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A Few of My Favorite Things About Christmas

Christmas in the West in the 1800’s. For some reason, I get warm-and-fuzzy feelings thinking about the wide open spaces, deep snow, tall pines, warm hearths, homemade gifts, sleigh rides, fiddle music, shy cowboys asking for a dance at the Christmas ball–Whoops! Sorry, I drifted off there for a second!

You can see why I write this stuff!

I’d like to share with you three of my favorite things that put me in mind of a Western Christmas: a certain book, a certain song, and a certain poem. Maybe they’ll set you to dreaming about a Cowboy–er, I  mean, an old-fashioned Christmas, too!

nannieTHE BOOK-More than a decade ago, I read A Bride Goes West, the memoirs of Wyoming wife and rancher Nannie Alderson. The book haunts me to this day. You’d have to read it to understand, but Nannie was a fire-cracker with a rebel’s heart! Nothing ever kept her down; she accepted life with grace and grit and lived a grand adventure when the west was still wild and wooly.

Born to an affluent southern family, Nannie grew up in post-Civil War Virginia. Her home and community were spared much of the desolation of war, leaving her to blossom in a world that clung to the most genteel Southern graces. Her petticoats were ironed daily, she never cooked a meal or did her own laundry, but she did learn the most useless graces of high society. Her mother was a vain woman who enjoyed being the belle of the ball and was pleased to groom her daughter for the same fate.

Nannie only felt strangled by the shallow, societal confinements.

In 1880, she had the opportunity to visit a cousin in wild-and-wooly Kansas. Nannie jumped at it. Right from the start, she fell in love with the freedom of the West. No one judged her there; no one treated her like a hot-house flower. What you wore or who you ate dinner with didn’t impress anyone. Folks were measured by their sand, not their silk breeches. Hard work and honest words were all that mattered.

While there, she met the man who epitomized these traits. Walt Alderson had left home at the age of 12 to make his way as a cowboy. He spent years learning to be the best cowboy he could be with the ultimate goal of running his own spread. In all that time, he never made one visit home.

Then suddenly, his future rolled out before him. He and his business partner purchased some land in Montana and started the work of building a ranch. For whatever reason, Walt decided in the midst of all this to check in on his family. The night he came home, Nannie was sitting on his living room settee.

Nannie’s recollections of building a ranch in the wilds of Montana with Walt are fascinating, detailed, peppered with humor, and always honest. She went from gliding across hardwood floors to sweeping dirt floors covered with canvas. She went from living in an antebellum mansion to a drafty, two-room cabin. She went from swirling about at parties with young men in perfectly tailored suits to dancing with dusty cowboys in patched up dungarees.

She had to learn to cook and her tutors were those trail-hardened ranch hands who treated her like a princess and readily forgave her for the rocks she called biscuits. She survived bed bugs and blizzards; delivered children with no midwife and stared down Indians. Nannie even shot a rattlesnake who attempted to take up residence in her kitchen. She readily admits she had moments when she felt sorry for herself, but, mostly, Nannie counted her blessings. She loved her life. She loved the way of life out West.

Like Walt, quitting was never part of the plan, even when the stock market crashed and Indians burned their house. For ten years they worked and slaved to forge a home from the beautiful, desolate, wide-open country in Montana.  Even when Walt died, leaving her a widow with two young children, Nannie cowboyed up. She made ends meet; she raised good kids.

The next time your microwave goes on the fritz or you forget to pick up milk at the store, pick up a copy of A Bride Goes West. I guarantee this American woman will put things in perspective for you.

santadance

THE SONG–Two-Step ‘Round the Christmas Tree. I was in Wyoming on my honeymoon when I heard this song for the first time. It truly has special memories for me. Give a listen and get to dancin’! 

The Poem–The Creak of the Leather. The absolute maestro of cowboy poetry is the legendary Bruce Kiskadon. And if this poem doesn’t make you want to strap on a pair of spurs and jump in the saddle and ride out and cut down a Christmas tree, check your pulse! 

THE CREAK OF THE LEATHER
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)

It’s likely that you can remember
A corral at the foot of a hill
Some mornin’ along in December
When the air was so cold and so still.
When the frost lay as light as a feather
And the stars had jest blinked out and gone.
Remember the creak of the leather
As you saddled your hoss in the dawn.

When the glow of the sunset had faded
And you reached the corral after night
On a hoss that was weary and jaded
And so hungry yore belt wasn’t tight.
You felt about ready to weaken
You knowed you had been a long way
But the old saddle still kep a creakin’

windriverstudios

 

courtesy Wind River Studios

 

Like it did at the start of the day.

Perhaps you can mind when yore saddle
Was standin’ up high at the back
And you started a whale of a battle
When you got the old pony untracked.
How you and the hoss stuck together
Is a thing you caint hardly explain
And the rattle and creak of the leather
As it met with the jar and the strain.

You have been on a stand in the cedars
When the air was so quiet and dead
Not even some flies and mosquitoes
To buzz and make noise ’round yore head.
You watched for wild hosses or cattle
When the place was as silent as death
But you heard the soft creak of the saddle
Every time the hoss took a breath.

And when the round up was workin’
All day you had been ridin’ hard
There wasn’t a chance of your shirkin’
You was pulled for the second guard
A sad homesick feelin’ come sneakin’
As you sung to the cows and the moon
And you heard the old saddle a creakin’
Along to the sound of the tune.

There was times when the sun was shore blazin’
On a perishin’ hot summer day
Mirages would keep you a gazin’
And the dust devils danced far away
You cussed at the thirst and the weather
You rode at a slow joggin’ trot
And you noticed somehow that the leather
Creaks different when once it gets hot.

When yore old and yore eyes have grown hollow
And your hair has a tinge of the snow
But there’s always the memories that follow
From the trails of the dim long ago.
There are things that will haunt you forever
You notice that strange as it seems
One sound, the soft creak of the leather,
Weaves into your memories and dreams.

Of course, though, the most wonderful, most amazing, most old-fashioned thing about Christmas is the birth of a savior two thousand years ago. Remember and celebrate the Reason for the Season: the One who was born to die for mankind.

And I hope you all have a very merry, very blessed, very old-fashioned Christmas!

sleigh_ride

Let My Book Speak to You…

Can you hear me now? I mean literally. Have you ever thought about listening to an audiobook? Several of my books are available for listening and more are coming. Audiobooks are awesome because you can get lost in a story while you’re cooking, cleaning, crafting, or whatever. I love them for long road trips. They make the time fly.

But there is a lot of work that goes into creating and producing an audiobook. One of the things that I have to do is listen to auditions of narrators who would like to read a book to you, gentle reader. So, just for the fun of it, please give a listen to this snippet from Talmadge Ragan’s audition to narrate Love, Lies, & Typewriters! She’s quite the professional.

And just for fun, here is me trying to be a professional narrator! I am reading from Locket Full of Love!

I hope you’ll check out my books over at Audible and give a listen. Listening really frees you up to do more!

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!

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!

 

 

 

Bonus Content for Pre-Orders!

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Forward snipit or copy of receipt to gowest36@gmail.com and you will receive in your email a Secret Link with a password to your bonus material! This is a one-time use of your email (unless you already subscribe to my newsletter)!

And as always, my dear friends, THANK YOU so much for your support. I hope you know I do truly value my readers! You mean the world to me and I only wish I had more time to spend chatting with you!

Pre-Orders

Bonus Content for Pre-Orders!

☆¸.•*¨*★☆★Pre-Order Special Price★☆★¸.•*¨*★☆

☆¸.•*¨*★☆★Pre-order One get one bonus★☆★¸.•*¨*★☆

☆¸.•*¨*★☆★Pre-order Two get MORE★☆★¸.•*¨*★☆

Releasing 1/25 – Locket Full of Love $0.99 http://amzn.to/2EmaAtH
Releasing 2/14 – Hell-Bent on Blessings $0.99 http://amzn.to/2yIXqnl
Forward snipit or copy of receipt to gowest36@gmail.com and you will receive in your email a Secret Link with a password to your bonus material! This is a one-time use of your email (unless you already subscribe to my newsletter)!

And as always, my dear friends, THANK YOU so much for your support. I hope you know I do truly value my readers! You mean the world to me and I only wish I had more time to spend chatting with you!

Pre-Orders

Announcing, the Brides of Blessings…

EUREKA! BONANZA!

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The California Gold Rush—when Gold Fever spread across America, it emptied towns, stripped ships of their crews, left women husbandless, children fatherless. The stories, especially of the women who sought to make their own fortunes, are awe-inspiring and, in some instances, flat-out amazing.

BLESSED BRIDE And I’m thrilled to tell you I’m in a new series focused on the Gold Rush era–the Brides of Blessings looks at the women of the California Gold Rush, spanning the years from 1848 to 1865. I have joined up with best-selling authors Lynn Winchester, Mimi Milan, Kari Trumbo, and Dallis Adams to share with you these richly researched, clean, inspirational historical western stories. In the vein of the inimitable Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, both the beloved town and its people grow as the women help settle the west and find their “happily ever afters.” I hope you’ll pick up your copy of The Blessed Bride for the special pre-order price of only 99 cents. http://amzn.to/2hyuAUi

She Chose the War Path

from my post over at https://cowboykisses.blogspot.comdahteste

Sometimes when I do research, I discover fascinating individuals who led gloriously exciting lives and then retired in peace, children and grandchildren sitting at their feet. The happily ever after. The ending we’d all like. Truth is, though, sometimes a hero has her moment early on and from there it’s not a very pretty spiral downward.

This is my impression of the life of Apache warrior woman Dahteste (pronounced ta-DOT-say).

Born around 1860 she chose her path as a warrior. The Apache let you do that. A fairly open-minded society, you could be a warrior, a homemaker, a medicine man, whatever, as long as you worked at it and could deliver. Dahteste was known for her beauty, but she was also clearly respected for her fighting, riding, hunting, and shooting skills. She was fast and she was mean. No man challenged her light-heartedly. And she proved her worth repeatedly on raids with the Apache. In fact, she rode with Cochise (you might remember him. He led an uprising against the U.S. government that started in 1861 and didn’t end until ’72). Remarkably, Dahteste was barely a teenager! Her fighting didn’t end, however, with Cochise’s acceptance of a peace treaty. She continued it by riding with Geronimo. Who knows how many “white-eyes” lost their lives to her rifle?

Geronimo surrendered in 1886. Dahteste over the years had picked up quite a bit of English, had even served as a cavalry scout for a time, so she negotiated the great chief’s surrender. Her reward? She was arrested and shipped to a prison in Florida where she stayed for eight years. Then she was moved to the military prison at Fort Sill, OK where she was a guest for nineteen years. During her time as a resident of the US Army’s military prison system, she survived pneumonia and tuberculosis. I suspect she survived much more than that.

During this time she divorced her husband Ahnandia (one of Geronimo’s original warriors) and within a few years married fellow inmate and former Army scout Coonie. The couple was released in 1919 and moved to the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico.

Dahteste, reports say, never spoke English again and wore only beautiful beaded native clothing. She left her long black hair down and unbraided, but always brushed. She was a proud Apache woman who walked with her chin up.

Though she did, indeed, retire with children and grandchildren around her feet, none of them were hers by blood, and she was not generally known to smile much. I hope she spent her final years enjoying peace and happiness, but I don’t get that sense. I think Dahteste was a survivor and she did so with more grim determination than optimism.

If She Could Drink and Wear a Badge, She Sure as Heck Should be Able to Vote

phoebe

Phoebe Wilson Couzins was, to say the least, a trailblazer for women. She was one of the first female lawyers in the United States, the first female U.S. marshal, and, not surprising, an outspoken supporter of the suffragist movement. But temperance, not so much …

Phoebe was born on September 8, 1842 in St. Louis, Missouri. Her father John E. D. Couzins was an architect, builder, and a natural leader. Traits he passed to his daughter. During the Civil War, John served as the city’s chief of police and sought to keep Missouri in the Union. Adaline, Phoebe’s mother, was a member of the Ladies’ Union Aid Society in St. Louis and volunteered as a battlefield nurse.

After the war, Phoebe, inspired by her parents, joined the St. Louis Woman Suffrage Association. The inability of a woman to vote incensed her, considering all the things a woman could do. She made a name for herself in the organization and, encouraged by a family friend, applied and was admitted to Washington University Law School in St. Louis.

In 1871, Phoebe became the first female law graduate from GWU! She practiced law for two months but the suffragette movement called her name. She began traveling across the country to give speeches in favor of women’s rights.

In 1884, Phoebe’s father was appointed U.S. marshal for the Eastern District of Missouri and he swore her in as one of his deputies. When he died three years later, she served as the interim U.S. marshal, appointed by President Grover Cleveland. She was the first woman to serve in the position.

Not interested in being a lawman, though, she eventually moved to Washington, DC. She made a modest living as a writer, but maintained her involvement with the women’s rights movement. New blood entered into the suffragette arena, though, and Phoebe’s contributions, as well her Old Iron Pants attitude, tended to alienate the more politically-savvy ladies. Not to mention, Phoebe liked her high balls, and many of the suffragettes were passionate about the evils of alcohol. Hence, these last years were stormy ones for Phoebe. She hung in there, fighting the good fight, while, ironically, working as a lobbyist for a brewery.

Phoebe died in St. Louis in 1913 and was buried wearing her US marshal’s badge. Here’s to you, Phoebe!


By Heather Blanton
https://www.facebook.com/heatherfreyblanton
copyright 2015

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Vote

By Heather Blanton
https://www.facebook.com/heatherfreyblanton
copyright 2017

Recently, many cities and towns across America held municipal elections. The turn-out is abysmally low for these. If you did not vote for your mayor or town council, Abigail Scott Duniway might just have a few choice words for you.

Abigail was the second daughter in a family of nine children. In 1852 she and her parents emigrated to Oregon from Illinois. In 1853, after teaching school for a bit, she married Benjamin Duniway. The couple would have six children.

Benjamin was a decent farmer but not much of a businessman. They sold their first farm in Clackamas County, OR and moved to a new one in Lafayette. During this time, Benjamin co-signed on a note for a friend, putting his farm up for collateral. Abigail, to say the least, was not on board with this plan. The friend defaulted and the Duniways lost their farm. In the throes of eviction, financial chaos, and finding a new place to live, Benjamin was severely disabled in a wagon accident, and upkeep of the family fell to Abigail.

She ran a boarding school and taught for a spell, and eventually opened her own business. In her attempts to keep a roof over her family’s head, Abigail was frustrated on occasion by the necessity to involve Benjamin in even simple legal decisions. Being the man in the house, his signature was often required on documents.

For five years Abigail ran a millinery. She heard countless stories there of other women disenfranchised by the legal system, powerless to fight for their rights, especially in regards to personal property. Just based on her own experiences, it’s easy to see why she thought the system was stupid. Hence, she became loudly and eloquently vocal about the injustices. Recognizing her passion, Benjamin encouraged Abigail to open a newspaper focused on women’s rights and suffrage. The Duniways knew that without the right to vote, nothing would ever change for the women of Oregon.

Interestingly, Abigail’s brother Harvey was the editor for The Oregonian and the siblings butted heads, or columns, vehemently over voting rights for women. Harvey was against them and his opposition was instrumental in seeing the motions defeated time and again.

But the women of Oregon persisted. In 1912 the state finally passed a women’s suffrage amendment. The governor himself asked Abigail to write the Equal Suffrage Proclamation sharing the news.

She was 78 years young.

Abigail voting in 1914

Abigail voting in 1914

http://www.ohs.org/education/oregonhistory/Oregon-Biographies-Abigail-Scott-Duniway.cfm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Oregon_Encyclopedia
http://www.ohs.org/education/oregonhistory/narratives/subtopic.cfm?subtopic_ID=206

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