Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Lacrosse to Bear

It certainly is peculiar that Lacrosse, invented by Native Americans, is one of the three winter sports at British girls’ schools. My daughter, brought up in the UK, hated it; never very athletic—she has many other talents—she went out into freezing cold with her cleats and her Lacrosse stick, and was rarely chosen for a team. I have no idea how lacrosse reached inclusion in the girls school syllabus, but I suppose after five hundred years it had got around.
Coctaw Ball Player by George Catlin

Lacrosse was part of the native culture as a sacred contest. To the French Canadian trappers who mixed with the Iroquois, apparent inventors of the game, the lacrosse stick looked like a bishops’ crozier-la crosse. The game eventually became a way of preparing young warriors for battle, and subsequently a way of deciding inter-tribal conflicts. The netted sticks were about three feet long and the balls were stuffed deer hide.  Believe it or not, hundreds could be playing at once and the goals could be miles apart—a sort of hockey-style free-for-all. Although the Iroquois were originally from upstate NY and Ontario, some did eventually relocate in the early 1800s to Indian Territory/Oklahoma, and to Kansas.
The Iroquois Nationals, the native lacrosse team, are still going strong, and back in 2010 they were headed to the UK to compete. In May, 2010, I was also headed to the UK: I wanted to see my friends; whether or not they wanted to see me was another matter.  Maybe all those tears shed at my departure were tears of joy; I have no idea. But I had another reason for this return.  Unless I go back into the UK every two years, I lose my right to residency or, as the Immigration officials put it, “leave to enter and remain in the United Kingdom.” So there I was in the queue for Immigration, two passports at the ready: one passport was my current one, the other--outdated--had the magic stamp in it which gives me the “right to abode.” I approached the officer when I was called, and explained that I wished to maintain my rights and have the usual stamp of ‘right to abode.’  He looked over the two passports and said, “But Madam, you’re only here for fourteen days. And even if you want that stamp, you were last in the UK in September ’08 so you have gone past the two years.”  
     There was a moment’s silence while I stood staring at him trying to figure out which one of us had Alzheimer’s.  Since there is no song for the months the way there is for the alphabet, to help you get those months in order, I had to spend a bit of time figuring this one out. However, years of experience told me that May came before September so in the end I gently but firmly pointed out to him that I still had more than three months to go. He gave me the stamp.
Ball Players by George Catlin

The lacrosse team of the Nation of the Iroquois were not so lucky. Headed to the UK for a competition in Manchester, the UK did not recognize their hand-written documents, and also sought assurance from the USA that the Nationals will be re-admitted into the US airports without US passports…since the Reservations obviously do not have airports of their own. It raised an interesting question. The map of the USA would look something akin to Swiss cheese if the Indian reservations were pulled out of it, as separate nations.  Tellingly, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who was all in favor of the Iroquois traveling on their handwritten tribal passports, said, “It’s a matter of tribal sovereignty and respecting the rights of the Native American population of this country.”   
‘Of this country?’ What country is that exactly? The Iroquois Nation or the USA???

Photos of George Catlin’s paintings courtesy of the Smithsonian via Wikipedia, in public domain.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

My New Release--A Romantic Suspense Western Coming January 25!

Locket Full of Love

by Heather Blanton

Was her husband a sinner or a saint? A spy or a traitor? For years Juliet Watts has believed her husband died saving nothing more than a cheap trinket--but the locket he risked his life for turns out to hold a mysterious key. Together, Juliet and military intelligence officer Robert Hall go on a journey of riddles and revelations. But Juliet is convinced Robert is hiding something, too. Maybe it's just his heart...

This was a fun story to write and the research was really interesting. I learned a lot about spying and intelligence departments during the Civil War. Oh, and the first part of the story is based on a TRUE Story. Next month I'll be back with details on some of my research!

I hope you'll check it out and the other books in the Lockets & Lace series. My book releases January 25, and if you pre-order (and let me know), I'll send you a loooooong sneak peek! 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Modern Day Staple

Toilet Paper

Hubby and I went grocery shopping today, and of course had to buy toilet paper. That thing that is a staple for us, but hadn’t been back in the old west. Personal rant here—but I know the rolls keep getting smaller and smaller, even the ones manufactures claim are double or triple the average size.
Here are a few other tidbits about toilet paper:

The average American uses about 100 rolls of toilet paper a year.

Manufactures say an average roll of toilet paper lasts five days. (Manufactures have never visited my family, or we are above average.)

In the late 1500’s, when paper became more available, it began to take the place of rocks, stones, sponges, shells, corn cobs, and other various tools that were customarily used for ‘cleaning up’.

Toilet paper, i.e. paper manufactured specifically for ‘cleaning up’ was invented around 1880 by the British Perforated Paper Company and sold in boxes of individual square sheets.

Tiffany’s was one of the first stores in America to carry Woman’s Elegant Stationary directly imported from Europe, and it became such a rage, others soon followed. 

Around 1890, Scott’s Paper Company made the first rolls of paper used for such reasons.  

The Waldrof brand of toilet paper came about because the Scott’s Paper Company convinced the highly regarded and well-known hotel that toilet paper was something no other hotels had and that their customers would appreciate it. (The sales pitch worked and soon Scotts was selling to hotels across America. Other hotels were also able to brand the paper with their name.)

Toilet Paper was an ‘unmentionable’ product, and many were too embarrassed to ask for it by name, so shoppers would merely need to say, ‘Two please’, and the clerks knew what they needed. 

It was so unmentionable, Scotts wouldn’t put its name on the package, hence the various ‘hotel’ brands, they also had many other ‘private’ label brands. 

To keep things discreet, toilet paper was packaged and sold in brown paper.  

Early on, rolls of toilet paper were known to have splinters in them, many complaints and infections encouraged manufactures to find ways to break down the wood fibers more thoroughly. 

In 1901 Northern Paper Mills from Wisconsin introduced its version of toilet paper, which came complete with a wire through the center of the roll so it could be hung on a nail. 

By 1911 Scotts Paper Company had eliminated all the ‘private brands’ and put their name on their products. 

In 1928 the Hoberg Paper in Wisconsin introduced a line of toilet paper. Their logo, a woman’s head on a cameo pin had been designed to appeal to the woman’s fashions of the day. A female employee remarked that the design was ‘charming’ and the name Charmin was born.

1932 Charmin introduced the four-roll package, making it a convenient bundle for purchasers. 

On a separate note:
My next book, Married to Claim the Rancher’s Heir, will be released on February 1!
To claim his heir…
…he must marry his enemy!

Gabe Callaway is outraged when feisty Janette Parker lands on his doorstep with her orphaned niece—though he soon realizes little Ruby is heir to his ranch! If Janette wants money, he’ll pay her off to keep the little girl in her rightful place. But all Janette wants is Ruby… Will Gabe do whatever it takes to claim his heir—even marry Janette?

AND on a completely separate subject that has nothing to do with this blog, but because everyone in my household is still cheering....

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Wagon Trains West

So for my first post here at Cowboy Kisses I thought I would cover one of the topics that I’ve been researching for a few months now. I have three stories that I worked on several years ago that need attention and one part of one of these stories has the hero and heroine meet on a wagon train along the Oregon Trail. I found researching even the day to day about being on a wagon train more than interesting. And if I didn’t get it quite right here, be kind! Ha. I work as a full time RN and have kids, so my research happens with kids running all over and jumping on the bed where I usually have my laptop. But if nothing else enjoy! And for the first ten folks making a comment on the blog, I will be giving away a Wild Rose Press Calendar along with a few book goodies of Sawyer’s Rose and Wyatt’s Bounty, my two Western Historical Romances.

The Journey West by Wagon Train 
Just a bit of History
In 1803 the United States expanded West with the Louisiana Purchase. Later with the assumption of lands gained with the Texan Annexation (1845) and the Mexican Cessation (1848) the opportunity for a new life for many was opened. With the claim of the Oregon Country (1847) hundreds of families ventured West by wagon train to the fertile lands of the Oregon Territory. Government pushes to settle American Pioneers on the newly claimed lands found hundreds of men, women and children leaving Independence Missouri for the chance at a new start. Reports of lands rich in soil and a farmer’s paradise resulted in the first wagon trains arrival to Oregon in 1843, before these lands were actually acquired.
The Push for Westward Expansion
The push to stretch America from the East to the West coast didn’t always warn of the hardships of such a journey. Preparing for the trip most often required selling land and leaving life’s luxuries behind. Selling one’s farm was a gamble but most of those willing to make the journey often banked on the produce of the land they planned to farm. Many sold their land and homes at a loss to set out on a journey that would was for many the biggest hardship of their lives. Many heading West with the first wave were promised 640 acres of prime farmland but the government Donation of Land Act cut the number of promised acres in half only a few years later. A man could claim 320 acres for himself and the same amount could be claimed by his wife in her own name. Women interested in the ownership of land were often enticed West for the same reason this number would later decrease to 160 acres for a man and the same for his wife, however around 1869 The Homestead Act in Oregon changed things for women. Even before they had the right to vote, women over twenty-one who were the head of the household were able to receive homestead patents for gaining their own land. Most often these women were widows, those with disabled husbands, and many of them single women.
Preparing for the Journey
The purchase of tickets by train to Independence Missouri in its own right could be expensive and the costs of a sturdy wagon, a team of oxen or horses and supplies didn’t come cheap. Those seeking to make their own fortunes off the families arriving to Independence sold some of the finest wagons and provision. The costs for even a small family’s provisions for the trip could easily run in excess of $1200.00, a great deal of money at the time. The journey of 2000 miles and more than 5 or 6 months didn’t come cheap though many families saved for years and then sold all they owned in hopes of making the payoff with hard work and successful crops once in the Oregon Territory.
Some wagon trains were composed of over 200 wagons though most were as small as 30. One of the most used types of wagons was called the Conestoga which was referred to as the camel of the West. These were less robust but stable in comparison to others. Less could be packed so bare essentials were planned for and the rest left behind. A cumbersome wagon loaded too heavily with unneeded provisions was the reason the trails west were often littered with furniture and items from homes that had been left behind. Preparations for such a journey meant a man often hired another to help on the trial, paying in full for the helps journey in exchange for “Man’s work”. Such a trip could be brutal though women often helped by working hard right alongside their husbands. Preparing for a trip of months across terrain from mountains to deserts in weather conditions that were at best unpredictable was at best dangerous for all involved but not fully limited to the list below:
Supply List
Tools-Hammers, nails,
Barrels of food staples
Rope and lot’s of it
Cast Iron pots, skillets, eating utensils and plates
Weapons for hunting and protections-shotguns, rifles, pistols, knives, bullets, molds and lead
Medications and bandages
The Family Bible
Bolts of cloth and linen and sewing kits
Plant cuttings for growing on the new land along with seeds and garden tools
100 pounds of Flour
70 pounds of bacon
30 pounds of hardtack, beans rice, coffee, sugar, dried fruits, baking soda, vinegar
Eggs and good China were packed in barrels of corn meal to keep them from breaking
Blankets, pillows, tents, poles and stakes
Canvas and Hickory Bows for the wagon itself
Lanterns and fuel
Pens papers books
Pipes and tobacco
Scopes, coins and money
Shaving items soaps and perfumes
Extra clothing, shoes, boots and socks
Saddles and leather for repairs
Livestock and feed

Dangers Along the way
A family headed out on a wagon train could at best plan for less than a hazard free journey. A lot of planning was needed to choose the right time of year for making the journey west. If a wagon train left too early there was the chance that grasses would not be available along the way for the livestock making the journey. Nothing to feed livestock on a 2000 mile journey could devastate a train and leave the travelers stranded. Leaving too late in the year meant the chance of trying to cross the mountains in inclement weather where at times the snow and ice were impassible and incredibly dangerous. Exposure ended many a travelers’ journey when not prepared or choosing a wrong course. Broken wagon wheels and sick oxen often ended many trips west. River crossings could often end up in the loss of lives if waters were higher than predicted and or wagons washed away with family members inside. There were ferries to charter wagons across but the costs could sometimes be high.
While rare, Indians attacks did occur, however, many tribes welcomed wagon trains as they were interested in trading. At times horses or other items were stolen by the Indians which often ended in bloodshed for both sides. Over the years the relationship between the wagon trains and Indians slowly deteriorated and by the 1890s with the Indian’s having lost their way of life, tensions continued. But it seemed the Indian tribes had more interest in fighting each other than in the immigrants traveling west by Wagon train when it came down to it. There were also the occasional wild animals to deal with which included, wolves, coyotes, bears, snakes and even buffalo that became dangerous during a stampede.
Numbers of men, women and children succumbed to disease and illness while on the journey West. Cholera being one taking numbers of lives due to unclean conditions and water. Lack of physicians and access to needed medical care was often left to others in the train that had no experience. There were doctors who made the journey, but lack of clean water and well prepared foods added to the demise of hundreds. Those at most risk were the elderly and the very young as well as pregnant women who only had the help of other women or perhaps a single midwives who had no resources along the trail. Alkaline water was also an easy way to find the oxen sick or dead by morning. It was imperative to find good water sources.
One of the little thought of dangers was crossing paths with a family who had decided to return home, those who had not found what they thought that would in the new part of the country. The tales of lost wagon parties such as the Donner Party (A wagon train that took a less popular route and found it closed off due to inclement weather and thus were stranded for months, those that survived resorting to cannibalism in an effort to survive) could be responsible for a family turning back for Independence.
The Daily Routine
The first part of the journey West on a trail was usually easy with flat terrain giving those new to the trail the chance to establish routines with required daily chores. It was often on the first part of the journey where those not use to the trail or caring for animals were forced to learn how to handle a team of oxen or horses. Hitching animals to a wagon wasn’t easy and the maintenance for the needed hardware was almost never ending. The animals needed access to food and water along any trail and often time trains rode along water’s edge to make sure the animals had what they needed to survive. The maintenance of the wagon itself could tax the men working the train and the first part of any leg of the journey was a time to establish the daily rules and responsibilities of being on a train. Children often held their own responsibilities such as milking or carrying water from streams and rivers. Children would gather berries and other food staples that were easy to find on the train. Some of the Wagon Trains held a few hours each evening for school for the children. Children might also use slates to practice sums while riding in the wagon along the way.
An average day on the wagon train would look something like this:
Wagon Master fires shots to wake the camp of circled wagons which served as a nightly barricade from Indians or other attack. Fires were started. Oxen were herded to the wagons and yoked for the days’ journey.
Breakfast. Yoking teams. Tents folded and stored. Wagons loaded
Wagons pulled out for the days’ journey. Women and children often walked along with the wagons. Men and boys on horseback rode the lines in protection and to make sure wagons kept up and herded animals along.
Lunch break Wagons stopped. Oxen were turned loose with yokes on to feed. Leaders often huddled to deal with any issues that had arisen since the day before.
The wagon train pulls out again and continued until a spot of the nightly parking was found most often before darkness set in.
Evenings after sundown
Children often played as women prepared the evening meal. Adults gathered to talk in groups. There might also be dancing and singing after the evening meal.
The men took varying shifts of standing guard each night and until the gunshots of morning woke the train. And then the wagon train would start all over again for the next 5 to 6 months it would take to arrive along the to Oregon territory

Food Preparation
Dried Buffalo dung was often collected as it burned easily to start a camp fire for meals. This readily available resource burned quickly with little smoke. Gun powder was often used to get a flame started on a fire. Iron skillets were most often used for cooking all the needed meals, that and the open flame for roasting meats. Most carried flour and baking soda and dough could be created for breads, biscuits and pancakes or johnnycakes. Meal often consisted of dried meats, bacon and even dried beans, all of which were easy to store and carry for the journey. Frying meat often meant it was easy to add a little flour to create rues with the drippings and hearty gravy could be made to cover the dryer breads and beans. Water could often be polluted so coffee was the drink of choice even for children. Boiling the water kept sickness down and coffee could cover the smell of old water. The prairies were rich in game. Small birds and game were readily available. Rabbits, Prairie chickens, pheasants, antelope and big horn sheep as well as buffalo. Buffalo unless stampeding were an easy target given their size and lack of running when in danger. The buffalo would later suffer drastic losses in numbers simply for their hides, but in the early Wagon Train years one buffalo could feed the whole train and little was wasted.
On arrival to their destination, exhausted families relished in actually finding a bit of civilization again. With small towns waiting, needed provisions could be restored. Once this was done, families were often on their way to the land they had to claim and then it was time to plan and build a home before the winter came. Home in the area would be made of wood and or a combination of sod, bark and even animal skins until finer homes could be established. Often families had to help each other survive the first years until crops could be planted, harvested and sold at market. Families who survived the hard journey intact often found starting from nothing difficult, but many of those that endured thrived when given time.
 It seems the short time of the 1800’s and early 1900’s summarizes the expansion West for those who made the journey on wagon trains, but the arrival of the transcontinental railroads would go on to end the vast numbers arriving by wagon. But those who made those long hard journeys by wagon are the ones responsible for developing a lot of the cities that still exist today. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

A New View on Cattle

I love to set my stories on cattle ranches. I grew up riding horses, worked on a farm and have always been fascinated with the American west. So writing western romance is a perfect fit for me in many ways.

Yet I'm also a California girl with a degree in environmental studies. So I've written about ranching with a twinge of guilt. Cattle ranching can be bad for the earth. We should all eat less beef, experts tell us, not just to preserve our health but to help tackle global warming. And living in the warming, drought-ridden west, I definitely want to help with that problem!

Then today, I read a fascinating article. Allan Savory, an esteemed ecologist, is arguing that raising cattle is not the problem that's contributing to climate change. It's how we raise cattle. It's feeding them corn instead of the grass their bodies were designed to ingest. It's sending them to feed lots instead of allowing them to graze freely over big parcels of land.

According to Savory, the earths' grasslands evolved along with large populations of hoofed grazing mammals. Here in America, we had deer, bison, antelope and others. When they ate and trampled the grass, they made room for new grass to grow. Their droppings fertilized the prairies. When they moved on to new grazing lands, the grassland regenerated behind them.

Without these animals, if we follow Savory's reasoning, the grassland slowly dies. New plants can't make their way through the old dead grass. Other plants move in and colonize, or, as has happened in places like Africa, the land becomes desert.

Even the British royals agree with this idea, and since many of us romance readers are excited about the May wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, let's hear from Harry's dad. Prince Charles summarized this research in a 2012 speech, saying "If you take grazers off the land and lock them away in feedlots, the land dies."

And apparently grasslands hold a whole lot of carbon down in their roots. A ton of carbon per acre. So if we could make them thrive again, we could sequester some of the carbon currently floating about causing trouble in the atmosphere.

Now all this is good in theory, but how do we know it's true? Well, in Zimbabwe, where grasslands turning into deserts is a large problem, they did an experiment. Here is what the article says about the results.

In Zimbabwe, for example, the Africa Centre for Holistic Management has restored desertified grasslands by running 400% more livestock than it originally did.
"Through two recent serious droughts they have increased livestock further and the river that had gone dry in most years is once more flowing perennially in most years supporting a great increase in animal life,” Savory writes. “New permanent water pools, complete with water lilies and fish have appeared where not previously known in living memory."
Pretty neat, right? Not only are they trapping carbon in the grasslands, but they are restoring habitat and making the land more resistant to drought.  
After reading this article, I did some more research, which cast a different, much dimmer light on Allan Savory's theory. Although it sounds good on paper, it hasn't worked when researchers have tried to put it into practice. The grass didn't regenerate. The cattle didn't thrive.
But I'll leave you with this. If Allan Savory and his colleagues are correct, or at least, somewhat correct, wouldn't it be amazing if we could close the feedlots, break down fences and let the cattle roam? How wonderful to have large swaths of healthy prairie, and delicious grass-fed beef that could benefit us all! 

Who knows? Maybe one of my future heroes or heroines will take down their fences and see the grasslands start to thrive! 
If you'd like to learn more about these ideas, here are a few resources I found.
The original article I read:
Allan Savory's website:
A Scientific American Article that explores his ideas:
The Sierra Club article that explores and then ultimately disagrees with Allan's ideas:
An article from that vehemently disagrees with his ideas: