What Could Go Wrong? – A Trip Up the Cattle Trail with Regina Jennings

 

Karen here: We have a special guest with us today at Wildflower Junction. Regina Jennings is a debut novelist for Bethany House, and she’s written a fabulous western romance that  features a beautiful Mexican heroine and a handsome Texas rancher. They come from two different worlds, yet both carry secret heartaches that have dictated the paths their lives have taken. Paths that suddenly cross. (By the way – I read Sixty Acres and a Bride last week and loved it!) So without further ado . . . here’s Regina!

In my new release, Sixty Acres and a Bride, a heartsick rancher returning home from the cattle trail searches for the courage to reenter society. You’d think going to church socials and attending barn dances wouldn’t be that scary, but Weston would much rather tangle with the dangers of Old Chisholm’s trail.

Today, whether you’re in Central Texas or Oklahoma the name Chisholm is as common as windstorms, oil derricks and football stars. Seeing how the cattle trails were to 1870 ranchers what the personal computer was to Silicon Valley, it’s only natural that the name is applied to everything from churches to subdivisions. The Chisholm Trail was responsible for many fortunes—and misfortunes.

Walking cattle up a trail sounds simple enough—one cowboy for every 200 cattle or so, just moseying them northwards as they ate and sunned in the mild spring temperatures.

Of course, while the spring temperatures in Oklahoma and Texas might be mild, the weather is anything but. Thunderstorms can be a weekly occurrence capable of producing hailstones the size of grapefruits, not to mention tornadoes. The cowboys had to hide in a… um… actually shelter was scarce on the Chisholm Trail. While the flat prairie was ideal for driving cattle, it left cowboys as vulnerable as a spider in a frying pan when storms struck. And if you found a tree to huddle beneath, you risked dying of a lightning strike.

When lightning did strike there was a good chance you’d get yourself a stampede (or stompede as they sometimes called it). Herds of up to 3000 cattle could run from 5 to 10 miles, trampling each other to death and anything else that stood in their way. In good times, the trail bosses paid tolls for safe passage across Indian Territory, but some stampedes were purposely started by opportunists looking to steal a few head of cattle or horses in the confusion.

Another peril our stalwart drovers faced was river crossings. Once the cattle sidestepped any quicksand they could swim across, but a branch floating downstream was all it took to turn the high-strung longhorns. Soon the herd would be swimming in circles—called milling—growing weaker and weaker until they were swept downstream or drowned. Halting a milling herd was extremely dangerous as the cowboy and his horse could easily get pulled under by the thrashing cattle before they could lead them to the riverbank.

So why risk life and limb? Because those cattle that were stripping their pastures and trampling their gardens were worth $40 a piece at the railhead in Kansas. In Texas they’d only bring $4 a head. That 700 mile trail was all that stood between a man and his fortune. Naturally the common cowboy’s pay wasn’t that good, but he had dreams of someday driving his own herd to market.

Unless a wealthy rancher like Weston wanted to make himself scarce, he most likely would’ve hired those hapless cowboys, but our protagonist needed space and there’s plenty of space available on the trail. Fortunately for all involved, Weston couldn’t hide forever. There’s a surprise waiting at home in the lovely form of a senorita who is in desperate need of a hero.

How about y’all? Do you have any stories of animals behaving badly?

Leave a comment to be entered for a chance to win a copy of Sixty Acres and a Bride.

Sixty Acres and a Bride

She’s Finally Found a Place to Call Home . . .
How Far Will She Go to Save It?

With nothing to their names, young widow Rosa Garner and her mother-in-law return to their Texas family ranch. Only now the county is demanding back taxes and the women have just three months to pay.

Though facing eviction, Rosa falls in love with the countryside and the wonderful extended family who want only her best. They welcome her vivacious spirit and try to help her navigate puzzling American customs. She can’t help but stand out, though, and her beauty captures attention. Where some offer help with dangerous strings attached, only one man seems honorable. But when Weston Garner, still grieving his own lost love, is unprepared to give his heart, Rosa must decide to what lengths she will go to save her future.