Exploring Deadwood–Day 2

Day 2 Thursday

Deadwood at 6 in the morning. As quiet as the name would suggest. I walked around the main street and got some great shots.

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Deadwood at Sunrise.

It seemed the wild-and-wooly past was a little closer without the tourists and cars drowning it out. I gazed up at buildings that pioneers had looked at. I couldn’t help but wonder at the people who risked so much to build this little town.

We stayed in the Bullock Hotel and the little restaurant is just as historic as the rest of the building. Tin tiles in the ceiling. A huge fireplace in the room. A little saloon-style bar behind which the chef whipped up some simple but yummy breakfast items—and the biggest cinnamon roll I’ve ever seen in my life!

I realized that morning that I had no way to get photos from the memory stick in my camera to my Mac so after breakfast, Dawn and I drove over to Spearfish. A pretty big town—it has a Walmart! The drive over was gorgeous. 2018-06-07 00.36.30 The Black Hills of SD really are truly haunting, even a little mystical. While there, we had lunch at a lovely little coffee shop/café that seemed to serve a lot of college students. Turns out, Black Hills State is located there. I want to remember the veranda we sat on, the warm, dry air, the stunning blue sky and mountains in the distance. On the way into Spearfish, we saw a homeless guy sitting at an intersection. On the way out of town, we took him a sandwich and gave him a little money. Yeah, he might drink up the cash, but we gave to be a blessing and show Jesus. No judging.

Now, one of the interesting things about Deadwood is how it’s situated between two steep, mountain walls. And I do mean steep.

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The view from one of those pretty little Victorian homes. In the distance is our hotel, the Deadwood Mountain Grand.

There are several old, Victorian homes up there. We were so curious to see them up close so Dawn and I ventured up there—I felt like I was back home in Western North Carolina! I mean we are talking narrow, twisty little roads. I don’t know how these people get around in the winter! But what a view!

We still had some time before check-in, so we made the trek to the cemetery. The day was warm, even by my Southern standards, and we took the stairs from the street which cuts the walk in half but doubles the difficulty. I thought my sister—who has asthma—was going to kill me. Mt. Moriah Cemetery is one of the most beautiful, peaceful, and historic graveyards I’ve ever visited. I mean, you don’t get to see “Killed by Indians” on too many tombstones. For a Western writer, that’s kind of a thrill. Killed_by_Indians

 

The first event of the Wild Deadwoods Read program was a meet-and-greet. While I am not a huge social butterfly, I was pretty much ready to leave after we collected our lanyards and swag bag. But we did meet up with authors Kari Trumbo and Danica Favorite, two of my fellow authors from the Brides of Blessings series. IMG_0668 Starting to run out of gas, Dawn and I split for dinner in the hotel and brought Kari with us. She’s really sweet and a great writer. You should check out her work!

And with that, we called it a night. In Deadwood. Love it!

Shameless Tourist Escapism in the Guise of Research–Deadwood Day 1

Recently, I attended Wild Deadwood Reads, an author/reader expo of sorts in Deadwood, South Dakota. In all my travels out West, I’ve never been to this area. Wow, I thought, what a great opportunity. I’ll invite my sister to come along. We’ll meet some people, make new friends, see a part of the country I haven’t before. I can tell you, we had a spectacular time. I haven’t been on a plane in 20 years b/c I don’t like to fly. I had a small window of time here, though, so I bit the bullet. It was well worth the effort.

Day 1

Thanks to terrorists, 2:30 comes early, but like a good citizen, I was at the airport TWO HOURS before my flight. By 4:20 I was through security and wondering about coffee. Not to mention, Why was I here so early again?

The plane left on time: 6:18. Yea. Unfortunately, we hit thunderstorms coming into St. Paul. Boo. I do not care to repeat that.

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Could have kissed the ground after that ride!

I made it to my gate with a few minutes to spare, but my sister Dawn was late. Like a movie, she came running down the concourse, red-faced, panting, on the verge of an asthma attack, catching the flight in the nick of time.

But bless her heart, she distracted me from the flight in a little tiny plain (tiny, by my standards) by showing me a catalog of gorgeous Western home decor.

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Plane #2: Me on the left, my big sister Dawn on the right.

Once we were on the ground and had our rental car, we headed for the metropolis of Rapid City. It was not what we expected. There weren’t many cowboys. Instead, we found a college town with what looked like a lot of metrosexuals and too-cool-for-school young hipsters. This is South Dakota? I thought, thus far disappointed.

We hit Walmart for a few things. Of course, who doesn’t need to swing into Walmart on every vacation? Oh, but then we went to Boot Barn! We don’t have one of these around me. I was in love. Western-style fashions everywhere! I bought a cute, red dress with a ragged hem and a beautiful leather belt with a turquoise and silver buckle. NOW we were ready to head up into the Black Hills.

No, wait, one last stop at Target for some water and off we went to Deadwood.

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See the door on the 2nd floor? That was my room.

We stayed at the historic Bullock Hotel. It’s old and doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the hotel is gorgeous on the inside. It was built in 1896 by Seth Bullock, one of the first sheriffs in Deadwood. He came to be best friends with Teddy Roosevelt, too. Seth spared few expenses on his hotel. An ornate wooden staircase takes you from floor to floor. Lovely carpets greet your eye. A casino in the bottom has a few quaint museum pieces, and the restaurant with its huge fireplace and tin ceiling really brings home the atmosphere.

Dawn stayed in the Roosevelt suite which opened up to my room. We had our privacy but could talk back-and-forth if we wanted to. We had a great view of the historic main street and the haunted hotel across the way. The Bullock is supposed to be haunted, too, and I did half-wake during the night because I thought Dawn was using my bathroom. But she didn’t. Hmmmm.

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The woodwork in the hotel was impressive.

Anyway, like giddy teenage girls at the mall, we shopped that night, from one end of town to the other. I bought a silver bracelet, a ring, and earrings. Dawn bought a beautiful leather purse and bracelet at Miss Kitty’s Mercantile. I love the name. And we picked up a few little things for the unfortunates back home.

We closed out the evening with dinner at the Deadwood Social Club, an atmospheric restaurant upstairs from the No. 10 Saloon–not THE No. 10 where HIckock was shot–that one burned. The new one sits on the foundation of the original, though.

So, there we were, over 900 miles from home and just tickled to death to be in Deadwood. No laundry. No kids. No fussy husbands. Happy as larks, we went back to our rooms and slept like babies. Well, except for that fuzzy moment when I seem to recall a visitor in my bathroom. Must have not bothered me too much. 2018-06-06 20.15.50

 

 

American Girls Have Always had a Rep

“We may destroy all the men in America, and we shall still have all we can do to defeat the women.”

Lord Cornwallis, British general, and Washington’s nemesis.

In the fall of 1878, Deborah Samson, at the fiery age of 18, enlisted in the Continental Army…as a man. Spending the next three years as Robert Shirtliffe, Deborah did her part to secure liberty and freedom for America. She served in various capacities under Capt. Nathan Thayer and proved herself a capable, willing, and courageous Massachusetts soldier.

Talk about fight like a girl…

Never one to run from a battle, Deborah dove right in with the best and the bravest. She was shot once in the leg, nicked in the head by a British sword, then shot again in the other leg. All three times she refused medical attention so as not to have her ruse discovered. Unfortunately, she came down with a “brain fever” in 1781 and was treated by a Dr. Binney of Philadelphia. Imagine his surprise!

He forthwith moved Deborah to his own home for recovery and sent a note to Capt. Thayer. Upon her recovery, Deborah was called to General Washington’s office. The legends differ here on what exactly happened next. Some say she was asked to deliver papers to the General, at which point he gave her the papers of discharge. Other stories say she delivered the papers, was called back to pick up new dispatches, and then Gen. Washington handed her the discharge papers. What all the stories agree on is that Washington chose not to publicly reprimand or embarrass Deborah. He handed her the discharge papers, without comment, and also handed her the soldier’s pay due her, and a note of advice.

The note was lost to history, but knowing General Washington’s respect for women and his wry sense of humor, it probably said something to the effect of, “Now that you’ve shown my men how to fight, I think it is time you return to the duties of your fair sex. Thank you for your service to your country.”

Eventually, Deborah married a farmer named Gannet and had (naturally) three daughters. Ironically, she named the youngest one Patience.

Oh, yes, indeed, a true Lady in Defiance.

Hey, if you enjoy these stories, please join my newsletter posse. I’ll send you a FREE gift for signing up. I won’t hound you but once a month you’ll receive info about my works-in-progress, research, and my characters, as well as a chance to participate in contests and giveaways. You can sign up here.

The Secrets the San Juans Still Whisper

by Heather Blanton
Originally appeared in Cowboy Kisses

Most authors have an idea for a story FIRST then they go and research it. I did all the research for my best-selling novel A Lady in Defiance years before I ever imagined the saga of three good, Christian sisters taming a bawdy mining town. I still find the research haunting me.

Jeep_trailsIn the summer of ’93, my husband and I packed up everything from tents to guns (yes, you used to actually be allowed to travel with them in your luggage), flew to Denver, rented a jeep and started exploring the mountains. Even though we drove all over the state, from Denver to the four corners area, what captured my heart were the ghost towns high up in the San Juan Mountains. Silverton, Durango, Ouray, and Telluride are the well-known, vibrant, little towns in the area. The ghost towns you’ve probably never heard of, though, are Mineral Point, Alta, Animas Forks, and St. Elmo, to name a few.

 Now, considering that 1993 was practically the Dark Ages, we planned our trip using a 1963 travel guide, Jeep Trails to Colorado Ghost Towns by Robert Brown. The dang thing was out of print at the time and I had to special order it. But it was RICH with the history of these forgotten settlements, abandoned dreams, and unfinished stories. I was captivated by the lonely, remote ruins that once-upon-a-time had fed the dreams of both the courageous and the cowardly, the greedy and the generous, the noble and the cheaters.

The story that fascinated me the most was the tale of George Jackson of Missouri. He came west to Colorado in 1859 and discovered gold near Idaho Springs. He left (with his gold) to fight in the Civil War and then start a farm. Gold Fever never left him, though, and he returned twelve years later with a group of prospectors. They discovered more gold, somewhere near Middle Park. Allegedly, he and his group squirreled away over $10,000 in gold dust, buried in buckskin bags beneath their cabin.

george-jackson.jpgLate in the fall of ’71, the prospectors were attacked by Indians but managed to hide, and the survivors slithered their way out of the mountains, the gold still lying in its hidden grave. Overjoyed to have survived, the remaining men decided they’d had enough of the San Juans and headed east—except for Jackson. As soon as the snow melted—reportedly in June—he rounded up a friend and headed back to the camp, but never made it. On the way, he pulled a gun from his sled to shoot at a coyote and shot himself right between the eyes.

Fast forward to 1912. Ray Peck, a supervisor with Routt National Forest investigated with the help of an unnamed local mountain man. They found the aspen tree in which Jackson had carved his name. Evidence of habitation and mining activities were deteriorated but evident.

Eager as beavers, they started digging. And they dug till they were blue in the face but the pair never found the buckskin bags full of gold.

idaho_springsThe cache is still up there in those beautiful, dangerous mountains, waiting for someone to come along and find it –to finish the story.

 

I Don’t Pull Punches. Why You SHOULD (and SHOULDN’T) Sign Up for My Newsletter

Heathers_merc_black

Hey, have you signed up for my newsletter? Let me give it to you straight. Here’s why you SHOULD:

Newsletter subscribers get <FREE FREE FREE> 
  • Heather’s Haberdashery–ebook of loooong excerpts from SEVEN of my books
  • Monthly newsletters with:
    • Exclusive contests
    • Fun giveaways
    • Hints on my current work-in-progress
    • Scene and story X-Rays
    • A monthly profile of a REAL lady in defiance (like Annie Oakley or Agent 355)
    • And much more!

BUT, here’s why you SHOULDN’T sign up for my newsletter. You might not like:

  • Strong, sassy heroines
  • Men who are manly
  • Historical Christian Western Romance that entails the use of firearms, often in a threatening manner
  • Gunfights and fistfights
  • Politically incorrect but historically accurate language (but no cursing)
  • An inspirational story
  • A clear (but never heavy-handed) Gospel message
  • American values
28946358_10215120158704899_1748554081_o But if you are still in, hoss, all you have to do is sign up here and you’ll receive the FREE SAMPLE CHAPTERS (One file entitled Heather’s Haberdashery) and future newsletters.
Well, I’m off to see a man about a horse. Thanks for readin’. Hope you’ll sign up. God bless and happy trails!

 

 

 

New Release Embarrasses Author’s Teenage Children. Noooooo…

A lot of you know my newest release, Hell-Bent on Blessings, is based on the actual pioneer lady Harriet Pullen. She was one tough chick. While her life story took place in the Klondike, I relocated her to gold rush California to suit my fictional requirements and changed a few details about her, but basically, this is the beginning of her destiny.

I also decided to play with the facts a bit when it came to her children. The two teenage boys in Hell-Bent are inspired by my own two boys, Whit and Wyatt. Yes, I have immortalized my sons in one of their mother’s books, MUCH to their dismay and humiliation. As a beta reader said upon learning of this, “Good. Now your job is done.” Some mothers pinch cheeks or hug their teenagers to embarrass them. I write them. LOL! 

On a more serious note, in prepping for this story, I discovered some fabulous research material. If you like history, allow me to recommend two amazing books:  The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream by H.W. Brands and They Saw the Elephant: Women in the California Gold Rush by Joan Levy. I found the one by Brands to be more compelling. I listened to it as an audiobook and there were a few times I didn’t want to get out of the car because I wanted to hear what happened next!

While my book is a stand-alone story, it is part of the Brides of Blessings collection. I hope you’ll check out all the books by best-selling and award-winning authors Lynne Winchester, Kari Trumbo, Mimi Milan, Dallis Adams, and Danica Favorite. I truly think you’ll enjoy them. And I’d like to invite you to interact with all of us in our facebook readers group. If you have questions or comments about the series, we’d love to hear from you!

You can certainly get your copy of Hell-Bent on Blessings here. Thank you!
Though she be but little, she is fierce.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act 3, Scene 2

And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,

And not obedient to his honest will,

What is she but a foul contending rebel

And graceless traitor to her loving lord?

I am ashamed that women are so simple

To offer war where they should kneel for peace,

Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway

When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.

The Taming of the Shrew Act 5, Scene 2

Shakespeare

She Was Really Hell-Bent on Blessings

Harriet Pullen was a real pioneer woman. Hell-Bent on Blessings is basically her story, though I changed a few things to fit my story requirements. Give a listen, if you would, to a brief snippet about this feisty lady’s do-or-die determination:

Heather_Blanton_04_Hell_Bent_On_Blessings_FINAL

Navajo Girl Escapes Kidnappers. A True Lady in Defiance!

I read this story the other day and just had to share it with y’all. I so often focus on writing stories about historical women who did amazing things, overcame staggering odds, accomplished outstanding feats. But this gal? Wow. Here’s a hat-tip to Deanndra Yazzie, a nineteen-year-old Navajo girl who escaped kidnappers! Deanndra, you go, girl! This is reprinted from the Navajo Times, article by Cindy Yurth. I saw no need to re-write it.

Diné comes forward, speaks out, puts sex trafficking suspect behind bars

WINDOW ROCK

Details gathered by a Diné kidnap victim who managed to keep alert despite being drugged, sexually assaulted, burned and beaten led Phoenix police to arrest Jonathan Rouzan, 33, a suspected serial rapist and possible sex trafficker earlier this month.

Deanndra Yazzie, 19, says she was trapped in Rouzan’s home from Dec. 18 to 20, during which she paid careful attention to his phone conversations and memorized his name from papers he had lying around. After escaping she was able to point out Rouzan’s home on Google maps and provide his correctly spelled name, a detailed description and other information to police, which led to his arrest on Jan. 4. Rouzan was indicted by a Maricopa County grand jury Jan. 12 on 33 counts of kidnapping, sexual assault and aggravated assault. He is being held without bail.

When one considers she had no food or water and was drugged with heroin, methamphetamines and vodka for most of the time she was locked in the closet, Yazzie’s presence of mind is nothing short of remarkable.

“The police were surprised,” Yazzie recalled in a phone interview from her home in the Phoenix area. “They said most girls kind of go blank and can’t remember anything after going through something like that.”

Yazzie attributes her attention to detail to her father, who warned her from an early age that as a woman, she would be vulnerable. “He said, ‘Men are going to want to do things to you,’” she recalled. “‘The best thing you can do is pay attention to your surroundings at all times.’”

Yazzie’s nightmarish ordeal started on Dec. 18. She was babysitting for some friends when they came home around 9 p.m. Yazzie reported there was no food in the house and the kids were hungry. “We decided to go to the store, but they needed a ride,” she said. “They called a friend of theirs to drive us.” Yazzie thought it was strange that, when Rouzan picked them up, her friends got in the back seat, leaving her to sit in front with Rouzan, whom she had never met.

 To read the full article, pick up your copy of the Navajo Times at your nearest newsstand Thursday mornings!

  Find newsstand locations at this link.

Or, subscribe via mail or online here.

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