I recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of when I began writing my first novel.
It was such a life-altering, incredible experience – one that has blessed my life so richly over the years. I’m so grateful I took that first step into writing a book.
I started this journey by writing Heart of Clay, a tender contemporary romance about a married couple trying to keep the broken pieces of their marriage from shattering. And if you think it’s all sadness and drama, it’s not. There’s plenty of lighthearted moments and laughter in the book, too. This became the first book in my Women of Tenacity series.
Once I finished it, I actually wrote the third book in the series, originally titled Not His Type. This story featured the cocky cowboy and the shy librarian with a hearing disability he meets but can’t forget. The second book in the series, Country Boy vs. City Girl, is also about a married couple handling a curveball they hadn’t anticipated.
To celebrate the milestone, I decided to give the Women of Tenacity a makeover.
But before I show off the new covers, I thought you might like to see how they’ve evolved over the years.
The first set of covers, I had zero budget and no idea what I was doing. I coerced a group of cousins to pose for the foot image. And my poor Captain Cavedweller posed for the Heart of Clay cover as well as the Country Boy vs. City Girl cover (and that is my pink-sandaled foot on my dad’s old John Deere tractor). I knew these needed updated about five minutes after I published the books but…
I didn’t give them a new look until 2014.
And apparently, I couldn’t part with the tractor image because it stayed. And CC got coerced into posing for Heart of Clay again.
Then another refresh came in 2017.
While these were better, I still wasn’t wild about them.
So with my 10th anniversary approaching, I decided it was time to step things up and give these books some pretty new covers.
Admittedly, the history of mining isn’t something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about or researching. And then I happened to include a setting of mines in not one but two stories and dove into researching hard rock mining in the Baker City, Oregon, area at the end of the 1800s.
I knew before I started that there were many, many mines in the area from the 1880s through the 1890s and on into the new century. Dozens of little mining towns popped up on the horizon and just as quickly faded one the mines closed.
From 1880 through 1899, Oregon produced more than $26 million dollars in gold and silver with more than $18 million of it coming from Baker, Grant and Union county (which are all in the Baker City region).
To say mining was a big deal at the time is something of an understatement. It was a huge business.
Thankfully, the Baker County Library has an incredible digital library of thousands of old images. I found many that illustrated the mining business and aided my research more than I can even say.
As a visual person, it was fantastic to look at these images, read the descriptions and picture how things would look at my fictional mines.
This advertisement was such a help to me because the illustration lets you look inside the various levels of the mill and see how they were built into the hills.
This is an image of the Eureka & Excelsior Mine mill building in the Cracker Creek District, Oregon. You can see how it’s built into the hill, quite similar to the illustration in the advertisement.
This image shows the vanner room at the Bonanaza Mine, which was one of the top producing mines during the mining heyday in the Baker City region. It was located four miles from Greenhorn City which straddled both the Baker and Grant county lines.
Vanning is a process of separating the material of value from that which is worthless. Typically, a powdered sample of orestuff is swirled with water on the blade of a shovel and then given a series of upward flicking motions. The heavier ore is tossed up through the water and appears as a crescent shaped patch at the top of the charge with the lighter material that is unusable below. In the 19th century, the process was automated and used to separate ore on an industrial scale. The Frue Vanner was a widely-adopted machine, invented in 1874 by W.B. Frue in Canada.
With a Frue vanner, a continuous rubber belt (usually 4 feet wide and about 27.5 feet long, shown in the center of this photo) passed over rollers to from the surface of an inclined plane. The orestuff was concentrate on in the belt and the belt traveled uphill from three to twelve feet per minute while being shaken anywhere from 180-200 times. Crushed orestuff from the stamps fed onto the belt. As it traveled uphill, it met small jets of water which gradually washed the gangue (the commercially valueless material in which ore is found) off the bottom of the belt. The heavier ore adhered to the belt as it went over the top roller and passed into a box containing water where the ore was deposited. To make this work, anywhere from three to six gallons of water per minute was required. One machine could treat approximately six tons per twenty-four hours of orestuff.
This is a photo of the stamping room at the Golden Gate mine, also located near Greenhorn City. There are ten stamps shown here. The stamp is a large mechanical device used to crush ore and extract minerals. Repeatedly, the stamps and raised and dropped onto ore that is fed into the mill, until the coarse ore is reduced to a finer material that can be further processed. The number of stamps used depended on the size of the mill and the amount of ore being taken out of the mine.
The Red Boy Mine (also located near Greenhorn City) boasted it’s own laboratory, at least in this 1902 photo. On-site labs were considered to be a strategic value to a mine. Among the work done there was testing and sampling to derive critical operational, metallurgical, and environmental data needed to make the most of mining and mineral processing production.
This amazing photo (undated) was taken at the Bonanza Mine. Five men are working in a tunnel wielding four-pound hammers that were called “single jacks” and steel drills. Note the candles on a wire stuck in cracks in the walls to provide light. Total production at this mine from 1899-1904 was just shy of a million dollars. It was mostly a gold mine, although they did find some silver. Reports show total production from the mine totaled $1.75 million dollars.
And this awesome image is taken inside the superintendent’s cabin at the St. Anthony Mine in 1901. One might assume the woman in the photo is the superintendent’s wife. Many of the mines refused to allow women in the camp and were called a “boar’s nest.”
If you’d like to read more about mining in this region of Oregon, there’s a lot of detail in this digital report.
And if you’d like to read about the adventures of my characters at the fictional mines that exist only in my head, you’ll find Graydon (Grady) Gaffney at the Lucky Larkspur Mine in Gift of Hope.
When his affections are spurned by the girl he plans to wed, Graydon Gaffney rides off in the swirling snow, determined to stay far away from fickle females. Then a voice in the storm draws him to a woman and her two sweet children. Despite his intentions to guard his emotions, all three members of the DeVille family threaten to capture his heart.
Giavanna DeVille holds the last frayed edges of her composure in a tenuous grasp. In a moment of desperation, she leaves her sleeping children in her cabin and ventures out into a storm to release her pent-up frustrations where no one can hear her cries. Much to her surprise, a man appears through the blinding snow. He gives her a shoulder to cry on and something even more precious. . . hope.
Can the two of them move beyond past heartaches to accept the gift of hope for their future?
You’ll also find the characters of my latest book Dumplings and Dynamite (releasing tomorrow!) at the Crescent Creek Mine, up in the hills out of Baker City.
Widow Hollin Hughes doesn’t care how long it takes or the depths of deception required to discover how her husband really died. She’s determined to unearth the truth and unravel the mystery surrounding his death. Then a new dynamite man arrives at the mine and throws all her plans off kilter.
With a smile that makes females of any age swoon, Deputy Seth Harter can charm his way into or out of almost anything. When he’s sent undercover to Crescent Creek Mine, even the cranky cook seems entirely immune to his rugged appeal, making him wonder if he’s losing his touch. Eager to get to the bottom of a series of unexplained deaths, Seth counts on catching the criminals. He just didn’t anticipate a tempestuous woman claiming his heart in the process.
Brimming with humor, tidbits from history, and a sweet, unexpected love, don’t miss out on a heartwarming romance packed with adventure.
And here’s a little excerpt from the story:
A flash of pity swept through him for the baby’s mother who lost her husband and was now working for the contemptible Eustace Gilford. He had no doubt the woman had to rise in the wee hours of the morning to be able to cook a big breakfast for a camp full of miners. It had to be challenging to cook and care for such a newly-born child.
Mrs. Parrish hurried back into the kitchen, saw him holding the baby, and her pale skin blanched white.
“What are you doing?” she asked in a harsh, quiet tone. She moved across the room and took the baby from him with such haste, he had no idea how she’d managed to reach him in so few steps. He couldn’t be certain, but he thought maybe she’d forgotten about her limp.
“I hoped if I held her, she’d stop crying. It worked,” he said, shoving his hands in his pockets, although he moved a step closer to the widow. “What’s her name?”
“I’ve never met anyone named Keeva. Is it a family name?” he asked.
The woman merely nodded. “It was her great-grandmother’s name.”
“Then I’m sure she’d be proud to have a beautiful little granddaughter to share it with.”
The woman looked at him over her shoulder with an uncertain glare, as though she couldn’t quite figure him out, before she turned back to the baby. “Breakfast is on the table. The men will be in soon. If you want something to eat, you best get out there. If Mr. Gilford didn’t mention it, the men pack their own lunches from the food on the tables near the door.”
“He did say something about that. Thank you, Mrs. Parrish.” Seth tipped his head to her then made his way to the dining room where men began trickling inside.
Eustace directed Seth to a chair at the far end of the long table. When everyone was seated, he pointed to Seth. “Meet our newest employee, Seth Harter. He’ll be drilling and blasting.”
Mrs. Parrish nearly dropped the pot of coffee she carried at this announcement but quickly recovered. Seth wondered how hard he’d have to work to charm the truth out of her. In spite of her appearance, something about her made him look forward to trying.
I hope you had an amazing, beautiful, memorable, sweet Christmas!
Are you out hitting the after-Christmas sales today? Or maybe taking it easy, lingering over a leftover piece of pie and cup of spicy tea?
I’ve been thinking about these days that fall between Christmas and New Years. They were always such fun during my growing up years (and not just because I didn’t have to go to school!).
Both of my parents came from good-sized families and we were often the house that hosted one side or the other for Christmas Day.
Often, relatives who didn’t come for that year’s Christmas dinner would trickle in over the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, bringing fun surprises and joining in our outdoor fun of sledding or ice skating.
In particular, I remember a year when we hosted my mom’s side of the family for Christmas but all of Dad’s family came on New Year’s Day bringing a bounty of delicious treats and filling the house with laughter. My mom made a huge pot of chili and batches of gooey cinnamon rolls that were quickly devoured.
However you spend these last days of 2019, saying goodbye to the year and preparing to welcome in a new one, I hope they bring you great joy and a bounty of hope, grace, and love!
2 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 package active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tbsp. salt
1 cup melted butter
¼ cup cinnamon
1 cup sugar
4 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup milk
3 tbsp. melted butter
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Scald the milk, oil and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat (bring heat to nearly a boil, but don’t let it boil!). Set aside and cool to lukewarm (think temperature of a baby’s bottle). Sprinkle yeast on top of milk and let rest for one minute.
Add four cups of the flour and stir until just combined. It is going to be sticky. Cover with a tea towel and set in a warm place for an hour.
Remove the towel and add baking powder, baking soda, salt and final 1/2 cup of flour. Stir to combine.
On a floured surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, somewhere in the proximity of 10 inches by 30 inches.
Pour melted butter over dough. Use your fingers or a knife to spread evenly. Sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar. You can also mix cinnamon and sugar into the butter before pouring over dough. Either way works fine.
Beginning at the long end farthest from you, roll the rectangle tightly toward you. Use both hands and work slowly, keeping the roll nice and tight. Some filling may ooze out and that is OK (and give you something to snitch later.)
When you have the roll finished, pinch the outside edge of the roll to create a seam. You should now have a long log. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 1 1/2 inch slices. You should get about 25 rolls.
Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray and place rolls in the pan. I like to use smaller pans and freeze them. If you want to give cinnamon rolls as a holiday gift, put them in disposable aluminum pans, then they are ready for gift giving!
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover the pans with a tea towel and set aside for about 20 minutes. Remove towel and bake for about 15 minutes or until rolls are golden brown. Do not overcook! While the rolls are baking, whip up the icing.
Mix the powdered sugar, butter, cream cheese, milk and vanilla in a bowl. Icing should be thick but pourable.
When the rolls come out of the oven, pour on the icing. Make sure you cover every last bit of roll. This step is vitally important for the overall happiness of your taste buds.
Put one on a plate, take a deep breath inhaling that decadent cinnamon aroma, and enjoy!
Today is the release day for the third book in my Gifts of Christmas series. If you’re looking for something new to read, I hope you’ll take a look at this sweet historical romance that can stand alone.
Handsome and engaging, Marc Rawlings could have his choice of girls, but he only has eyes for gentle Amy Madsen. Ready to begin a future with her, he instead asks her to wait for him while he heads off to war. Bound by his duty to his country, Marc leaves his heart with her, counting on the day they’ll be reunited.
Amy Madsen spends her days working in her family’s bakery and her nights gazing up at the sky, hoping her fiancé knows she’s thinking of him. When tragic news arrives, Amy refuses to believe it, clinging to her promises to Marc and her faith that he’ll return to her.
It will take a miracle and a unique gift of faith to bring a happy holiday during a wartime Christmas in 1942.
Gift of Faith is the third book in the Gifts of Christmas series, a collection of heartwarming, wholesome historical romances, featuring precious gifts given straight from the heart.
When I was thinking about a title for today’s blog post, of course my brain went right to Cowboys and Christmas. But from there, it tripped along over a fun old Christmas song. Emmylou Harris’ version is my favorite and the one playing on the soundtrack in my head this morning.
Truthfully, I’ve had Christmas on the brain for months and months (okay, maybe it’s been there since last Christmas!). But I have a good reason. Well, several good reasons, but I’m excited to share three of them with you today.
The first reason I’m so excited for the holiday season is my newly released non-fiction book – A Cowboy Christmas.
The book features interviews with rodeo and ranch families who share their favorite holiday traditions. Readers will find holiday how-tos, gift ideas, decorating tips and recipes (more than 70 of them). Some of the recipes are my family favorites and others come from the ranch and rodeo families. I tested (and tasted!) them all. I also had fun taking all the photographs of the food and how-tos. It was a great learning experience and one I’m so happy I had the opportunity to explore.
Several of the families mentioned in the book have had their lives touched by a special organization called the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. The JCCF steps in when a rodeo athlete sustains a catastrophic injury and is unable to work for an extended time. They’ve provided $8 million in funds to more than 1,100 athletes, giving the cowboys a hand up when they need it most. And every dollar donated goes directly into the fund without any administrative fees removed.
Back in 2013, I was working on the first book in a new series and reached out to the Justin Sportsmedicine Team with some questions. They kindly helped me and that’s when I first learned about the JCCF.
This is the sixth year I’ll donate ten percent of my book proceeds to the fund.
Any Shanna Hatfield book purchased between now and Christmas counts and will help benefit a great cause.
There’s nothing like a little Christmas glow to light up a holiday romance. . .
When the bright lights and big city lost its luster, Carol Bennett returns to her Montana hometown disillusioned and ready to embrace a simple, quiet existence. After she takes over the Christmas Mountain bookstore, she is determined to forget the glitzy world that left her with broken dreams. The store provides the perfect place to hide from her past while indulging her secret joy of reading sappy romances.
Then she encounters a cowboy too handsome for his own good and too insightful for hers. Although she adores his grandmother, rancher Tim Burke is stubborn, bold, and opinionated. He refuses to let her hide when he sees her all too clearly and does his best to draw her out of her protective shell.
In spite of her determination to detest the man, the sparks sizzling between them could light up the town’s Christmas tree. Carol has to decide if she’ll choose being brave and latching onto happiness or staying safely tucked away in her store.
Will two such opposite people be able to find love somewhere between romance and Christmas?
Also in its sixth year, I’m thrilled to invite you all to join me for the annual Cowboys and Christmas party taking place on Facebook November 7! There will be guest authors, game, giveaways, and so much fun! Hope to see you all there!
What about you?
What is one thing you are looking forward to about the holidays?
Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of Between Christmas and Romance!
I spent my growing up years in an area where row crops were every bit as prevalent as wheat and hay fields.
One of the most popular row crops (next to onions) happens to be potatoes. Some of our neighbors grew acres and acres of them. One year, as a fundraising project for our senior class, we went and picked up all the “cull” potatoes from their field and sold them for something like a $1 per bag by going door to door in our small town. That was not the most fun any 17-year-old ever had.
I also just happened to grow up in the same valley where one famous potato company started and continues today, known as Ore-Ida.
If you’ve ever stood in the freezer section at your grocery store and looked at the selection of frozen tater tots, French fries, or hash browns, you’ve probably seen Ore-Ida potatoes with their trademark red bag and distinctive logo.
Ore-Ida is currently produced and distributed by the H.J. Heinz Company, now part of Kraft Heinz. The primary production facility for Ore-Ida is located in the community of Ontario, Oregon, that sits right on the border between Oregon and Idaho. The company once employed more than 1,000 people, but today has around 600 employees.
Back in the mid-1930s, entrepreneurs and brothers F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg began growing sweet corn in eastern Oregon. Their first company, Grigg Brothers, became one of the largest distributors of sweet corn in the United States.
Then, in 1949, with financial backing from their brother-in-law Otis Williams, the brothers rented a frozen food plant located in Ontario, at the border with Idaho, and converted it into a potato-processing facility. The three men purchased the facility in the early 1950s. In 1952, Oregon Frozen Foods Company was founded.
Initially, the company produced and sold frozen corn and French fries. In 1953, Tater Tots were invented and patented by Ore-Ida. The tots were made from seasoned slivers of potatoes left over from the French fry production. (Oddly enough, Tater Tots are the brand’s most popular product).
The company went on to build a second plant in Burley, Idaho, where many of their potato fields were located. The company’s name became a syllabic abbreviation of the two states where they ran the companies and the original logo consisted of outlines of Oregon and Idaho with Ore-Ida superimposed in italicized letters.
Ore-Ida was acquired by the H.J. Heinz Company in 1965. Ore-Ida’s headquarters were located in Boise, Idaho, until 1999 when a new frozen foods division was created at Heinz’s corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
So the next time you reach into the freeze for a bag of fries or tots, you’ll know a little history of the company of you bought the Ore-Ida brand.
Of course, I have to share a recipe with you today. This one includes Tater Tots and is easy to whip together for a fast meal.
Tater Tot Casserole
2 pounds of ground beef
1 package of Ore-Ida Tater Tots
1 cup shredded colby-jack cheese (or cheddar)
1 tsp. onion flakes (or grated fresh onion)
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
1 teaspoon seasoning (like Mrs. Dash)
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place tater tots into a 9 x 13 casserole pan (I lightly spray mine with non-stick spray first) and set in the oven while you brown the ground beef. I add the onion flakes, seasoning and salt and pepper to the ground beef. When the hamburger is browned, mix it with the cream of mushroom soup and spoon over the top of the tater tots. Layer on cheese and cover with foil. Bake for about 20 minutes or until soup is hot and bubbly. Remove foil and bake for a few more minutes until cheese is a melted layer of luscious gooey-ness. Remove from oven and serve. I like to sprinkle the top of my casserole with a bit of chopped fresh parsley. Captain Cavedweller likes his straight up “without any of that weird green stuff on there.”
What is your favorite fast or easy dinner recipe using potatoes?
Stop in later to see if your name has been added to the list of semi-finalists!
The past several weeks, I’ve been working on a new book in my Baker City Brides series which is set in the 1890s in Baker City, Oregon.
The town got its start from gold mines in the area back in the 1860s. The gold played out, or so people thought, then enjoyed another boom around 1890.
The story, titled Dumplings and Dynamite, takes place for the most part at a mining camp.
This is a photo of the E&E Mine out of Baker City. It appears much as I envision the mine where my story takes place.
I’m fascinated with the mill buildings that sprung up against the hillsides at mines like this one – the Golden Gate Mine near what once was called Greenhorn City.
It’s hard for me to envision what it was like working in a mine because I wouldn’t have lasted a day. Probably not even an hour. I don’t like dark, enclosed spaces. At all. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to get up day after day and spend hour after hour in the bowels of a mountain digging out some other man’s fortune.
The image above shows mine workers from the Bonanza Mine (one of the most successful of its time) near Baker City.The men are wielding “single jacks,” four-pound hammers, and steel drills. For light, the miners had candles on a wire stuck in a crack in the wall.
In my story, the hero is working as a powder monkey (a new term I learned in my research), also known as the brave individuals who worked with the explosives at a mine. The powder monkeys, or powdermen, were in charge of rotating the explosives to ensure older explosives were used first, ordering explosives, transportation of explosives, and keeping up the area where the explosives were stored. And in my story, he also sets off the charges, although, in reality, this job was often left to the miners who were digging out the ore.
It was while I was trying to dig up research on dynamite usage in the early 1890s that I happened across an interesting story. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s fun reading, anyway. The source is from Richard Dillon’s book Shanghaiing Days. New York: Coward, 1961.
According to the story, a young man named George Banks had a job working on the portage railroad at Cascade Locks, Oregon. It was the mid-1890s and shanghaiing was a rampant sport at the docks in Portland. In fact, it was a known fact the port was one of the worst places in the world to be kidnapped around that time.
One day, George (known as a confident, upright, rock-solid fellow) was in Portland picking up a load of freight and he missed his returning sailing on the riverboat. Stuck on the wharf with crates of merchandise for work, he didn’t want to have to wait for morning to leave.
A few friendly fellows approached George and offered to help him out. They made a deal for George to pay them for transporting him and his crates, and the men soon returned with a boat. The men helped George load his crates and they cast off, heading the wrong direction. At first, George merely puzzled over what they were doing. Then one of the men explained to him he was a sailor now and they were taking him to their ship where he’d be stuck working for them as little more than a free laborer.
George took exception to this plan.
“You ain’t gonna shanghai me,” George informed his kidnappers, reaching into his pocket. “I’ll blow you to hell first.”
His hand came out full of blasting caps.
All those crates the men had loaded were full of dynamite and George had the nickname among his friends as the “Dynamite Kid.”
Needless to say, the boat turned around and took George where he wanted to go. After he unloaded his cargo, he paid the men as he’d originally agreed to do, then went about his work.
I think I would have liked to have met George. Talk about pluck and determination!
Although I’m not quite ready to do a cover reveal of Dumplings and Dynamite, I will share a little excerpt with you today:
Seth gathered an armload of wood and carried it inside the cookshack where mouth-watering aromas filled the air.
Long tables and benches filled the room. Through a doorway, he could see a woman and the two younger boys he’d noticed earlier scurrying around the kitchen, scooping food into bowls and dishing it onto platters.
“Need some wood?” Seth asked as he walked through the doorway.
The woman glanced up at him in surprise, but quickly recovered. She waggled a gravy-coated spoon in the direction of the wood box then went back to scraping gravy into a large bowl.
“I’m Seth. Mr. Gilford just hired me,” he said after he dumped the wood he carried into the box by the stove. He stuffed his hands in his pockets to keep from snatching a golden flapjack off a platter one of the boys carried out to the table.
“I’m Mrs. Parrish, the cook,” she said, not meeting his gaze as she handed the gravy bowl to a boy then picked up two platters full of bacon.
“Allow me,” Seth said, taking the platters from her. The woman might have been twenty or fifty. From her stringy hair, rumpled dress, and bedraggled petticoat hanging an inch below her skirt hem, she looked rather unkempt, but she smelled clean and her eyes were bright.
In fact, they were an unusual shade somewhere between gray and green that made him think of the sagebrush that grew so prevalent to the south and east of Baker City. In spite of circles beneath her eyes and smudges of flour on her cheeks, her skin was smooth, without the wrinkles age brings, and dusted with a generous helping of freckles.
He glimpsed her hands. Although rough and red from hard work, they looked young, almost delicate.
Yet, the woman moved slightly humped over with the hint of a limp and when she smiled at him, he couldn’t miss the absence of her two front teeth. He stepped back and followed the boys out to the dining area, setting the platters on the table. Something about the woman bothered him and it had nothing to do with the lack of teeth. If he was a gambling man, he’d bet she was hiding something. He had a feeling Mrs. Parrish was not at all what she seemed.
Our local rodeo season is about to head into full swing next week. We are fortunate enough to live in an area where we can attend four big rodeos, one every week, for a month.
Since Captain Cavedweller and I both enjoy rodeos, this is a grand thing.
Thoughts of rodeos and the athletes that compete in them, both human and animal, made me think about a group of folks who largely go unnoticed at rodeo events — pickup men.
(If you’re thinking about the drunk guys who hang around after the rodeo ends, wrong kind of pickup men!)
The pickup men I’m referring to today have one of the most important jobs at a rodeo because they are there to keep the athletes safe. In the arena, they look after the cowboy at the end of his ride as well as the horses and bulls used in rough stock events and they help with the overall production. They might work for the stock contractor or be employed directly by the rodeo association.
Regardless of how they come to be there, pickup men are often referred to as the ghosts of an arena. They ride in, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere, help a cowboy off a ton of twisting, bucking beast, then guide the animal from the arena before vanishing again.
Depending on the size of the rodeo, you might see two of them working together while bigger rodeos have as many as six working at a time.
Pickup men are in the arena from start to finish, but if all goes smoothly, rodeo fans might not notice them at all. Riding horses is second nature to many of the men who work as pickup men. They have to be able to rope a bucking bronc or a rank bull. They also have to be ale to think on the fly and make quick decisions. Out in the arena there isn’t time for talking and deciding what to do. They have to act intuitively.
Once a cowboy and horse bust out of the chute, the pickup men are watching every move, ready to ride to the rescue or offer a hand when the eight-second buzzer sounds.
During a ride, most anything can happen and does.
Competitors can get hung up in rigging or stirrups and find themselves being dragged around the arena or getting an eyeball of dirt while dodging flying hooves.
While their actions aren’t choreographed, the way pick up men work together can appear so flawless and performed with such ease, it looks like they’ve practiced the intricate dance that is based on their quick reactions and know-how.
Pickup men have cowboys crawling all over them and their horses which makes it essential they can handle a cowboy hanging off his shoulder.
Or his neck, or whatever else the athlete happens to get a hold of in his scramble to get off a wildly bucking bronc.
The equipment a pickup man uses is vitally important to a smooth, successful rodeo, too. His saddle has to fit just right, many use specialized bits, and they all have a favorite brand of rope they use. Many use breast collars on their horses to keep their saddle from sliding back if they have to rope a bull. And it gives a little added advertising space to their stock contractor or sponsor.
The pickup man might wear shin guards, or kickpads, around their lower legs to protect from flying hooves, scrambling boots from the rodeo athlete as he tries to get off a bucking animal, or even just a saddle bronc saddle rubbing against it when he has the horse snubbed to get it out of the arena.
Another piece of equipment no pickup man would work without is his chaps. They provide another layer of protection against the bucking horses and their saddles.
It’s also important for their horses to be well-trained and able to keep up with a reaction that happens in a split-second. Many pickup men have a string of horses they use, rotating them out between each event. One horse might do better picking up bareback riders while one might do better when it’s time to chase bulls out of the arena. Most pickup men will use splint boots for their horses for protection against injury.
Some pickup men work smaller rodeos they can catch on a weekend and still keep their regular job (like ranching).
Others travel non-stop on the rodeo circuit right along with the rodeo athletes, gone from home for weeks, sometimes months, at a time.
At the end of the day, the pickup men are the unsung heroes who might have prevented a cowboy from receiving a serious injury, or kept a bull from charging into a crowd.
So, the next time you are at a rodeo, take a moment to watch these men at work and think about all they do to make the rodeo a safe place for everyone to enjoy.
If you enjoy reading about rodeos, check out my Rodeo Romance series. Each book can be read as a stand alone and features a different rodeo event or personality. Right now, Racing Christmasis on sale for just 99 cents! The hero in the story just happens to be a pickup man.
“From the realistic rodeo scenes to the tender love scenes Shanna Hatfield keeps you reading.”
Jodi Thomas, New York Times Bestselling Author
She’s racing to save the ranch
He’s struggling to win her heart. . . again
Brylee Barton has just one goal in mind: win the barrel racing world championship. Not for the glory, but for the attached cash prize that could save her family’s ranch. When an injury leaves her at the mercy of the very same copper-headed, silver-tongued cowboy she once vowed to loathe forever, she has no choice but to swallow her pride and accept his help.
Fun-loving, easy-going Shaun Price has a million dollar smile, more charm than he can channel, and a string of ex-girlfriends rumored to have started their own support group. When the one woman he’s never quite managed to get out of his head or heart needs his assistance, he jumps at the chance to help. Little does he realize how challenging it will be to keep from falling for her all over again.
Will Shaun and Brylee discover the gift of forgiveness, and experience their own happily-ever-after?
A few weeks ago, I was working on promotional plans for my books for the summer. As I browsed through my books, a little niggling thought kept popping up… one that said it was time for more book cover makeovers.
Every once in a while, I’ll give a book cover a new look. It’s fun and allows my brain to use some different creative skills.
This time, the series I decided could use a new look is one of my favorites — the Grass Valley Cowboys.
Set in the tiny Oregon town of Grass Valley, this series focuses on (as the title implies) the cowboys who live there. Specifically, cowboys from the Thompson and Morgan families.
I had such a good time writing these books and I do plan to write a few more before I bring the series to an end. The inspiration for the series came when I happened to drive through the area on the way to spend the weekend with my aunt and cousins. I just couldn’t help thinking what a fun setting Grass Valley would provide for a story. Not only that, but one of my dear friends grew up in the area, and had stories to share about things that happened there.
The settlement of Grass Valley began with the establishment of a few stock ranches. Settlers began to arrive in the area and were soon plowing the cattle-sustaining grass to plant wheat fields. Dr. Charles R. Rollins, a physician from New Hampshire, is credited with establishing Grass Valley when he arrived in the area with a small party of pioneers. Dr. Rollins had an easy time choosing a name for the location since the rye grass grew thick and tall in the alkaline soil. Rollins built a large two-story hotel, which included a clinic from which he prescribed and sold medicine.
The Grass Valley Cowboys series takes place in modern times, but as I wrote the stories, I often envisioned what life was like when the area was yet settled. When deer hid from hunters in the tall grass and those crossing the Oregon Trail pressed onward for the fir-dotted hills of the Willamette Valley.
Here’s a little about the books and a look at the brand-spanking new covers!
The Cowboy’s Christmas Plan
Grass Valley Cowboys Book 1
Cadence Greer’s plans for a happy-ever-after are quickly derailed when her fiancé runs off with his secretary a week before their wedding. Homeless, jobless, and jilted, she escapes to Grass Valley, Oregon, where she takes a job as a housekeeper and cook to seven cowboys on a sprawling ranch.
Trey Thompson is a well-respected pillar of the community, running a successful ranch with his brother. All he wanted was someone to cook meals and keep the house clean. When he hires Cadence Greer for the job, he gets more than he ever planned on, including a sassy little redheaded orphan.
The Cowboy’s Spring Romance
Grass Valley Cowboys Book 2
Trent Thompson doesn’t have many secrets, except for the torch he’s carried for the new schoolteacher since she moved to Grass Valley more than three years ago. Instead of asking her out, he’s dated every single female in a thirty-mile radius, giving her the impression he holds no interest in knowing her.
Lindsay Pierce moved to Grass Valley to teach and quickly fell in love with the small community as well as the delightful people who live there. Everyone welcomes her warmly except for one obnoxious cowboy who goes out of his way to ignore her.
Will Trent be able to maintain the pretense when he has to babysit his niece, who happens to be in Lindsay’s class?
The Cowboy’s Summer Love
Grass Valley Cowboys Book 3
After six years in the service and two tours of duty in the middle of a war zone, Travis Thompson eagerly returns home to Grass Valley, ready to resume his life on the Triple T Ranch with his two older brothers. Ever the wild-child, Travis doesn’t disappoint as he rolls from one adventure to another in his quest to keep his adrenaline pumping. He needs a release for the tension constantly building inside him, especially after he discovers the girl he’s loved his entire life just moved back to Grass Valley.
In love with Travis Thompson since she was old enough to notice boys, Tess Morgan can’t stay away from him no matter how hard she tries. Convinced Travis sees her only as his best friend’s sister, she wants him to realize she is the woman who could love him deeply and passionately.
The Cowboy’s Autumn Fall
Grass Valley Cowboys Book 4
Brice Morgan thought love at first sight was some ridiculous notion of school girls and old ladies who read too many romance novels. At least he does until he falls hard and fast for an intriguing and thoroughly perplexing woman at a friend’s wedding.
Bailey Bishop attends her cousin’s wedding with no intention of extending her brief visit to Oregon. Married to her career as a paleontologist, Bailey tries to ignore her intense attraction to her cousin’s best friend, Brice. Ready to return home to Denver, Bailey instead accepts the opportunity to explore a new dig site not far from the family’s ranch in Grass Valley. Can she keep her feelings for Brice from derailing her plans for the future?
The Cowboy’s New Heart
Grass Valley Cowboys Book 5
Former bull rider Hart Hammond spent twenty years building a business empire while successfully avoiding love. He buried his heart the same day he made his last bull ride and has vowed to never make the mistake of loving a woman again. Then he meets the beautiful mother of the fun-loving Thompson tribe.
Years after her husband died, Denni Thompson can’t bear to think of giving her heart to anyone else. With three newly married sons, a grandchild on the way, and a busy life, Denni doesn’t entertain any notions of romance until she encounters the handsome new owner of Grass Valley’s gas station.
The Cowboy’s Last Goodbye
Grass Valley Cowboys Book 6
With his siblings and friends entangled in the state of matrimony, Ben Morgan is more determined than ever to remain blissfully single. Despite his vehement refusal to commit to a relationship, he can’t help but envision a future with the sweet, charming woman who unknowingly captures his heart.
Harper Hayes is an expert at bad relationships. After vowing never to wed, the idea enters her mind with alarming frequency after she meets Ben Morgan. Although the handsome cowboy makes it clear he’s only interested in having fun, Harper’s dog and crazy uncle have other ideas.
You can find all the books in the series on Amazon .