Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Story of Yellow Bird and Elizabeth Wilson Ridge by Cheryl Pierson

This love story starts many years before the lovers ever met. It begins with something that happened when John Rollin Ridge was an eleven-year-old boy, and witnessed his father’s bloody murder.

John Rollin Ridge, called Cheesquatalawny, or “Yellow Bird,” by his fellow Cherokee tribesmen, was the son of John Ridge, and the grandson of a prominent Cherokee leader, Major John Ridge. Major Ridge was one of the most powerful and wealthy members of the eastern Cherokee tribes in the early 1800s. By the time John Rollin Ridge was born in 1827, the State of Georgia had discovered gold on Cherokee lands and wanted them relocated. Cherokee leaders, at first, were opposed to signing treaties with the U.S. Government, refusing to go.

But the State of Georgia confiscated Cherokee lands in 1832, including the homes and thriving plantation owned by some members of the tribe, including another prominent family, the Waties. Major Ridge and his son John opposed the removal, but because of the inevitability of the outcome of the situation, they and some of the other leaders reversed their stance on negotiating with the federal government. Major Ridge, and John Ridge, along with Stand Watie and his brothers, formed the powerful Ridge-Watie-Boudinot faction of the Cherokee council, standing in favor of the Cherokee Removal. Their signing of the Treaty of New Echota sold Cherokee lands and facilitated the removal of the Cherokee people to Indian Territory—what is now Oklahoma—an act considered treasonous by many.

Another faction of Cherokees following John Ross refused to ratify the treaty signing. This segment was known as The Anti-Removal National Party. The word was out—traitors were to be executed.

Blood Law (also called blood revenge) is the practice in traditional customary Native American law where responsibility for seeing that homicide is punished falls on the clan of the victim. The responsibility for revenge fell to a close family member (usually the closest male relative). In contrast to the Western notion of justice, blood law was based on harmony and balance. It was believed that the soul/ghost of the victim would be forced to wander the earth, not allowed to go to the afterlife, unless harmony was restored. The death of the killer (or member of the killer's clan) restored the balance. (From Wikipedia)

Members of this Ross group targeted Stand Watie and his brother, Elias Boudinot, along with their uncle, Major Ridge for assassination. On the morning of June 2, 1839, John’s father, John Ridge, was dragged from his bed by some of the tribesmen of The Anti-Removal National Party and murdered as his wife and children, including young John, looked on. This event would color John’s life until the end.

Mrs. Ridge took her family to northwestern Arkansas. Young John’s thirst for vengeance was tempered only by a young woman he met and fell in love with, Elizabeth Wilson.

They first met when John was studying Latin and Greek with a local missionary. Elizabeth worked for the missionary. John wrote to his cousin, “There is a prettily shapely girl of about 16 or 17 years, who is very friendly and gives me a quantity of enjoyment in her company, whenever I get tired of dusty pages of legal technicalities.”

Elizabeth was part Native American, and John was half Cherokee. To her, he was the handsomest man she’d ever seen, and she believed him to be a talented writer—one of the most intelligent men in the country. John was not only entranced by Elizabeth’s beauty, but the sweet honesty and goodness of her character, and her brilliance. They married in May, 1847, and though they were happy, their love couldn’t overcome the bloody images that John tried to forget, the tragedy that consumed him.

(Elizabeth Wilson Ridge--John Rollin Ridge's wife)
As an adult, he often dreamt of the morning of his father’s murder, awakening from sleep screaming. Elizabeth was at his side, calming him. She promised to help him fulfill his desire for revenge any way she could.

“There is a deep seated principle of revenge in me which will never be satisfied, until it reaches its object,” he told her.

Eventually, they traveled to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) where they joined forces with other allies of the Ridge faction, all of them eager to track down and punish those responsible for the deaths of the Major Ridge, and members of Stand Watie’s family. In the end, thirty-two of the thirty-six men who had been responsible for the murders were found and killed.

John squared off against one of the four remaining assassins, Judge David Kell. When Kell advanced on John, John shot him, claiming it was done in self-defense. But John had no faith in getting a fair trial (Cherokee court) and he and Elizabeth ran to Missouri, settling in Springfield.

John became a freelance writer, selling articles to various newspapers to supplement his salary in the county clerk’s office. He and Elizabeth now had a baby girl, Alice.

(Alice Bird, daughter of Elizabeth and John)
The Ridges lived an idyllic life. But John’s health failed him at the age of thirty-nine. He became afflicted with “softening of the brain,” a disease that took its toll quickly through the spring and summer of 1867.

(John Rollin Ridge and his daughter, Alice)
John Rollin Ridge, Yellow Bird, died on October 5, 1867, leaving behind a collection of fine articles, sketches and poetry. In 1868, Elizabeth published an anthology of his poetry.

Elizabeth died in 1905 and was buried beside her husband in Grass Valley.
The Maple tree on the right was planted by Elizabeth (Wilson) Ridge's - Rollin's wife. The tree was brought back from Gettysburg by Alice Bird in 1876. On 10/10/1976, a plaque was mounted on the tree for a dedication.

Inscription on tombstone:
John Rollin Ridge
California Poet, Author of "Mount Shasta"
And Other Poems,
Born March 19, 1827 In Cherokee Nation,
Near What Is Now Rome, Georgia,
Died in Grass Valley, October 5, 1867,
In Grateful Memory

I want to offer a copy of my book, FIRE EYES, today to one lucky commenter. Please leave your contact information along with your comment to be entered in the drawing.

You can find my works here:

I READ but a moment her beautiful eyes,
I glanced at the charm of her snowy-white hand
I caught but the glimpse of her cheek's blushing dyes
More sweet than the fruits of a tropical land;

I marked but an instant her coral-hued lips,
And the row of sweet pearls that glimmered between--
Those lips, like the roses the humming bird sips
On his bright wing of rainbows, when summer is green.

I timidly gazed on a bosom more white
Than the breast of the swan, more soft than its down--
To rest on whose pillows were greater delight
Than all else of rapture that heaven may own.

I gazed but a second on these, and on all
That make up the sum of her angel-like form,
And ere I could think I was bound in her thrall,
And peace fled my breast, as the birds flee a storm!
I am bound in love's pain, and may never be free,
Till the bond is dissolved in her own melting kiss:
Till her loveliness, like the embrace of a sea,
Enclasps me, and hides me in the depths of its bliss.

John Rollin Ridge

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


The story of Dale Evans and Roy Rogers might read “Queen of the West marries King of the Cowboys to travel Happy Trails together.” But no matter how famous they became, their lives were plagued by heartache as well as happiness.

Dale Evans and Roy Rogers
Queen of the West and King of the Cowboys

Like many youngsters, I admired Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. My plan was to edge out Dale after I grew up and have Roy all to myself. I pictured us riding the range as we rid the West of bank robbers and rustlers. Imagine my anguish when I learned Dale had long ago married Roy and he wouldn’t be waiting for me. Don’t worry, I’m almost over it.

Strangely enough, Dale’s story starts similar to my own. She remembers sitting on the banks of the Uvalde River south of San Antonio and dreaming about Tom Mix (instead of the far superior Roy Rogers about whom I dreamed). She planned to grow up and marry Tom Mix, and of course, she believed he would remain the same while she aged. Little girls and their fanciful imaginations, right? But that’s where any resemblance disappears.

Dale began life as Frances Octavia Smith on October 31, 1912 in Uvalde, Texas, the daughter of a Baptist minister and his wife. She was the first grandchild and received plenty of attention. She loved being “on show.” The precocious Frances eloped at the age of fourteen with a boy four years older, Thomas Fox, by lying about their ages. A year later, living with her husband’s parents, she gave birth to Tom, Jr. But Tom asked for a divorce when Frances was sixteen, insisting they married too young.

Dale Evans circa 1930's
Frances’ name was changed by one of her producers because he said Dale Evans sounded good on the air. During a career as a radio and band singer, Dale remarried briefly and divorced. Her singing took her to Hollywood where eventually she was signed for movies. She envisioned herself as a grand musical star, but learned she needed more than ballroom dancing to do the extensively choreographed tap and ballet routines of the 1930's movies.

Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys

Roy was born Leonard Slye on November 5, 1911 at 412 Second Street in Cinncinatti, Ohio. He loved singing and playing the guitar and traveled in several musical groups, including the famous Sons of the Pioneers, before signing as a western star. A producer changed his name. Will Rogers’s popularity accounts for Roy’s last name, and the producer found the alliterative name Roy Rogers held appeal, citing that Roy means king in French.

Dale’s acting career was less than spectacular until cast opposite Roy Rogers in “The Cowboy and the Señorita.” Since she was from Texas, casting thought she could ride a horse. As she galloped down a hill behind Roy, she bounced so hard her caps actually flew off her teeth. Her experience convinced her to take riding lessons, and Roy also gave her pointers.

Dale Evans, 1940's Sweater Girl
She wanted to be a “serious actress” and westerns didn’t fit her career plan. After bouncing back and forth between popular westerns and serious flops, she realized that westerns starring opposite Roy Rogers might be her forté.

At the time, Roy was happily married to Arlene (nee Wilkins.) Eight days after giving caesarian birth to their third child, Arlene died of an embolism. Roy was grief stricken and left to raise Cheryl, Linda, and Dusty (Roy Jr.). Over a year later, as the featured entertainers at a Chicago rodeo, Roy proposed to Dale while on horseback in the arena. 

They were married New Year’s Eve, 1947 at the home of Bill and Alice Likens’s Flying L Ranch in Oklahoma. They hoped to avoid the spectacle a Hollywood wedding would create, plus that was close enough for Dale's Texas relatives to attend. They neglected to take into account Oklahoma weather and other disasters. Snow and sleet made the minister two hours late. Roy and his best man were late coming downstairs due to extinguishing a fire in a bedroom they passed. Someone had tossed a cigarette into a wastebasket and started a blaze.

Entertaining troops in Vietnam
At age thirty-seven, Dale learned she and Roy were expecting a baby. Trouble dogged the pregnancy: Dale contracted German measles in her second month, had to be bed fast twice, and developed anemia. On top of that, she was Rh-negative and Roy was Rh-positive. On August 26, 1950, Robin Elizabeth Rogers arrived. She had Mongolism, or what is now called Down syndrome. Robin lived only three years.  Their acceptance of Robin's disability and Dale's book also won many fans--fans who faced similar challenges. Instead of sheltering or hiding their children at home as was the custom of the time, parents brought them to concerts where they cheered Dale and Roy.

Dale’s book about Robin’s life and death, ANGEL UNAWARE, sold hd over a million copies and had gone through twenty-nine printings by 1994. The title is based on the verse in Hebrews: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Dale also authored eighteen other Christian-themed books. With Roy, she co-authored two books about their life. 

Readers will probably recognize two of Dale’s many published songs, “The Bible Tells Me So” and their theme song of “Happy Trails.” After hearing and squawking (my version of singing) out "The Bible Tells Me So" as long as I can recall, I admit I believed it an old-time gospel song. I don't believe I ever saw actual sheet music, so I hadn't a clue that Dale Evans was credited as sole songwriter.

After Robin’s death, Dale and Roy adopted several children. They toured together and frequently visited hospitalized children, who always held a soft spot in their hearts. Roy said, “No amount of money or fame can equal the feeling of watching sick children’s faces light up when I walk in their hospital rooms.”

In addition to Robin, Dale and Roy lost two of the children they’d adopted: Debbie, their half Korean/half Puerto Rican daughter from Korea died in a bus crash at age twelve; and Sandy, a formerly abused son from the US who died while he was in the Army stationed in Germany. Their other children grew and married, Dodie, the youngest in 1989. 

Then Dale and Roy were left in their large home alone, except for the time they spent playing with their grandkids, and entertaining at a few special guest appearances, such as with Billy Graham's Crusades. They opened the Roy Rogers museum across the road from their Apple Valley Ranch. Roy made his last movie, “Mackintosh and T.J.” in 1976. Dale had a faith-based radio show for many years after that and continued her writing. 

Dale and Roy in front of Trigger
Dale thought Trigger should be buried with a
headstone and threatened to have Roy
stuffed when he died and mounted on Trigger.
The Roy Rogers Museum moved to Branson. But in 2009 it closed and the items were auctioned off. I almost cried when I heard the closing announced. How I would have loved to have anything that had belonged to the duo. But after 42 years, attendance had declined. Roy had told Roy Jr. that if the museum ever started costing money, he should close it and move on. 

Roy Rogers Museum, Branson, Missouri
Not all their dreams came true, but in fifty years of marriage, their love and high standards still serve as an example for their fans. 

Roy and Dale at the 61st Oscars
In the 1994 book HAPPY TRAILS, by Jane and Michael Stern, Roy said, “I think maybe the most important thing Dale and I have in common, along with our faith, is our love for children. Both of us wanted a big family; and our roles in cowboy movies made other kids, as well as our own, an endless part of our lives.” 

Thanks, Dale and Roy, for all the pleasure you brought me an countless others. 
Happy Trails! 

Caroline Clemmons is the Amazon bestselling author of western romances. Her recent release, BLUEBONNET BRIDE, is book three in her acclaimed Men of Stone Mountain series.She and her husband live in Texas cowboy country.

When a tornado provides Rosalyn with the opportunity to escape the gallows, she collects her daughter Lucy and flees. They travel far enough West that Rosalyn believes she’s gone to the ends of the earth. She hopes she and Lucy will be safe in this remote North Texas town where she embarks on a new life as a dressmaker. If only she could avoid contact with people, especially the handsome sheriff who pops up every time she turns around. What if she and her chatterbox daughter slip and reveal too much? 

To celebrate Sweethearts Month at Sweethearts of the West, Caroline will be giving away a copy of BLUEBONNET BRIDE to one commenter.

BLUEBONNET BRIDE is available as an e-book at Smashwords:

and in print and e-book at Amazon

Thanks for stopping by!

HAPPY TRAILS: Our Life Story, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, by Jane and Michael Stern, 1994, Simon and Schuster
Wikipedia and other online sites

Sunday, February 24, 2013

President Andrew Jackson and Rachel Robards

Forgive me, my love story post isn't from the old west, but it is a love story...

Even though he was known as the “People’s President” when elected as the 7th U.S. President, Andrew Jackson was not known as an endearing man. Often demonstrating a volatile temper and aggressive behavior, Jackson was nicknamed “Old Hickory,” (also due in part to the rugged life he led as a frontiersman). However, despite his toughness, when loved called, Andrew fell hard.

Born in 1767, Jackson was twenty-one in 1788 when he met Rachel Robards, a beautiful, vivacious young woman, while staying at her mother’s boarding house in Tennessee. At the time, Rachel, also born in 1767, was married to a man named Captain Lewis Robards, who was known for his jealous outbreaks. In 1790, when Jackson heard of Rachel’s separation from Robards and subsequent divorce, he immediately courted her. The two fell deeply in love and solely devoted to one another, married in 1791. Two years into their marriage they discovered Rorbards had never divorced Rachel. Supposedly a divorce proclamation had been published in a newspaper owned by Robard’s friend, but Lewis had not obtained an actual divorce.

Not only was divorce frowned upon at the time (Rachel’s was the first divorce in Kentucky), Andrew and Rachel refused to refrain from living together and Rachel continued to refer to herself as Mrs. Jackson. When her divorce was finalized in 1794, the two married again. Many disparaging and cruel remarks were made against Rachel, and Jackson spent a good amount of time in duels defending his wife’s honor. In one such duel, Jackson was struck by a bullet, which was lodged so close to his heart it could never be removed.

During their 37 years together, Andrew and Rachel adopted three sons, Theodore (an orphaned Indian little is known about), Andrew Jackson, Jr. (the son of Rachel’s brother) and Lyncoya (a Creek Indian orphan who died at the age of 16.) They also acted as guardians to eight other children, three of whom where Rachel’s brother’s children, one her great nephew, and three others who came to live with them after their widowed father, a friend of the family, died.

Though Rachel was known as a gentle, generous and religious woman, during Jackson’s bid for Presidency in 1828 his enemies insulted her non-stop, citing Rachel as a woman of loose morals and a bigamist. Despite all, Jackson won the Presidency in a downslide. However, two weeks later in December 1828, two months before her husband would take office, Rachel died of a heart attack.

Jackson, refusing to believe his beloved was dead, insisted she be covered with blankets so she wouldn’t get cold before waking. Ultimately, he built a tomb for her in her flower garden, and according to family, visited her grave every night before retiring.

Andrew blamed his political opponents for her death, and never forgave them. He appointed one of Rachel’s nieces, Emily Donelson (who was married to Rachel’s nephew), to act as his ‘First Lady’ fulfilling the role of hostess of the White House. Emily became estranged from Jackson during the Petticoat affair. (A scandal created by one of his cabinet members marrying a widow shortly after her husband died. Andrew, still mourning Rachel, agreed with the quick wedding, while all others thought a longer waiting period was needed.) Jackson’s daughter-in-law stepped in as acting First Lady until the scandal absolved, (after most of Jackson’s cabinet members were replaced). When Emily once returned to her role, it was the only time in history the White House had two First Ladies.

Dedicated to remaining faithful to Rachel, Jackson never married again. It’s said he kept her portrait at the foot of his bed so she was the last thing he’d see every night and the first thing he’d see every morning.

Jackson died in 1848, having proclaimed, “Heaven will be no heaven for me if Rachel isn’t there.”

Though my March 1st release, Inheriting a Bride, is set in Colorado in 1885, the relationship of Andrew and Rachel comes up in a conversation between my hero, Clay Hoffman and heroine, Kit Becker, because Clay’s horse is named after the President.

Blurb: Kit Becker travels to Nevadaville prepared to use any pretense necessary to discover why she must share her inheritance, and with whom.  

Clay Hoffman knows a thing or two about money-grabbing females, so when he finds one posing as his new ward, he's determined to get beneath every delicious layer of her disguises. Discovering she's telling the truth, Clay is torn--he should be protecting her, not thinking about making her his bride! All he knows for sure is that he's inherited a whole heap of trouble!

Excerpt: Not realizing she’d closed her eyes, Kit was surprised to see him standing beside her, holding out a small tin. “What’s that?”


“For what?”

He glanced around as if assuring their privacy, and then leaned closer to whisper, “For the saddle sore on your rump.”

“My r—” She swallowed the rest of the word, aghast.

“Yes, your rump.” Though he looked as if he was about to burst out laughing, he didn’t. “Saddle sores are a common ailment, and nothing to be embarrassed about.” His expression turned serious. “They’re also nothing to mess with. Especially once the boil forms.”

The intense heat of mortification covered her face. “I do not have a boil,” she insisted.

“Maybe not yet, but you will by the time we get to Black Hawk if you don’t take care of it.” He took her hand and laid the tin in her palm. “Go behind the trees and rub some on.”

Right now, she was willing to try most anything. The pain had become unbearable. “Will it hurt?” she asked.


She snapped her head up. The laughter was gone from his eyes. Sincerity and honesty shone there instead.

A large lump formed in her throat. “Yes?”

He nodded. “At first it’s going to sting like h— really sting, but within a few minutes it’ll ease up and soon the spot will be numb. You won’t feel a thing the rest of the way to town. At which point you’ll want to have Doc look at it. He may need to lance it.”

Her insides shook. “Lance it?”

Again there was nothing but truthfulness in Clay’s gaze. That and compassion. “Go on,” he insisted, turning her about by grasping her shoulders. “Andrew and I will wait here.”

Kit wished she had an alternative. Well, she did, but the thought of a boil wasn’t much of a choice, and she honestly didn’t think she could climb back on Andrew the way her backside stung—as if she’d backed up against a cookstove. “You won’t peek?”

Clay fought the urge to laugh. It wasn’t funny. Her backside had to be stinging as if she’d sat on a hornets’ nest. He doubted there was a person alive who hadn’t ended up with a saddle sore at one point in his or her life. Including him. But she looked so darn cute. “No,” he assured. “Neither Andrew nor I will peek.” The flicker of annoyance dancing in her coffee-colored eyes had a grin tickling the edges of his lips. He winked. “Yell if you need help, though.”

I’ll mail a paperback copy of this book to a commenter. (Either here or since I know how frustrating it can be to comment on some blogs, you can send an email to Lauri at Izoom dot net.) Please include your email address either place.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Sweethearts of the West-Guest: Vonnie Davis

Thank you for allowing me to visit Sweethearts of the West, especially during February when you are discussing true love stories from the Old West. Historical love stories, whether real or fictional, warms our hearts and reminds us this powerful emotion knows no generation or century.
Vonnie will give away two copies of Tumbleweed Letters
one copy of A Man for Annalee--new release today!
About a year ago, The Wild Rose Press started a series called “Love Letters.” Every entry had to be historical, between 20-25,000 words with the arrival of a letter within the first three pages that changes a character’s life. Something about that appealed to my creative spirit. I mean, think of the possibilities…

 What kind of love story could I write?

 Could I, someone who typically writes contemporary romance, pen an honest and engaging historical love story? It would take a lot of research, deep research. I smiled because I dearly love digging and delving into old books and articles.

 Still, the big question remained: What era would I write about?

 Then, one night when I was in that fragile, fluttery state between wakefulness and sleep, a man rode a dark stallion into our bedroom. In front of him on his saddle, the man had a small boy tucked against his stomach. A tumbleweed rolled across our tan carpet, spooking the man’s horse. The horse spun and the rider glanced my way. “I need a wife to raise my son and warm my bed.” Then the vision or dream faded.

 The sight made me wonder how would a widower raise a child on his own? Pioneers led such isolated lives. We’ve read many stories about women left alone to care for the land and her children, but what of men? How did they do it by themselves?

I began researching with energy and excitement, gaining a wealth of information. Tumbleweeds, for example, originated in the Ukraine. Their seeds were brought over to America by mistake mixed in with flax seeds.

The settlement of Deadwood, the location of my story, began in the 1870’s and had been described as illegal since it lay within the Black Hills territory granted to the Lakota People in the 1868 Treaty of Laramie.

In early 1876, frontiersman Charlie Utter led a wagon train to Deadwood containing needed commodities, gamblers and prostitutes. With demand high for women, the business of prostitution proved a thriving business. Madam Dora DuFran eventually became the most profitable brothel owner in Deadwood. I dug and dug until I finally found the name of her brothel—The Green Front Hotel and Theater. Madame Dora, who coined the term “cat house”, became a friend and occasional employer to Calamity Jane, who sometimes worked as a prostitute. This Madame was also said to have a “heart of gold” and often provided nursing services to those who were ill.

 I read about a smallpox epidemic that went through the area in 1878 and knew that was how my hero’s first wife died.

 During this same time, in the mining regions of Luzerne County in Pennsylvania, the Molly Maguires were wreaking havoc on owners of mines and railroads. Pinkerton agents were hired to restore calm and to return some very valuable stolen jewels and bonds to railroad owners. Now I knew why my heroine had run from her home back East to the Wild West to start a new life.

 Slowly facts coalesced with fictional ideas—and Tumbleweed Letters set in 1879 was born. So was a romance; a romance between three people—a lonely widower, a woman on the run and a little boy who needed a mother’s love.


When rancher and single father Cam McBride finds a letter tucked in a strip of cloth tied to a tumbleweed, he is captivated by the mysterious author. Finding a second tumbleweed letter further pulls him under the lonely writer's spell. He needs a mother for his little boy and a wife to warm his bed. Could this mysterious woman fill his needs?

Sophie Flannigan is alone, scared, and on the run from a rogue Pinkerton agent. She spends her days as a scrub lady at Madame Dora's brothel and her nights writing notes to the four winds. Her life holds little hope until a small boy lays claim to her and his handsome father proposes an advantageous arrangement.

Can these three benefit from a marriage of convenience, or will a determined Pinkerton agent destroy their fragile, newly formed bond?


           Fingers touched Sophie’s arm. “My name is Cam McBride, ma’am. I’ll gladly buy you a new dress or pay for a bolt of calico.” His deep voice raised gooseflesh on her arms.

She could not, would not look at up him. He was so tall and broad shouldered, he was downright intimidating.  “That really won’t be necessary, Mr. McBride. Good day.”

“Will you at least accept my apology?”

Sophie nodded and made a beeline for the door. For some reason, she wanted to get away from this man.

“Ma’am?” Footsteps echoed behind her. “Your name?” His hand wrapped around her wrist, feather light, yet firm.

Her stomach fluttered and her mouth went dry.

The child leaned forward in his father’s arms and grabbed her collar. “Mine.”

Saints preserve me, this child will tear apart me clothes yet. “Sophie…Sophie Flannigan.”

“Won’t you look at me when you talk?”

She shook her head and tried to move away.

“Where do you live?” His grasp on her tightened.

Goodness, but his voice was spellbinding. Something about it made her body react in strange ways that disturbed her. “I live where I work. Madam Dora’s brothel.”

His hand fell away, and she hurried out.

Behind her, a child wailed, “Mine. Mine, Daddy…mine.”

Jethro Rhinehardt leaned against the pillar when she stepped out onto the porch. Although she couldn’t see the man’s face, she recognized his build and mud-splattered canvas duster. If she hurried, she might sneak past without his noticing her. She’d have made it, too, if a nail poking out of the porch hadn’t snagged the twine on the bottom of one of her shoes and ripped it, causing her to stumble.

“Well, well, little Miss Scrub Lady.” He turned and side-stepped, blocking her path. For a heavy man, he slithered quickly, just like the snake he was.

Sophie tried going around him, and he stepped to the left, stopping her again. “Can’t you say good morning? Or are you too high and mighty?” He spit tobacco juice on the porch, and it splattered against her skirt.

“Good morning, Jethro. Now please let me by. I have errands to run for Dora. I can’t afford to lose my job.” She stepped to her right this time.

Once more he slid in front of her. To her surprise, he grabbed her around the waist and lifted her so they were eyeball to eyeball. Tobacco juice stained his scruffy beard that reeked of something foul. Her stomach lurched and she fought to swallow the bile. She still clutched the folds of material over her petticoat, determined this man would not see her undergarments.

“How’s about a kiss for ol’ Jethro? Or do I have to pay first?”

Her slap cracked in the morning air. “I’ll not be spoken to like that.”

Jethro’s eyes darkened and his jaw clenched. First the bear of a man shook her and then he had the audacity to slide his paw over her rump.

In response, she fought like a barn cat—hissing, kicking and scratching. She scratched his eye and tore a pocket off his shirt. “Get your filthy hands off me, you heathen.”

Men—miscreants, really—circled them. A few called out obscene suggestions for Jethro. There were hoots and hollers. A few men laughed and pounded Jethro on the back.

She fisted her hand and punched him in the nose. Blood splattered onto her bodice.

“How about you unhand the lady and put her down before she kills you?”

Jethro shook her again.

“Maybe you didn’t hear me. I said put the lady down.”

Sophie’s head whipped around to locate the man who’d spoken in her defense. Cam’s face was a dark mask of fury. He slowly set his son on the porch and laid his purchases at the child’s feet, his gaze never once leaving Jethro’s face. When he straightened and stepped toward the dirty man, her captor set her down.


Vonnie Davis is a retired technical writer who has traded in her tailored clothes for the feathered boa of a romance writer. Retired, she and her husband, who is also a published author, live in south-central Virginia. She pens most sub-genres of romance and has a new historical release this week, A Man for Annalee set in Wyoming in 1871. She’ll be giving away two copies of Tumbleweed Letters and also one copy of A Man for Annalee to three commenters drawn from her husband’s hat. So make sure you leave a comment.

** All photos were bought from