Hey everyone! Thanks so much for stopping by today and reading and participating in my blog about A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES and our own Christmas experiences with unexpected happenings or surprises!

My winners (yes there are two of them!) are….


If you ladies will e-mail me at fabkat_edit@yahoo . com (no spaces) I will send you your prize!

Again, thanks to everyone for reading and participating–that’s what makes this blog so much fun! Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you!




Christmas has always been a miraculous time for me. It still is. When I was younger, it was because of the presents, and the anticipation that came with the season. My parents were not wealthy, but we had the necessities and a few of the luxuries. My mom was a great manager. She could make the smallest thing seem of the greatest value. She could transform our house into a marvelous Christmas haven with her decorations, wonderful cooking and a few well-wrapped packages. When I became an adult, the torch was passed, but the anticipation merely shifted. The excitement I felt was not for myself, but for my children–the joy I could bring to them.




Once I had written A Night for Miracles, I began to think about my heroine, Angela Bentley, and how I might have reacted had I been in her place. I would like to think that I would have done what she did–transformed her small cabin into a memorable Christmas castle that none of the children would ever forget, simply through a good meal, a warm fire, and a gift. But it was all of these things that made Angela’s “gift” — the gift of her heart — special. She put herself out on a limb, having been emotionally wounded before.

I thought about the old legend–that Christmas Eve is a “night for miracles” to happen. Angela was not a rich person by any means, but she gave what she had, freely. She took in the stranger and the three children from the cold, gave them warm beds and fed them. But then she went even further. She gave her heart to them, although it was a huge risk. She comes through with physical gifts, but the true giving was in her spirit. And that leads to a miracle.

A Night For Miracles is one of those short stories that I didn’t want to end. I love a happy ending, and this is one of the happiest of all, for everyone in the story.

Legend says that miracles happen on Christmas Eve. Can a chance encounter between a gunfighter and a lonely widow herald a new beginning for them both? On this special night, they take a gamble that anything is possible–if they only believe! Available now with PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS!

A HERO FOR CHRISTMAS is a collection of Christmas novellas that you are sure to love! These are all my own stories, A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES being the first of the bunch.



Angela placed the whiskey-damp cloth against the jagged wound. The man flinched, but held himself hard against the pain. Finally, he opened his eyes. She looked into his sun-bronzed face, his deep blue gaze burning with a startling, compelling intensity as he watched her. He moistened his lips, reminding Angela that she should give him a drink. She laid the cloth in a bowl and turned to pour the water into the cup she’d brought.

He spoke first. “What…what’s your name?” His voice was raspy with pain, but held an underlying tone of gentleness. As if he were apologizing for putting her to this trouble, she thought. The sound of it comforted her. She didn’t know why, and she didn’t want to think about it. He’d be leaving soon.

“Angela.” She lifted his head and gently pressed the metal cup to his lips. “Angela Bentley.”

He took two deep swallows of the water. “Angel,” he said, as she drew the cup away and set it on the nightstand. “It fits.”

She looked down, unsure of the compliment and suddenly nervous. She walked to the low oak chest to retrieve the bandaging and dishpan. “And you are…”

“Nick Dalton, ma’am.” His eyes slid shut as she whirled to face him. A cynical smile touched his lips. “I see…you’ve heard of me.”

A killer. A gunfighter. A ruthless mercenary. What was he doing with these children? She’d heard of him, all right, bits and pieces, whispers at the back fence. Gossip, mainly. And the stories consisted of such variation there was no telling what was true and what wasn’t.

She’d heard. She just hadn’t expected him to be so handsome. Hadn’t expected to see kindness in his eyes. Hadn’t expected to have him show up on her doorstep carrying a piece of lead in him, and with three children in tow. She forced herself to respond through stiff lips. “Heard of you? Who hasn’t?”

He met her challenging stare. “I mean you no harm.”

She remained silent, and he closed his eyes once more. His hands rested on the edge of the sheet, and Angela noticed the traces of blood on his left thumb and index finger. He’d tried to stem the blood flow from his right side as he rode. “I’m only human, it seems, after all,” he muttered huskily. “Not a legend tonight. Just a man.”

He was too badly injured to be a threat, and somehow, looking into his face, she found herself trusting him despite his fearsome reputation. She kept her expression blank and approached the bed with the dishpan and the bandaging tucked beneath her arm. She fought off the wave of compassion that threatened to engulf her. It was too dangerous. When she spoke, her tone was curt. “A soldier of fortune, from what I hear.”

He gave a faint smile. “Things aren’t always what they seem, Miss Bentley.”

Have you ever had something unexpected happen around Christmas? What was it? 

Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of A HERO FOR CHRISTMAS!




It’s Yee-Haw Day!

Welcome to Yee-Haw Day, the once-a-month day we’ve reserved to share our news with you – all sorts of fun news!

So check out the post below to get the details on the kinds of things that make us go Yee-Haw!!

Linda Broday

Courting Miss Emma will release tomorrow!!

Book 2 Hangman’s Daughters series

“One day I intend to court you, lady. That’s a promise. Hangman’s daughter or not.”

Stone Lassiter and Emma clashed until people tried to take their land and they had to fight to keep what is theirs.

Karen Witemeyer

I’m tickled pink to share that my novel In Honor’s Defense won the Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Romance. Yee Haw! I’ll be sharing more details about my fun adventure in Fort Worth to accept this award later this week. What made the award even better, was that I got to share the limelight with a filly sister. Shanna Hatfield brought home the silver medallion for her novel – Henley. Shanna wasn’t able to attend in person, but I cheered her on with embarrassing gusto from my seat in the banquet hall.

My editor, Jessica Sharpe, came down to join me for the weekend, and we grabbed a picture together with our medallions after the banquet.

Cheryl Pierson



Hey everyone! I have a new release that just came out last month, A MARSHAL FOR CALLIE.

U.S. Deputy Marshal Jaxson McCall is hired by Dunstan Treadwell, a powerful government official, to track down his runaway stepdaughter, debutante Callie Buchanan.

When Jax realizes he’s been double-crossed by Callie’s stepfather, he doubles down to protect Callie from an evil nemesis from his own past who has been hired to kill them both.

The stakes have changed: Treadwell doesn’t want Callie back—he wants her dead. And the man coming after them is a master at murder.

Jax catches up to Callie in Fort Smith, and none too soon, for Wolf Blocker, the man Treadwell has hired to murder his stepdaughter and Jax, is one step ahead of them—and he’s got assassination on his mind. Jax and Callie set out on the stagecoach for Texas, neither of them able to be honest about their circumstances. With Blocker on their trail and Apaches ahead of them, the future is uncertain.

One thing Jaxson knows: he cannot take Callie back to Washington to face an attempted murder charge. Matters are further complicated when Jax and Callie are forced into marriage by worried Cavalry Captain Alan Tolbert to avoid the trouble he believes Treadwell could cause.

Through all the pretense, the hardships, and the deadly danger, one thing becomes obvious. Callie and Jaxson were meant to be together for this new beginning, for this new forever love that neither of them had ever hoped to find. Will they live long enough to see it through?



Pam Crooks

Hot Off the Press!

ARMED & MARVELOUS was voted WINNER by the American Book Fest in their Fiction Novella category.   Yee-Haw!



Book 8 in the Pink Pistol Sweet Western Romance series.

BUY on Amazon


Cowgirls in the Kitchen – Cheryl Pierson


Well, it’s my turn in the kitchen, and my rule is “THE EASIER THE BETTER!” (As long as it’s also delicious, of course!

I think I might have found a perfect recipe for what is sure to become a “Fall Favorite” at my house. I bought all the stuff to make this and I’m going to try it next week.

I found this recipe on a site called MAMA’S COOKING, and I know my mama would have really loved this! It’s called FALL DUMP CAKE–and I don’t think anything could be any easier than this. Take a look…



Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
Yield: 12 servings

Here’s what they say about this wonderful dessert:

Ah, fall is in the air… can’t you smell it? Yes, we do mean smell and you’ll understand why here in a
minute! Load up your slow cooker with this Fall Dump Cake for the easiest, sweetest, autumn-flared
scents to circulate your surroundings for hours. Not only does it smell like all your fall fantasies, but
the way the syrupy apple filling blends so nicely with the crumbly, cinnamon-coated cake will have you
dancing around like a leaf on a windy day. Your senses will totally fall for Fall Dump Cake! ‘Tis the

ALL RIGHTY THEN! If it delivers as described, this is one I’ll be making over and over again!

2 (20-ounce) cans apple pie filling
1 (15.25-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
whipped topping, to taste, for topping

Step 1
In a slow cooker, add the apple pie filling.
Step 2
Evenly sprinkle the cake mix over the filling, then dot it all over with the butter cubes.
Step 3
Sprinkle the cinnamon over the apple mixture.
Step 4
Cover the slow cooker and cook on high heat until the filling is bubbly and the top is golden-brown,
about 2 hours.
Step 5
Serve the dump cake with the whipped topping.

If you do make it, I would love to hear how you and your family enjoyed it. I know my husband Gary will love it because he is an “apple” kind of guy, but I’m wondering if you could use peaches rather than apple if you preferred it? Or maybe even cherry? Lots of room for experimenting, I’m thinking!


Several years ago, about ten or so, I wrote a book called “The Half-Breed’s Woman” about our hero, U.S. Deputy Marshal Jaxson McCall, who was the son of a white man and an Indian woman. Brought up in Indian Territory, he’s lived a very hard-knock life with his younger brother, Brendan, who is also a deputy marshal.

The heroine is a young debutante from Washington, D.C., Callie Buchanan, whose stepfather, Dunstan Treadwell, has nefarious plans for her now that she is eighteen. She is on the run (who wouldn’t be?) and Treadwell hires Jaxson to track Callie down and return her to him.

Jaxson takes the job, but things get complicated, and soon they are both in danger.

As the years passed, I thought of so many things I wanted to change in this book. Writers do that, many times—and a “do-over” is not always possible. BUT, in my case, I was able to do just that, and what fun I had with this!

I’m re-releasing this fabulous story under a new title and cover, A MARSHAL FOR CALLIE. It’s full of surprises and action, and one of the most poignant love stories ever.

It’s one of my favorite stories, and I have plans, still, to write sequels as to what happens to these characters—they are some of my very favorite creations. I hope you will feel the same.

Here’s the blurb—it tells the gist of the story much better than I can in the space I have:

A MARSHAL FOR CALLIE–A sensual western historical romance that draws you in and won’t let go. 

U.S. Deputy Marshal Jaxson McCall is hired by Dunstan Treadwell, a powerful government official, to track down his runaway stepdaughter, debutante Callie Buchanan. When Jax realizes he’s been double-crossed by Callie’s stepfather, he doubles down to protect Callie from an evil nemesis from his own past who has been hired to kill them both.

The stakes have changed: Treadwell doesn’t want Callie back—he wants her dead. And the man coming after them is a master at murder.

Jax catches up to Callie in Fort Smith, and none too soon, for Wolf Blocker, the man Treadwell has hired to murder his stepdaughter and Jax, is one step ahead of them—and he’s got assassination on his mind. Jax and Callie set out on the stagecoach for Texas, neither of them able to be honest about their circumstances. With Blocker on their trail and Apaches ahead of them, the future is uncertain.

One thing Jaxson knows: he cannot take Callie back to Washington to face an attempted murder charge. Matters are further complicated when Jax and Callie are forced into marriage by worried Cavalry Captain Alan Tolbert to avoid the trouble he believes Treadwell could cause.

Through all the pretense, the hardships, and the deadly danger, one thing becomes obvious. Callie and Jaxson were meant to be together for this new beginning, for this new forever love that neither of them had ever hoped to find. Will they live long enough to see it through?

Have you ever read a story or seen a movie that had characters so REAL that they stayed with you long after the book was finished, or the movie had ended? What characters have stayed in your heart and mind long after the story was over?

I’m giving away two digital copies of A MARSHAL FOR CALLIE today, so be sure and respond in the comments!






I know you are wondering. Mondegreen is a word that means the mishearing of a popular phrase or song lyric. (BOY, have I been there many times!)

I found this information and a wonderful list of Mondegreens on Dr. Michael Barber’s link on the web.  Here’s what he has to say about the origin of the word Mondegreen.

The word Mondegreen, meaning a mishearing of a popular phrase or song lyric, was coined by the writer Sylvia Wright.




As a child she had heard the Scottish ballad “The Bonny Earl of Murray” and had believed that one stanza went like this:

Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands

Oh where hae you been?

They hae slay the Earl of Murray,

 And Lady Mondegreen.

Poor Lady Mondegreen, thought Sylvia Wright. A tragic heroine dying with her liege; how poetic. When it turned out, some years later, that what they had actually done was slay the Earl of Murray and lay him on the green, Wright was so distraught by the sudden disappearance of her heroine that she memorialized her with a neologism.

I have never heard of a Mondegreen before just about three days ago, and then, in the space of those three days, I saw it used twice in internet postings. I had to find out exactly what it was.

We’ve all done this, haven’t we? We want to sing along but we aren’t sure of the lyrics so we just…sing what it sounds like, even though it might not make the best sense. Later, we find out what we were singing was, well, not right, and didn’t make the best sense, as we’d always thought!

I’ll go first. When I was about 8, the James Bond movie Thunderball came out. The theme song was by Tom Jones.  Here’s the verse I always sang wrong:

He knows the meaning of success,
his needs are more so he gives less,
they call him the winner who takes all,
and he strikes like Thunderball.

Well, in my defense, I was 8 years old and what I actually sang made sense to ME: Instead of “they call him the winner who takes all” I sang, “the cold in the winter who takes all”—see? Perfect sense! Summer days were gone.

When Garth Brooks’ song Shameless came out, my sister and I happened to be talking on the phone one day about music and she said, “There is one song I don’t get. That song by Garth Brooks… “SHAVING”—why is he singing about shaving?”  I thought she was putting me on, but no. She really thought he was singing SHAVING instead of SHAMELESS.

My mom told me one time that when she was young, she and her sisters would go buy a Hit Parade magazine and gather round the radio listening to the “hits”, hoping they were in their magazine. They’d find it quickly in the magazine and try to memorize the lyrics along with the music. But there was one song that had some Spanish words in it and they just had to try to mimic the sounds, because none of them had a clue about Spanish, and I’m guessing that even if that song was included in the magazine, there would have been very little chance they’d have figured out the pronunciation on their own. I said, “Weren’t you embarrassed to be singing the wrong words?” She said, “No, because no one else could do any better.” HA! I have laughed and laughed about that through the years. The problem with a Mondegreen in another language is there are so many possibilities of what you might accidentally be singing about.

Here is a fun partial list of some Mondegreens you might recognize. For the full list, go to Dr. Barber’s page here:

The artist is Elton John (Rocket Man), the Mondegreen is:  Rocket man, burning all the trees off every lawn. The actual words are: Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone.

The artist is Don Henley (Boys of Summer). The Mondegreen is: after the poison summer has gone. The actual words are: after the boys of summer have gone.

How about Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”? Mondegreen is: when the rainbow shaves you clean you’ll know. Actual words are: when the rain washes you clean you’ll know.

And here’s a good one too, from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising. The Mondegreen is a choice this time, with: There’s a bathroom on the right, OR There’s a baboon on the rise. Of course, it’s actually There’s a bad moon on the rise.

What about you? Do you have a Mondegreen to share with us today? Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital book off my backlist–or my latest story LOVE UNDER FIRE — your choice!  I really do love these!


My Favorite Things (and a giveaway!) by Cheryl Pierson



I have a LOT of “favorite things” – probably like most of y’all do. But one of them that is kind of unique, in a way, is poetry of all kinds. This might seem natural for someone who is a writer, but I don’t think that’s always the case.

For instance, in the world of music, I can APPRECIATE what the Beatles did for music and especially for rock and roll—no doubt they were talented in so many ways, and influenced the world of music for generations to come—but I was not ever a huge fan of their music. So that being said, I think there are a lot of people who are excellent writers but aren’t very interested in poetry.

I was read to a LOT by my family when I was young, and of course, nursery rhymes were the beginning of my love of verse. Then, of course, the songs that I learned were my second “teacher” of rhythm and rhyme.

Isn’t it amazing how lines from a poem can affect us our entire lives? Sometimes, the patterns of the rhythm and rhyme of poetry can reach us as nothing else can.

Growing up in the 60’s, the wonderful music all around me at that time fortified my love of poetry. There are too many songs to mention, but like the old Cotton, Inc., commercial used to say, it was “the fabric of our lives” and remains that way.

Do you remember a favorite childhood poem? Remember the one by Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Swing”? Here’s the first verse:

How do you like to go up in a swing,

Up in the air so blue?

Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing

Ever a child can do!

Simple, yes? There is a tune that goes with it. I can’t tell you how often I sang that as I swung on my own swing set as a kid. Great memories! Here’s a portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson–he was fairly young when he died but he left a wonderful legacy of poetry and stories!


A few years older, enter “Puff, the Magic Dragon”, written by Leonard Lipton/Peter Yarrow. Peter Yarrow was the “Peter” of the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary. There have been lots of explanations of the lyrics, but to me, it was always about the boy, Jackie Paper, growing up and losing his childlike imagination. Puff is relegated to going back to his cave by the end of the song since Jackie is grown now, but here is the hopeful beginning verse:

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea

And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee

Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff

And brought him strings, and sealing wax, and other fancy stuff.


Of course, I vowed I would never be like Jackie—I would ALWAYS keep my imagination! (I think I was successful in that!) LOL

By the time I was in middle school, we had memorized countless poems—an assignment most of my classmates detested, but I actually loved. I had two favorites in elementary school, and both of these were 4th grade assignments. I remember well, because my teacher that year had us memorize a lot of poetry. These were the two I loved best, and here is a link of Robert Frost reading some of his poems–a rare glimpse of an author such as this reading his works. The second one, I believe,  is “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”:


“Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost     

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.


My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.



“Windy Nights” by Robert Louis Stevenson

Whenever the moon and stars are set,

Whenever the wind is high,

All night long in the dark and wet,

A man goes riding by.

Late in the night when the fires are out,

Why does he gallop and gallop about?


Whenever the trees are crying aloud,

And ships are tossed at sea,

By, on the highway, low and loud,

By at the gallop goes he.

By at the gallop he goes, and then

By he comes back at the gallop again.


Evidently, I had a love for windy nights and highwaymen, because this one caught my eye during high school days. This is a very long story poem that was also set to music by Loreena McKennitt, and I’ve included the link here for the entire version of this masterpiece, and also will include the video of Loreena McKennitt’s version set to music. It is really beautiful!


The Highwayman




The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.

The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,

And the highwayman came riding—


The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.


He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,

A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin.

They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh.

And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,

His pistol butts a-twinkle,

His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.


Here’s the video of Loreena McKennitt’s version–just a lovely rendition!

As you can see, I had an affinity for handsome, rugged, ‘heroes’ (or anti-heroes) from a very young age—because of poems like these that brought them to life!

As for the softer romantic side of things, this was always a favorite—short, simple, and impactful:


Jenny Kiss’d Me


Jenny kiss’d me when we met,

Jumping from the chair she sat in;

Time, you thief, who love to get

Sweets into your list, put that in!

Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,

Say that health and wealth have miss’d me,

Say I’m growing old, but add,

Jenny kiss’d me.


There are far too many favorites to list here! This barely scratches the surface at different times in my life, and were memorable for all different kinds of reasons.

Probably one of my favorite poems of all is “The Listeners” by Walter de la Mare. Many of his poems had a kind of mystical, mysterious quality to them, and this is one of the best. Another one we memorized in high school. I’ve included an image of  a drawing of the author below.


The Listeners


‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,                               

Knocking on the moonlit door;

And his horse in the silence champed the grasses

Of the forest’s ferny floor:

And a bird flew up out of the turret,

Above the Traveller’s head:

And he smote upon the door again a second time;

‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.

But no one descended to the Traveller;

No head from the leaf-fringed sill

Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,

Where he stood perplexed and still.

But only a host of phantom listeners

That dwelt in the lone house then

Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight

To that voice from the world of men:

Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,

That goes down to the empty hall,

Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken

By the lonely Traveller’s call.

And he felt in his heart their strangeness,

Their stillness answering his cry,

While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,

’Neath the starred and leafy sky;

For he suddenly smote on the door, even

Louder, and lifted his head:—

‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,

That I kept my word,’ he said.

Never the least stir made the listeners,

Though every word he spake

Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house

From the one man left awake:

Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,

And the sound of iron on stone,

And how the silence surged softly backward,

When the plunging hoofs were gone.

Do you have a favorite poem? The words in poetry form can be so impactful and meaningful, not just in “regular” poetry, but also in beautiful harmony with music. Ballads, story-poems, hymns—so many ways of expression!

What is a favorite poem of yours? Leave me a comment about your favorite poem and why you love it so much for a chance to win a digital copy of my latest book, LOVE UNDER FIRE, the third book in the PINK PISTOL SISTERHOOD SERIES! Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting and taking a trip down memory lane with me and some of my favorite poems!




A great big thank you to every one who stopped by today and participated in identifying the VERY BEST slow dance songs EVER! This was a fun blog day for me and I hope you all enjoyed it too!

My winners of the Kindle copy of LOVE UNDER FIRE are:


Ladies if you will e-mail me at I will see that you get your prize!

Again, thanks to everyone for participating in this fun day!



Hi everyone! This is something that intrigued me the other day and I wondered what you all thought about it, too. I was on Facebook and saw this question: WHAT IS THE VERY BEST SLOW DANCE SONG?

Y’all know that got my little mind to wondering…and WANDERING! I had to scroll through many of the answers just to see what people thought—but not before I answered with my pick. The very best slow dance song (and in my opinion ONE of the very best songs ever recorded) is Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers. I am careful to always say “by the Righteous Brothers” because this song had a lonnnnng history of covers and remakes before the Righteous Brothers ever made their version of it. And theirs is the best.

But what did other people think was the best? There were so many opinions—and some were songs I had not ever heard of that became popular in the 90’s and 2000’s. By the same token, I’m sure there were plenty of songs that were popular in long years gone by that I haven’t ever heard, either.


Since many of us write historical romance, this also made me realize that songs of those old days in history (back in the 1800’s) might not be as meaningful to us now as they were to folks then—maybe they even seem childish and simple, not a song that would speak of love to your partner as we would think of today.


Some of the others that people listed as the “very best slow dance song” were:

At Last by Etta James

Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton

In the Still of the Night

I Only Have Eyes for You

Only You by the Platters

Earth Angel

These are just a few! The thread was full of songs, too many to list here. My hubby and I never had a “special” song. In our early years, we had our own band and played mainly country rock and easy listenin’ music, so I heard (and sang) an lot of different songs, but Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers was always my favorite song (and that was one we never performed, because who can top the Righteous Brothers?)

Order your copy of LOVE UNDER FIRE today!


What is YOUR favorite slow dance song? I’m giving away two digital copies of LOVE UNDER FIRE today, so be sure to comment! (This did make me wonder what my characters, Johnny and Krissy, might have wanted to slow dance to way back in 1899!)  

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance–by Cheryl Pierson

Favorite western movies? I’ve got a few. But if I had to choose, I think it would have to be The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

This Hollywood classic, starring John Wayne as Tom Doniphon, Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance, Vera Miles as Hallie Ericson, and Jimmy Stewart as Ransom “Ranse” Stoddard has just about everything a western cinema fan could hope for: action, romance, right-over-might…and an unforgettable theme song.

Dorothy M. Johnson’s short story was made into a movie in 1962. It’s one of my oldest “movie” memories, as I was five years old when it made the rounds to the movie theaters and drive-ins.

Here’s the description of the movie according to Wickipedia in case you have never seen it:

Elderly U.S. Senator Ransom “Ranse” Stoddard and his wife Hallie arrive by train in the small western town of Shinbone, to attend the funeral of an apparent nobody, a local rancher named Tom Doniphon. Prior to the funeral, Hallie goes off with a friend to visit a burned-down house with obvious significance to her. As they pay their respects to the dead man at the undertaker’s establishment, the senator is interrupted with a request for a newspaper interview. Stoddard grants the request.

As the interview with the local reporter begins, the film flashes back several decades as Stoddard reflects on his first arrival at Shinbone by stagecoach to establish a law practice.Liberty Valance Lee Marvin

A gang of outlaws, led by gunfighter Liberty Valance, hold up the stagecoach. Stoddard is brutally beaten, left for dead and later rescued by Doniphon. Stoddard is nursed back to health by restaurant owner Peter Ericson (John Qualen), his wife Nora (Jeanette Nolan) and daughter Hallie. It later emerges that Hallie is Doniphon’s love interest.

Shinbone’s townsfolk are regularly menaced by Valance and his gang. Cowardly local marshal Link Appleyard (Andy Devine) is ill prepared and unwilling to enforce the law. Doniphon is the only local courageous enough to challenge Valance’s lawless behavior. On one occasion, Doniphon even intervenes on Stoddard’s behalf, when Valance publicly humiliates the inept Easterner. Valance trips Stoddard who is waiting tables at Peter’s restaurant. Stoddard spills Doniphon’s order causing Doniphon to intervene. Valance stands down and leaves. Doniphon tells Stoddard he needs to either leave the territory or buy a gun. Stoddard says he will do neither.

"No...I said you, Liberty...You pick it up!"
“No…I said you, Liberty…You pick it up!”

Stoddard is an advocate for justice under the law, not man. He earns the respect and affection of Hallie when he offers to teach her to read after he discovers, to her embarrassment, she’s had no formal education. Stoddard’s influence on Hallie and the town is further evidenced when he begins a school for the townspeople with Hallie’s help. But, secretly, Stoddard borrows a gun and practices shooting.

Doniphon shows Stoddard his plans for expanding his house in anticipation of marrying Hallie, and reminds him that Hallie is his girl. Doniphon gives Stoddard a shooting lesson but humiliates him by shooting a can of paint which spills on Stoddard’s suit. Doniphon warns that Valance will be just as devious, but Stoddard hits him in the jaw and leaves.

In Shinbone, the local newspaper editor-publisher Dutton Peabody (Edmond O’Brien) writes a story about local ranch owners’ opposition to the territory’s potential statehood. Valance convinces the ranchers that if they will hire him, he can get elected as a delegate to represent the cattlemen’s interest. Shinbone’s residents meet to elect two delegates to send to the statehood convention at the territorial capital. Valance attempts to bully the townspeople into electing him as a delegate. Eventually, Stoddard and Peabody are chosen. Valance assaults and badly beats Peabody after Peabody publishes two unflattering articles about Valance and his gang. The villains destroy Peabody’s office. Valance also calls Stoddard out for a duel later in the evening after Valance loses his bid for delegate. Valance leaves saying “Don’t make us come and get you!” Doniphon tells Stoddard he should leave town and even offers to have his farmhand, Pompey, escort him. But when Stoddard sees that Peabody has been nearly beaten to death, he calls out Valance. Stoddard then retrieves a carefully wrapped gun from under his bed and heads toward the saloon where Valance is. Valance hears he has been called out and justifies going out in self-defense. His wins his last poker hand before the duel with Aces and Eights.


In the showdown, Valance toys with Stoddard by firing a bullet near his head and then wounding him in the arm, which causes Stoddard to drop his gun. Valance allows Stoddard to bend down and retrieve the gun. Valance then aims to kill Stoddard promising to put the next bullet “right between the eyes,” when Stoddard fires and miraculously kills Valance with one shot to the surprise of everyone, including himself. Hallie responds with tearful affection. Doniphon congratulates Stoddard on his success, and notices how Hallie lovingly cares for Stoddard’s wounds.

Sensing that he has lost Hallie’s affections, Doniphon gets drunk in the saloon and drives out Valance’s gang, who have been calling for Stoddard to be lynched for Valance’s “murder.” The barman tries to tell Doniphon’s farmhand Pompey (Woody Strode) that he cannot be served (due to his race), to which Doniphon angrily shouts: “Who says he can’t? Pour yourself a drink, Pompey.” Pompey instead drags Doniphon home, where the latter sets fire to an uncompleted bedroom he was adding to his house in anticipation of marrying Hallie. The resulting fire destroys the entire house.

Stoddard is hailed as “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and based on this achievement, is nominated as the local representative to the statehood convention. Stoddard is reluctant to serve based upon his notoriety for killing a man in a gunfight.

At this point, in a flashback within the original flashback, Doniphon tells Stoddard that it was he (Doniphon), hidden across the street, who shot and killed Valance in cold blood, and not Stoddard in self-defense. Stoddard finds Doniphon and asks him why he shot Valance. He did it for Hallie, he says, because he understood that “she’s your girl now”. Doniphon encourages Stoddard to accept the nomination: “You taught her to read and write, now give her something to read and write about!”

Stoddard returns to the convention and is chosen as representative. He marries Hallie and eventually becomes the governor of the new state. He then becomes a two term U.S. senator, then the American ambassador to Great Britain, a U.S. senator again, and at the time of Doniphon’s funeral is the favorite for his party’s nomination as vice president.

The film returns to the present day and the interview ends. The newspaper man, understanding now the truth about the killing of Valance, burns his notes stating: “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

"Hallie... who put the cactus rose on Tom's coffin?"
“Hallie… who put the cactus rose on Tom’s coffin?”

Stoddard and Hallie board the train for Washington, melancholy about the lie that led to their prosperous life. With the area becoming more and more civilized, Stoddard decides, to Hallie’s delight, to retire from politics and return to the territory to set up a law practice. When Stoddard thanks the train conductor for the train ride and the many courtesies extended to him by the railroad, the conductor says, “Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance!” Upon hearing the comment, Stoddard and his wife stare off thoughtfully into the distance.

As a side note, one of the many reasons this film holds a special place in my heart is because I remember it as being the first time I made the connection between a scene onscreen representing a flashback. Remember the “flashback within a flashback” that the Wikipedia article mentions? The smoke from John Wayne’s cigarette moves and flows to take over the screen as he tells Jimmy Stewart, “You didn’t kill Liberty Valance. Think back, Pilgrim…” That smoke took us back to the truth of what had happened, and my five-year-old brain was shocked—and enamored, even then, with the idea that time passage, or remembrances could be shown through the haze of cigarette smoke. It was the moment of truth for Ransom Stoddard. John Ford was a genius for so many reasons.

Liberty Valance JW and JS cigaretteFor me, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance embodies the core of the west—good and evil, and how sometimes “the point of a gun was the only law”—and it all depended on the man who held the weapon.

Liberty represented the purest evil. Ranse was determined to fight him with the law he treasured—the desire to do things the legal way blinding him to the fact that Liberty didn’t respect that. In the beginning, his naivete is almost painful to watch, providing Liberty some rich entertainment. Though Tom finds it amusing, his growing respect for Ranse’s perseverance is portrayed to perfection by that familiar downward glance of John Wayne’s. Accompanied by the half-smile and his slow advice-giving drawl, the character of Tom Doniphon is drawn so that by the point at which he sees the handwriting on the wall and burns down the house he built for Hallie, the viewer’s sympathy shifts, briefly, to the circumstances Tom finds himself in.

But Ranse is determined to vanquish Valance one way or the other—with a lawbook or a gun—whatever it takes. In the final showdown, the lines of resignation are etched in Tom Doniphon’s face, and we know he is honor-bound to do the thing he’ll regret forever: save Ranse Stoddard’s life and lose Hallie to him.

I love the twist. Ranse truly believes he’s killed Valance. Again, to do the honorable thing, Tom tells him the truth about what really happened.

What do you think? If you were Ranse, would you want to know you really were not the man who shot Liberty Valance? Or would you want to be kept in the dark?  If you were Tom, would you have ever told him? It’s a great movie! Speaking of GREAT MOVIES, what’s your favorite western movie?


Now you can sing along! (I promise, this song will stay with you all day long…)


When Liberty Valance rode to town the womenfolk would hide, they’d hide
When Liberty Valance walked around the men would step aside
’cause the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood
When it came to shootin’ straight and fast—he was mighty good.

 From out of the East a stranger came, a law book in his hand, a man
The kind of a man the West would need to tame a troubled land
’cause the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood
When it came to shootin’ straight and fast—he was mighty good.

Many a man would face his gun and many a man would fall
The man who shot Liberty Valance, he shot Liberty Valance
He was the bravest of them all.

The love of a girl can make a man stay on when he should go, stay on
Just tryin’ to build a peaceful life where love is free to grow
But the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood
When the final showdown came at last, a law book was no good.

Alone and afraid she prayed that he’d return that fateful night, aww that night
When nothin’ she said could keep her man from goin’ out to fight
 From the moment a girl gets to be full-grown the very first thing she learns
When two men go out to face each other only one retur-r-r-ns

Everyone heard two shots ring out, a shot made Liberty fall
The man who shot Liberty Valance, he shot Liberty Valance
He was the bravest of them all.

The man who shot Liberty Valance, he shot Liberty Valance
He was the bravest of them all.