Welcome to Becca Whitham! Today Becca is giving away a print copy of The Cowboy’s Bride Collection, but she won’t be able to mail the book until April. Anticipation is a good thing, right? Join me in welcoming Becca!
I’m excited to be a guest on Petticoats and Pistols today. A big thank you to Karen Witemeyer for hosting me.
My latest release is a novella called “Cowboy Competition” which is part of The Cowboy’s Bride Collection. While researching, I discovered a distressing story about horses starving to death on the Great Plains during the mid-1800’s. The story was connected to the US Cavalry which imported people and horses from all over the country. Born and bred on richer grasses, the horses couldn’t survive on the less nutritious prairie grass so oats and corn were shipped in. If a train carrying the supplemental food was delayed, the horses died. Several solutions were devised. One was to grow corn and oats in Texas, and the hazards these farmers faced are worth a story of their own. The second was to take horses born and bred on the plains and train them to be cavalry horses.
The reaction to this second idea was mixed, and that’s what I used in my story. My hero, Toby, is certain the army will pay fistfuls for trained horses that can survive without supplemental oats and corn. The fastest and cheapest way to start was to round up wild mustangs who roamed the plains. My heroine, Nia, thinks Toby’s loco because mustangs are called wild for a reason! If you’ve ever seen a bronco busting rodeo event, you understand why Nia was concerned.
History records that, starting in 1849, the army began to purchase prairie bred horses—as many as they could get their hands on. Bronco busting became big business. (Try saying that five times fast!) So Toby was right. But Nia was right, too. Not everyone can tame a wild mustang. It takes a very special person to do it. If you don’t believe me, here’s a link to a movie called Wild Horse, Wild Ride.
The enduring appeal of a cowboy is centered on a man tough enough to tame a wild mustang but gentle enough to earn its trust. These men are the stuff of legend…and romance.
Becca Whitham (WIT-um) is a multi-published author who has always loved reading and writing stories. After raising two children, she and her husband faced the empty nest years by following their dreams: he joined the army as a chaplain, and she began her journey toward publication. Becca loves to tell stories marrying real historical events with modern-day applications to inspire readers to live Christ-reflecting lives. She’s traveled to almost every state in the U.S. for speaking and singing engagements and has lived in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Alaska. Website.
Women weren’t supposed to prospect for precious metals in the 1800s. They were considered too delicate to travel across wilderness and deserts, collecting ore samples and chasing veins while carrying everything they needed to survive in a backpack. Ferminia Sarras did it anyway.
A small, compact woman, she identified herself as Spanish—not Mexican—and appeared on the Esmeralda, Nevada tax records as Ferminia Sarras, Spanish lady, in 1881. Eventually she would become known as Ferminia Sarras, the Copper Queen.
There’s no clear record as to why Ferminia, who was born in Nicaragua in 1840, came to the United States with her three young daughters in 1876. One theory is that she came
to join up with her husband in the Nevada mining camps. She placed two of her daughters in a Virginia City orphanage, quite possibly for their safety, before embarking on her journey to the camps with her oldest daughter, who married a miner a few years later.
Ferminia started prospecting in 1883, wearing pants and tramping the hills alone. She prospected in several Nevada mining districts, including the Candelaria, Silver Peak and Santa Fe Districts and recorded numerous copper claims.
After the Comstock Lode petered out, Nevada went into a depression, however the discovery of gold in the central part of the state revitalized the mining economy and Ferminia’s copper claims increased in value. Her first sale came in 1901, with several more to follow, and eventually she made a fortune on her copper claims, thus earning the name the Copper Queen. She kept the gold coins from the sales in her chicken coop, which she considered safer than a bank.
Ferminia married at least five times to men younger than herself. One husband died in a gunfight protecting her claims and according to a newspaper account, all of her husbands died violent deaths. Historians theorize that she may have married younger men to help protect her claims, however one of the last men she was involved with robbed her and used the money to flee to South America.
Ferminia died in 1915. The town of Mina, Nevada, which currently boasts a population of 155, was named in her honor.
For further information on Ferminia Sarras and other women who dared to prospect in the American West, check out A Mine of Her Own by Sally Zanjani. Much of the information I have on Ferminia came from that resource.
I come from a long line of farmers and ranchers who settled in Texas and Oklahoma after the Civil War. Since all my ancestors had big families not much was passed down to me.
But I have one metal music box that plays ‘Here Comes the Bride.’ I’ve always loved it. When I’m holding it, I can almost feel my grandmother’s hands around mine when she used to show it to me.
In researching my keepsake I discovered that the song was part of an 1850 Wagner opera called Lohengrin. The irony is that in the opera, the ‘Bridal Chorus’ is sung as the bride and groom enter the bridal chamber and the wedding party prepares them for their first night together.
I don’t really care about the opera, I just love holding it because I feel like I’m somehow touching base with those who came before. Maybe it’s because they didn’t have much that the few things that made it down to great-granddaughters like me are treasured so dearly. [The cookie “rustler” I caught (right) is another generation learning to love their own past.]
In the new series I’m working on, RANSOM CANYON, I keep turning back to family heirlooms and memories. The second story in this new series, RUSTLER’S MOON, centers around a necklace, handed down for generations.
This story is about learning to trust in love and I hope you’ll fall in love with the people in Crossroads, Texas, like I have.
One old man in this story touched my heart. He’s long retired and comes to Ransom Canyon every summer to search for a memory from his childhood. You’re going to love Carter.
Thank you all for joining me in this journey into modern day ranching and living in a small town. As we move though the books I hope you’ll begin to think of it as your hometown, as I do.
“On a dirt road marked by haunting secrets, three strangers caught at life’s crossroads must decide what to sacrifice to protect their own agendas…and what they are each willing to risk for love.”
In today’s world, we fall in love and get married, or dream of falling in love, or we thought we were in love but learned better.
I’ve often wondered about our forefathers…our “foremothers?”…falling in love and marrying the man they chose. Did they?
My paternal grandfather at age twenty left home and wandered about for a while, until he came to the Moore farm in North Texas and asked for a job. The family had a fourteen-year-old daughter. After a while he decided he wanted to marry her. The father promised him he could marry his daughter when she became a little older. I believe my grandmother loved my grandfather. They lived a good happy life, had one daughter, and five sons.
Most pioneer women had little choice for one reason or another, but being the romantic I am, I do love to fantasize about these unique women marrying the man they chose. In fact, some of our well-known Texas pioneer women did just that.
Henrietta Chamberlain married Robert King, and together they built a ranching empire—The King Ranch in the Wild Horse Desert of South Texas. Henrietta was a tall, lovely young woman when she met and married Robert King. In her own words, she describes her happiness:
“When I came as a bride in 1854, a little ranch home then — a mere jacal as Mexicans would call it — was our abode for many months until our main ranch dwelling was completed. But I doubt if it falls to the lot of any a bride to have had so happy a honeymoon. On horseback we roamed the broad prairies. When I grew tired my husband would spread a Mexican blanket for me and then I would take my siesta under the shade of the mesquite tree.”
This was a happy marriage.
Molly Ann Dyer married rancher Charles Goodnight. In May of 1877, Charles and Molly built a two-room cabin in Palo Duro Canyon in the Panhandle of Texas. The nearest neighbors were 75 miles away from where Molly Goodnight established the first ranch household in the Texas Panhandle. In her biography, she explains how happy she was, although left alone much of the time. She loved her husband.
Luvenia Conway Roberts was called Lou by her beloved husband Dan Roberts. At age 33, Dan Roberts was a fine specimen of a man, tall, lanky, and strong. He joined Company D of the Frontier Battalion of the Texas Rangers in 1874, when the rangers were reorganized to offer protection to pioneers on the Texas frontier. When Dan was ordered to go into Indian country, he asked to take his new wife along. She agreed and was eager to travel with the Rangers.
In her own words:
“My friends thought I was courageous; in fact quite nervy to leave civilization and go into Indian country. But it did not require either. I was much in love with my gallant captain and willing to share his fate wherever and whatever it might be. Besides, the romantic side of it appealed to me strongly. I was thrilled with the idea of going to the frontier,the home of the pioneer.”
Ahhh, true love.
Prairie Rose Publications is growing by leaps and bounds. I was so pleased they wanted to include one of my sweet love stories in a Boxed Set titled “Love’s First Touch.” It includes stories from five authors.
LOVE’S FIRST TOUCH is powerful and sweet. It can move the heart to realize the true depth of emotion that only a first love can bring to a relationship. There’s some exciting reading ahead in these five full-length novels! Come join these wonderful characters as they experience awakening feelings and tumultuous relationships that can only be discovered with LOVE’S FIRST TOUCH!
WISH FOR THE MOON by Celia Yeary—Sixteen-year-old Annie McGinnis wishes for a chance to see more of the world, since all she’s ever known is the family farm in North Texas. Then she meets Max Landry.
FLY AWAY HEART by Sarah J. McNeal—Lilith Wilding can’t remember a time when she didn’t love the English born Robin Pierpont.
DOUBLE OR NOTHING by Meg Mims— Lily Granville, heiress, rebels against her uncle’s rules. Ace Diamond, determined to win Lily, invests in a dynamite factory.
DRINA’S CHOICE by Agnes Alexander— To escape her abusive father, Drina Hamilton feels she has no choice but to become the wife of a rancher she only knows from the one letter his uncle has written her.
DIGGING HOLES IN PARADISE by Karen Mihaljevich—In 1859 Missouri, Josette Stratton discovers that a chance identity switch gives her an out from a marriage mandated by her father—and allows her to work as a seamstress.
I would love to Gift an ebook copy of this Boxed Set to a lucky person who leaves a comment.
On a blustery, chilly November afternoon, dh and I were invited to a friend’s remote property for food, friends and some shooting. We took our cowboy guns, of course, but our host had a surprise: A crossbow.
I’d seen pictures of a crossbow, and knew the basic concept of its function, but I’d never had an opportunity to pull the trigger on one. You know I was first in line to give it a try.
The trigger pull was much easier than I expected, and there wasn’t the recoil you expect of a weapon that can hurl a bolt (an arrow) an impressive distance. Of course, this was a modern crossbow, made of space age materials and mechanisms, in many ways far superior to its Medieval predecessors. Research beckoned.
“The earliest definitive evidence for Chinese crossbow use comes from manuscripts dating to the 4th and 3rd centuries BC in China, associated with the followers of Chinese philosophy Mohism, developed by a man named Mozi. This philosophy, although it asserted a belief in universal love, also called for the development of a political structure within which there was no central authority other than Mozi’s writings. The Mohists developed many ideas on fortification, statecraft, as well as agricultural theories, and were soon hired as advisors for the leaders of warring states.”
Am I the only one who finds it “interesting” that a society expounding universal love became advisors on how to prepare for—and win–wars?
Beyond the writings of the Mohists, Sun Tzu’s book The Art of War, from approximately 400 BC, also refers to the use of crossbows. And Alexander the Great is known to have used crossbows for the siege of Tyre in 332 BC.
By the 1100s, the crossbow was considered by many to be a weapon of mass destruction. Not only was it was remarkably accurate and particularly deadly, worse, it allowed any lowly peasant to kill a high-born mounted knight with the simple squeeze of a trigger.
Though it took longer to reload than a longbow—a crossbow could manage only two volleys per minute while a bow could fire as many as 10—any soldier could be proficient with crossbow in a matter of days.
I had to dig, too, on whether this weapon, so commonly used across the pond, was brought here. According to Reginald and Gladys Laubin in AMERICAN INDIAN ARCHERY, VOLUME 4, there is some evidence of crossbows among the Cherokee & Potawatomi tribes.
“In 1927 a statement was obtained from Chief Simon Ka-qua-dos of the Wisconsin Potawatomis that as a young man he and his companions had made and used crossbows in hunting during the perod from about 1862 to 1867. He described the weapon as having a gun-shaped stock with an ordinary hunting bow mounted at a right angle across the stock at its forward end. The stock was grooved, and an ordinary arrow was laid in the groove. The bow was pulled back with both hands, and the string caught in a notch on the barrel from which it was released with a simple trigger device.
“It is almost certain that the Indians got the idea of a crossbow from the Whites, but how long ago is a difficult question. The Spanish and French explorers were armed with crossbows, and it is possible that the idea came to the Indians at that early time. Whether they used crossbows for the intervening three hundred years is anyone’s guess, but they certainly were not reported in any of the early writings.”
History aside, while I enjoyed my “shot,” I think I’ll stick to my Cowboy Action Shooting for fun. The bang is a lot louder.
Bad boys of the Old West—they’re endlessly fascinating. Why is that? Maybe it’s because they lived such bold, flash-in-the-pan lives, as untamed as the land they roamed. Some have become such mythic figures, it’s difficult to tell fact from fiction. True or not, their legends live on…and in some cases, so do the last or near-last words that—in a strange, sad way—defined their short, reckless lives.
Bits and pieces like the ones below bring real-life villains to life and sometimes provide insight into the men behind the myths. Still, I often find myself wondering “who were these guys?” Had I been a contemporary, would I have seen the same life historians recorded? Or would the real person have been astoundingly different from what we think we know 100 years later?
All of the bad guys below had parents, grandparents, siblings. Some had wives and children. One, Deacon Jim Miller (also known as Killer Jim Miller) was a pillar of his community…when he wasn’t eliminating someone for money.
As an author of historical fiction, part of my job is to entertain, but I believe there’s another, equally important part, as well: getting the facts straight—or at least trying to hide the wrinkles. Of course, fiction isn’t fact, and no fiction author worth his or her salt lets facts get in the way of a good story. Nevertheless, studying the past and the kinds of people about whom we write is almost a sacred trust for many of us who write historical fiction. Only by familiarizing ourselves with the larger-than-life and the mundane can we give any authority or verisimilitude to the fictional lives we create.
As the writerly saying goes, “Even the villain is the hero of his own life story.” Maybe that’s why I spend so much time researching bad boys…and why the heroes in my stories so often are outlaws, even the ones who wear badges. After all, somebody has to tell the villains’ life stories, right?
“I deserve this fate. It is a debt I owe for my wild, reckless life.” —Wild Bill Longley, outlaw and mean-tempered bully, age 27. Hanged in Giddings, Texas, Oct. 11, 1878, for the murder of a childhood friend.
“Aw, go to Hell you long-legged son-of-a-bitch.” —Tom O’Folliard, rustler and best friend of Billy the Kid, age 22. Spoken to Sheriff Pat Garrett shortly after Garrett mortally wounded him during a manhunt near Fort Sumner, New Mexico, Dec. 19, 1880.
“I’m not afraid to die like a man fighting, but I would not like to be killed like a dog unarmed.” —Billy the Kid, hired gun, age 21, in a March 1879 letter to New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace. Shot to death by Sheriff Pat Garrett at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, July 14, 1881.
“Can’t you hurry this up a bit? I hear they eat dinner in Hades at twelve sharp, and I don’t aim to be late.” —Black Jack Ketchum, train robber, age 37. Decapitated during hanging for train robbery, Clayton, New Mexico, April 26, 1901.
“Killing men is my specialty. I look at it as a business proposition, and I think I have a corner on the market.” —Tom Horn, Pinkerton detective turned assassin, one day shy of 43. Hanged in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Nov. 20, 1903, for the murder of a 14-year-old boy.
“Let the record show I’ve killed 51 men. Let ’er rip.” —“Deacon Jim” Miller, age 42, professional assassin. Lynched in Ada, Oklahoma, April 19, 1909, for the contract killing of a former U.S. marshal.
“I love it [the bandit life]. It is wild with adventure.” —Henry Starr, age 53, to a reporter shortly before he was shot to death during an attempted bank robbery in Harrison, Arkansas, 1921.
Black Jack Ketchum: University of New Mexico
Tom Horn at the Cheyenne Jail, 1902: Wyoming State Archives
Henry Starr: University of Arkansas, Little Rock
The Three R’s: Ridin’, Ropin’, and Romance (of course!)
The leading lady of my first book, The Angel and the Outlaw, was a schoolteacher in the “wild, wild, West” of 1873 and so I thought I’d give a small glimpse into the life of a teacher in that day and age. I am also working on a new story in which the heroine is a teacher in Southern California’s back country.
Prior to the Civil War, schoolteachers were mostly men because the prevailing belief was that women could not maintain discipline in the classroom. When the men left for the war, women moved in and filled positions at 60% less salary. When the men returned, they refused to work at the reduced wages (even though they did make more than the women teachers) and most left the profession.
Women teachers were required to be single. They could “sit” for their teaching certificate as long as they had graduated. Some were as young as fifteen. If they married, they had to give up their job. They were not allowed to attend public performances or dances. Male teachers were permitted to date one night a week or two if they attended church regularly. Because women were so few in number compared to men in the West, the turn-over rate for teachers was fairly high as women married and started their own families.
Children from the age of five would go to school daily through the week and then on weekends, would be expected to come back and help clean the schoolhouse. A teacher might have anywhere from three to forty-five students in the first through eighth grade. Discipline could be difficult at times, especially when some of the older boys towered over the teacher.
The typical school house was a one-room building. A male teacher and his family often lived in a home next door or attached to the school house—a teacherage. Women teachers would be housed with one of the families whose children attended the school so that they could be supervised. (Now that would make it hard to “leave your day job” at the end of the day!)
Teachers had to be creative and work with whatever supplies they had. They used memorizing, reciting, and oral testing to teach reading, spelling, arithmetic and history. For many years, the main textbook was the McGuffey Reader. A staggering amount, approximately 120 million copies of McGuffey Readers were sold between 1836 and 1960. Many parents could not afford textbooks and so they sent their children to school with any book from home—usually the Bible—for instruction in reading. Eliza Mott was a teacher who taught the alphabet using the inscriptions on tombstones!
In doing research about the school in La Playa where The Angel and the Outlaw is set, I learned that the main difficulty for the teacher there was a horse track in Old Town San Diego that enticed the children to play hooky and also let them wager on the horses. When the school in La Playa had a teacher vacancy, the children rowed boats to the school in Old Town and attended there.
Some very important and influential people have “graduated” from one-room schools. To name a few ~ Abraham Lincoln (President), Herbert Hoover (President), Joyce Carol Oates (Pulitzer Prize), Laura Ingalls Wilder (author), and my father.
My father and his brothers attended a one-room school house that was built on land his father donated for the school. It still stands (and is now a private home), down a winding country road in central Illinois. It feels like stepping back in time a hundred years when I go back for a visit. My grandparents farmhouse is just around the corner ~ a country mile…
One of my memories is that my Junior High School was situated right up against the back of the San Diego Zoo next to the wallaby and kangaroo enclosures. When the tour bus would drive by loaded with people, the bus driver would often comment on the “animals” on the other side of the fence– meaning the children on the gym field. It was all in good-natured fun (I think…)
What about you?
Do you have any unusual or fond memories of school?
Comment for a chance to win a copy of my newest release ~ The Gunslinger and the Heiress ~ (which does not have a schoolteacher in it!) along with Playing the Rake’s Game by Bronwyn Scott. (Continental U.S. only)
Hello everyone. Winnie Griggs here. I’m very excited about the recent release of The Road Home, the new novella I wrote as part of the Journeys of the Heart collection. This story is one I’ve been wanting to write for some time, but it’s a little bit of a departure for me. For one thing Anisha, my heroine, has a mother who was born in India and a father who is an American merchant sea captain.
For another, I pictured her with a pet that was a bit out of the ordinary, something to match her own exotic appearance. And since her father was a sea captain who sailed all over the world, I wasn’t limited to animals in her native country. After trying out several animals, I finally settled on a parrot. But this in turn spurred me to additional research. I never realized there were so many species! From small to quite large, from colorful to drab-in fact there are more than 350 species that belong to the order parrots are members of. It was quite fun to browse through all the pictures I could find of these colorful, exotic birds.
But I had to narrow my search so I came up with a list of criteria for what characteristics I wanted her feathered companion to have. He needed to be long-lived, intelligent, loyal, imposing and able to talk (not all parrots can). I finally settle on the African Grey parrot. African grey’s, while not the most colorful of the parrot family, have a lot to recommend them. They are long-lived, in fact have been known to live for upwards of 80 years. But more importantly, they are considered the most intelligent of the parrot family and can develop quite an extensive vocabulary. They have been described as having “… the intelligence level of up to a five-year old with the temperament of a two-year old…” Bingo – this was exactly what I was looking for. And thus Anisha’s companion, Sundar (which means ‘beautiful’ in Hindi) came to life for me.
My research into parrots, however, led me down a fun rabbit trail of additional research. During all of my digging into keeping pet parrots, I found some really gorgeous Victorian birdcages. Some of them were unbelievably extravagant. You can get a peak at some of them using this link.
So what about you? Do you have first hand experience with parrots? If not, how do you feel about them as potential pets – can you picture yourself with one? Leave a comment today and be entered into the drawing for a copy of the novella collection that contains my story, The Road Home.
Here’s a short excerpt from the opening of the story:
Where had they gotten off to?
Wyatt Murdoch’s irritation was turning into worry. This was the third time his two young charges had tried to slip away from him on their journey from Indiana to Texas, and they’d only made it as far as Arkansas. Thank goodness they’d arrive at their destination tomorrow. Of course, that assumed he found them before the train left. This was the longest they’d managed to keep out of his sight and the train would be resuming its journey in less than twenty minutes.
Why did they keep running away when they had no place to go? And how could a ten year old girl and eight year old boy have so completely disappeared when he’d only turned his back for a moment?
He supposed he couldn’t really blame them for wanting to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and warm spring sunshine, especially when they’d been cooped up on the train for four very long days. But they could have just asked him.
He scanned the horizon and caught sight of the circus tents off in the distance. Of course. That would have drawn Hallie and Jonah like ants to a picnic.
He started off in that direction at a fast walk. If they missed the train because of this nonsense…
He was some distance from the circus tents when he caught sight of his charges. But they weren’t alone. A woman, small in stature but big in presence, walked between them holding onto a hand of each. There was something faintly exotic-looking about her—it had something to do with the warm golden color of her skin and the shape of her eyes.
There was also the fact that she wore some kind of padded leather affair on her left shoulder, and regally perched upon that shoulder was what looked like a large gray parrot.
Someone associated with the circus, no doubt. Was she an actual performer or just an assistant?
More importantly, had she caught the children trying to sneak into the big top or one of the side shows? Or worse yet, had they gotten too close to her parrot and hurt it in some way?
He hoped she was looking for their caretaker—namely him—and not the sheriff. But from the frown on her face and stiff determination of her posture, she was obviously unhappy about something.
He quickened his pace. “You two have a lot to answer for,” he said as soon as he reached them.
But it was the woman who responded. “You are the person responsible for these children?”
He noticed that she had a faint accent of some sort, but he couldn’t quite place it. “I am. And I apologize for whatever they—”
She cut through his apology. “It appears you are not doing a very good job of watching out for them.”
Her accusation and tone got his back up. “Keeping up with them is not the easiest job in the world.”
“So watching over them is your job? Are you their nanny?”
“Are you their nanny?” The parrot squawked. “Are you their nanny?”
There were muffled giggles from the children at the bird’s echoed words, which Wyatt chose to ignore.
He tugged on his cuff, trying to maintain his dignity. “No, I am not their nanny,” he said. “I am their escort. Now if you will just hand them over, we have a train to catch.”
If anything, the woman clasped their hands tighter. “They tell me they ran away because you have not been treating them well.”
Wyatt glanced from Hallie to Jonah, making his displeasure clear. Another loud squawk from the bird did nothing to smooth his temper. “What you should know about these two runaways is that they are not only slippery, but they also lie.”
Her frown only deepened. “Those are harsh words to use about children, sir.”
How in the world had he gotten into this ridiculous discussion with a circus performer? Before he could respond, she turned to the children.
Her expression was that of a schoolmarm handing a failing grade to a favorite student. “Have you been telling me untruths?”
Both children shook their heads vigorously.
“He doesn’t let us do anything fun and he’s always fussing,” Hallie said.
“Anyone can tell he doesn’t even like us,” Jonah added.
The woman once again turned an accusing look his way.
But it was his turn to cut her off before she could speak. “That is neither here nor there, madam. It is my job to escort these children safely into the keeping of their great-uncle, and I intend to do just that. Now, I don’t have time to stand here and argue with you. We need to be on that train when it pulls out from the station.” He held out his left hand, keeping his right carefully down at his side. “Come along you two.”
The children looked up to their circus-performer friend, obviously ready to ask for her support. Had they formed such a quick bond because of the exciting nature of her life? Or was it just that they thought anyone better than he?
To his surprise, the stranger gave them a shake of her head. “Go on with your escort as he asks. It’s his job to keep you safe. And you should apologize for causing him worry, even if you don’t think he likes you. He may not be the most pleasant of people, but he is trying to look out for you, and you should respect him for that, not make his task more difficult.” She shot him a quick glance, then turned back to the children. “Besides, I’m sure he’s not really a bad man at heart.”
Was that condescension in her tone? His irritation changed to shock when the children came to him without further argument.
“We’re sorry, Mr. Murdoch,” Hallie said. “Aren’t we, Jonah?”
Wyatt was dumbfounded. How had she gotten these two mischief makers to obey her without argument?
Journeys Of The Heart
From merry old England to the wilds of Texas, take a delightful journey into adventure and romance in these novellas written by authors Camille Elliot, Winnie Griggs and Erica Vetsch. In these three stories you’ll travel alongside a feisty spinster, an English lord, a trail boss, a determined widow, and an unusual train companion—a parrot.
The Road Home by Winnie Griggs
Wyatt Murdoch feels his life is over—his career certainly is. In fact, he’s agreed to escort two orphans halfway across the country mainly because he needs a distraction. But when the task proves more than he bargained for, he seeks help from the exotic beauty with the talkative parrot who befriended the children when they slipped away from him.
Anisha Hayes, who’s hiding wounds of her own, has left her uncomfortable home to seek adventure. However, something about this unorthodox trio touches her heart, so when Wyatt asks for her help she agrees to put her plans on hold to accompany them. After all, it’s only a temporary detour.
But when they reach their destination, both Wyatt and Anisha find it’s not as easy to part ways as they’d planned…
“Let the record show I’ve killed fifty-one men. Let ’er rip.”
With those words, “Killer” Jim Miller, a noose around his neck, stepped off a box and into eternity. The lynch mob of thirty to forty outraged citizens who had dragged him onto a makeshift gallows may have found it irritating Miller didn’t beg for his life like the three co-conspirators hanged with him.
Then again, perhaps they rejoiced at the professional assassin’s departure, no matter how defiant his attitude. By the time of his 1909 lynching in Ada, Oklahoma, Miller had earned a reputation as sneaky, deadly, and slippery when cornered by justice.
Born James Brown Miller on October 25, 1866, in Van Buren, Arkansas, Miller arrived in Franklin, Texas, before his first birthday. Unsubstantiated, but persistent, rumors claim he was only eight years old when he did away with a troublesome uncle and his grandparents. His first confirmed kill—and his first jaw-dropping escape from justice—happened a few months before Miller turned 18. After arguing with a brother-in-law he didn’t like, Miller shot the sleeping man to death. Had the subsequent sentence of life in prison stuck, Miller’s reign of terror might have ended right there—but a court overturned the murder conviction on a technicality.
Upon his release, Miller joined an outlaw gang that robbed stagecoaches and trains before turning his back on a life of crime and taking a succession of jobs in law enforcement. Reportedly, he even briefly served as a Texas Ranger. Based on his boasting, the badges may have been a calculated way for Miller to indulge his bloodlust behind a thin veneer of respectability.
And he was respectable, at least on the surface. A Bible-thumping Methodist who never missed a Sunday church service, Miller didn’t curse, drink, or smoke. In fact, his clean-cut appearance and apparent piety—bolstered by an ever-present black frockcoat that made him look a bit like a minister—earned Miller the nickname Deacon.
Miller married John Wesley Hardin’s second cousin in 1888, fathered four children, and enjoyed a financially rewarding career selling real estate in Fort Worth. Reports indicate the family was considered a pillar of the community.
Behind the scenes, though, Miller advertised his services as a killer for hire, charging $150 a hit to “take care of” sheep ranchers, fence-stringing farmers, Mexicans, and almost anybody who got in someone else’s way. He specialized in doing away with lawmen, lawyers, and personal enemies, most often employing a shotgun from ambush under cover of darkness. Murder charges caught up with him several times, only to evaporate when witnesses for the prosecution mysteriously disappeared.
Frontier justice finally caught up with Miller on April 19, 1909. A cartel of ranchers outside Ada, Oklahoma, paid him $1,700 to silence a former deputy U.S. marshal who was a little too outspoken in his opposition to a shady land-acquisition scheme known as “Indian skinning.” Before the marshal-turned-rancher died, he identified his murderer. Miller and three of the conspirators were arrested, charged, and awaiting trial when an armed mob broke into the jail, overpowered the guards, and wrestled Miller and the others into an abandoned livery stable. Fearing Miller would slip a noose yet again, the mob hanged all four men from the rafters.
By the time of his death at age 42, Miller was known to have killed fourteen men. His boast of fifty-one executions may have been truthful. A photo of the grisly scene became a must-have tourist souvenir.
Killer Jim Miller was buried in Fort Worth’s Oakwood Cemetery. At the time, one respectable citizen reportedly commented, “He was just a killer—worst man I ever knew.”
The years following the American Civil War were particularly difficult for Texas. The state fought reunification for five long years, insisting it had the right to become an independent republic once again. While the U.S. Army attempted to enforce martial law and the feds dragged the battered would-be empire before the Supreme Court, outlaws, freedmen, and carpetbaggers flooded the wild and wooly, wide-open spaces.
The era produced some hard men. None were harder than Wild Bill Longley.
The sixth of ten children, William Prescott Longley was born October 6, 1851, on a farm along Mill Creek in Austin County, Texas. His father had fought with Sam Houston at San Jacinto. Little is known about Wild Bill’s youth until December 1868, when, at the age of sixteen, he killed his first man — an unarmed former slave he claimed was cursing his father.
The episode set Longley on a path he would follow for the rest of life.
After the black man’s murder, Longley and a cousin lit out for southern Texas. They spent 1869 robbing settlers, stealing horses, and killing freed slaves and Mexicans — men and women. A virulent racist with a hair-trigger temper and a fast gun hand, Longley quickly gained a reputation for picking fights with any whites he suspected of harboring Yankee sympathies or carpetbagging. In early 1870, the Union occupation force in Texas placed a $1,000 price on the cousins’ heads. Longley was not yet nineteen.
Not that he saw the bounty as a cause for concern. Standing a little over six feet tall with a lean, lithe build and a gaze described as fierce and penetrating, Longley “carried himself like a prince” and had “a set of teeth like pearls.” One newspaper writer called him “one of the handsomest men I have ever met” and “the model of the roving desperado of Texas.” The same writer called Longley “the most dreaded man north of the Rio Grande”: What his looks couldn’t get him, the brace of fourteen-inch, six-shot Dance .44 revolvers he carried could.
As news of the reward spread, Longley and his cousin separated, and Longley took up with a cattle drive headed for Kansas. By May 1870 he was in Cheyenne, Wyoming; by June, he was in South Dakota, where for unknown reasons he enlisted in the army. Within two weeks he deserted. Capture, court-martial, and prison time followed, but evidently none of that make a big impression. After his release from the stockade, Longley was sent back to his unit. In May 1872, he deserted again and lit a shuck for Texas, gambling, scraping — and killing — along the way. Folks as far east as Missouri and Arkansas learned not to get in his way, not to disagree with him, and for heaven’s sake not to insult Texas. Longley was rumored to have shot white men over card games, Indians for target practice, and black folks just for fun.
By the time he killed another freedman in Bastrop County, Texas, in 1873, Longley was well beyond notorious. The murder jogged a local lawman’s memory about the federal bounty still outstanding from 1870. The sheriff arrested Longley, but when the army wasn’t quick to hand over the reward, he let the surly gunman go.
Longley visited his family, worked a few odd jobs, and fended off several reckless sorts who hoped to make a name by besting a gunman known as one of the deadliest quick-draw artists in the west. In March 1875, he ambushed and killed a boyhood friend, Wilson Anderson, whom Longley’s family blamed for a relative’s death. That same year, Longley shot to death a hunting buddy with whom he’d had a fistfight. A few months later, in January 1876, he killed an outlaw when a quarrel-turned-ambush became a gunfight.
On the run, using at least eight different names to avoid the multiple rewards for his capture plastered all over East Texas, Longley hid out as a sharecropper on a preacher’s cotton farm, only to fall for a woman on whom his landlord’s nephew had staked a prior claim. Longley killed the nephew, then took off across the Sabine River into De Soto Parish, Louisiana. Reportedly turned in by someone he trusted, the law caught up with him on June 6, 1877, while he was hoeing a Louisiana cotton field, unarmed.
Though historians dispute the figures, Longley confessed to killing 32 men, six to ten of them white. Later, he retracted that account and claimed eight kills. A court in Giddings, Texas, convicted him of only one murder, Anderson’s, and sentenced him to hang. While awaiting execution, “the worst man in Texas” wrote his memoirs, embraced Catholicism, and filed a wagonload of appeals. All of them were denied.
Facing an ignominious end, Longley seems to have had a change of heart. On the day of his execution, October 11, 1878, the 27-year-old sang hymns and prayed in his cell before mounting the gallows “with a smile on his face and a lighted cigar in his mouth.” After the noose was placed around his neck, the man the Decatur [Illinois] Daily Review described as “the most atrocious criminal in the country” held up a hand and addressed the crowd:
“I see a good many enemies around me and mighty few friends. I hope to God you will forgive me. I will you. I hate to die, of course; any man hates to die. But I have earned this by taking the lives of men who loved life as well as I do.
“If I have any friends here, I hope they will do nothing to avenge my death. If they want to help me, let them pray for me. I deserve this fate. It is a debt I owe for my wild, reckless life. When it is paid, it will be all over with. May God forgive me.”