Monday, December 28, 2015


Ever since I came upon some of the weirdest vintage Easter cards I’d ever seen and blogged about those (in two parts, no less!) I’ve just been fascinated by some of the ideas that artists of the past have had for greeting cards. What in the world crossed their minds? Who did they think would enjoy these cards, much less pick them out of all the choices available to buy and send?

Evidently, I’m not the only one who has wondered. Take a look at some of these—they are beyond “odd”.

Yes. Scallops lamenting the absence of their friends (natives), so the card says—obviously the British. “May we soon see them again.” Uh…why? So they can eat us? MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Okay, maybe it’s just me, but…being wish “Compliments of the Season” by a boiling pan head imp that looks female on top and male on the bottom…well, that’s just plain weird. For some reason, this reminds me of the scene at the beginning of Bewitched when the pan boils over on the stove…

Downright creepy. An educated pigman. Or is it a boy? The hat looks like that of a young boy, but that face is anything but endearing. And why does he need the binoculars? “The better to spy on you with, my dear…” Oh, but he’s carrying a book, so at least he must be educated.

Nothing says Merry Christmas like a picture of a dead robin, does it? I mean, what could be more joyful? Nope…can’t think of much else that could come close.

Do y’all remember the picture on the Easter card of the rabbit carefully stepping out of his home to go hunting with the colored eggs all around him? That’s what this reminds me of. A sweet little dog with a rifle near at hand…just in case he needs it.

Well, what have we here? A frog that has been robbed and murdered by another one. But, let’s not forget to have a MERRY CHRISTMAS, shall we?

As long as we’re on the subject of frogs, how about this one? Beetle and frog having a Christmas waltz, while the dragonflies dance in the background and the giant mosquito plays the tambourine. Festive, right?

Merry Christmas! If you survive being mauled by the polar bear…

It’s hard to think what must have been going on inside the creative brains of these illustrators, isn’t it? Or…were they just toying with us? Maybe these were meant to be ridiculous and make us laugh. But wait…what’s that I hear? Crying children? Wings of a…LOOK OUT!

Above all, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, even if you’re fighting off polar bears, dancing with frogs, or running from wasps!

Saturday, December 26, 2015


Not an annual football game, but an economic crisis affecting the American heartland from Texas to Canada. The states most severely hit were Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and New Mexico. The crisis was documented by photographers, musicians, and authors, many of whom were hired during the Great Depression by the federal government. For instance, the Farm Security Administration hired numerous photographers to document the crisis. Artists such as Dorothea Lange captured what have become classic images of the dust storms and migrant families. Among her most well-known photographs is Destitute Pea Pickers in California. Mother of Seven Children, which depicted gaunt-looking Florence Owens Thompson. I’ve read that later Mrs. Thompson hated that photo, especially since she received no money from its distribution, but it has become iconic.

Florence Owens Thompson, photographed by
Dorothea Lange
In addition to photographers such as Dorothea Lange mentioned above, the work of independent artists was also influenced by the crises of the Dust Bowl and the Depression. Author John Steinbeck wrote OF MICE AND MEN (1937) and THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1939) about migrant workers and farm families displaced by the Dust Bowl. Many of the songs of folk singer Woody Guthrie are about his experiences in the Dust Bowl era during the Great Depression when he traveled with displaced farmers from Oklahoma to California and learned their traditional folk and blues songs, earning him the nickname the "Dust Bowl Troubadour". 

Migrants also influenced musical culture wherever they went. Oklahoma migrants, in particular, were rural Southwesterners who carried their traditional country music to California. Today, the "Bakersfield Sound" describes this blend, which developed after the migrants brought country music to the city. Buck Owens and Merle Haggard are counted in with this group. Their new music inspired a proliferation of country dance halls as far south as Los Angeles.

As familiar as I was with the term, I wondered what caused the Dust Bowl. What I learned was that we did. Not you and I, of course, but mankind and circumstances he created. 

When I was growing up in West Texas, sandstorms were still a part of life we took for granted. So much a part of life for me, I included a sandstorm in a contemporary romance, HOME SWEET TEXAS HOME, and in a historical romance, THE MOST UNSUITABLE COURTSHIP. Until I was grown and married and heard my husband, Hero, talking about how the deep plows ruined the land, I had no idea the sandstorms weren’t always as frequent as in the past century. 

The federal government encouraged settlement and development of the Plains for agriculture via the Homestead Act of 1862, offering settlers 160-acre plots. With the end of the Civil War in 1865 and the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, waves of new migrants and immigrants reached the Great Plains, and they greatly increased the acreage under cultivation. An unusually wet period in the Great Plains mistakenly led settlers and the federal government to believe that "rain follows the plow" (a popular phrase among real estate promoters) and that the climate of the region had changed permanently. While initial agricultural endeavors were primarily cattle ranching, the adverse effect of harsh winters on the cattle, beginning in 1886, a short drought in 1890, and general overgrazing, led many landowners to increase the amount of land under cultivation.

Amazing to learn that events in Europe helped create a Dust Bowl in the United States.

Disaster accelerated with the Russian Revolution and World War I and the shortage of wheat and other commodity crops they created. United States farmers were enticed to plow their grassland to meet the demand. For example, in the Llano Estacado of eastern New Mexico and northwestern Texas, the area of farmland was doubled between 1900 and 1920, then tripled again between 1925 and 1930. The agricultural methods favored by farmers during this period created the conditions for large-scale erosion under certain environmental conditions. The widespread conversion of the land by deep plowing and other soil preparation methods to enable agriculture eliminated the native grasses which had held the soil in place and helped retain moisture during dry periods. Increasing the poor conditions, cotton farmers left fields bare during winter months, when winds in the High Plains are highest, and burned the stubble as a means to control weeds prior to planting, thus depriving the soil of organic nutrients and surface vegetation.

Dust storm approaching a town

After fairly favorable climatic conditions in the 1920s with good rainfall and relatively moderate winters, which permitted increased settlement and cultivation in the Great Plains, the region entered an unusually dry era in the summer of 1930. During the next decade, the northern plains suffered four of their seven driest calendar years since 1895, Kansas four of its twelve driest, and the entire region south to West Texas lacked any period of above-normal rainfall until record rains hit in 1941. When severe drought struck the Great Plains region in the 1930s, it resulted in erosion and loss of topsoil because of farming practices at the time. The drought dried the topsoil and over time it became friable, reduced to a powdery consistency in some places. Without the indigenous grasses in place, the high winds that occur on the plains picked up the topsoil and created the massive dust storms that marked the Dust Bowl period. Persistent dry weather caused crops to fail, leaving the plowed fields exposed to wind erosion. The fine soil of the Great Plains was easily eroded and carried east by strong continental winds.

On November 11, 1933, a very strong dust storm stripped topsoil from desiccated South Dakota farmlands in just one of a series of severe dust storms that year. Beginning on May 9, 1934, a strong, two-day dust storm removed massive amounts of Great Plains topsoil in one of the worst such storms of the Dust Bowl. The dust clouds blew all the way to Chicago, where they deposited 12 million pounds of dust. Two days later, the same storm reached cities to the east, such as Cleveland, Buffalo, Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. That winter (1934–1935), red snow fell on New England.

On April 14, 1935, known as "Black Sunday", 20 of the worst "black blizzards" occurred across the entire sweep of the Great Plains, from Canada south to Texas. The dust storms caused extensive damage and turned the day to night; witnesses reported that they could not see five feet in front of them at certain points. Denver-based Associated Press reporter Robert E. Geiger happened to be in Boise City, Oklahoma that day. His story about Black Sunday marked the first appearance of the term Dust Bowl; it was coined by Edward Stanley, Kansas City news editor of the Associated Press, while rewriting Geiger's news story.

If you have never experienced a “black blizzard”, consider yourself fortunate. Even now the area has them. The last one I was in was about fifteen years ago on a visit to Lubbock. Black clouds rolled in, looking like a bad thunderstorm approaching—but instead of rain, they carried choking dust that infiltrated every window and vent. As an asthmatic, I was especially affected and could not get my breath. We had to cut short our visit to Hero’s mom and hurry east toward our home, trying to outdistance the storm.

California or Bust
In 1935, many families were forced to leave their farms and travel to other areas seeking work because of the drought (which at that time had already lasted four years). Dust Bowl conditions fomented an exodus of the displaced from Texas, Oklahoma, and the surrounding Great Plains to adjacent regions. More than 500,000 Americans were left homeless. Over 350 houses had to be torn down after one storm alone. The severe drought and dust storms had left many homeless, others had their mortgages foreclosed by banks, and others felt they had no choice but to abandon their farms in search of work. Many Americans migrated west looking for work. Parents packed up vehicles with their families and a few personal belongings, and headed west in search of work. Some residents of the Plains, especially in Kansas and Oklahoma, fell ill and died of dust pneumonia or malnutrition.

The Dust Bowl exodus was the largest migration in American history within a short period of time. Between 1930 and 1940, approximately 3.5 million people moved out of the Plains states; of those, it is unknown how many moved to California. In just over one year, more than 86,000 people migrated to California. This number is more than the number of migrants to that area during the 1849 Gold Rush. Migrants abandoned farms in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico, but were often generally referred to as "Okies", "Arkies", or "Texies". Terms such as "Okies" and "Arkies" came to be known in the 1930s as the standard terms for those who had lost everything and were struggling the most during the Great Depression. Many of these Okies and Texies were my relatives who went to California to find work and a better life.

But did we learn from those times?

Farm land after Dust Bowl

The federal government had mobilized several New Deal agencies, principally the Soil Conservation Service formed in 1935, to promote farm rehabilitation. Working on the local level, the government instructed farmers to plant trees and grass to anchor the soil, to plow and terrace in contour patterns to hold rainwater, and to allow portions of farmland to lie fallow each year so the soil could regenerate. The government also purchased 11.3 million acres of sub-marginal land to keep it out of production. By 1941 much of the land was rehabilitated. But—you guessed, didn’t you?—the region repeated its mistakes during World War II as farmers again plowed up grassland to plant wheat when grain prices rose. Drought threatened another disaster in the 1950s, prompting Congress to subsidize farmers in restoring millions of acres of wheat back to grassland.

Let’s hope we’re better stewards of the land in the future.

Caroline Clemmons writes western historical and contemporary romances. Her latest release is PATIENCE, BRIDE OF WASHINGTON, #42 of the American Mail-Order Brides Series, on Wednesday, December 30th. Preorder now at Amazon


Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Husband for Christmas by Paty Jager

Everyone loves a series.

Following the lives of the family members and discovering new members and growing families.

That is how I've felt writing the Halsey Brothers series and the Halsey Homecoming Trilogy. And I believe my fans have enjoyed the journey. But I found myself running out of family members and still remain in the1800s, making it time to write the final Halsey story. 

After Staking Claim, readers wanted to know what happened to Shayla when she returned to England with Colin and Livvie. A Husband for Christmas is Shayla's story. She became a bit rebellious while in England and finds a way to come home to Sumpter and the Halseys for Christmas.

A Husband for Christmas
Final Novella in the Halsey Homecoming and Halsey Brothers Series

Shayla Halsey wanted to be home for Christmas, but never imagined her travels would include spending the night in a brooding stranger’s cabin. Snowballing events cause her to look inside herself and recognize maybe it wasn’t being home she wanted as much as it was to have a home.
Mace Walker has his life in order and doesn’t want it disrupted again. Yet, when he discovers a woman stranded in the snow, he has to help her—despite her overbearing and reckless fiancé. In a matter of days, Shayla turns his life upside down and forces him to decide if he should leave town or face the consequences.

Nook –

Wishing Everyone a Wonderful Holiday Season and Happy, Healthy, 2016! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Surprise!

I have a Christmas Surprise for my readers! If you're a fan of the Yellowstone Series and the Teton Trilogy - the Walkers, Osbornes, and Russells got together for Christmas! 
I wasn't going to write a Christmas story this year, because I simply didn't think I'd have time. I had worked all summer on Yellowstone Origins, then had to get Emma, Bride of Kentucky (the 15th book in the American Mail Order Brides Series) done before its deadline, and by then, it was already well into November.

My editor told me that I needed to take a break, and not even start a new  book this year. I sort of agreed with her...for about a week. I had mentioned that I really wanted to write a Christmas novella that I had thought of last year, but I ran out of time then, too. A few days after she declared I needed to go on a break, she contacted me and said "you know, if you want to write that Christmas story, maybe you should do it."
So, I hit the keyboard, and, voila! the story that I wanted to write a year ago finally came to life. I loved bringing together the Walkers from the Teton Trilogy with the Osbornes and the Russells from the Yellowstone Series. The thought of, "what would happen if Lucas Walker ever got together with Chase Russell on an adventure," was too good to pass up. The possibilities were endless with those two!

The end result is a novella that was about 8,000 words longer than I had first anticipated (coming in at around 29,000 words), so that's good news for my readers. It was so much fun to write, and I hope you will love it, too!

So, here it is .... Teton Season of Joy (A Yellowstone and Teton Romance Series Crossover Christmas Novella!)


Lucas Walker's life couldn't be more different from a few years ago. Now married and expecting his first child, he wants nothing more than to provide a good home for his family.  With Christmas coming, he sets off to find the perfect surprise for his wife.

As Tori Walker approaches the time for her baby to be born, she is comforted by the expert care that surrounds her. However, winter in the mountains can turn deadly at the blink of an eye. When her prankster husband fails to return from a short hunting trip, she doesn't know whether to be angry or worried.

Christmas is a time to reminisce and enjoy family time. Young or old, all who gather in the Walker home this holiday can share memories of falling in love, being saved from near death, and not being able to imagine life without each other. When Lucas and his companion are feared lost in the wilderness, this holiday season may well be remembered as the season of mishaps, rather than a season of joy. 


“You’ll probably want to stay out of the kitchen,” Joseph warned, coming up next to him. “The women are baking pies and cookies, getting ready for a Christmas feast in a few days, and us menfolk are under strict orders not to touch anything unless they give permission.”
Lucas grinned. “Well, then I’d better go check in on them and sample some of what they’re cooking up.”
Joseph shook his head with an indulgent smile. “Suit yourself. The kitchen is hostile territory at the moment. You’re living dangerously if you go in there, but what else is new.”
Lucas shrugged off his brother’s words and followed his nose to the kitchen. He peered around the corner of the entry so he could survey the scene without being noticed right away. Girls giggled and chattered loudly. Must be Chase’s two youngest daughters, Hannah and Rebecca. His second-oldest, Kara, had just married a few years ago, and lived with her husband in St. Louis, as did his oldest, Emily.
“You know I’d normally have your back, Lucas,” Chase called from somewhere behind him. “Afraid we won’t be able to come rescue you if you get into trouble this time. The opposition is much too fierce.”

Lucas ignored his friend’s jab and let his eyes roam the room without walking in. It was always best to get a feel for what he was up against before confronting an adversary.


Peggy L Henderson
Western Historical and Time Travel Romance
“Where Adventure Awaits and Love is Timeless”

Award-Winning Author of:
Yellowstone Romance Series
Teton Romance Trilogy
Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series
Blemished Brides Western Historical Romance Series