Tuesday, February 28, 2012


It’s been a little over one hundred years since he died—and the mystique still surrounds Geronimo.

Who was he, really? Even now, historians can’t be completely sure of the facts. Some biographers list his birth date as June of 1829. Others say he was born somewhere between 1823-1825. He was the fourth child in a family of four boys and four girls, but even his birth name is disputed. Some say he was called “The One Who Yawns,” his name being “Goyathlay.” Others spell it differently: “Goyahkla.” But by the time he was in his mid-twenties, he was called by the name we remember: Geronimo

In 1850, because his mother, his young wife, (Alope) and his three children were murdered in a raid on their village by Mexican troops, Geronimo pledged that he would avenge their deaths. He received “the Power”—the life force of the universe that gave him supernatural abilities. These included being able to see into the future, walk without leaving tracks, and hold off the dawn. In a vision, he was told that no bullet would ever bring him down in battle, a prophecy that proved true.

Geronimo fought so savagely, so fiercely, that the Mexican troops began to call to Saint Jerome for deliverance from him. Thus, their cries for help became the name he was known by: Geronimo.

In addition to fighting the Mexicans, Geronimo found himself and his Chiracahua Apache tribe at odds with the U.S. Government. By the early 1870s, the federal government’s newly-instituted policy of placing the traditionally nomadic Apaches on reservations was the cause of regular uprisings. Geronimo fought for his peoples’ hereditary land for years.

In 1885, he led a group of more than 100 men, women and children in an escape from the reservation, to the mountains of Mexico. During this time, his band was pursued by more than 5,000 white soldiers, and over 500 Indian auxiliaries were employed to achieve Geronimo’s capture. It took over five months to track Geronimo to his camp in Mexico’s Sonora Mountains—over 1,645 miles away.

On March 27, 1886, exhausted and hopelessly outnumbered, Geronimo surrendered. His band consisted of only a few warriors, women and children. Also found was a young captive, a white boy, name Jimmy “Santiago” McKinn who had been kidnapped six months earlier. The boy had become so assimilated to the Apache way of life that he cried when he was forced to return to his parents.

As the group began the trek back to Fort Bowie, Arizona, Geronimo and some of the warriors, women and boys escaped once more, making their way back into the Sierra Madre.

On September 4, 1886, Geronimo surrendered for the last time to General Nelson A. Miles at Skeleton Canyon in southern Arizona. He was sent to Florida in a boxcar, a prisoner of war. It was May of 1887 before he was reunited with his family, and they were once again moved; this time, to Mount Vernon Barracks near Mobile, Alabama.

In 1894, Geronimo was again moved with other Apaches to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He attempted to try and fit in, farming and joining the Dutch Reformed Church. He was expelled from the church for his penchant for gambling.

The federal government made many empty promises to Geronimo and his people, but they allowed him to keep the money he made from selling buttons from his clothing or posing for pictures at numerous fairs and exhibitions such as the Omaha Exposition in Omaha, NE (1898), the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, NY (1901), and the St. Louis World’s Fair in St. Louis, MO (1904).

In 1905, Geronimo rode in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade. It was also during this year that he told the story of his life to S. M. Barrett, who wrote “Geronimo: His Own Story”, which was published in 1906.

In 1909, Geronimo was riding home after drinking too much. He fell off of his horse and lay, wet and freezing, beside the road until he was discovered several hours later. Never having seen his beloved Arizona homeland again, he died of pneumonia on February 17, 1909.

Geronimo is buried at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in an Apache POW cemetery. There is a simple stone monument at his gravesite where people still bring icons and offerings and leave them. Baggies of sage, seashells, scraps of paper—homage to the greatest warrior who ever lived.

Geronimo was not a chief. He was not a medicine man. He was a leader of men—a fighter whose battle tactics are studied still in military institutions. In the quiet of the cemetery, his children, warriors, relatives and wives buried nearby, he is still a leader, respected and recognized all over the world.

Did you know: “Apache” is a word for “street thug” in France?
Did you know: There is a rumor that some of Geronimo’s warriors “disappeared” mysteriously from the boxcar as they were being transported to Florida?

Did you know: Signers of the Medicine Lodge Treaty were given burial rights in the main post cemetery at Fort Sill? (Quanah Parker and others are buried with white soldiers in the regular base cemetery.)

Did you know: The custom of paratroopers yelling, “Geronimo!” is attributed to Aubrey Ebenhart, a member of the U.S. Army’s test platoon at Ft. Benning, Georgia. He told his friends he would “yell Geronimo loud as hell when I go out that door tomorrow!” Which he did!

In my novel, Fire Eyes, Kaed Turner was abducted by the Apaches as a young boy, just as Jimmy McKinn was kidnapped by Geronimo’s band. Kaed and his younger siblings were traded to the Choctaw, where they were assimilated into the tribe.

This excerpt is a remembrance between Kaed and Chief Standing Bear, the man who raised him. I hope you enjoy it.


Standing Bear dismounted and came forward to stand beside Kaed, and Kaed turned his full attention to the warrior, waiting for the older man to speak.

It was as it had been all those years ago, when Kaed had come to live with the Choctaw people. The Apache had killed his mother and father, then taken Kaed and his younger brother and sister into captivity. The Choctaws had bartered with the Apaches for the youngsters, so they’d been raised in the Choctaw way.
The healing bruises Kaed wore today were reminiscent of the ones he’d been marked with when he first met Standing Bear, close to twenty years earlier.

“Seems we’ve stood this way before, Chief.”

“Yes, Wolf. You were marked as you are today. But still strong enough to wear defiance in your eyes. Strong enough to stand, and fight.”

Kaed gave him a fleeting grin, remembering how, as a nine-year-old boy faced with being traded away, he had rammed his head into Standing Bear’s rock-hard belly, catching him off guard, nearly knocking him to the ground in front of the Apaches and Standing Bear’s own warriors.

Standing Bear smiled and put his hand to his stomach. “This recovered before my pride did.” He nodded at Kaed’s arm. “I hope it is not so with you, Wolf. You did all you could, yet I see you still hold some blame in your heart for yourself.”

Kaed had to admit it was true, and he didn’t understand it. When he went over it logically in his mind, as he had done a thousand times, he knew he wasn’t to blame, that he’d done everything he could have. But he’d never expected White Deer to do what she had done, and he understood the parallel Standing Bear was drawing. The chief had never expected the young boy Kaed had been to lower his head and run at him, either.

Standing Bear spoke in his native tongue. “Have you thought upon my words concerning Fire Eyes? Or will she go to one of my warriors?”

“She is my woman now,” Kaed said in the same language, “and will belong to no other man.”

Fire Eyes and all my other work is available here:
Cheryl's Amazon Author Page:

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Guest Post By Elysa Hendricks

Elysa Hendricks,
Award Winning
Growing up in the mid-west, aside from John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies and TV westerns, I had little contact with the real West. My images were of tall, handsome, heroic cowboys fighting off savage Indians and outlaws, all the while never having to shave or bathe, while wearing white hats that never got dirty or fell off during a chase or gun battle. But despite my obviously misguided idea of what being a cowboy or a pioneer really was like, the American Old West fascinated me.

When I read Lucia St. Claire Robson's RIDE THE WIND and Larry McMurtry's LONESOME DOVE, my eyes were opened to the gritty reality of the Old West and the subject of Indian captives captured my imagination.

Cynthia Ann Parker and her
daughter, Prairie Flower or
 Robson's book fictionalizes the true story of Cynthia Ann Parker, a nine-year old girl kidnapped by a Comanche war band, who massacred her family’s settlement. Cynthia Ann Parker, or Naduah, meaning "Keeps Warm With Us" was then adopted by the Comanche and lived with them for 24 years. She married Chief Peta Nocona and had three children with him.

Big Bend area of Texas,
one of the Comanche's habitat
At the age of 34, the Texas Rangers 'rescued' and returned her to her family. There she spent the remaining 10 years of her life unable to adjust to life in white society. On at least one occasion she tried to escape and return to the Comanche, but was again rescued and brought back to Texas.

Cynthia Ann's childhood home
Though she didn't speak of her life with the Comanche, she apparently couldn't understand her iconic status in society's eyes as being redeemed from the savages - who she considered her people. In 1870 she died of influenza. Her only surviving child, Quanah Parker, later became the last Comanche chief. His story is every bit as interesting as Cynthia's.

Chief Quannah Parker
in Comanche dress
And . . .

Chief Quanah Parker
dressed as a
white businessman
While researching my western romances I devoured everything I could find about the 'real' Old West, Cynthia Ann Parker and other accounts of Indian captives. Here of just a few of the books written about this fascinating and unfortunate woman:

RIDE THE WIND by Lucia St Claire Robson

The subject of Indian abductions goes far beyond Cynthia Ann Parker.
KIDNAPPED AND SOLD BY INDIANS -- TRUE STORY OF A 7-YEAR- OLD SETTLER CHILD (First-Hand Account Of Being Kidnapped By Indians) by Matthew Brayton

What I found most interesting about the first-hand accounts of those abducted and then adopted by Indians was how they bonded with their capturers and became Indian in their hearts. The younger they were at the time of abduction the less likely they were to ever adjust back into white society, but even those that were older, in their teens, often felt more affinity to their Indian families than their birth families. And those who were older, especially women, had a difficult time when they returned to their original homes. Many had married Indian men and given birth to children, which didn't set well with a society that often feared and hated Indians.

T.R. Fehrenbach in his book COMANCHES: A DESTRUCTION OF A PEOPLE talks about how the two societies - western European and American Indian had little chance of co-existing. Though neither side of the conflict was totally good or purely evil, their needs, wants and belief systems were too divergent to live side-by-side without clashing. One or the other had to adapt or be destroyed. History shows us the outcome in our American West, but the same outcome has been seen across the globe when two opposing cultures clash.

When I decided to set my romances in the Old West, I wanted to convey to the reader the harsh realities of the frontier, both for the pioneers and the cowboys, and for the Indians who were losing their way of life. But I also wanted to provide the reader with a strong romance and a satisfying happy ending. Not every pioneer ended up abducted, scalped or dead. Some settled down to raise families and build the communities that exist today.


In a lawless west Texas border town, a woman has two choices: death or dishonor. Doctor's apprentice and former Comanche slave, KC O'Connor finds a third--she buries her femininity and longing for love beneath a boyish disguise. But the arrival of an injured greenhorn shatters the shell around her hidden heart.

                             CHAPTER TWO

Near a small creek, Red Buffalo stopped his horse. Four days and nights of hard riding brought his raiding party hundreds of miles from the site of their successful raid. Any who sought to pursue them had been left behind long ago. Swinging his leg over his horse's back he slid to the ground and led his sweat lathered animal to the water. They would make camp and rest here for a while.

Half-a-dozen warriors joined him at the creek. They drank in silence. Quiet, determined and intense, during the hard ride, they now looked to him, their leader. At his almost imperceptible nod, the air erupted with bloodcurdling howls and shrieks of delight. Red Buffalo grinned in satisfaction. They deserved to celebrate. They had done well.

The raid on the hated Tejanos had been almost too easy. He and his warriors swept through the unsuspecting Texan settlement like a sharp knife through flesh. In minutes, it ended. Tejano men lay dead and dying, their bodies broken and bloodied, arrows and lances piercing their hated, pale skin. Fire purged the land of their obscene dwellings. Acrid smoke filled the air, which echoed with the screams of women and children's cries of terror. Not one of his warriors bore even a scratch.

Red Buffalo allowed himself a small smile as he relished the memory of the Texans shrieking in pain and pleading for mercy. He hated the Texans. Someday he would drive them from Comanche land forever. He chose to ignore the fact his own mother came from that hated breed. Only his greenish-gray eyes and the striking red highlights in his shoulder length hair gave evidence of the white blood flowing through his veins. In all else, he was Eka kura, Red Buffalo, Comanche, son of, Tomooru Tosa nakaai, Winter Hawk.

Not joining in his men's celebration, Red Buffalo surveyed the spoils of their raid. Twenty fine ponies crowded the banks of the creek, herded by the youth brought on the raid for just that purpose. Goods of all kinds lay across the backs of his warrior's ponies, bolts of colored cloth, pots, rifles and jugs of firewater.

He frowned. Red Buffalo did not like the white man's poison; it made strong men weak and weak men foolish. But he knew, now that they were safe from pursuit, he could do little to prevent the warriors from drinking it.

Their captives crouched on the ground, where the warriors had dropped them. One man, two women and three children. Red Buffalo had limited the number his warriors took. With only himself, a boy and six warriors, more captives would have slowed them down too greatly. By keeping their number small, Red Buffalo led his warriors deep into country the Tejanos thought safe from Comanche attack. The illusion of safety made the Texans lax. They paid for their carelessness with their lives.

Even his father could not object to this small number of captives. Of late, Winter Hawk spoke openly of his desire for peace with the whites. In order to keep the soldiers from their camps, he said, they must not take captives. But like all warriors of the Comanche, Red Buffalo was free to make his own decisions. While Winter Hawk might promise the white emissaries he would not raid their settlements or steal their women and children, Red Buffalo was not bound by his father's word.

The male captive looked half-dead. A broken arrow shaft protruded from his left thigh and blood matted his graying hair. His eyes stared vacantly upward. Red Buffalo nudged the man. No flicker of awareness crossed his face. His death would provide little amusement, his mind already gone from his body. One of the women knelt next to him, crooning softly. Plump and gray, well past her prime, she held little interest for Red Buffalo. If she caused no trouble and survived his men's attention, the women of the tribe would decide her fate.

Red Buffalo looked briefly at the children, two boys and a girl child of less than two summers. A boy, about ten, glared defiantly at Red Buffalo. The younger one, about six, clung to the older boy's leg. As Red Buffalo drew closer, the older boy stood up and pushed the smaller boy behind him.
Good, the boy had courage. Now, if he had sense he might someday be a Comanche. Children were always welcome among the Comanche.

HER WILD TEXAS HEART is available for $3.99 from Amazon at


Also at Amazon for western historical fans:

A convent reared innocent and a gunslinger with no memory struggle to survive and find love while crossing the dangerous west Texas frontier.

Abandoned by his father and betrayed by his half-brother and fiancee on the eve of his wedding, JAKE GALLAGHER no longer believes in love. Though he longs to go home, his undercover work for the Texas Rangers keeps him in a lawless Texas border town. Even though it jeopardizes his mission he refuses to stand by and watch outlaws rape and murder a young woman. Getting shot and losing his memory wasn’t part of his plan.

While fleeing from her stepfather’s plans to steal their ranch, CHRISTINA GOODWIN witnesses her brother’s murder and is left in the hands of a merciless band of outlaws. Raised in a strict convent, Christina has little knowledge of men or the world, its dangers and temptations. Frightened and alone, she is forced to accept the help of the dark gunslinger who rescues her. Though drawn to Jake’s potent masculinity, she hesitates to trust him, fearing her stepfather has sent him to bring her back. Unsure of Jake’s motives for helping her, she struggles against him, determined to find a way to avenge her brother’s death and regain control of her ranch from her stepfather.

Learn more about Elysa and her other books at http://www.elysahendricks.com/

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Stagecoach

The Stagecoach

Those stylish, elegant coaches of yesteryear are so nostalgic, romantic, cozy and quaint. Or perhaps it’s our imagination that makes them so appealing. 

The term Stagecoach came about because of the ‘coaches’ that carried passengers along a route in ‘stages’. Stagecoaches could be anything from buckboard wagons to elaborate ‘coaches.’ As long as they were used for public transportation and ran a regularly scheduled route, they were considered stagecoaches. Depending on the route, the number of regular passengers, the weather, and the distance, the coaches would vary, as would the number of horses or mules. Four was the usual number, but six-team coaches were not uncommon, especially for the larger, ‘overland’ stages, and the smaller, shorter coaches and routes were usually pulled by two horses. The average speed was five to twelve miles and hour.

Despite close quarters, long, bumpy and dusty roads, and threats of Indian or outlaw attacks, stagecoaches flourished and were widely used, even after the railroads crossed the nation.  The term stationwagon came about when long wagons boasting three wide bench seats came into service for the specific role of carrying passengers to and from railroad stations.      

In most vehicles, passengers were provided an average of 15 inches each, and sat with their knees dovetailed with the traveler across from them, and depending on other cargo the stage was carrying, passengers often had to hold their luggage on their laps. Etiquette, and/or, passenger behavior was strictly enforced. Wells Fargo had this list of rules posted:

·  Abstinence from liquor is requested, but if you must drink share the bottle. To do otherwise makes you appear selfish and unneighborly.
·  If ladies are present, gentlemen are urged to forego smoking cigars and pipes as the odor of same is repugnant to the gentler sex. Chewing tobacco is permitted, but spit with the wind, not against it.
·  Gentlemen must refrain from the use of rough language in the presence of ladies and children.
·  Buffalo robes are provided for your comfort in cold weather. Hogging robes will not be tolerated and the offender will be made to ride with the driver.
·  Don't snore loudly while sleeping or use your fellow passenger's shoulder for a pillow; he or she may not understand and friction may result.
·  Firearms may be kept on your person for use in emergencies. Do not fire them for pleasure or shoot at wild animals as the sound riles the horses.
·  In the event of runaway horses remain calm. Leaping from the coach in panic will leave you injured, at the mercy of the elements, hostile Indians and hungry coyotes.
·  Forbidden topics of conversation are: stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings.
·  Gents guilty of unchivalrous behavior toward lady passengers will be put off the stage. It's a long walk back. A word to the wise is sufficient.

Fares varied, not only due to distance, but class as well.
First class meant you rode all the way.
Second class meant you had to walk at bad places along the road.
Third class meant you had to push the coach when needed, especially on hilly terrain.

Depending on the schedule, stagecoaches would travel all night, stopping only for fresh horses and quick meals. When an overnight stay was included, the coach often arrived around midnight, and left again by six the following morning. Passengers were encouraged to pack food provisions and they were also told not to grease their hair before traveling because dust would stick to it.
Stagecoaches came to an end around 1915, when motor buses took the place of the horse-drawn coaches.

I’ve ridden in a few ‘tourist’ stagecoaches, and the short rides were fun, but I must admit I prefer modern transportation options. However, my heroines—and heroes—do not have that option. Here’s the short clip from a story that will be released in November from Harlequin Historicals. (Title yet to be determined)

Wyoming Territory
November 1877

The bitter wind that had trampled upon the leather curtains covering the stage windows and snuck beneath the buffalo robe now piled on the hard seat could easily have stolen her breath away, but Constance Jennings’s first glimpse of her destination already had her lungs locked tight. Pinning her quivering bottom lip between her teeth, she glanced over her shoulder, half-hoping the other passenger—an aging pastor who’d conversed pleasantly during the last leg of her journey—would indicate this wasn’t their stop after all.
No such luck. Reverend Stillman smiled kindly as he waved a hand for her to climb down the steps.
The trip had been long and cold, and days of sitting left her legs stiff and her knees popping. As her dress boots hit the dirt street, tremors seized her toes, and then traveled, snaked their way all the way to her scalp until every hair follicle tingled.
Had she completely lost her senses back in New York?
A gust of unrelenting Wyoming wind caught on her head-dress. The covering had once been stylish, but was now as tired and worn as the rest of traveling suit. She grabbed the curled straw brim to keep the wind from stealing the hat, and gulped at the swelling in her throat.
Which one was he? Ashton Kramer—the man who’d ordered a bride.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012


By Caroline Clemmons

On this blog we talk about all the things that opened the West for settlement and expansion. I have a new method to add to those mentioned before -- the first intercontinental highway.

 The American obsession with the automobile began shortly before the turn of the 20th century and mushroomed thereafter. In Texas where I live, the first auto excursion is widely believed to have been that run in October 1899 by Edward H. R. Green and George P. Dorris over a rutted dirt road between Terrell and Dallas. This is not a great distance, but I wouldn’t want to race it on a dirt road! By 1902, auto races were a featured attraction of the State Fair of Texas. In 1903 the first coast-to-coast auto excursion was run between San Francisco and New York City.

1905 Ford Model F
In 1905 the Ford Motor Company produced 1,599 autos; two years later it built 14,887. And Garland, Texas, was as much a victim of the auto fascination as any other population in America. In August 1911, the Garland News named at least 21 Garland (a small town near Dallas) men who were proud owners of new automobiles.

America’s roads were not prepared to accommodate the automobile. Most were rutted wagon trails at best, alternately muddy or dusty. Even before the advent of the automobile, bicycle enthusiasts as early as the 1880s had begun to campaign for road improvement. By the turn of the 20th century, automobile clubs began taking the lead in the so-called Good Roads Movement. Eventually state and local entities grew increasingly supportive of the improvement of rural roads in an effort to boost rural economies and to help stem the migration of the farm population to the cities.

Since I live in Texas, I first became aware of the portion of the Bankhead Highway that runs through my area. Embarrassing as it is to admit, I didn’t realize it was a nationwide highway until a man was featured on the news because he was documenting in photos all the remaining sites along the highway, one of which was in the town nearest me. I decided to look up the details.

In 1911 and 1912 the Texas legislature voted some $5 million in bonds for rural road improvement. Early in 1913 the state legislature passed a bill providing for counties and cities to issue their own road bonds. Soon thereafter Texas governor O. B. Colquitt proclaimed November 5 and 6, 1913, to be "Good Roads Days," acknowledging that the Good Roads Movement promised great progress for the state. Local authorities across the state complained that short of the proclamation, the state was not coming forth with much help in building better roads. Not everyone thought a program of road improvement was a good idea. A group of farmers insisted that it would primarily benefit the "automobilists" and bring about increases in property taxes and farm rents.

The Good Roads Movement was increasingly successful in gaining support. Groups were organized to lobby lawmakers and local leaders, holding road conventions and disseminating published materials on the economic benefits of better roads. In 1913 the first coast-to-coast improved route, the Lincoln Highway, was pieced together by a Good Roads organization successfully convincing counties and cities to improve linked existing routes with their jurisdictions. Because the cooperation of these independent authorities was in most cases purely voluntary and their funding inconsistent, the quality of the improvements and maintenance could be piecemeal and undependable.

The John H. Bankhead National Highway was one of the earliest American auto trails. It connects the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., and San Diego, California on the Pacific. The Bankhead Highway was an important transcontinental route, and its name still appears on many roads to this day.

The Bankhead Highway was named for Good Roads promoter John Hollis Bankhead. John Hollis Bankhead (1842-1920) was a Confederate war hero, an Alabama state representative, a state senator, a ten-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and finally a U.S. Senator. While still a U.S. Representative, he introduced legislation to improve roads and other public works projects. Eventually, with his support as head of the Senate Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads, the Congress passed the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916. Senator Bankhead died in office, and the transcontinental highway through the South that he envisioned was named in his honor. He is buried near the Bankhead Highway, in the Bankhead family plot, Oak Hill Cemetery, Jasper, Alabama. Other famous Bankheads in the plot include the Senator's sons, Senator John Hollis Bankhead II and Speaker of the House of Representatives William Brockman Bankhead, as well as his grandson Representative Walter Will Bankhead.

Talulah Bankhead
By the way, for any old enough to remember hearing of sultry actress Talulah Bankhead, she was the niece of John Hollis Bankhead.

Marker depicting
Bankhead Highway

Many early auto trails had multiple routes, but the Bankhead Highway had several. It can be a bit confusing, A long highway with a famous past remains hidden in the Lone Star State. Although it has changed names many times, it is remembered as the "Route 66 of the South." It was originally designated the Bankhead Highway, and carried travelers from Washington, DC to San Diego, California. After the Lincoln Highway, it was the second largest highway project undertaken in the early twentieth century.

Once nicknamed the "Broadway of America," it was the first true interstate highway in the United States. It is the main street of many cities and towns, and to this day retains its original name in some areas. More famous roadways such as Route 66 have come and gone, and have been replaced by modern interstates. Yet it is still possible to traverse most of the original route of the Bankhead Highway in Texas.

This coast-to-coast highway idea began through a group of citizens and politicians, known as the Good Roads Movement. Officials in the automotive industry also were active in the movement, lobbying for a means to make their products more usable. Due to the poor condition of roads in most rural areas, long-distance travel across the U.S. was difficult, if not impossible for most Americans. Trains were always reliable, but did not have routes to every location where people did business. As automobiles became more affordable, the need for better roads came to the forefront of public awareness. The Good Roads Movement was embraced by most, especially farmers, who needed reliable roads to transport their goods to market.

It is generally accepted that the economic benefits deriving from the Bankhead and other such highway projects during the 1930s provided for many a buffer against the hardships of the Great Depression.

The effort spearheaded by Senator John Hollis Bankhead of Alabama brought the highway into reality when his bill was approved by the Senate and House of Representatives, then signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson as the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916. Although slowed by the country's involvement in World War I, the project gained momentum and sections of the highway began to appear across the states. Hundreds of miles of roadway were built in the 1920's, and many people were rescued from devastating poverty during the Depression by working on the Bankhead Highway. In North Central Texa, bricks manufactured in Thurber were used to pave parts of the highway. In fact, portions of those brick paved roads still survive in some area.

On the Texas segment, going from east to west, travelers would pass through Texarkana, Mt. Vernon, Terrell, Dallas, Fort Worth, Mineral Wells, Abilene, Midland, and El Paso. Commerce developed at all points in between, thanks to easy access provided by the highway. Businesses sprang up overnight to cater to the needs of millions of people who passed through on their way to somewhere. By the 1940's along the Bankhead, every town's main street stretched from sea to sea. The Bankhead Highway sign was the black letters "BH" on a white background with wide yellow stripes across the sign’s top and bottom.

Capacity issues eventually doomed the famous highway. Two-lane roads were not designed to handle the increased traffic in postwar America of the 1940's and 50's. With passage of the Interstate Highway Act of 1956, older highways soon became less traveled. As traffic decreased, so did the commerce it brought to many towns across the country. Businesses closed, and people moved to more populated areas with greater opportunities for careers and success. Such is progress.

The Bankhead Highway lives on, at least in many parts of the South. Recent interest in travel and roadside nostalgia has partly revived some thoroughfares, such as the Dixie Highway and Route 66. People gather to reminisce about times when things didn't move quite so fast. Others gaze at transportation museum exhibits and remember things as they once were. For the Bankhead Highway, it is business as usual. Renamed Highway 80 then U.S. 180 in most areas of Texas, it is still a thriving and necessary part of life, still a "Broadway" for many Texas towns.

Thanks to
Joe Defazio, http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~unclejoe/tx/bankhead.html,
http://www.garlandhistorical.org/bankhead_narrative.html and Wikipedia.

Caroline Clemmons writes contemporary, historical and time travel romance set primarily in Texas. Contact her at caroline@carolineclemmons.com or check her personal blog at http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com/

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What if We Don't Question?

by Jeanmarie Hamilton

The other night I stayed up late reading a book about a southwestern archaeological excavation which took place in the 1920s. The book is fascinating to me and brings up some questions, the main one being, what if we don't question?

The professor in charge of the excavation studied the Indians of the southwest in the four corners states of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Based on his studies and field work in those four states, he made conclusions which he said could prove wrong with more study.

That's an important point that I believe is valuable to remember. Conclusions about things could be proved wrong with more study.

One of his conclusions about the extent of pre-pueblo life in the southwest was that there was little evidence to show that habitations were abundant below the southern border of New Mexico. However, within the last two decades, important discoveries of pre-pueblo habitations were made in and around the El Paso, Texas area.

For example, Firecracker Pueblo was excavated before a highway could be built over it in the northeast part of the city, and a habitation given the name of Keystone was discovered in the west part of the city during excavations for building. Both areas are pre-pueblo. http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/firecracker/index.html

Evidence for pre-pueblo habitations includes corrugated pottery ware. I've seen an area beside an arroyo north of Fabens, Texas, east of El Paso, where shards of corrugated pottery ware had been left in a large, weather-worn pile. I've read about the discovery of other small habitations found along the Rio Grande River near El Paso. Because the area around El Paso is a dry desert, sand blows in the springtime during wind storms, and over time the sand builds up high enough to cover ancient dwellings. Flash floods may also cover evidence during the heavy summer rains in the El Paso area.

A recent program on TV talked about fossil finds of crocodiles never before found that were unearthed in the desert of Africa. This is all new information about animals that lived millions of years ago.

Did you know that there were Dire Wolves in Texas thousands of years ago? A web site about Kincaid Cave in the hill country near San Antonio tells of the ancient people who lived there and the animals they sought protection from. They found shelter and a place to live in the cave. Dire Wolves, present at that time, had larger bodies and shorter legs, in proportion, than today's Timber Wolves. They also had larger heads and teeth, and were obviously very different looking than today's wolves. http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/kincaid/

In my contemporary Wolves of West Texas series I write about two different shapes of werewolves. One family is made up of werewolves much like the description of the werewolf in France that was described over a hundred years ago. The other family in this series who live in central Texas in cattle country are werewolves who are shaped like present day wolves. I love to let my imagination think up fanciful animals and beings for the fiction I write. Why not?

Guardian of His Love is about Derek Wolfson and Kelly Wolford. It's out now at Siren BookStrand. This is the third story in the Wolves of West Texas series. It's pure fictional romance for readers over 18 years of age. You can find it listed beside my Claire Adele author name.

Jeanmarie Hamilton
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Guardian of His Love, out now at Siren BookStrand

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Erastus "Deaf" Smith--a Texas Hero

By Celia Yeary

The History Channel's portrayal of the Texas Revolution titled TEXAS RISING, does have many errors or misconceptions, but still, it's entertaining. The characters interest me more, though, than the actual inconsistences of the battles, skirmishes or landscape.
One particular character worthy of praise is the character Deaf Smith. His real name was Erastus "Deaf" Smith. This man was truly a hero, although very quiet. Since he was deaf, he didn't speak very much.
Some called him Johnny-on-the-Spot.
Erastus Smith was born in Dutchess County, New York in 1787. In 1798, his family moved near Natchez, Mississippi. In 1821, at age 34, he moved on to Texas for health reasons. His health apparently recovered except for a partial loss of hearing, hence the nickname "Deaf" Smith, pronounced "Deef Smith."

In 1822, he married a Tejana, Guadalupe Ruiz Duran, a widow with three children. The couple also had four children together. Smith settled his family in Presidio San Antonio de Bexar where he became accepted as a member of the Tejano (Latino-Texan) community.

Smith, also known as "El Sordo," (the deaf man) appeared in many areas of Mexican Texas and was in most significant actions related to development of the region both under Mexico and during evolution of independence. At San Antonio de Bexar, he introduced a fine stock of Muley cattle from Louisiana to the Texas area, where the Longhorn breed was previously popular.

Erastus “Deaf” Smith, became an ace scout, soldier, spy, and hero of the Texas Revolution. He also commanded Sam Houston’s scouts at the Battle of San Jacinto. As a scout, he set up the Battle of Concepcion and the Grass Fight, and he brought the Widow Dickenson and her baby back to safety from the fallen Alamo. When Sam Houston wanted Vince’s Bridge destroyed, so that neither his Texans nor Santa Anna’s troops could escape the field of San Jacinto, he called on Deaf Smith. Smith also briefly captained a company of Texas Rangers after the War.

Erastus Smith died in November of 1837, when the Republic of Texas was barely a year old. Sadly, he lost his eyesight, too, before he died. Smith became a folk hero in Texas.

Deaf Smith County borders New Mexico in the far-flung Panhandle of Texas. The county is one of about fifty descendant counties from Bexar County in South Texas (San Antonio.)

February 19 is Texas Statehood Day. On this day in 1846, the Lone Star Flag came down, and the government passed to the new state of Texas.

In a saucepan, combine: ¾ cup vinegar, ¾ cup corn oil, ¾ cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil—set aside to cool.

Prepare: 1 cup chopped green pepper, 1 cup chopped celery, ½ cup chopped green onions and tops. Place in a mixing bowl.

Drain: one 16-ounce can shoepeg corn, one 8-ounce can LaSeur peas, one 2-ounce jar diced pimentos.

Lightly mix the chopped and the drained vegetables. Pour the vinegar and oil mixture over vegetables and mix. Refrigerate several hours. The salad stays crisp for days.
(Disclaimer: Recipe from “Tastes and Tales of Texas,” but the same recipe can be found in numerous other cookbooks, and written on 3x5 recipe cards in many kitchens.)   
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
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History Channel "Texas Rising" site
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Note: Original Post from February 2012-revised and re-edited

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Some Black Magic, Western-style~ Tanya Hanson

By Tanya Hanson
     Not long ago, my hubby and I recently took a fantastic city slicker wagon train trip around the Tetons. Just as we started planning the trip, I started writing the eight-book Hearts Crossing Ranch series where wagon train adventures play a big part. In fact, one of the eight Martin siblings is a chuck cook on her family’s adventures. The fifth book in the series, Soul Food, stars Kelley Martin and will be out in the spring.

     Of course, Kelley cooks many outdoor meals for those city slickers in cast-iron Dutch ovens. Any discussion of this hearty kettle starts by mentioning the method of casting with iron in dry sand molds. The technique’s exact origin isn’t known, but it most probably dates from the Dark Ages in Western Europe, refined later in both England and the Netherlands. The term “Dutch oven” may have come from the Netherlands connection and the Dutch traders who peddled them.

     The “bulge” style pot –in my head I envision a witch’s cauldron— likely came over with the Pilgrims, but the 3-legged “bake” or “camp” oven appeared in the early 1700’s. Paul Revere (yes, he of the famous 1775 Midnight Ride) is said to have adapted the oven lid’s flanged lip to hold coals on top while the pot rested on a campfire. However, the oven was versatile and could be used on the hearth and for roasting in a stove’s oven.
     Lewis and Clark’s Corp of Discovery (1803-05) carried a “large-size Dutch oven” across their entire route to the Pacific Northwest and home again. No self-respecting covered wagon or cattle drive traveled without the Dutch oven, and every Gold Rush mining camp had several, needing at least one for their historic sourdough bread. Miners lucky enough to have a burro or pack mule invariably had a Dutch oven tied on top.

     By the mid 1870’s, every American household had some sort of cast iron cooking item, Dutch oven, skillet, or pot. Around 1920, casting iron reached its pinnacle in quality and quantity, but the invention of the electric stove in the 1890’s had already started a decline in interest of the Dutch ovens. However, one great casting company, Lodge, began operations in 1896 and continues to this day.
     In recent years, the mystique of Dutch oven “black pot” cooking has made a comeback, not because of need but because of a resurgence in the outdoors, in nostalgia, and in love of history. Most Dutch oven recipes can be revised for stove top, oven or slow cooker as well.

     Today’s Dutch oven chef needs a lid lifter, heavy special gloves, wooden utensils, briquettes, and a Dutch oven of 5 to 22 inches in diameter. The 12-incher is the most popular. The well-sealed lid allows heat and pressure to build while preserving the moisture of the food. Although there are many directions (e.g. “above-to-underneath” and “checkerboard pattern” among them) for actual food production, the general rule for the cook is to use twice as many briquettes as the diameter of the lid. Briquette placement on the lid and under the pot is crucial, as is rotating the lid and pot 90 degrees every fifteen minutes. Altitude, sun and even wind play important roles, too.
     The premier organization for Dutch oven cooking, the International Dutch Oven Society (http://www.idos.com/) began in the Rocky mountains and now has 48 chapters in 27 states and 2 Canadian provinces. Each spring IDOS holds the World Championship Dutch Oven Cook-off.
    Any Dutch oven stories or recipes to share today?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cooking on the Western Trail

by Anna Kathryn Lanier

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I thought about doing something in honor of the day, but decided against it.  Most other bloggers are doing such blogs, but really, truly I just didn’t feel like doing research on the history of Valentine’s Day.  So instead I found an article on cooking on the western trail in THE OLD WEST: THE PIONEERS, from Time-Life Books. One of the articles includes recipes, so here’s a blog on cooking on the western trail.

Though the pioneer women were used to cooking, doing so on an open flame was not something they knew how to do.  Cooking on the trail was not easy and they learned by trial and error.  Helen Carpenter, a new bride making her way west on her honeymoon, wrote: “Although there is not much to cook, the difficulty and inconvenience in doing it amounts to a great deal—so by the time one has squatted around the fire and cooked bread and bacon, and made several dozen trips to and from the wagon—washed the dishes….and gotten things ready for an early breakfast, some of the others already have their night caps on—at any rate it is time to go to bed.” (1)  She also comments, “It is hurry scurry to get breakfast and put away things that necessarily had to be pulled out the last night…nooning is barely long enough to eat a cold bite—and at night all the cooking utensils and provisions are to be gotten about the camp fire, and cooking enough to last until the next night.” (2)

THE OLD WEST says that pioneers built campfires twice a day (in the morning and at night) using what fuel they could find: buffalo chips, sagebrush or weeds. “Bread, bacon and coffee were staples of their diet, augmented by any random harvest they could reap en route: fresh buffalo meat, rabbit or sage hen.” Eliza Ann McAuley writes “In cutting a way for the road, the boys find thickets of wild currants. There are several varieties, the black, the red and the white. The boys cut the bushes, some of them ten feet long and loaded with ripe currants, which we strip off and make into jelly, currant wine and vinegar, dried currants and currant pie.” (3)

THE OLD WEST tells us that in the early years of emigration, the pioneers could find and kill buffalo or antelope along the trail, but “a more dependable supply of fresh meat was a herd of cattle led behind the wagon.” And the milk provided by the milk cow was highly prized.  Not only was there a supply of fresh milk, but butter could be churned during the day’s journey by hanging pails on the jolting wagon; by day’s end, the butter was ready for the freshly baked bread.

The pioneer cook had to be resourceful and ingenious when it came to cooking.  She would have to improvise when supplies ran short, because no matter how well one packed the wagon, supplies did not always last as planned. For example, bacon if not protected from the heat of the plains would go bad.  It was standard for bacon to be packed in a barrel of bran to insulate it.  Eggs were similarly packed in corn meal to keep them from breaking, but also because they’d be used to make bread. 

The women usually cooked breakfast and dinner.  Lunch would have been ‘leftovers,’ often baked beans or stew with bread or biscuits from the night before.  Below are a few recipes from common ‘trail’ foods. Thankfully, THE OLD WEST updated the recipes for us.

Soda Bread:

To make dough, mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 cup warm water, add 2¼ cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt. Knead well. The dough may be used at once or allowed to rise overnight in a warm place. In either case, flatten dough to a thickness of 1 inch. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake in a 400° oven for 25 minutes.

Dried Apple Pie:

Soak 2 cups of dried apples in water overnight. Drain off water and mix apples with ½ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon each of allspice and cinnamon.  Line an 8-inch pie pan with a crust, and add the apple mixture. Dot with 3 tablespoons butter and cover with a second pie crust.  Make a few slashes in the top for ventilation and bake in a 350° oven for about 1 hour or until crust is golden brown.

And just for fun – Buffalo Jerky

Slice buffalo meat along the grain into strips 1/8-inch thick, ½-inch wide and 2 to 3 inches long.  Hang them on a rack in a pan and bake at 200° until dry.  To prepare outside, suspend them over a fire or drape them on bushes to dry in the sun.

Other references:
(2)    PLAINS WOMEN: Women in the American West by Paula Bartley and Cathy Loxton
(3)    COVERED WAGON WOMEN: Diaries & Letters from the Western Trails, 1852 by Kenneth L. Holmes
Anna Kathryn Lanier
Never let your memories be greater than your dreams. ~Doug Ivester