Sunday, June 28, 2015


HEY, HEY, HEY! GUESS WHAT'S HERE! It's release day for Prairie Rose Publications' latest anthology, A COWBOY CELEBRATION--and it's all about the 4th of July! Each story mentions a delectable dish (no, not the heroes!) and the recipes are included for each scrumptious item! And you will love this "explosion" of great stories, too!

MORGAN'S REDEMPTION AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER--RELEASE DATE JULY 2! What starts out as a simple trip to Willow Bottoms, Texas, for supplies turns into something rancher Morgan Banning never counted on. When he hires two drifters to work at the Rocking B, he soon discovers they keep a secret that he never suspected—one of them is the most beautiful woman he’s ever met. As he tries to keep his emotions for Shaina Miller in check, danger strikes the Rocking B when a disgruntled former employee, Buck Henson, decides to exact his bloody revenge. Morgan knows he is the only man who can stop Henson and his blood-thirsty partners. He has no choice but to ride out to save three young girls who have been kidnapped, but how can he leave the Rocking B unprotected?

In a final showdown, Morgan and Shaina fight side by side to protect the ranch, their families, and the young women who have endured so much—but will it all be for nothing? They are outnumbered, out-gunned, and out of luck. Will the town of Willow Bottoms rally in time to show their true colors, and lead to MORGAN’S REDEMPTION?


Penelope Canby is happy with her life. Newly married to the man of her dreams, her world is comfortably predictable. Surrounded by familiar people and places, she can’t imagine living anywhere else—until the day her veterinarian husband decides to pursue his career halfway across the country. Thrust into life in the small town of Rio Milagro, Texas, Penelope risks losing her sense of self as she dutifully supports her husband’s dreams of life in the West. Fireworks loom on the horizon as the town prepares for its annual Fourth of July battle reenactment and barbecue. Disturbed by a local divorcee’s obvious attraction to her husband, Penelope is left to wonder whether Steve is really working late all those nights. Will she lose all she holds dear, or will Rio Milagro—Miracle River—prove to be a real home, a place of healing and new life?


IT'S HERE! You can pre-order now! CAPTURE THE NIGHT will be released on July 7, but you can order it today for your Kindle and it will magically appear on the 7th for your reading pleasure. CAPTURE THE NIGHT will also be available in print on the 7th.

Divorcee Alexa Bailey and undercover cop Johnny Logan finally find the love they have longed for as they are plunged into a hostage crisis on a Dallas hotel rooftop. The clock is ticking: Can Johnny survive a “winner-take-all” battle high above the city, or has love come too late for them both?


Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment!

Friday, June 26, 2015


What do you think of when you think of homesteading the West? I think of families or lone men. However, in Marcia Meredith Hensley’s book. STAKING HER CLAIM: WOMEN HOMESTEADING THE WEST, I learned that many lone women became homesteaders.

I read the Women of Paragon Springs series, by Irene Bennett Brown, and loved the stories of women making their way West to set up their homes. What I didn’t realize, though, was how true-to-life Ms Brown’s fictional stories were.

Paragon Springs series, book one

Ms Hensley’s book relates many women settling in Wyoming Territory. And why not? Wyoming was far ahead of the rest of America in recognizing a woman’s right to vote and other basic rights. But other stories take place in Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Idaho, Colorado, and Utah.

As you can imagine, these women set out for the West for various reasons. Some were ill-equipped for the hardships. Others flourished in their new enterprise.  Ms Hensley includes letters written back East by some of the women homesteaders telling of their experiences. Fact or fiction?

“On the whole, women who wrote about their experiences homesteading alone told positive stories. . . Although homesteading was difficult, they achieved success and had many enjoyable adventures as well. Women could do most of the work themselves, but, if necessary, they could count on help from neighbors, family, or one of the many men in the vicinity.”

Only about one in three women who homesteaded actually succeeded. In a 1921 article about her homesteading experience in Utah, Kate Keizer includes a section titled “Not All Roses” in which she cautions that for the typical homesteader without much money “the first two or three years are usually accompanied by privation and hardships.” She lists difficulties such as the high cost of freighting in supplies and having your claim contested if you were absent very long. Her greatest torments were the hordes of rabbits and prairie dogs that destroyed gardens in spite of scarecrows, guns, and poison.

Looking back on her homestead experience, Dr. Bessie Rehwinkle tempered her account of the exhilarating experience of becoming a Wyoming landowner with the admission that “it is not as easy or glamorous as the storybooks about the westward trek of the covered wagon often picture it. It is a slow process and a hard day-to-day struggle, and only the strongest are able to survive.”

The Homestead Act was in force from 1862 through 1976 (with a ten year extension for Alaska). Statistics provided by the National Homestead Monument suggest two million people attempted to earn a patent on land through the Homestead Act. Ms Hensley theorizes that 200,000 of these were women, of which 67.500 may have proved up on their claim.

I suggest reading Marcia Meredith Hensley’s book for fascinating non-fiction accounts of successful women homesteaders. For fictional accounts, nothing beats Irene Bennett Brown’s Women of Paragon Springs series: LONG ROAD TURNING, BLUE HORIZONS, NO OTHER PLACE, and REAP THE SOUTH WIND. In fact, LONG ROAD TURNING is one of my favorite books and the detail reminds me of Sweethearts' member Linda Hubalek's TRAIL OF THREAD, Trail of Thread series book one. 

True, the books are different in that LONG ROAD TURNING begins as a woman alone while TRAIL OF THREAD is a woman with a family, but the accuracy of the time period and subject matter is impressive. Both bring out the mores of the time (which favored men) and both show women determined to succeed against difficult odds. The other books in Linda's great series are THIMBLE OF SOIL and STITCH OF COURAGE.

What about you? Would you have attempted to claim your land alone?

Caroline Clemmons's latest single release is O'NEILL'S TEXAS BRIDE, available in ebook from Amazon, Apple, Nook, and Kobo and available in print from Amazon, CreateSpace, and Barnes and Noble. One of her novellas is included in the recently released box set, WILD WESTERN WOMEN RIDE AGAIN, available from Amazon for Kindle for 99 cents.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hideout and Secret Meetings by Paty Jager

After moving to Harney County we had several people ask us if we’d been to Malheur Caves. One day when we had company, we decided it was time to check out this cave only five miles down the road from us.

Never have I been some place that my writer brain started zapping ideas so fast and furious!
But to start it off, I felt my character Isabella Mumphrey in her first book Secrets of a Mayan Moon. I have a fear of bats. Yes, just like my character. And the first thing my brother-in-law said as he entered the cave, “Look, a bat.” But I wanted to see this cave so bad, I pulled the hood of my sweatshirt up and followed the beam of my light on the floor. Twenty feet in, it no longer smelled like bats and I looked up because everyone else was ooing and awing.

silver slime
The ceiling had streaks of sliver running jagged across it like lightning bolts. When I did research on the caves, I discovered the silver was cave slime. But I have yet to learn what the cave slime is made of to make it shine silver in the beams of the flashlights. 

The cave is a 3000 foot lava tube. The entrance is 8 feet high and farther in it is 20 feet high with a 1300ft long lake that is 23 feet deep.

According to local historians the first people to find and use the lake were the Paiutes of this area.  Two or three families of Paiutes used the cave to live in during the winter. When word came to the Paiutes that the Bannocks were on the war path and after women and children for slaves.  The whole Paiute band carried all their belongings and as much food as they could gather quickly and moved into the cave. Then they rolled rocks in front of the entrance. When the Bannocks discovered the hiding Paiutes, they decided to wait them out not knowing there was a fresh spring running in the cave and that the Paiutes had food. Eventually, the Bannocks left but not before firing many arrows at the rocks in front of the Cave.
Size of the cave

It took many decades before the cave was discovered by the White man. The cave is situated in such a way that unless you are approaching the entrance you would never know there was a cave. And the entrance was still mostly concealed by the rocks the Paiutes had rolled in front to protect them. They discovered many arrow heads at the entrance of the cave and as more and more archeologists came to the cave they found many useful artifacts.

The cave is 68 degrees year round.  Locals who knew of the cave would venture out on weekends. In 1924 there was a resort that led excursions to the cave. Row boats were docked on one end of the lake in the cave and people could row across to the other side and back.

Entrance from the inside
In 1938 the masons started using the cave for a yearly meeting. The land was owned by an old man who said they could hold their meetings. They built bleachers in the widest part of the cave and later installed electric lights that could hook up to a generator. When the man died the Masons continued using the cave. The relatives didn’t live in the area and let the taxes lapse.  In 1952 the Masons paid the back taxes and purchased the land from the old man’s relatives. It is now the property of the Masons, but they allow the public to enjoy the cave all year except the last weekend of August when they hold their yearly meeting.

On top of the cave.
While traipsing through the dark, looking at the walls, the ceilings, and the rocky floor my mind came up with an idea for a book with the Paiutes, a book about outlaws, and a book about a stranded family during the 1800’s. Yes, this was a wonderful place to get so many ideas!  

Monday, June 22, 2015

ROSE OF SHARON #Kindle #series Guest Author @ArlettaDawdy1

by Guest author, Arletta Dawdy

I am delighted and honored to be here with Sweethearts of the West and to acquaint you with my work and myself. I’ve enjoyed many a post here and learned much, especially about Texas! 

My stories are set in Southeast Arizona Territory which I’ve studied extensively, visited weeks and months at a time. I’ve camped on top of windy Carr Peak in the Huachuca Mountains, plowed my way through Garden Canyon seeking the petroglyphs of Fort Huachuca and learned that Wah-chew-ca is not pronounced: Oaxaca! I know something of the trails, the canyons, and the wonders of a snowy spring day there and more about the museums, the San Pedro River and the towns of Tombstone and Bisbee. 

When you read my books, you enter into a special place and time where the snake weed flourishes, the spring melt rushes and myriad hummingbirds mark a summer day.

My heroines tend to be very strong women who face major obstacles with determination, resourcefulness and courage. Josephine, the HUACHUCA WOMAN, is a businesswoman/rancher and tells her borderlands history in tales of her long life and the historic characters and events that populate it. BY GRACE briefly follows Grace’s life after she trains at the Tiffany Studio and is forced to flee west to escape a would-be killer and ends up in the Huachucas. But, it is an aspect of ROSE OF SHARON that I write of today.

Orphaned, lost and in need of family, Rose of Sharon finds hope only to lose it again with the mental illness of her new mother, an attempted murder, a painful inter-racial love affair and abandonment. Rose’s paranormal and writing gifts set her apart as she faces her life trials. Precocious in all aspects of her life, including in her love of White Buffalo Abraham Douglass, she struggles against all that would isolate her.

Daring to write of another culture or racial identity calls on the author to research carefully, mindful of gaps in history and accuracy, especially when going back to another era where documentation may be scant or prejudicial. I have done this in each of the three books of the trilogy and had the least pre-knowledge when it came to the Chiricahua Apaches. I wrote of Geronimo in the first book, studied the history of the white man’s intrusion into the area and its impact and followed them through the loss of their lands, culture, lives and transplant to the wretched environs of Floridian swamps. 

White Buffalo, Aunty and a few others, I decided, would escape from the round-up at San Carlos reservation to the north and hide out in the land of Cochise in the Dragoons. While I didn’t find any historical evidence of Chiricahuas in the Huachucas, I exercised my literary license and placed them there. 

In the following excerpt, Rose and White Buffalo meet when she discovers him sitting under the classroom window in 1890; she is 10 and he is about 14:

“So, what’s your name?” Rose finished her half-sandwich and dug the carrots out of her pail.

“Which name you want? I got at least three.”

“How come so many?” Rose handed him a couple of carrot sticks, but didn’t want to share her pie. Nobody, not even her real mama, made pie crust as sweet and crispy good as Mama Elise.

 “I have my Apache name, my Nigra name and my white name. Can’t many men claim so much in their history, or girls either.” The boy looked around furtively, as if afraid for anyone to see them together.

“That’s true. I’m only white but I’m American with some Scot blood in me. Least I think so.”

“What is this ‘Scot’? Sure you don’t mean scout like they’s got at Fort Huachuca?”

“No, silly, the Scots come from across the seas a long, long time ago.”

 “Maybe you’s Nigra, too. We come from across the sea.”

“Ain’t not and don’t you go sayin’ so or I won’t be your friend.” Rose’s dander was truly up now.  “What’s your three-peoples name, anyway?”

“I’m White Buffalo Abraham Douglass. The Apache calls me White Buffalo. That’s what my mother’s family named me. My father was a light-colored Buffalo Soldier, part white. So, I’m named Abraham for that white president that freed the slaves. Douglass is for a famous darkie. My pa’s folks took that name when they was freed.”

“Were freed.” Rose corrected him.


“When he was, when they were. You got to talk right.”

“And I want to, but you are losing me,” the boy laughed quietly.

“You talk as if your father isn’t around anymore.” Rose wanted to go around the tree, the better to see just what this White Buffalo looked like.

“That’s the God’s honest truth…”

 “Shame, don’t you be takin’ the Lord’s name in vain.” She stood up and started to walk around the tree, but thought better of it.

“What’s this lord?”

“Don’t you know nothing?” Rose stretched farther around the tree, but still couldn’t see him. She let out an annoyed “harrumph,” and re-settled on her side of the oak.

“I know how to trap a rabbit, hunt a deer, heal a wound, chase a Mex across the border…”

“Okay, okay. You know lots of stuff except about God, the Maker of all things.”

White Buffalo looked down at his Levi-clad legs,  stuck one leg out for her to see and asked, “What’s the god that made these?”

“Now you’re just being ornery. I’m talkin’ about the God in heaven who watches over us.” She threw a dirt clod toward him.

 “Hey!” he let out. They were both quiet for a short while. “Somethin’ you know that I don’t,” the boy said, “is to read and write.”

“I know you been sittin’ under the window of a morning, listening to our lessons.”

“Yeah, I heard that story about how Columbus discovered America. Funny thing is, us Indians been here forever so how come Columbus to discover what was already known?”

“It means the people in Europe didn’t know, I guess.” She paused to think about that. “What else you been learning?”

“Sums come easy. I look at the board when I can and work the numbers in the dirt pretty good. And I got the alphabet, but I dunno what to do with it. Maybe you can teach me?”

“Maybe so.”

They both heard the bell sounding the end of recess. Rose stood and dusted the dirt from her dress and apron, gathered up her pail and notebook and, without a whisper to her new friend, ran back to class. She heard a crow squawk and wondered if it was White Buffalo.

The love affair between Rose and White Buffalo has no future; it is doomed from the start, reluctantly acknowledged by each, but in the process magic happens between them and a child is conceived.  Nearly nine years later, White Buffalo sheds his Apache identity and heads to New Orleans, where he is hopeful of making a life for the two of them. 

For Rose, it is another abandonment until Aunty comes to assist Rose in birthing Abigail Feather Welty in the Apache tradition. With Rose squatting on her knees, and holding onto a post, Aunty uses antelope sage bathing waters to massage the young mother as she chews salted bits of yucca to hurry the process along. 

Rose of Sharon’s family continues to evolve.

Praise for Rose of Sharon: “…a delightful, wonderfully imagined prequel to Grapes of Wrath;”   “Characters are born out of the fabric of their landscape;” “…brilliantly crafted descriptive passages.”

Author Arletta Dawdy

Arletta Dawdy lives and writes in Northern California but her heart is in the Old West, especially in the Arizona Territory of the late 19th century and early 20th. The Huachuca Trilogy is comprised of Huachuca Woman, By Grace and Rose of Sharon. All are available on, Kindle and by order from your favorite bookstore.

Also on Facebook and Twitter (ArlettaDawdy1)

SOURCES: Morris Edward Opler, An Apache Way of Life
H. Henrietta  Stockel, Women of the Apache Nation,Chiricahua Apache Women                   and Children, and with Bobette Perrone and Victoria Krueger, Medicine Women, Curanderas, and Women Doctors


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Galveston, “Yellow Jack” & UT Medical Branch

Back in late February, hubby and I visited Galveston to research the setting for my new release, Decoding Michaela (Romancing the Guardians, Book Two). On our first day there, we took an historical tour of the oldest part of the city and lunched at Fisherman’s Wharf, a wonderful seafood restaurant on the bay side of the island. Seated next to the windows, we admired the tall ship Elissa, a restored 1877 three-masted barque moored close by, outside the Texas Seaport Museum.

Photo 1 taken by sailor in U.S. Navy, in public domain; Photo 2 taken by author's husband

The day was cold and windy, so we passed up going aboard the ship, although my ever-helpful mate did snap several shots of her. Then we toured the museum, watched a fascinating video detailing the Elissa’s restoration, and purchased several books in the gift shop. One, Galveston A History by David G. McComb, was recommended by our historical tour guide, and it’s excellent.

While I haven’t yet read the whole book, being occupied with writing, one part caught my attention. (See why below.) In a chapter titled “The Oleander City” I came across several pages devoted to the scourge of “Yellow Jack” (yellow fever) and how the prestigious University of Texas Medical Branch came to be located on the island.

Yellow fever plagued our southern coastal cities in earlier times. New Orleans, Galveston and Houston suffered many terrible epidemics. In 1839, virtually everyone in the city of Galveston took sick with the fever. Symptoms ranged from chills, fever, headache, body aches, nervousness and jaundice to severe vomiting and coma. In the last stages, victims threw up “black vomit” caused by internal bleeding, usually resulting in death. One-fifth to one-forth of victims died. Survivors were henceforth immune to the disease.

Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito; note white
markings on its legs and thorax
Yellow fever is carried by a certain type of mosquito, but this was not discovered until the early 20th century, thanks to experiments conducted in Cuba by U.S. Army physician Major General Walter Reed and colleagues. Prior to then, doctors believed the fever was spread by contact with clothing and bedding soiled by victims.

Major General Walter Reed, ca. 1901; in public domain

Treatments included confinement to bed, mustard baths for the feet and plasters on the stomach, cold compresses on the forehead, moderate food, warm tea and “no busybodies in the room.” Hmm, that last one might make the sufferer feel better for a little while. You think?

“Burning tar fumigated the city, grass filled with small green frogs grew rank on the Strand [a main street], and ringing of church bells for the deceased was so constant that it irritated the sick and living.” One resident “observed the beds of the dying drawn close to open windows—white faces with cracked ice to cool them, moaning, raving, shrieking, vomiting, and a strong, sickle smell of yellow fever mixed with the heavy, sweet odor of oleanders.” ~McComb

Red oleander; I have one in my backyard. It's gorgeous!

Eventually, quarantine was recognized as the best way to halt the spread of an outbreak. Mosquitoes spread the disease by ingesting blood from an infected human and passing on the virus to the next person they bite. By quarantining affected people, the spread was stopped. However, harsh measures were often necessary to prevent panicked Galvestonians from fleeing the island when cases of Yellow Jack popped up. Armed militiamen stopped trains carrying terrified citizens across the bay to the mainland. All transport of goods and people between New Orleans and the island was halted, angering merchants but saving lives. The same applied to other cities. Yellow fever deaths in Galveston decreased from hundreds or thousands in earlier epidemics to only seven in 1873. From then on both Texas and Louisiana employed strict quarantines.

 According to McComb, it was Galveston’s comparatively high disease rates “which brought to it the city’s most prestigious institution, the University of Texas Medical Branch.” A key player in this accomplishment was Ashbel Smith. Called “Old Ashbarrel” behind his back, Smith was a small man with strong opinions and a hot temper. He studied medicine at Yale and in Paris, came to Texas shortly after the revolution (Texas’s of course) and became the Republic’s first surgeon general. He served in the Texas legislature, fought in the War with Mexico and was wounded fighting for the Confederacy in the Battle of Shiloh.

Statue of Ashbel smith in Baytown, his home across
 Galveston Bay form the island

A colleague of Smith's, Greensville Dowell, helped start Galveston Medical College in 1865, but the college faltered due to trouble between Dowell and the faculty. Smith helped his friend reorganize the school into the Texas Medical College in 1873. He was a trustee for the University of Texas and president of the Texas State Medical Association. As cities competed for the colleges, he argued before the legislature in favor of Galveston because "the Island City possessed size, wealth, opportunity to study diseases, noble citizens, and a school already in operation." Students needed practical experience as well as theoretical learning, he stressed, and Galveston offered that.

Opponents argued that the island was too vulnerable to hurricanes and the Texas Medical College didn't amount to much. However, the small private college graduated eight newly minted doctors in 1880, and the Galveston Daily News boasted, "No city in the south possesses better hospital accommodations and a greater diversity of diseases than Galveston."

In October 1881 Texans voted to locate the UT Medical campus in Galveston. Construction of the Ashbel Smith Medical Building was begun in 1890. John Sealy Hospital opened that same year, and the medical school -- now affectionately known as "Old Red" because of its exterior of red brick, red Texas granite columns and sandstone embellishments -- began operation in 1891.

Ashbel Smith Medical Building, photo from Wikipedia commons

 Since opening its doors, the medical school has grown from one building with 23 students and 13 faculty members to a modern health science center with more than 70 buildings, over 2,500 students and more than 1,000 faculty members. We were unable to see Old Red for ourselves because it is now completely surrounded by the sprawling complex, and I was not up to walking into the center of the maze. But I found the above photo online. Isn't the architecture magnificent?

So, why was I so interested in the history and of UT Medical Branch? Because the heroine of Decoding Michaela did her residency there and practices her specialty, psychiatry, on the island.

Now let me introduce you to Michaela and her wannabe hero, Dev Medina.

Peterson lived in Galveston’s historic East End, where nineteenth century architecture harked back to the island’s heyday. Some of the Victorian homes – Painted Ladies he’d heard them called because of their many colors – were of average size, others he would call mansions. All were ornate and pricey, meaning the doc must be doing okay, no surprise for a doctor, Dev supposed.
Familiar with the area, it didn’t take him long to find the right house. He parked out front and looked the place over. Raised on stilts or blocks like most buildings on the island after the deadly hurricane of 1900, it was two stories high but not very wide, with only a few yards separating it from neighboring homes.
Dev assumed the house had suffered flood damage in Hurricane Ike, but the owner had obviously seen to its repair. Painted light tan with darker tan and green trim, decked out with fancy Victorian gingerbread, and framed by palm trees and oleanders, the place was picture-perfect.
Striding up the pavestone walk, he climbed a flight of steps to the front door and pressed the buzzer. Nervous because he still didn’t know exactly what he would say to the doctor, he stuffed both hands in his pants pockets and waited. Within seconds, he heard footsteps approach inside. The door opened to reveal a stout woman with tan skin and graying hair combed tightly back from her round face. A dark blue dress outlined her matronly form.
“Can I help you, señor?
“Yes ma’am, I’m here to see Dr. Peterson. I phoned earlier.”
“Ah, sí, I remember. The doctor came home a few minutes ago only. I do not think –”
“Who is it, Bianca?” a woman called from somewhere within. Her voice sounded familiar.
“It is a man who called before, señora.”
Dev heard high heels clicking on a tile floor. The housekeeper – he assumed that’s who she was – stepped aside. A tall woman walked out of the shadows and Dev stopped breathing. It was Mickie, his golden goddess! Instead of a sarong, she now wore a black cocktail dress that hugged her shapely figure then flared out below her hips, ending a few inches above her knees, showing off long, gorgeous legs. She looked sophisticated and every bit as beautiful as on the beach.
“You!” she blurted, halting a few feet away, light eyes wide with surprise. “Did you follow me?”
Dev released his breath. “No ma’am. I’m here to see Dr. Peterson.” He paused to clear his raspy throat. “I had no idea I’d find you here.”
She frowned. “Do you have an appointment?”
“Uh, no, but I need to speak to him, the doctor, I mean.”
Her lips quirked upward and she made a strangled sound, like suppressed laughter. “Oh, you do, do you?”
“Yeah, it’s urgent. Are you his wife?” He sure hoped not. “Can you give him a message for me?”
Her half-smile faded. “No, I am not his wife and I won’t take a message. If you really need to see the doctor, call the office on Monday and make an appointment.” She started to shut the door but Dev grabbed the edge of it and stopped her.
“I said this is urgent. It can’t wait ’til Monday.”
“Let go of the door!” she demanded, angry color flooding her cheeks.
“Un-uh. Is the doc here? Tell him I must speak to him. Now.”
She glared ice-cold daggers at him. “I am the doc!” she said through gritted teeth. “And I demand you let go of my door!”
Stunned, Dev nearly lost his hold. “You’re Dr. Michael Peterson?”
“No, you dunderhead! I’m Dr. Michaela Peterson. Now release this door and leave right now, or I will call the police.”
“Ah, hell!” Feeling like a damn fool, Dev sighed and shook his head. “I’m sorry, ma’am, I mean Dr. Peterson. I got the code wrong. I missed the ‘A’ at the end of your name.”
She stopped shoving at the door but continued to scowl at him. “Code? What code? What are you talking about?”
“The code Lara Spenser had me decipher. I’m here to deliver a message for her.”
The doc’s fine golden brows lifted. “I don’t know any Lara Spenser,” she said uncertainly.
Dev frowned, wondering if she was playacting because she didn’t trust him. Then it dawned on him that Spenser might be an alias Lara was using to conceal her true identity. “Maybe not, but you do know her uncle,” he replied. “Or you did. His name was Malcolm Flewellen.”
She sucked in her breath audibly. “Did you say was?”
“Yes ma’am. He was killed in a car accident several months ago.”
“Oh no!” Color drained from her face. Releasing the door, she staggered off balance and sagged against the entry wall.
“Hey, easy there!” Alarmed, Dev threw the door wide open, stepped inside and gripped her arms. “Don’t go fainting on me."

 Find Decoding Michaela on
Amazon and other ebook retailers

See all of Lyn Horner's books here:

Find Lyn on these sites:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Most Beloved Cowboy by Sarah J. McNeal

Sarah McNeal is a multi-published author of time travel, paranormal, western, contemporary and historical fiction. Her stories may be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Prairie Rose Publications. 

The Wonderful and Beloved Will Rogers

Of all the western cowboys I admire, Will Rogers is at the top of my list. I remember him as a rope twirling, quiet talking, funny man. He was so much more than the Mark Twain of rope wranglers.

Birthplace of Will Rogers

Known as "Oklahoma's Favorite Son", Rogers was born on the Dog Iron Ranch to a prominent Cherokee Nation family in Indian Territory (now part of Oklahoma) near present day Oologah. The house he was born in had been built in 1875 and was known as the "White House on the Verdigris River". His parents, Clement Vann Rogers (1839–1911) and Mary America Schrimsher (1838–1890), were both of part Cherokee ancestry. Rogers quipped that his ancestors did not come over on the Mayflower, but they "met the boat". His mother was quarter-Cherokee and a hereditary member of the Paint Clan. She died when Will was 11, and his father remarried less than two years after her death. He was the youngest of eight children and named for the Cherokee leader, Col. William Penn Adair. Only three of his siblings survived into adulthood: Sallie Clementine, Maude Ethel, and May (actually, Mary).

His father, Clement, was a leader in Cherokee society. Clement was a Cherokee judge, a Confederate veteran and served as a delegate to the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention. Rogers County, Oklahoma is named in honor of Clement Rogers. He served several terms on the Cherokee Senate. Clement Rogers achieved financial success as a rancher and used his influence to help soften the negative effects of white acculturation on the tribe. Clement had high expectations for his son and wanted him to be more responsible and business-minded. Will, on the other hand, was more easygoing and oriented toward the loving affection offered by his mother rather than the harshness of his father. The personality clash increased after his mother's death, and young Will went from one venture to another with little success. Only after Will won acclaim in vaudeville did the rift begin to heal, but before a full reconciliation, Clement died in 1911.

Will was a good student and an avid reader of The New York Times, but he dropped out after the 10th grade. He later claimed he was a poor student, saying that he "studied the Fourth Reader for ten years". He was much more interested in cowboys and horses, and learned to rope and use a lariat.

Rogers' vaudeville rope act led to success in the Ziegfeld Follies, which in turn led to the first of his many movie contracts. His 1920s syndicated newspaper column and his radio appearances increased his visibility and popularity. Rogers crusaded for aviation expansion, and provided Americans with first-hand accounts of his world travels. His earthy anecdotes and folksy style allowed him to poke fun at gangsters, prohibition, politicians, government programs, and a host of other controversial topics in a way that was appreciated by a national audience, with no one offended. His aphorisms, couched in humorous terms, were widely quoted: "I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat." Another widely quoted Will Rogers comment was "I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts."

Rogers and a friend went to Argentina in 1901 to start a ranch, but it failed. His friend returned to the United States and Will went to South Africa where he joined Texas Jack’s Wild West Show. Texas Jack wasn’t much of a roper, but he proved to Will, showmanship is more about how you perform than actual skill. With gratitude for all that he’d learned, Will quit the circus and went to Australia. Texas Jack gave him a reference letter for the Wirth Brothers Circus there, and Rogers continued to perform as a rider and trick roper, and worked on his pony act. He returned to the United States in 1904, appeared at the St. Louis World's Fair, and then began to try his roping skills on the vaudeville circuits.

A Young Will Rogers before 1900

Sometimes fate intervenes and changes a person’s life. On a trip to New York City, Rogers was at Madison Square Garden when a wild steer broke out of the arena and began to climb into the viewing stands. Rogers roped the steer to the delight of the crowd. The feat got front page attention from the newspapers, giving him valuable publicity and an audience eager to see more. Willie Hammerstein, father of later songwriter Oscar Hammerstein II, came to see his vaudeville act, and signed Rogers to appear on the Victoria Roof (literally on a rooftop) with his pony. For the next decade, Rogers estimated he worked for fifty weeks a year at the Roof and at the city's numerous vaudeville theaters.

Rogers described these early years at the Fifteenth Anniversary of the Columbia Theater in New York City. "I got a job on Hammerstein's Roof at $140 a week for myself, my horse, and the man who looked after it. I remained on the roof for eight weeks, always getting another two week extension when Willie Hammerstein would say to me after the Monday matinee, 'you're good for two weeks more'... Marty Shea, the booking agent for the Columbia, came to me and asked if I wanted to play burlesque. They could use an extra attraction... I told him I would think about it, but 'Burlesque' sounded to me then as something funny." Shea and Sam A. Scribner, the general manager of the Columbia Amusement Company, approached Rogers a few days later. Shea told Scribner Rogers was getting $150 and would take $175. "'What's he carrying?’, Scribner asked Shea. 'Himself, a horse, and a man', answered Shea." Scribner replied, "'Give him eight weeks at $250'".

In 1908, Rogers married Betty Blake (who died in 1944), and the couple had four children: Will Rogers, Jr., Mary Amelia, James Blake, and Fred Stone. Will Jr. became a World War II hero, played his father in two films, and became a member of Congress. Mary became a Broadway actress, and Jim was a newspaperman and rancher; Fred died of diphtheria at age two. The family lived in New York, but they managed to make it home to Oklahoma during the summers. In 1911, Rogers bought a 20-acre ranch for $500 an acre near Claremore, Oklahoma, which he intended to use as his retirement home.

In the fall of 1915, Rogers began to appear in Ziegfeld's Midnight Frolic. The variety revue began at midnight in the top-floor night club of Ziegfeld's New Amsterdam Theatre, and drew many influential as well as regular customers. By this time, Rogers had refined his act to a science. His monologues on the news of the day followed a similar routine every night. He appeared on stage wearing his cowboy outfit, casually twirling his lasso, and said, "Well, what shall I talk about? I ain't got anything funny to say. All I know is what I read in the papers." He then made jokes about what he had read in that day's newspapers. The line "All I know is what I read in the papers" is often incorrectly described as Rogers' most famous punch line, when it was, in fact, his opening line.

His run at the New Amsterdam ran on into 1916. Rogers' increasing popularity led to an engagement on the more famous Ziegfeld Follies. By this time, Rogers' act was strictly physical, a display of daring riding and clever tricks with his lariat. He discovered that audiences identified the cowboy as the archetypical American which was probably enhanced by Theodore Roosevelt's image as a cowboy. Audiences loved his frontier style and Oklahoma twang. Once on Broadway, he moved into satire by transforming the "Ropin' Fool" into the "Talkin' Fool". Once when President Woodrow Wilson was in the audience, he improvised a "roast" of presidential policies that had Wilson, and the entire audience, in stitches and proved his remarkable skill at off-the-cuff, witty commentary on current events. The rest of his career he built around that skill.

Rogers branched into silent films for Samuel Goldwyn's company Goldwyn Pictures. He made his first silent movie, Laughing Bill Hyde, filmed in Fort Lee, New Jersey, in 1918. His early films were mostly made near the major New York performing market, so Rogers could make the film, yet still rehearse and perform in the Follies. He eventually appeared in most of the Follies, from 1916 to 1925.

Once he signed a three year contract with Goldwyn, at triple the Broadway salary,  Rogers moved west. He bought a ranch in Pacific Palisades and set up his own production company. Even though he wrote most of his own cards for his silent films, silence was not his great talent. In 1923, he worked for one year for Hal Roach and made 12 pictures. After that he did not return to movies until the 'talkies' began in 1929. His first sound film, They Had to See Paris, gave him the opportunity to show his real talent—talking. He played many roles depicting small town, rustic characters. Among the great talents he worked with in his 21 movies were Lew Ayres, Billie Burke, Richard Cromwell, Jane Darwell, Andy Devine, Janet Gaynor, Rochelle Hudson, Boris Karloff, Myrna Loy, Joel McCrea, Hattie McDaniel, Ray Milland, Maureen O'Sullivan, ZaSu Pitts, Dick Powell, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Mickey Rooney, and Peggy Wood. His favorite director was John Ford.   He was directed three times by John Ford.

Will Rogers star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

His voice was so familiar, he mostly just played himself without makeup, and threw in ad-libs when he felt the need. The clean moral tone of his films led to various public schools taking their classes, during the school day, to attend special showings of some of them.

Will Rogers, "politician"

Will Rogers even got involved in politics—sort of.  Naturally, Rogers thought all campaigning was hogwash. To prove the point he mounted a mock campaign in 1928 for the presidency. His only vehicle was the pages of Life, a weekly humor magazine. Rogers ran as the "bunkless candidate" of the Anti-Bunk Party. His only campaign promise was that, if elected, he would resign. Every week, from Memorial Day through Election Day, Rogers caricatured the farcical humors of grave campaign politics. On election day, he declared victory and resigned.
Here are a few of his campaign issues:
When asked what issues would motivate voters? Prohibition: "What's on your hip is bound to be on your mind".
Asked if there should be presidential debates? Yes: "Joint debate — in any joint you name".
How about appeals to the common man? Easy: "You can't make any commoner appeal than I can".
What does the farmer need? Obvious: "He needs a punch in the jaw if he believes that either of the parties cares a damn about him after the election".
Can voters be fooled? Darn tootin': "Of all the bunk handed out during a campaign the biggest one of all is to try and compliment the knowledge of the voter".
What about a candidate's image? Ballyhoo: "I hope there is some sane people who will appreciate dignity and not showmanship in their choice for the presidency".
What of ugly campaign rumors? Don't worry: "The things they whisper aren't as bad as what they say out loud".

Will Rogers had many talents. Not only did he read voraciously, but he was also a writer. From 1922 to 1935, he wrote a weekly column for The New York Times titled "Slipping the Lariat Over". He also wrote frequent articles for the famous, Saturday Evening Post. His favorite topics were about being neighborly, avoiding foreign influences, democracy and aviation. Like his good friend, General Billy Mitchell, he felt the United States needed a military air force. He published a book of wisecracks and began writing humor books with regular frequency.  

He continued making personal appearances and made radio broadcasts in which he won the hearts and admiration of the American people as he poked fun with charming wit at the issues of the day, prominent people, and most especially, politicians.

Keeping a neutral point of view, he became friends with politicians of both parties. He became to the hearts of Americans, the new Mark Twain, just as Bob Hope became the new Will Rogers using humor to poke fun at politicians and issues.

Will Rogers standing on the wing of a seaplane with Wiley Post in front of the propeller. August 1935. Last picture ever taken of Will Rogers. 

Will became an advocate for the aviation industry and was friends with the famous aviator, Charles Lindbergh. He wanted America to embrace commercial aviation the way Europeans did and wrote many articles in his newspaper column. He emphasized the safety record, speed, and the convenience of commercial transportation to influence political opinion.

The famous aviator and fellow Oklahoman, Wiley Post, was working on modifications for a plane to fly from the West Coast to Russia with the idea of a mail and passenger air route. He applied special floats on the landing gear to enable the plane to land on lakes in Alaska and Russia. Will visited Wiley while he was making his modifications on his aircraft and asked Wiley to fly him to Alaska to research new material for his newspaper column. The floats Wiley originally ordered didn’t arrive in time, so he used a type for a larger plane which made the heavy nosed plane even heavier in the nose. After making a test flight in July, in early August of 1935, Wiley and Will left Lake Washington in Seattle in the Lockheed Orion-Explorer and made several stops in Alaska. Will typed away on his typewriter while Wiley flew the plane. They left Fairbanks on August 15 after they signed and mailed a special flag belonging to the South Coast Corinthian Yacht Club and headed out for Point Barrow, Alaska. The weather turned bad and they were uncertain about their position so they landed in a lagoon to get directions. On takeoff, the engine failed at low altitude and the plane plunged into the lagoon, sheared off the right wing, and finally, inverted in shallow water. Will and Wiley died instantly.

Will Rogers monument of Rout 66 western terminus 

Many years before his death, Rogers had written his famous epigram: “When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: ‘I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I didn’t like.’ I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.” No one else could have written a better epitaph.

If you would like to know more about Will Rogers, here are a few links and places where you can find him:

The Official Will Rogers Website

The Will Rogers Memorial Museum and Birthplace Ranch in Claremore, Oklahoma
Will Rogers Memorial Museum
Magnificent museum of native limestone overlooking the city of Claremore and honoring famed humorist and philosopher Will Rogers (1879-1935)
• Learn about life, wisdom and humor of Will Rogers, Cherokee cowboy
• Experience his passion as a family man, trick roper, actor, and philanthropist
• Marvel at his saddles, art, memorabilia
• Hear his voice on radio replays
• Stroll the beautiful sunken garden
• Research in our vast library and archives
• Watch one of his 71 motion pictures
Learn more about
Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch
Rambling scenic drive leads to birthplace house of Will Rogers and historic 400-acre ranch
• Wander the grounds and enjoy the view of beautiful Lake Oologah
• Step into the two-story house built in 1875
• View the log-walled room in which Will Rogers was born
• Pet the goats and burros grazing around the 1879-era barn
• Picnic under the shade trees while watching the longhorn cattle roam the living history ranch
Learn more about
Will Rogers Plays Daily in Claremore
Check out the Movie Schedule for the Will Rogers Mini Theatre. Will’s movies show play continuously from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day).
See schedule

Helpful Information
  • Hours | 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    Sunday through Saturday
    (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day)
  • Main Number | 918.341.0719
    Toll-Free | 800.324.9455
    Tours | 918.343.8113
    Special Events | 918.343.8113
    Research | 918.343.8124
    Birthplace Ranch | 918.275.4201
  • Will Rogers Memorial Museum
    1720 West Will Rogers Blvd.
    Claremore, OK 74017
  • Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch
    9501 East 380 Road
    Oologah, OK 74053

Statue of Will Rogers and his horse, Soapsuds

Will Rogers memorials and statues are present throughout the United States, especially in the west. It would be quite an adventure to seek them all out and visit them. The best memorial of all is in the hearts of Americans. 
(Please note: all photographs are from public domain, Wikipedia)

You may find Sarah J. McNeal and her books at the following places: