Mules in Mines? Julie Lence Shares Her Research

Hello Petticoats & Pistols! I am honored to help Linda Broday by joining you today. (Have fun at RWA, Linda!) For those you don’t know me, or may have forgotten, I’m western romance author, Julie Lence, blogging about a subject I knew nothing about and had fun researching: Mules Working in the Coal Mines.

In the summer of 2016, the Pastor of our church retired and our other priest was transferred to a different parish. We welcomed a new Pastor and another priest and looked forward to getting to know them. During their sermons, each priest will sometimes mention something from their childhood or personal experience to tie into the day’s Gospel. One such Sunday, one of them began talking about mules living in coal mines. My first thought was comical, and my second thought was this would make for a great blog. I’ve never heard of a mule living in a coal mine and wrote a quick note to research.

Throughout civilization horses and mules have been used to help man with lifting or hauling something heavy. This practice was carried over in Montana when it came to working in a coal mine. Pulling carts laden with ore was hard labor for man, so mules were brought down into the mines to help. Horses couldn’t be used, as the cages used to get to the bottom of the mine were small. A typical cage proved difficult trying to cram in six men, but could hold one mule. To get the mule onto the cage and to the bottom required a few days planning. The initial step involved not feeding the mule or giving him water for three days because there was a risk the mule would succumb to a ruptured bladder or suffocation while being lowered. Before being led into the cage, the mule was blindfolded so he wouldn’t spook and his legs were bound in a leather truss to keep him still. The mule was placed inside the cage on his rear and lowered to the bottom. Sometimes, he tried to kick, but usually he settled down to the quiet of the mine and rode the cage just fine.

Once down at the bottom, mules were put to work pulling the ore carts. They worked their eight-hour shift and then were taken to a lit stable inside the mine for food and rest. Muleskinners cared for the animals, and along with their food, made sure the mule had a tub of ice water to drink each night. The muleskinner also scrubbed the mule’s hooves with soap and water to rid him of the deadly copper water he plodded through during the day. The copper was capable of eating away at the hoof and if this happened, the mule would end up useless.

Mules adjusted well to the mines, with many knowing the mine better than the minors. Tales abound of many a mule saving miners from fires and other dangers. One such tale involved a miner who made a hole through a wall the size of his head to see what was on the other side. He discovered a lake but thought nothing of it until the next day. His mule began acting strange, and cutting him free from his job, the mule took off for higher ground. Knowing a mule’s instinct was good, the minor and his coworkers were able to escape quickly when, at the same moment the mule dashed off, the hole the miner had made crashed open, with water gushing toward them from the lake.

Though a mule labored beneath the ground, he wasn’t left there his entire life. If a mule was injured or sick, he was brought above ground immediately. The same applied to the duration of the mine shutting down for vacation or the miners going on strike. And mules weren’t treated cruelly. Miners and mule skinners learned early on to care for the mule. If treated poorly, the mule usually got even with either kicking a man in the ribs or head, or squeezing him against the wall. Trained mules were valuable, worth as much as $200, and always received medical treatment and rubdowns when needed.

The use of mules in mines pulling ore carts came to an end in December of 1965. An Act of Legislature outlawed the underground stable, making it illegal to house animals in mines.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to stop by and read about the mules. They truly were exceptional in that time period. To connect with me and learn more about my writing, you can catch me here:





As an added bonus, I’m giving away 3 ebook copies of my 1st book, Luck of the Draw. To be eligible to win, leave a comment here regarding your favorite thing about the old west. Until next time, have a great day.

Julie Lence: The Poinsettia

We’re so delighted to have Julie Lence come to visit our neck of the woods. She always has something interesting to share. She also has a giveaway so please comment. Please make her welcome.


me-mediumThe Poinsettia is a native Mexican plant. Its origins trace back to present day Taxco. The poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, Willd, is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family and is defined as a female flower, without petals and usually without sepals, surrounded by individual male flowers enclosed in a cup-shaped structure called a cyathium. The Euphorbia genus contains 700-1000 species. The Aztecs in central Mexico cultivated the plant and used the colorful leaves, known as bracts, to make a reddish-purple dye for clothes and makeup. The Poinsettia’s milky sap was made into a medicine to treat fevers.


joel-roberts-poinsettJoel Roberts Poinsett is credited as the first American to bring the plant to the United States. A botanist from Greenville, South Carolina, Poinsett was also the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. Best remembered as the founder of the Smithsonian Institute, Poinsett traveled to the Taxco area, discovered the colorful plants growing on adjacent hillsides and had some of them shipped to his home, where he grew them in his greenhouse. From there, he gifted some of the plants to his friends and also sent some to botanical gardens and to fellow botanist John Bartram in Philadelphia. Bartram sent the plant to his friend Robert Buist. Buist was a plants-man from Pennsylvania and thought to be the first person to sell the Poinsettia under its original name. Legend has it the Euphorbia pulcherrima, Willd, became known as the Poinsettia in the 1830’s, after Joel Robert Poinsett.


poinsettiaHow did the Poinsettia become known as the Christmas plant? The Aztecs prized the poinsettia and believed it to be a symbol of purity. In the 17th century, Franciscan monks in Mexico incorporated the flower into their Fiesta of Santa Pesbre; a nativity procession. This is the first time the Poinsettia was associated with Christmas, leading Mexico’s Christians to adopt the plant as their Christmas Eve flower. The star-shaped bracts symbolize the Star of Bethlehem. The red leaves represent Christ’s blood and the white leaves symbolize his purity.


andrea-sadek-white-poinsettia-figurineOnce the monks included the Poinsettia in their nativity procession, a few legends sprang up as to why and how the plant became associated with Christmas. One is the tale of poor, young Pepita who was upset because she did not have a gift to give to the baby Jesus at Christmas Eve mass. As she made her way to the church, her cousin tried to cheer her up. Pedro told Pepita that even the smallest gift presented to Jesus in love would make the Christ child happy. Pepita picked some weeds and placed them beside the manger. Before everyone’s eyes, the weeds magically transformed into beautiful red flowers. Another tale says it was an angel who told Pepita to pick the weeds and bring them to the church. Regardless, the parishioners swore they’d witnessed a miracle, and from that evening on, the flowers became known as Flores de Noche Buena; Flowers of the Holy Night.



Have you gotten a poinsettia this Christmas or have plans to do so? As a Thank You for chatting with me today, I’m gifting 2 lucky winners Kindle copies of each of my 3 short Christmas stories. Merry Christmas Everyone! I wish you and your family a joyous holiday season. Julie


**To preview my Christmas stories, please visit Amazon:

Welcome Guest – Julie Lence!!

Julie Lence LogoOrigin of the Christmas Card

The Christmas season is upon us. Folks are rushing from store to store, or combing through Amazon’s gazillion pages, to find the perfect present at the lowest price. Cookies bake in the oven, turkeys and hams are bought in anticipation of a scrumptious meal, and somewhere in between attending parties and wrapping gifts, many people take the time to address and send Christmas cards to their loved ones and friends.

Horsely Christmas card for ColeThe Christmas card was first introduced in the UK in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. Cole worked as a civil servant and wanted to find a way for the average person to use the Public Post Office. Up until this time, only rich folk could afford the price of postage. When the UK began using trains instead of horses and carriages to ship mail, the Penny Post was created, making it possible for the common person to afford the price of postage.

Having little time to keep up on his own correspondence, Cole hired his friend, John Horsley, to design a Christmas card he could send to family and friends in lieu of writing long missives. Horsley crafted a card with three panels. The outer panels depicted scenes of people caring for the poor. The middle panel featured a family enjoying Christmas dinner. One thousand cards were printed and sold for a schilling. When people realized these cards could be mailed in an unsealed envelope for half a penny, they became very popular in the UK.

Prang's Christmas cardChristmas cards were also introduced to the United States in the 1840’s. Since they were costly, most Americans couldn’t afford to buy them. R.H Pease is credited with crafting and distributing the first American made Christmas card in the United States. Pease owned a variety store in Albany, N.Y and his cards depicted scenes of families, reindeer, Santa, and Christmas presents and foods.

In 1875, Louis Prang began mass producing greeting cards in the United States. Originally from Germany and a printer, Prang arrived in the States in the 1850’s. He’d previously worked in the UK on their earlier cards. By 1870, Prang owned two-thirds of America’s steam presses and had perfected the color printing process of chromolithography. Upon distributing his cards at an 1873 exposition, his agent’s wife suggested he add Christmas cards to his line. He did and the cards were an instant success with the American people, so much so Prang had difficulty keeping up with the demand for them. He later took up the English printers’ practice of offering prizes to artists with the best designs for his cards. Many of the winners crafted Biblical scenes, putting religious significance into the Christmas card, which had been lacking until that time.

religious Christmas cardHallmark is the greeting card giant in today’s society. John C. Hall and two of his brothers developed Hallmark Cards in 1915. It’s estimated that 1.6 – 1.9 billion Christmas cards are purchased in the United States each year. Though my list has dwindled through the years, I’m happy to say I’m one of those purchasers.

As a Thank You for joining me today, I’m giving away 3 e-book copies of my latest short Christmas story, Christmas Wishes. I wish you all a joyous and blessed holiday season.


Christmas Wishes
Click cover to order


U.S. Marshall Chance McBride has spent weeks tracking Steve ‘Smarty’ Jones. Ambushed and wounded by the outlaw, Chance is forced to seek help at a nearby school. But the teacher isn’t what he imagined. Instead of a male wearing trousers, a female takes charge of his care. Bright blue eyes and soft curves; Tabitha’s sassy nature awakens a deep-seated loneliness only she and a Christmas wish can soothe.

Tabitha Weston has never favored anything girlie. She’d rather saddle-break wild horses than bat her eyelashes and flirt with a man. But one glimpse into Chance’s molasses-colored eyes and Tabitha’s abhorrence to relationships is suddenly corralled by her need to win the lawman’s favor. Can a wish upon Christmas snow for him to trade the freedom of the trail for a home with her actually come true? She’s about to find out.

Historical Research and Julie Lence


Hello Everyone. I’m western historical romance author Julie Lence. This is my first time blogging on Petticoats and Pistols and I’d like to thank the Fillies for having me. When I asked Linda what I should write about, she suggested I write about something that was in one of my stories, such as a boardinghouse. That got me to thinking about many of the authentic things I have in my stories and how research has played an important role in this, so I decided to write about specific things I’ve researched for each of my books.

Luck of the Draw is my first published work. I began writing the story back in the early 90’s when I didn’t know a thing about writing. Through the years I added and deleted scenes and always wondered if what I was writing made sense and was true to the timeframe. I decided to have the book professionally edited and found someone to work with. She went page by page editing everything; spelling, punctuation, dialogue and plot. Finally, she asked me a question that pertained to the timeframe of the story: was chocolate readily available in the west in the 1860?

As an avid reader of western romance, I’d read about characters feasting on chocolate cake, so I’d always assumed chocolate was available back then. But I didn’t know for sure, so chocolate became my first research topic.

I didn’t have the internet at this time, so I relied on books from the library. I learned a lot about the cacao bean and how it made its way around the world, eventually landing in Europe where folks enjoyed a hot chocolaty drink that we know today as hot cocoa. Eventually, Europeans brought the cacao bean to the United States and powdered chocolate was sold in small tins in mercantiles. Americans enjoyed the hot chocolaty drink, too, and also used the powdered cocoa to make chocolate cake. Needless to say, I was happy about that.













My second work is Lady Luck. The bulk of the story takes place in a gaming hall on San Francisco’s Barbary Coast. I wanted my story to be as true to that timeframe  and location as possible, but again, I didn’t have the internet. Back to the library I went. My research led to a small cove along the water. Yerba Buena Cove and the ships that were permanently dry docked in the cove were being filled in with sand and businesses were being built on top of them. I thought this was a fascinating piece of history and included it in the story, but more fascinating were the ships themselves. I had to have one for my gaming hall, so I took liberty and moved my ship to the Barbary Coast, hoping the Barbary and Yerba Buena Cove were close in location to each other. Later, when the hubby had the internet connected to the home computer, I found some street maps of 1860 San Francisco and was happy to discover the liberties I took were true. The Barbary Coast and Yerba Buena Cove were not far from each, and they were on the same stretch of coastline.

Luck of the Draw and Lady Luck are part of a series about the Weston brothers, cowboys making a living raising beef and breaking horses on the family ranch. In the third story, No Luck At All, the hero is a cowboy at heart, but he’s also a doctor. I wanted Creel to attend medical school in Boston and to meet and marry a Boston socialite, because his mother was a Boston socialite and she played an important role in the first two books. I wrote the story, way back when and shelved it for when I could go back to it and make it better. When I did, that little research bug kicked in and I was back on the internet. I had to prove to myself and to my readers that it was indeed possible for Creel to attend college and medical school in Boston so he could meet and fall in love with his Boston socialite. The internet opened up a whole new world to me; histories of schools and colleges and discoveries made in the medical profession. Creel was able to obtain his education and medical degree at Massachusetts General, which was also connected to Harvard. Today the two schools are one. I also happened upon the discovery of ether and how to apply it to a patient. I’m not one for blood, guts and gore, but this was another fascinating piece of information I had to incorporate into the story, thus the scene where Bob is attacked by a mountain lion was born and Creel’s talent as a doctor shined.

My love for the old west doesn’t stop at cowboys. Outlaws played an important role back then and I had one from my first two books in desperate need of his own story. Buck is ornery and temperamental and had always escaped the law in his looting, raiding and shooting, until now. He was also in need of a good eye-opener as to why he should settle down with the woman he loves and what better reason could there be than having been sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, with a sentence to be hung. I’d figured out his escape, but the prison itself kept bugging me. Or rather, what prison could I place him in. Since his story, Zanna’s Outlaw, takes place in Texas, I wanted him somewhere close to that state. My first thought was Yuma, but Yuma didn’t exist yet, so-you guessed it. Back to the internet I went, and found Huntsville State Penitentiary in Texas. There wasn’t a lot of information on the prison, at least not what I wanted to know and that was what did it actually look like on the inside? Again, I had to take liberty with some things, but the nickname for the prison, ‘The Walls’, and the bell tower and the fact the prisoners seeded cotton is true. The prison is still in existence, and if I ever get to Texas, I would love to take a tour.

Lydia’s Gunslinger is my current release. This book didn’t require much research, as it takes place in the same town as Zanna’s Outlaw. One establishment that is linked to both stories is Miller’s Saloon. The inside of Miller’s wasn’t important since there are numerous photos on the internet of old western saloons, but I wanted to know how easy it was for Miller to keep his saloon stocked, especially in a nowhere town such as Revolving Point. I researched the origins of beer and learned so much, from original breweries, to methods of transportation, to the birth of the beer glass, to brewery owners striking deals with saloon owners to only stock their beer that I couldn’t possibly mention everything. In the end, I decided to leave Miller and his saloon alone and garnered from my research that beer wagons went far and wide to keep saloons well-stocked.

Research had never held much of an interest for me until I began writing. Now, I could spend all day on the internet chasing down the smallest detail. Life back in the 1800’s was hard, but it was also fascinating. And I enjoy proving what I think is true as much as I enjoy learning about new things, like Yerba Buena Cove in Lady Luck. And what color uniforms the police officers wore in 1860 San Francisco.

To read an excerpt from any of my books, please visit my website at: www.julielence.comOne lucky visitor to Petticoats and Pistols today will receive a free download of No Luck At All.

Have a great day everyone and thank you for reading. I always enjoy talking about the west!