I’m lucky to live close to a bison ranch and these are photos I took as we drove by the other day. They are impressive creatures and when I hear about people having close-up encounters with them in nearby Yellowstone National Park, I always wonder what they are thinking. These animals are powerful!
Here are a few bison facts:
Bison are the largest mammals in North America. (Which is why you shouldn’t try to get close to them.)
Historians believe that bison are called buffalo in North America because boeuf is the French word for beef.
Bison have lived continuously in the Yellowstone National Park area since prehistoric times.
When a bison’s tail is hanging down or switching, it’s calm. If it’s up or standing straight out, it’s about to do something aggressive. (I’m sure that tail can go up fast, so I wouldn’t use the hanging tail as a safety barometer.)
Bison can run up to 35 miles per hour.
The average life span is 10 to 20 years.
Bison ancestors came from Asia over the land bridge during the Pleistocene. The Asian ancestors were much larger.
Bison are near-sighted.
Bison calves are reddish and are called red dogs.
Bison can be pronounced with an “s” or a “z” sound. The “s” is standard, unless you are rooting for North Dakota State University. They use the “z” proudly.
I ask because I think that a person has to actively search it out today, whereas in times past it was a fairly common hard candy.
Horehound is the common name of the Marrubium plant, a member of the mint family. Horehound has been used for centuries by many cultures to treat just about everything–fevers, malaria, snake bite, hepatitis, bites by rabid animals. It’s useful in treating digestive problems, respiratory problems, jaundice, parasitic worms. It is used as a poultice, and inhaled as a snuff. The leaves are boiled into tea and made into cough syrups.
And it’s also made into a candy, but after compiling that list, I kind of wonder why. I guess it’s like medicine candy.
If you are the adventuresome sort, it’s easy to make homemade horehound candy. To begin, you boil several handfuls of horehound leaves in water for 15-20 minutes, smooshing the leaves as they cook down. Then you let the brew sit for a spell so that the water becomes a horehound tea.
Strain the liquid from the leaves. This is where the math comes in. You’ll need to measure your liquid and add 4 times that amount of brown sugar. So if you have 1 cup of horehound tea, you’ll use 4 cups of brown sugar. Then, more math, you add light corn syrup in 1/4 the amount of the liquid. So again using 1 cup of tea, you’d add 1/4 cup of light corn syrup.
Cook this mixture to the hard crack stage (the liquid solidifies into a ribbon when you drop it into ice water) which is about 300 degrees if you go modern and use a candy thermometer. You pour the mixture into a buttered pan, then score the top while it’s soft so that you can break it into squares later.
I’m so glad to be here during the Boot Scootin’ Special Week! Today I’m here to tell you that you can’t scoot those boots if you don’t have music to scoot them to, and I’m going to specifically talk about Western Swing.
What is the difference between Western Swing and good old country music?
All music evolves and changes over time as it is influenced by other musical genres and the people who play the music. Not everyone is satisfied with playing the same song the same way and look for ways to jazz it up a little. That is literally how western swing came to be.
Western swing evolved from the cowboy and country dance music played in dance halls and parties during the early part of the last century. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, classic western music played in the southern and western US states was influenced by the blues, jazz, folk, polka and eventually swing itself. The instruments started changing, too. Classic western music is played on a fiddle and or/guitar, but the western swing movement added piano, drums and, of course, the steel guitar, which gave the genre its distinctive sound.
Unlike big bands and swing bands of the same era, which tended to follow a set score, western swing bands tended to improvise, giving them a fun and unpredictable quality, but it was a quality people liked. Dancers loved western swing, which could be danced with a variety of styles. Thanks to its tempo, it was possible to do round dances, two-steps or even the jitter bug in later days. Before World War II, recording companies had a hard time coming up with a marketing name for western swing. They called it hillbilly music, old time music, and hot string music. Many of the bands that played it called it simply “western music”.
In 1933, Bob Wills organized The Texas Playboys, one of the iconic western swing bands, with two fiddles, two guitars, a banjo, drums, and of course the steel guitar, played by Leon McAuliffe. If you listen carefully to some of his songs, you can hear him call on “Leon” to play. Other western swing bands were The Fort Worth Doughboys, Brown and his Musical Brownies, Light Crust Doughboys, Spade Cooley and His Buckle-Busters and Billy Gray and His Western Okies.
In the mid-1930s Fort Worth was the center of Western Swing, but California would soon catch up. During World War II western swing reached the height of its popularity with promotors creating circuits of dance halls for the bands to travel to. Bob Wills played a dance at Venice Pier in Los Angeles attended by 15,000 people. Riverside Rancho, also in Los Angeles, had a 10,0000 square foot dance floor and hosted huge dance parties.
Western swing began to ebb in the 1950s, however the genre influenced rock and roll and rockabilly during that decade. One of Bill Haley’s early bands was known as Bill Haley and the 4 Aces of Western Swing. In the 1970s, western swing experienced a revival thanks to groups such as Asleep at the Wheel, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen and Lyle Lovett.
In case you aren’t familiar with the western swing sound, some classic western swing songs are Pistol Packin’ Mama, San Antonio Rose, Stay All Night, Stay a Little Longer and one of my favorites, which you can listen to below, Big Balls in Cowtown.
Are you a western swing fan? If so what’s a favorite western swing dance song of yours? I’ll choose two commenters to receive a $10 Amazon gift certificate.
Have you ever had a nemesis? Someone who challenged you, brought out your best and worst in the heat of battle? That’s what Cassie Callahan is dealing with in my latest sweet romance, MONTANA HOMECOMING, which is being released in July. Here’s a quick sneak peek:
NEVER GIVE THE opening bid.
Cassie Callahan gripped her auction paddle, determined to keep it on her lap until the proper moment. She was, after all, the queen of self-control. The embodiment of coolness under fire. As an assistant school district superintendent, she dealt with unpredictable school boards, principals, teachers and students by calmly addressing facts, laying out pros and cons, refusing to budge unless a decent compromise presented itself. And then she became a master negotiator. She loved it—or at least she used to love it. Lately she’d had the nagging feeling that she was putting more into her job than she was getting out of it.
Burnout, pure and simple, so it made sense that if she had something to occupy her time when she wasn’t on the job, she’d once again feel the thrill of battle as she headed out to work each morning. Thus, the auction paddle.
“Sold!” the auctioneer bawled as a nice palomino gelding was led out of the auction ring, and Cassie shifted in her seat. Showtime.
The palomino had sold for a lower price than Cassie had expected, as had the two horses before. Maybe she’d be able to buy McHenry’s Gold for a reasonable price; maybe the people attending the semiannual Gavin, Montana, horse auction didn’t understand the bloodlines the mare represented. Or perhaps they didn’t care.
Unlikely. McHenry horses were legendary, but that wasn’t why Cassie was bidding. This particular McHenry mare was a daughter of the mare that had seen her through her turbulent teen years. The last daughter. The mother, McHenry’s Rebel, had died the previous year.
“The next mare up is something of a gem, folks.”
No. Don’t make her look good. Just start the bidding.
Cassie clenched her teeth together, then instantly relaxed her jaw. No more of that. She’d promised her dentist.
The auctioneer continued singing the praises of McHenry’s Gold and Cassie had to fight to not stand up and tell him to just shut up and get on with the bidding.
Of course, she didn’t, because that was what old Cassie would have done, back before she’d had a couple thousand classes in management and psychology. Back before she realized that direct confrontation didn’t always work.
“We’ll open the bidding at ten thousand. Do I hear ten? Ten? Ten?”
Ten? The last horse had opened at three.
The ring steward led the mare in a circle. She had excellent conformation but wasn’t flashy otherwise. A bay with a broad white blaze and one white hind foot—a carbon copy of her mother, and Cassie wanted her. She practically had to sit on her paddle.
The auctioneer continued his patter. The guy in front of Cassie leaned forward as if to get a better view of the mare. His paddle hand twitched when the auctioneer lowered the opening bid to five thousand dollars and suddenly Cassie’s paddle was in the air.
The spotter pointed at her. “I have five,” the auctioneer announced. “Do I hear six? Six?”
No six. No six.
“Five and a half? Five and a—I have five and a half.”
Cassie leaned forward as she searched the crowd on the opposite side of the sale ring to see who had the temerity to bid against her. She couldn’t see who’d bid in the sea of cowboy hats. Well, she’d spot him next time if he dared do it again. She raised her paddle for a bid of six thousand, then narrowed her eyes as she spotted the man who bid six and a half.
Her dentist would have hated what she did to her teeth when Travis McGuire met her gaze across the distance that separated them, looking very much the smug know-it-all she knew him to be.
She was in trouble, because when Travis wore that expression, it meant game on. She searched her memory, trying to remember who had won their last confrontation years ago.
Maybe it had been a draw.
This one would not be a draw. Or a loss.
No one appeared interested in bidding higher than six thousand five hundred. The auctioneer worked the crowd, then began intoning, “Seven? Seven? Six and three-quarters… No? Going…going…”
Cassie thrust her paddle in the air just after the second going. She didn’t look at Travis, because she told herself she was beyond their old rivalry. She’d thought he would be, too. They were never going to be friends, but after so many years, surely they could be civil?
“I have a bid of six and three-quarters,” the auctioneer announced.
Cassie could go to seven. That was her limit. But when Travis raised his paddle at seven thousand, she knew that she was going over budget. She wanted that horse.
“Seven and a half? Anyone? Sev—”
Up went her paddle.
“Eight?” He pointed at Travis, who sat motionless, giving Cassie a flicker of hope. “Seven and three quarters?”
Travis nodded and Cassie’s stomach fell.
The auctioneer pointed at Cassie. “Eight?”
She hesitated, then lifted the paddle. After that things became a blur as Travis continued to meet every bid and her blood pressure continued to rise. The seesaw continued until the auctioneer reached ten thousand five hundred. He pointed at Travis, who grimly shook his head. Cassie’s chest swelled. Unless someone had been waiting in the wings for just this moment…
“Sold to number 325.”
Only then, when the heat of battle began to ebb, did she fully process what she’d just done. Ten thousand five hundred dollars. Three thousand five hundred more than she’d allotted. She never got carried away like that. Her gaze strayed across the auction ring to where Travis sat with his forearms resting on his thighs, staring at the ground between his boots. She hadn’t seen the man in over five years, and he still had the power to bring out the worst in her.
And there you have it, the beginning of a new challenge for both Travis and Cassie as she temporarily returns to her home ranch before beginning a sabbatical. I wonder what’s going to happen with Travis and Cass?
First I’d like to thank everyone for stopping by today. I hope you are all staying safe during these difficult times!
If you are like me, you’re cooking more than usual, and probably being more careful with ingredients. I have to admit that over the years (as in since college and the early days of my marriage when money was sooo tight) I’ve become more wasteful. If the lettuce is rusting, chances were that I’d toss the rest of the head and buy a new one rather than salvaging what could be salvaged. Leftovers often disappeared in the fridge, only to be found when it was “too late”.
But you know what? I know better. And I’ve done better.
Before I started college, I helped cook in a remote Alaska mining camp. It was in the Arctic, 250 air miles north of Fairbanks during the pipeline construction days. I actually spent three summers at camp, but only cooked during one of those summers. I was the bull cook, known in politer circles as the sous chef. I helped the head cook, who just happened to be my mom.
As you can imagine, fresh ingredients were rare. We got them when the grocery order came in by air. Sometimes my mom and dad would travel to Fairbanks and buy the groceries, but often we’d put in an order and the grocer would send the stuff on a plane heading our way. Sometimes, believe it or not, we got the worst produce they had to offer. We weren’t exactly in a position to complain, so I learned a lot about salvaging ingredients.
We only got salads right after the plane came, and after weeks of canned and skillet fried food, salads were pretty darned tasty. If I could save half or even a quarter of a going-bad tomato, I did. Lettuce was often peeled back to less than half its original size.
Potatoes and onions usually came in better condition and kept longer, but there was still a lot of salvaging going on. Anything was better than eating only canned food. Speaking of cans, the pantry was left intact when we left for the winter months and of course the cans froze solid. What does canned food look like after a good solid Arctic freeze? Well, creamed corn looks pretty scary. When my folks were in Fairbanks and I was in charge of feeding the crew, one of the crew members and I dyed the cream corn purple using food coloring to distract from its grayish-yellow appearance. The crew was definitely distracted. (We did practice safety measures with the canned goods and only used those that had an intact seal and showed no signs of damage from freezing.)
Milk was a challenge. We froze it, but it separated upon thawing. It was still fine for cooking, but not so much for drinking. I discovered the reconstituted evaporated milk was far superior to dried milk for drinking. In fact, I kind of developed a taste for it.
I’ve been thinking about my Alaska days as I’m working my way through my pantry and putting my camp cooking skills to work. If it can be salvaged, I’m eating it. Leftovers will not be pushed to the back of the fridge. Milk in cartons will be savored and when it’s gone, I’ll break out the evaporated. My prima dona food ways are going by the wayside and I’m interested in hearing about your kitchen experiences.
If you would like to win one of two $10 Amazon gift cards, please tell me a quick tip you’ve used when ingredients were scarce or missing. Winners will be announced on Friday, April 3.
How do you move a herd of cattle from one place to another?
When I lived in Nevada, most of my neighbors did it the old fashioned way–they had a cattle drive. Sometimes the cows were driven many miles. It wasn’t unusual for it to take two or three days to move the cattle from the home ranch to their summer pasture. At the the end of the grazing season, the cattle would then be driven back to the home ranch.
Cattle tend to stick together, which is a blessing, but it seems there’s always a few who want to go somewhere other than where they’re supposed to. This is why there are riding positions during a cattle drive. The point rider rides near the front, choosing the
direction the head will go. Swing or flank riders ride beside the cattle on both sides, the swing rider toward the front of the herd and the flank riders toward the read. The very worst position to ride is drag–at the the rear of the herd. The drag riders are often choked with dust, and may wear bandannas over their nose and mouths.
Dogs are often essential partners during a drive, keeping cows together and making sure that there are no laggers.
There are other ways to move cattle. On our ranch, where we never move the cattle off the property, we open gates and chase them where they need to go. There’s always a lead cow. In our case it’s an older cow named 5X. She’s the one who charges to the front and tells the rest of the girls where to go. If we can get 5X pointed in the direction we want her to take everyone, all is well.
Another way to move cattle is to lure them along. We got stopped on our way to town the other day by a neighbor driving a tractor with a round hay bale on the back, and around 400 cows following him. The front cows were nibbling on the bale and the ones in the rear were following along because
that’s what herds do–they stick together. There were a couple of guys on 4-wheelers riding drag. It was fun to watch.
Of course there’s always the option of loading the cattle into a truck and driving them to their pasture. That’s the fastest way to go a distance, but it’s also expensive, which is why so many people stick with the tried and true and drive their cattle the old fashioned way.
I’m so excited that my next book will be out on February 1st, three short days from now!
Montana Dad is the second of my Sweet Home Montana series about the Callahan family, which is part of the wholesome Harlequin Heartwarming line.
Before I tell you about the story, I want to mention that Harlequin has updated their covers starting this month, and Montana Dad is among the first in the re-brand. I’m thrilled with this cover, which really speaks to the special relationship Nick Callahan has with his two little girls.
Nick Callahan is a widowed dad who recently moved back home to the Callahan ranch so that his daughters will be closer to his mom and sister. Alexandra Ryan has moved across the country to live in her aunt’s isolated house next to the Callahan ranch because she believes she’s being stalked by associates of her former boss, who absconded with a great deal of money. Things come to head when Nick asks for access across her land while his bridge is being repaired. Alex says no, then discovers that the locals don’t take it well when someone messes with their neighbors.
Here is an excerpt:
Alex Ryan climbed out of her car and stalked toward Nick with murder in her eyes. Apparently he had something to answer for, which was odd, because wasn’t he the one getting screwed over in this deal? Wasn’t he the one who quite literally had to traverse ten miles of bad road to get home?
She came to a stop a few feet away and pointed a finger at him. “You had me blackballed at the lumber store.”
“Cooper’s Building Supply?”
She gave him a puh-leeze look as her green gaze burned into him. “I’ll drive to Missoula to get what I need. And you can enjoy the fact that you’re putting me out, but remember this—petty revenge is bad for the soul.”
“I’ll remember that when I take the ten-mile detour to my ranch.” He folded his arms over his chest and looked down at her. Steam was practically coming out of her ears. “And if I engaged in vengeful behavior, it’d be a lot more creative than having someone blackballed at Cooper’s.” His voice was little more than a growl, but it must have carried, because he heard the wheels of a grocery cart come to an abrupt halt behind him, then start moving again.
“People are looking,” Alex said in a hissing whisper.
“Of course they’re looking. Wouldn’t you?” He glanced over to see Mary Watkins and her three kids staring at them as they loaded their SUV with groceries. And the cart that had stopped so abruptly behind him was being pushed by Lester Granger, who would totally enjoy spreading this tale at the co-op coffee klatch. Nick smiled tightly and raised a hand at his neighbors.
Nothing to see here, folks.
Mary waved back.
When Nick shifted his attention back to Alex, she let out a breath that seemed to come from her toes. “I need to go.”
The expression she’d worn when he’d come to her ranch that first day was back. Half cautious, half defiant. Fully self-protective. What was this woman running from? Was she a criminal? An abused wife on the run? His gaze strayed to her ring finger, which was bare and showed no signs of a ring having been recently removed. Okay, probably not married, but one didn’t need to be married to be abused, and she was as jumpy as he would expect an abuse victim to be. She’d asked him not to judge until he knew her circumstances. Fair enough. Of course, it’d be nice if she explained her circumstances, but he didn’t see that happening anytime soon.
“I’ll talk to Emmie at the building-supply store.”
“I…” She swallowed, obviously not expecting the gesture. “Thank you.” It was as if politeness was so deeply engrained in her that now that her anger had faded, she couldn’t simply get in the car and slam the door like she so obviously wanted to.
“You’re welcome,” he replied. She was there, living on the property he’d wanted, and avoiding her wasn’t going to change the situation. “What did you need at the building supply?”
“A hinge. I’m fostering a dog. I have to have a secure enclosure.”
If you would like to win a copy–print or digital–of the first book in the series A RANCH BETWEEN THEM, just let me know in the comments. I’ll announce a winner on Friday.