I visited a local apple orchard yesterday with my family and came back loaded with apples, cider, fudge and pumpkin butter–and we only went for the apple donuts!
One of the things I enjoyed when I was a child was to take family trips in autumn to see the colors and enjoy the Apple Days celebration in Julian, CA. Perhaps that is a reason I set my stories there. Nostalgia. In each of my books I’ve given a nod to the thing that kept Julian on the map after the gold rush there had played out — Apples.
James Madison, a widower, came to the area in 1867 looking for a good area for a ranch. He was born in New York, but grew up in New Orleans. He began breeding race horses (the Shiloh breed of quarter horse) and also Durham cattle. In the early 1870s, he and Thomas Brady traveled to San Bernardino, brought back a wagon-load of apple trees and planted an orchard.
The higher elevation and increased rainfall in the land around Julian, along with the type of soil, made the it perfect location for a different kind of fruit other than the lemons and grapefruits and avocado trees that did so well nearer the coast. Before long, Madison also had blackberries, peaches, grapes and almond trees that produced exemplary fruit. (He also grew wheat as well as had a half-share in the Hubbard Mine. He was a very busy man!)
Many other inhabitants of the area, began planting orchards. By the 1890’s apples from Julian were shipped throughout the country and winning county fairs. They won blue ribbons at the 1893 Worlds’ Fair in Chicago and in 1904 at the St. Louis Fair. In 1907, Julian apples won eight gold medals in the Jamestown Virginia Exposition, one of them being the Wilder Medal, which is the highest award given by the American Pomological Society.
No other fruit has had the popularity of apples in art, literature, poems, and songs.
The original wild apple comes from Kazakhstan. This was found through following the DNA trail. These wild apples are still prevalent there today.
The original wild version can be terrifically sour. It is known as the “spitter” because the initial reaction upon taking a bite is to spit it out. It is only domestication and grafting that developed the sweet and tart flavors.
John Chapman (a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed) collected seeds from Pennsylvania cider mills and carried them west, starting orchards in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. These apples were too sour for eating and were used to make liquor.
The Temperance Movement in the 1880s viewed the apple as sinful (see previous) and pushed for the burning of apple trees.
This is my standard recipe for Apple Crisp that I’ve been making for my family for years. (I prefer it warm, with a splash of milk to balance the sweetness.)
In an 8” x 8” buttered pan:
Fill pan with sliced apples OR 1 large can of apple pie filling.
In a bowl mix:
1 cup flour
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. cinnamon
Add one beaten egg and mix with fork until crumbly.
Spread over fruit.
Melt one stick of butter and pour over mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
“Here I lay me down to sleep To wait the coming morrow, Perhaps success, perhaps defeat, And everlasting sorrow.
Let come what will I’ll try it on, My condition can’t be worse; And if there’s money in that box “Tis munny in my purse!”
Imagine being the driver for a Wells Fargo stage and carrying money or gold from one town to the next when out of the brush steps a polite, slim man on foot, wearing a long duster and bowler hat, with a flour sack over his head –two holes cut out in order to see. Oh yes—and the man is carrying a shotgun.
“Throw down that box!”
* * * * * *
With a list of 28 known robberies in northern California and southern Oregon, all performed on foot with an amiable, polite nature, without foul language, and without firing a shot, Black Bart acquired notoriety during his lifetime and became a legend. In the midst of bandits and thieves who were brought down in a gunfight or jailed or hung from a tree, this man could not be caught!
Black Bart’s real name was Charles Bowles. He was born in 1829 in Norfolk, England and emigrated with his family to New York when he was a toddler. His early years were spent farming. In 1849 he sought his fortune in the California Gold Rush. In 1854 he married, and in 1860 he and his wife were living with their four children in Illinois. He served in the Civil War before returning home to his family in 1865. By 1867 he was off again, searching for gold in Montana.
In 1875 at the age of 46, he made his first $160 from a robbery in northern California. It was at his fourth hold-up that he left a poem he had written and signed it at the bottom Black Bart – PO8. A second poem was left at his next robbery. Although that is the total of known poems he wrote, it sealed his fame as the poet bandit. The other intriguing fact that marked his individuality is that, being afraid of horses, he always traveled on foot.
His final holdup took place in the exact same spot as his first in 1883, this time for his largest haul – $4200 worth of gold. In the years between, Black Bart did well financially as a highwayman. He would hold up a stage one day and the next day be fifty miles away. As he became more well-known, amateur sleuths would rush to the site of the hold-up to try to trace his tracks, only to obliterate them before the detectives could arrive.
Since he always wore the flour sack over his head, it took many years to put together a description of the gentleman bandit. Individuals who had talked with him in passing could not believe him to be the Black Bart. He was simply too pleasant, a “devilish nice fellow!” It was by a fluke that he was caught (and that is another story!) Wells Fargo detective J.B. Hume and detective H.N. Morse finally caught up to Black Bart.
Upon being processed for his sentence in San Quentin, he showed his spunk. On the form he is described as being five feet, eight inches, light complexion, and with a nearly white mustache and hair. He weighed 160 pounds. He declined using tobacco or alcohol or opium in any form. He didn’t use foul language. When asked about his education, instead of answering with the number of his completed grades, he simply replied, “Liberal!”
He spent four years of his six-year sentence and was released on good behavior in 1888. After that, he faded into legend—literally. People would say they had seen him, but he would slip away before anybody could be sure. Copycat poets and small-time bandits would say they were him. A Robin Hood-type legend sprang up.
Since then, Black Bart has been the fodder of dime novels, songs, stories, TV shows, and commercials. Roads, festivals, and parades, inns and restaurants have been named in his honor.
* * * * * * * ** *
I think it might be quite interesting to sit down and have a chat with Black Bart. What about you? Who would be your choice to talk with in history?
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What is it about reunion / second chance at love stories that make them a favorite? There are a few readers here who have mentioned knowing a boy in school, only to then be separated by circumstances, and then to come back together at a class reunion, a wedding, or a chance meeting years later. I’ve read of some couples in the newspaper where they reconnected after sixty years and a marriage in-between, tying the knot again at eighty years of age! I LOVE such stories!
What is their draw? Is it hope? Is it that love truly can conquer all? Or is it that we never forget our first love…and the rush of new emotions and experiences that made up that roller coaster of a time? The romantic in me say it is all these things.
My newest release (April 2016) is a story about second chances. It is a novella in the Western Spring WeddingsAnthology~ His Springtime Bride. I hope you enjoy the excerpt here…
Released from prison, Gabe Coulter must work for his enemy to earn back the deed to his own ranch. But when his boss’s daughter, Riley Rawlins, returns home with a rebellious son after years away in the east, nothing will stop him from discovering the truth.
Riley no longer trusts the man she once loved so completely. Years of old hurts and his violent past make it impossible to forgive and allow him back in her life or that of her son.
But one thing Gabe has is pure cowboy grit. Will it be enough to make Riley see that she and his son should be a part of his future?
The coach rounded a rocky bend in the road and the village of Nuevo came into view. If she remembered correctly, the station and pen with fresh horses stood on the south side of the dusty town. From his seat overhead the driver called out announcing the place. The stagecoach slowed and finally pulled to a stop in front of the change station.
The dirt yard was empty; however, a buckboard sat off under the shade of a juniper tree. Perhaps that was her ride. The caw of a Steller’s jay broke the silence of the afternoon. A lean, broad-shouldered man stepped through the station door and out into the sunlight. She recognized him and froze. Scuffed boots, brown canvas pants, a cotton shirt with rolled-up sleeves, a green bandanna at his neck and the darkest brown eyes Riley had ever seen under a tan felt hat. Gabe Coulter.
Her breath whooshed from her like a deflating balloon. What was he doing here? When had he been released from prison? She stared at him, captivated and at the same time annoyed that after all these years he had grown more handsome. His collar-length black hair framed a face chiseled and sharp with angles, his nose straight as always, his jaw firm and square. The only thing not hard on the man was his lips…and they looked exactly as she remembered…enticing and kissable.
Abruptly, she pulled away from the window, hoping that he would walk away and never know she was there. Her heart raced. He still packed quite a presence. She swallowed, angry with herself for feeling anything at all. No amount of time was sufficient to make her forget what he’d done. She would never forgive him.
The driver placed the box step and swung open the door. “All out! Nuevo!”
She didn’t move.
“Aren’t we going, Ma?” Brody watched her.
She took a steadying breath. Perhaps it was silly to be nervous about running into Gabe after all this time. Hadn’t she just been telling herself to leave the past in the past? This was a test of her resolve. That’s all. Nothing more.
She tugged down on the hem of her shirtwaist and then straightened her straw bonnet. Ready. She stepped through the doorway and onto the box the driver had set for disembarking passengers. The bright sunlight blinded her. She wobbled slightly, her legs unused to activity and stiff after riding for four hours.
A strong hand grasped her upper arm, steadying her. The grip hardened to steel. “Riley? Riley Rawlins?”
His voice was richer, deeper, than she remembered, and he sounded astonished. Careful to keep all of her colliding thoughts contained and squashed deep inside, she looked up and met his eyes. “Hello, Gabe,” she said with cool reserve.
Then she stepped down to the ground and promptly stumbled.
He grabbed hold with his other hand and steadied her. Both grips were tight bands on her upper arms. He stared at her with unveiled shock in his eyes. “You are the company that Rawlins is expecting?”
She stiffened. “I am.”
He let go immediately. “Then I guess I’m here to fetch you.”
Her pulse raced. Her entire body felt on edge, as though half of her wanted to bolt one way and the
other half run another. “You are working for my father now?”
“Started not too long ago.”
With their exchange of letters, her father had known for over a month that she was coming home and yet he had hired Gabe? It didn’t seem possible. Years ago when he discovered they were involved in something more than friendship, Father had been dead set against them being near each other. He also knew how upset she’d been when Gabe had deserted her. Was this his own brand of retribution he was forcing on her?
She squared her shoulders, resigned that this “new beginning” had taken a decided turn for the worst. “Very well.” It wasn’t the most gracious of responses, but at the moment it mirrored how she felt.
His eyes narrowed as he took a closer look at her.
It was as if he was reaching back through the years and trying to read what had happened to her since then…and perhaps wishing she would return to where she had come from. Heat mounted on her cheeks under his scrutiny.
She startled at her son’s voice behind her and turned to him. “Brody, this is Mister Coulter…a ranch hand of your grandfather’s.”
Gabe’s brow raised at the last, just the slightest bit, but he turned and watched Brody disembark. If Brody’s size…nearly five feet six inches…surprised him, not a muscle moved on his handsome face. When her son lifted his sullen gaze, all Gabe did was thrust out his hand.
Her son hesitated but then grasped Gabe’s hand in a firm shake.
“Brody,” Gabe said, as if testing his name and committing it to memory. His shake slowed and he glanced at Riley with a question lighting his eyes. Then he let go. “I’ll get your bags transferred to the wagon.”
“I can do it,” Brody said, his voice challenging. He scrambled to the top of the coach and tossed down their traveling cases with enough force Riley worried they might break open. It didn’t seem to faze Gabe as he caught them. What was her son trying to prove? When he had climbed back down and Gabe had left them to carry two of the cases to the wagon, she took Brody aside. “What was that all about?”
“I don’t like the way he looked at us—at you.”
It wasn’t the first time her son had acted protective of her, but it had been a long time since he had even cared—more than year.
“I hope you are a bit friendlier upon meeting your grandfather.” She also hoped her father was a bit friendlier than Gabe had been. Then squaring her shoulders, she braced herself for the long ride to the ranch and followed her son to the buckboard.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Gabe’s entire body was shaking on the inside when he settled the luggage in the wagon bed. Riley was back—and with a son! Just the thought of her with another man made Gabe knot up inside, stupidly jealous of something that happened years ago. He hadn’t expected her to stay unhitched. She was too beautiful to stay single for long. He darted a look at her as she walked toward the wagon. Still slender, still with that long, wavy, honey-colored hair—although it was up in a knot under her hat. He’d never forgotten her eyes—gray-green with long dark lashes. They’d haunted him for as long as he could remember.
He helped her onto the wagon seat, irritated that his hands tingled when he let loose of her. Brody gave him a penetrating look before climbing up beside her. It wasn’t hard to decipher the stare. Gabe had felt possessive often enough with his own mother whenever Rawlins had come slinking around. The boy didn’t have a thing to worry about. As much as he had once loved Riley, he had learned his lesson there. He was just the hired help in her family’s opinion and nowhere near good enough for her.
For more information about Western Spring Weddingsor my other books,
please check my website ~ www.kathrynalbright.com
Now ~ I’ve admitted to my favorite kind of stories. I also love coming-of-age stories and the-underdog-wins stories. What about you? What type of story draws your interest over and over. If nothing strikes you ~ just name your favorite book from the past five years…( I always need new recommendations for great reads!)
Comment for a chance in my drawing! I’ll give away one copy of Western Spring Weddings(or another story from my backlist) to one lucky commenter.
This is a quote from my father that I’ve remembered throughout my life. In this spring season of garage sales and Craig’s listings, I look around my house and see that the blessing of living into today’s consumer world is also a responsibility. It is time that I ‘lighten’ my life. Can you relate?
In this process of trying to simplify and organize my life, sometimes it seems overwhelming and I begin to wonder if it is really possible. There are books on this topic—even a best-selling one. (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. Hint: I really need this book!)
This is probably why I enjoy reading and writing stories. First off, stories are a neat little package with a beginning, a middle and an end. Stories are ORGANIZED. Also, things get ACCOMPLISHED in a story. The hero gets the girl, the villain gets his or her just desserts, the underdog saves the day. (This sense of accomplishment does not happen when I clean!)
Second, since I read and write historicals, besides learning history along the way, it fascinates me to see how people lived in a “simpler” time. Even before the cowboys and cattle drives of the “west”, there were fur traders and mountain men and native Americans. These men and women knew how to get along with very little of the ‘extras’ in life that I would be lost without. Flint and a striking stone for fire. A horse. A basket to carry water. (No computer? No electricity? Are you serious?)
I recently attended a re-enactment of this ‘simpler’ life held right here in my hometown. Rockton has a history that dates back to the early 1800s when the French traders would come to trade with the native Americans that lived here. The re-enactment happens annually at the end of April and is called the “Rendezvous.”
Stephen Mack, Jr. is the first known white settler here in the Rock River valley. He came west in the early 1820’s as a fur trader for the American Fur Company of Detroit. In 1835, after the Black Hawk War, he settled down here with his Potowatami wife, Hononegah, and established a settlement which eventually came to be known as Macktown. In 1839 he built a ferry across the Rock River and later built a bridge. His home, a large frame house that he built in 1839, still stands, along with the Whitman Trading Post which he built from the local limestone in 1846. After Stephen Mack’s death in 1850, Macktown slowly faded away while at the same time across the river, Rockton grew.
I took these pictures at the Rendezvous. I hope you enjoy them.
I need to take time to “refill the creative well” every once in a while. Constantly pouring out words on paper can slowly drain my creativity. Every writer is different in how they go about this, but for me, a get-away trip always turns my thoughts to new story-lines and ideas.
When I learned last week, that one of the sheep and carding farms nearby in southern Wisconsin was having an open house and spring shearing event, I seized the chance to see firsthand how those fluffy coats became skeins of yarn. It was the first warm, dry weekend of the spring and I was itching for a road trip. (My husband likes to drive. I like to ride. It’s a win-win!)
We traveled the hills and hollers of southern Wisconsin and finally came to Rainbow Fleece Farm and Carding Company. It is a small operation near Madison, Wisconsin. The owners sell their yarn and wool throughout the United States.
The steps from the wool on the sheep to a skein of yarn at this particular farm are ~
When the wool is about four inches long or more, the sheep is sheared. A years growth equals about 8 pounds of wool.
Wool straight off a sheep is known as “greasy wool” or “wool in the grease.” It contains a high level of valuable lanolin (used in hand creams and cosmetics.)
The wool weighed and then picked clean by hand as best as possible.
The wool is washed until the rinse water runs clean—usually about three washings. This is called scouring and on this “green” farm it is done with a mild soap.
It is spread out to dry in a warm area out of direct sunlight.
At this point or any hereafter, the wool can be dyed.
A blending or carding board is a board with small metal pins sticking up over its surface. Globs of wool are spread on the board. This is where a person can get creative with colors and textures—adding the colors wanted. (this is the part I had never heard of & found fascinating.)
The wool is then pulled off the board in a clump. It can then be stretched out into a thread, twisted together and spun onto a spindle.
At Rainbow Fleece Farm it was fun to watch a true working dog (Border Collie here) do his job.
I am already envisioning a story that takes place on a sheep ranch in the old West…
How about you? What do you do when you need a change or a little boost of inspiration?
A walk? A change of scenery? Baking? I’d love to hear!
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In the 1800s, I have a feeling spring weddings had something to do with the availability of beautiful flowers, and the (ahem) need for a wedding after the long, cold winter. Tomorrow is release day for Western Spring Weddingsof which my story,His Springtime Bride ,is roped with two other novellas, each involving a spring wedding. I am offering a print copy (or Kindle copy) to one lucky person leaving a comment today. (See guidelines on upper right of this page!) Here’s a little bit about the plot and an excerpt that occurs near the beginning of the story.
Released from prison, half-breed Gabe Coulter must work for his enemy to earn back the deed to his own ranch. But when his boss’s daughter, Riley Rawlins, returns home with a rebellious son after years away in the east, nothing will stop him from discovering the truth.
Riley no longer trust the man she once loved so completely. Years of old hurts and his violent past make it impossible to forgive and allow him back into her life or that of her son.
But one thing Gabe has is pure cowboy grit. Will it be enough to make Riley see that she and her son should a part of his future?
Excerpt ~ His Springtime Bride
“Name is Coulter. I want to talk to Frank Rawlins.”
“Johnson. Foreman.” His gaze narrowed and he scratched his scruffy dirt-colored beard. “Coulter? From around these parts?”
Gabe lifted his chin in acknowledgment.
“Most Injuns never make it to prison if they kill a white man. And if they do—they don’t make it out.”
Gabe stiffened. He’d heard the same thing before from guards at the prison—their tone much uglier. It wasn’t the only time his father’s blood had saved him, but it was the most important time. In a world where both whites and Indians looked upon him with suspicion, he had quickly learned to trust no one. He had fought it when he was young, trying to fit in, but it did no good. Now all he wanted was to be left in peace. Obviously, Johnson had heard of him and didn’t care about that.
“Then it’s a good thing I’m half-white. Tell him I’m here,” Gabe said. By his tone, he made it clear he wasn’t asking.
The foreman eyed him for a moment longer and then clomped up the steps and, after a sharp rap on the door, let himself into the house.
Three minutes later, Johnson ushered him inside.
Gabe had been in the house a few times when he was young. His folks had been invited to a ten-year wedding anniversary party for Rawlins and his wife. That’s when he’d first met Riley. He had been quiet and she had been all gangly tomboy arms and legs and talked up a storm. He remembered swinging on the rope swing that hung from the old oak in the side yard with her and a few other children. He had never seen blond hair before that, and each time he tried to touch her braids, she would whip them around just out of his reach to tease him. She laughed and the other kids laughed right along with her, which made him mad—mostly at his own awkwardness.
Had Riley ever come back to visit her father? Once she had loved the ranch and vowed never to leave, despite her mother’s schemes to position her for a rich husband back east. By now she probably had that rich husband along with a baby or two. With effort, he pushed his memories of Riley to the back of his mind. Thoughts of her would only complicate the confrontation ahead with Rawlins.
He squared his shoulders and followed Johnson. The foreman stopped in the hallway before the study and indicated Gabe was to enter. “No such thing as a half Injun,” he said, his eyes cold as Gabe passed by. “Bad blood taints the good.”
Rawlins sat behind a massive cherrywood desk, his expression inscrutable. He had to be in his early fifties now, with silver-streaked hair and black hawkish brows over striking blue eyes. A small amount of paunch around his middle where there hadn’t been any before spoke to his more sedentary days of late. As Gabe stepped farther into the study, Rawlins walked slowly around from behind his desk and hiked one hip onto the corner to sit. “So you are out.”
Gabe wasn’t here for small talk. “I was down to my land today. Saw the sign. Looked new.”
Rawlins nodded…watching him carefully. “The sheriff in Nuevo mentioned your release. I thought you might head this way. I also thought you should be clear about the situation here.”
“You mean the part about not owning my own land?”
In the doorway, Johnson straightened, alert to the underlying tension in the room. He rested his hand lightly on his gun handle.
“Taxes hadn’t been paid in three years,” Rawlins said. “I paid them.”
“Stole the place, you mean. And you know why I couldn’t get them paid.”
He nodded again. “Your incarceration was mentioned in the newspaper. I had my eye on that property a long time, Coulter. Has a nice little stream running through it down from the mountain this time of year.”
“I noticed your cattle were enjoying it.”
“Hasn’t been grazed in years. There is a nice thick carpet.”
Of course it hadn’t been grazed. After his father’s death by the cougar, Gabe’s mother had had to slowly sell off the stock to make ends meet. Few would do business with a Kumeyaay woman and her kid. He blew out a breath, unused to having to ask for anything and not liking that he was going to now. He’d best keep calm. “What will it take to get it back?”
Rawlins tilted his head. “Who says I’m interested in selling?”