED WAGON!!!

This guy is the wagon master. Think about that job for a minute. Did they pay him? did he go once and stay in the west or did he go back to the beginning and start over every year?

This guy below is leading a horse and there are deer on the pack horse. Sort of blurry, sorry.


He’s bringing in food. but one guy I talked to said it was rare for a hunter to find food. The wild animals learned to run far from the trail. Mostly, any food you were going to eat on the Oregon Trail, you had to bring it with you.

Lots of people leading the teams where the going is rough. One wagon was ‘stuck in the mud’. Very cool. Everyone pushing and urging the animals to pull.

Many pioneers brought a milk cow along, this one is tied to the back of the wagon and being led to Oregon. Long way to go home.

There are several buffalo just here and there on the downtown streets, like a block or two away from the Pioneer Courage Park. So cool to walk down a street and meet up with an iron buffalo.


As part of the Pioneer Courage there was also a small group of Native Americans. A reminder that some people were heading into a new land. And some people were already there.

So many of my characters are trying to tear a living out of wild lands.

In my current series, Wyoming has a total population of 9000. TOTAL. One out of five are women.

Yet somehow this state was the first to give women the right to vote.

There was Pioneer Courage in the west even after it was beyond the age of the pioneer.

To get your name in a drawing for a signed copy of Laws of Attraction, leave a comment about your favorite park.

Where do you like to go and just hang out.

There are several such beautiful places in Omaha. The Henry Doorley Zoo, the Lauritzen Gardens. Bookstores.

But none better than Pioneer Courage Park.

The Laws of Attraction

Can they risk giving in to the attraction between them while their lives are on the line?

If widowed seamstress Nell Armstrong has to make one more pair of boring chaps for the cowboys in her tiny Wyoming town, she might just quit the business altogether! So meeting Brand Nolte, a widower struggling to raise three girls on his own, seems like her dream come true. Brand has no idea how to dress the girls properly, and Nell finally has a chance to create beautiful outfits while also teaching the girls to sew.

But Nell is much more than a seamstress, and the investigative skills and knowledge she picked up alongside her late lawman husband soon become critical when a wounded stagecoach-robbery survivor is brought to town. As danger closes in from all sides, Nell and Brand must discover who has a target trained on them before it’s too late.

“A richly detailed adventure that captivates till the end.”–Publishers Weekly on Forged in Love

Buy on Amazon

Buy on (it’s on a good sale!)