Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Basque Immigrants

The first Basques in Oregon arrived in the late 1880s. 

These Euskaldunak, or newcomers, came from two launching areas. Some were part of the Euskaldunak exodus out of Gold Rush California and the first ranches of Nevada. Others arrived directly from Europe, leaving the Pyrenees Mountains that separated France and Spain, crossing the Atlantic by ship, and traveling across the continent by railroad to their new western homes. The Basques of Eastern Oregon and Northern Nevada became known early on as sheepherders and livestock men. 

In the community of Jordan Valley, Basque and non-Basque numbers expanded to approximately 600 families in the 1920s. The Basques established important markers of their ethnic presence by erecting several still-standing sandstone buildings, including three boarding houses, a fronton (for jai alai, pelota, or handball), and an essentially Basque-built Catholic church. 

Built 1915

The two decades from 1920 to 1940 saw major developments in the Basque communities of Oregon, near where I live. Basques settled in or near the small communities of McDermitt (on the Oregon-Nevada state line), Andrews, Fields, and Arock, along with Jordan Valley.

In the years following the early 1940s, Oregon Basques experienced continuing changes. The sheep industry, beset by international competition and diminishing demands for wool, fell on hard times. With the French and Spanish economies gradually recovering from postwar declines after World War II, fewer Basque men were willing to immigrate to the American West as poorly paid herders, isolated from European ties and removed for most of the year from other Basques. Lonely lives under the big western sky seemed less and less appealing. 

When I was a teenager, we'd often take our horses to the desert south of Boise, Idaho. Usually, we'd see a Basque sheepherder tending their flocks. These were often young men from the Basque area of Spain and they lived in the above trailers, following the herds. They were far from home, unable to speak English, and very lonely. They'd use sign language and always offered something to eat.

My Rodeo Road series is set on a ranch in the Jordan Valley, Oregon area. In Changing A Cowboy's Tune, the hero was born and raised on the family ranch and takes his bride there to live. 

The second book in the series, Winning A Cowgirl's Love, will be available in the anthology Do You Take This Cowboy on June 1st. This is Randi and Davie's story.

Randi Bachmann has two problems after winning an extravagant wedding package from the reality show Your Dream Wedding: She doesn’t have a groom, and she doesn’t want to get married. However, she needs the $50,000 prize money awarded if she stays married for six months. In desperate need of the cash, she picks the one man she knows will be only too happy to leave after the term is up, Davie Dunbar.

When his college romance went south, Davie ran as far and fast as he could. Back home after six years of wandering, he’s set on trying to make up to Randi for deserting her. Marrying her is the perfect way to prove to Randi he’s changed. He’s willing to do anything, including take part in a fake wedding, for a second chance to win her love.

Have you ever heard about the Basques?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Nothing like a good wedding!

I admit, I binge watched the royal wedding. Yep, got up at 4 a.m. and took it all in. Teared up. Had a good cry. Watched it again that night. Yeah, I told myself I was there for the horses. Snicker... who's gonna believe that. So, I got to thinking, what were western weddings like?

We know weddings changed lives. Girls moved from their mother's house to one of their own, raised their own brood, moved when their husband's decided to move, and put up with a lot.  That part of life hasn't changed much. But, remember, they were often far away from home, no emails, phone chats, video's. We have it pretty easy.

At the turn of the last century, brides often experienced similar emotions of today's brides; anticipation, excitement, trepidation. But these blessed unions were far more than just gathering of families. Weddings were important social events. They pulled the families away from mundane daily chores and provided a way for  young folks to meet and mingle.

Weddings were scheduled around the circuit preacher or work on the homestead. If the preacher couldn't be there, a justice of the peace would serve. Families would gather in the main room to watch the nuptials then feasting, dancing until late in the night would entertain young and old. If you were lucky there would be a good old chivaree where folks would grab pots and pans, wooden spoons, whistles and the like then journey to wait outside the bedroom window. Once the light had been doused, the ruckus would begin.

What did you get a bride in the West?
Well, many of the customs were still the same. Letters from the east, customs and culture gave into traditions that many families did their best to emulate. Household items were a must. Sometimes staples were given. A bag of coffee would come in mighty handy if your farm or ranch was a distance away from the city or town. Practical gifts like cows, chickens, horses were always nice especially with money in rather short supply.

By the Gilded Age, Western brides were having higher expectations. They had been reading Harper's Weekly or gleaming information from letters to see what was going on back East. Gifts became fancier, silver bread bowls, napkin rings, crystal were show pieces brides would give their eye teeth for. A woman's trousseau such as clothing, linens made by hand were given. Remember those quilting bees - patterns like double wedding ring became popular. Things like parlor stoves, carpets, and water sets were the cat's meow.

Because of the influence of Queen Victoria, there was a rise in the use of white gowns.We all know that most clothing was made by hand. Those ranch families who could afford high end fashion often  sent to France for white silk wedding gowns that cost $1,000.00 to $1,500.00 dollars. Cost may have hindered purchases, but those ladies were resourceful. They'd study fashion plates in magazines to get ideas and purchase their own taffeta, tulle, and satin, then spend hours sewing a gown.

I sure enjoyed Prince Harry's wedding. I bet they received a number of silver bread bowls. But, I can't imagine, Prince  Charles or his brother sneaking up to Windsor Castle with pots, pans, and whistles. Maybe, bagpipes.

Until next time,


A wonderfully preserved wedding gown of the Gilded Age can be found at the Buffalo Bill Historic Center. Arta Cody's wedding dress has been preserved and is on display there. This picture was printed in the fall 2005 issue of Point's West Magazine.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

KEEPING A BEADY EYE ON THE TRADE: Stephen A. Frost and Native American Trade Beads

It’s a story more apocryphal than true that Manhattan was bought by the Dutch from the Indians for twenty-four dollars worth of beads. Whatever the truth of the matter, up until their meeting with the Europeans, Native American beads were hand made out of natural materials: bone, animal teeth, horn, and shell. But where did the idea come from for the Europeans to trade beads with Native Americans?
Wichita Trade Beads, 1740, found
by archaeologists in OK (1)
Trade beads were originally called ‘slave beads’ because they were used to trade for slaves in Africa; in Ghana, these were called ‘aggry.’ To many of the peoples of Africa, beads were a sign of both wealth and social position, so the beads were the most obvious currency, being brought over from Europe even as ballast in ships. Venetian glass beads were the most popular, but beads also came from Poland and Czechoslovakia, as well as other cities in Italy.
Trade in North America started with small amounts. Lewis and Clark brought small supplies for their cross-country trek in 1804, and the Hudson Bay Company also used them as trade.  From archaeology, we have learned that beads of certain size, shape, and color were favored by different nations, large blue glass beads being one such popular type. By 1848, the peddler’s trade across the plains carried beads, and twenty-eight year old Stephen A. Frost was one such tradesman. After the end of the Civil War, Stephen’s son, Daniel, was able to join him, and their company expanded.
Beaded Spruce Root Hat, from Chugash Alaska,
Museum of Cultures, Helsinki (2)
Stephen A. Frost & Son soon traded throughout North America, including Alaska and Canada.  The company, with headquarters in New York from the 1870s, was well regarded by the Indians who even created special items in trade for the beads.  In turn, the men collected beadwork products, pottery, basketry, silverwork, blankets, carvings, clothing and so on to sell to Europeans, some pieces even going to museums.  Frosts also sold beads wholesale to other merchants, and manufactured bone ‘hair pipes.’
On Stephen’s retirement in 1900, Dan Frost continued to expand the company into non-Native activities, although it was always the Native American side that was the mainstay.  The company exhibited its collection at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and continued in business until 1937 when Dan Frost retired, aged 87, and closed the business.  During his stewardship, he had associated with such notables as Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill Hickock, amongst many others.
The remaining stock of Frost & Son was sold, but the bead sample cards were donated to the Illinois State Museum where they can be seen today.
Dine/Navajo Necklace with 19th Century Trade Beads
Author's  Collection 

Photos: 1. By Uyvsdi [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
2. Public Domain, Wiki
3. author 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

History is Ugly. Can't We Accept That and Move On?

by Heather Blanton

Next month I am attending Wild Deadwood Reads, a reader/author mixer you could say. While I have traveled the West extensively, somehow I have missed South Dakota. I am pretty excited about this trip. Especially since my older sister is going with me.

In preparation for this excursion, I've been doing a lot of research (because, like, I'm such a geek). I do a lot of research in general, but I'm certainly lumping more of it together for this and I'm starting to get annoyed at something. I keep running into "apologies" for history. 

Here is an example from the city of Deadwood's online newspaper archive project:  ...remember that political correctness did not exist in 19th-century Deadwood - many terms used are now considered derogatory or slanderous but are a true reflection of our history.

Ooooh, beware, fellow history geek, here there be monsters.

Seriously, history can't be white-washed no matter how you play with the words. Too many of the building blocks of this nation are literally murder, massacres, and mayhem. Not to mention lies, betrayal, and embezzlement. But such is human nature. 

Greed is bad but if not for greed, you could argue the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads would not have ever met in Utah.

If Europeans hadn't rolled over the Native Americans in the east like Ebola, the settling of the rest of this nation could have been delayed for centuries. 

If not for the blood-and-gore of Civil War, would African Americans still be in chains?

From these exhibitions of man at his absolute worst, dominoes fell into place. America became the superpower that stopped a madman from exterminating the Jews. We gave the world the vaccine for polio. Heck, we gave the world the United States Constitution.

I hope I'm making the point that history was often blood-curdlingly ugly, but it does not behoove us to forget it. Look, instead, for the beauty that has come from the ashes; find the good in the scorched earth. That is what, I think, good fiction can do--build a story of hope no matter the backdrop. It doesn't excuse the bad behavior. It accepts it as fact and highlights the places from where inspiration, education, and experience can come.

What's your take on this issue? Do you want mean words and terrible stories scrubbed from history? 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Don't Call Me A "Sidewinder"

Rattlesnakes. Just the very word makes a lot of people uneasy and anxious. As a western historical writer, nature lover, and all around information geek, I’m fascinated with the critters, so when Dearest Husband attended a Continuing Education meeting (required to maintain his veterinary license) that had a lecture on rattlesnakes living in Wyoming, the Dakotas, and Colorado (same general area I wish I lived), I grabbed his lecture notes as soon as the meeting was over.

There are more than 24 known species of rattlesnakes in the US of which the Mojave Rattlesnake is the most venomous. It has venom which can kill a person if antivenin is not administered. These rattlesnakes are aggressive toward humans and will bite without provocation. Although rattlesnake venom isn't as deadly as some other snakes, the volume of the injected venom makes rattlesnakes particularly dangerous. The venom is haemotoxic, meaning that it prevents blood from clotting and destroys tissue.

Most of what I write is set in what was the Wyoming Territory—now the great state of Wyoming. Only two rattlers live in Wyoming, according to the Wyoming Department of Fish and Wildlife: the prairie rattler and the midget faded rattler. The prairie rattler can be found just about everywhere in the state below 8000 feet. The midget is found only in the Flaming Gorge area and is endangered.

Of the two, the midget (what’s midget about a venomous snake that can be as long as 20 inches fully mature?) is much more venomous, more prone to bite, and definitely aggressive. It is an absolutely gorgeous snake—liver and orange colored.

The prairie rattler, on the other hand, has a huge distribution area. These snakes are robust, less aggressive than their midget or Mojave cousins, and aren’t as venomous. Unless cornered or actually threatened, they’ll just slither away through the sage brush and grasses. Most mature prairie rattlers will also prefer, if forced to strike, to deliver a warning, dry bite. (And if I’m ever in a situation where I’ve accidently cornered a prairie rattler and receive a dry bite, I’m still dead because the heart attack will kill me.)

Now, I’m off to go research rattlesnakes in the Big Piney area of Texas for my next romance novel.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Medical Writing...from the nurses aspect

The last few months I have talked about the medications and injuries of the Old West but in order to bring this full circle for writers/authors I’ve got to go a bit more current or modern. First disclosure, I am not a doctor. Doctors and nurses think differently but are focused on the same goals. After 28 years in an acute care facility, it is easy to see the change in the relationship between physicians and highly skilled nurses. The docs rely on us a lot to help put together the picture that is going on with the patients. Still what is presented here will let you know that these kinds of injuries today can often result in death and even more so in your historical novels.

Nurses are no longer thought of as bedside hand maidens as they were back in the 1800’s and before. If your heart stops in the hospital, it isn’t the doctor doing what is needed. He is probably there shouting the orders, but it is the Registered Nurse who is pushing the medications. It is the Registered Nurse who is starting the IV and inserting an enterotrachial tube so you can breathe. It is the Registered Nurse who is monitoring your vital signs and it is a Registered Nurse who is monitoring the screens and equipment that tell how you are doing. But it is also the RN who is outside the room, holding your husband’s hand. It’s the RN who is the first one to hold your child once the physician passes off the bundle. It is the RN who sits with you when you are afraid and who offers you a smile when the diagnosis seems grim. You don’t know it but she had prayed for you, cried about your pain and researched hard to find the answers. She is the one who says you can do this during your recovery. She is the one who cheers you when you reach even the small goals and she might ever be the only one there when you take your last breath. She cried then too, but there is reward in being a nurse and many of us have found that. That’s the pretty picture. Here is the reality. I have been hit, bitten, scratched, spit on, cursed, pee’d on, pooped on, shoved, degraded, badgered, threatened and that is just before lunch, but the good always seems to out weight the bad, like just one patient who really appreciates what you do.

But onto the writing medical things…
What I find when I am reading stories where characters are injured is that often times the medical information isn’t correct or isn’t what a nurse would say. I’ve also read a few where the medical position isn’t described as it really is. So first let me discuss the roles in a hospital beginning with nurses and techs. So I have several things I can cover.
Nurses Defined
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs)---licensed vocational nurses (LVNs)-Work under the direction of an RN and train most often in Technical Colleges, though a lot of these programs are being phased out. 
Registered Nurses-Usually a 4 year Bachelor’s of Science Degree from a college or university. Practice under physician orders, but most often independently.
Advanced Practice Nurses:
Nurse Anesthetists-(CRNA)-Nurses who train further to administer anesthesia. They often work under the orders of an Anesthesiologist but do practice independently.
Clinical Nurse Specialists-Often in Educator Roles, but this seems to be phasing out in most programs where Nurse practitioner programs are growing.
Nurse Practitioners-Work in a variety of specialties from offices to hospital setting and even public health. A degree higher and specialized such as geriatrics, family practice or emergency medicine. NP’s have prescriptive rights in most states and are highly paid in rural areas where doctors are not available.
Certified Nurse Midwives-Highly Trained to deliver babies under a physician’s guidance. Prescriptive rights also. 
Ancillary Nursing Staff:
Certified nursing assistant- Assists RNs and LPNs with vital signs and basic patient care from baths to potty help. This is obtained in six or eight month certificate programs, but they are not nurses.
Nurse Tech-Patient Care Tech-Often trained to do a little more than a CAN. For the most part candy stripers and orderlies are non-existence. There are also a large number of male nurses these days.
Orderlies and Candy stripers rarely exist any longer. There are transport teams to move patient from one place to another but most of those employed in the role have some medical training. The emergence of HIPAA laws on confidentiality had made it where you can no longer have as much access to medical facilities or patient information so be careful in writing what is happening to your characters on what may be told over the phone or what may be seen or done while in a medical facility.

Other Roles in the Hospital:
Physician Assistants-Trained to work alongside a physician, making rounds and even assisting with orders and the plans for patient care. Highly skilled.
Hospitalists/Internists-Hospitalists are hired physicians that work on staff to monitor patients within the hospital. Internists specialize in the care of ICU patients.
Anesthesiologist-Administer Anesthesia for surgery cases and or pain blocks such as epidurals.  
Pharmacists-Specialize in measuring and mixing medications that are ordered for patients.
A note to writers: Not all docs are rich, some have a years of student loans to pay back and others pay dearly for the required malpractice insurance. For example the insurance for an OB/GYN physician can be in excess of 150,000 a year. Today’s physicians often work in large group offices and time is money. Physicians do not typically work for the hospital but have privileges to admit and treat their patients. A lot of people think the doctor works for the hospital.
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Paramedics-Most often are firemen with advanced training for responding to accidents and injuries outside medical facilities. EMT do first aid type care and emergency care, but paramedics are trained to push medications in the field and are highly skilled.
Medical Assistants (MA). Trained to run the front and back offices or clinics. Can draw blood and also run the billing of an office for example.
Occupational Therapists—Work to assist for instance stroke patient to regain functional use of limbs at least to be able to perform the activities of daily living.
Physical Therapists—Assist with regaining full use of injuries, to help relieve pain, to assist patients who have been bedridden to get up and about again after surgery, plus much much more.
Speech-Language Pathologists-Assist with feeding issues and regaining speech after stroke or other injuring.
Most people in these positions are happy to allow an interview of what they do on a day to day basis. HIPAA laws sometimes limit shadowing experiences, but most will answer phone interview questions or meet away from actual patients. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law that requires employers to protect employee medical records as confidential. HIPAA includes regulations that cover how employers must protect employees’ medical privacy rights and the privacy of their health information. Tis law also means that staff do not discuss patient information over the phone except to give a basic condition: Stable, critical etc.
Even if you are not writing medical romance, your hero or heroine may be injured and often times the care or the scenes are not described correctly. Do your research! Interview your doctor or a nurse friend.
Writer Tips: Remember a couple of things. Your hero is not going to bounce back from some of these injuries very quickly. Don’t give him a concussion and fractured ribs and then have him making love the next day or in the next chapter.  Broken bones can take 8 or more weeks to heal and it isn’t likely he’ll feel up to it for a while even if he is a Scottish Highlander or Hot Cowboy.
Vital signs are the first thing often checked on a injured patient, so let’s talk about the normals. Most searches for medical information will offer you similar parameters. There are all kind of medical websites offering free information. I have not listed any here because there are so many. My favorite book for research is the Merck Manual-. I lived with that in my hands as a nursing student and new nurse. It sits on my desk at work still. It runs from $50 to $75.00 but is well worth it.
And to understand the life of a nurse, Echo Herron wrote Intensive Care and Condition Critical. The first is the best example of how it was to survive nursing school and the later is how it is in the real world of nursing. Both are great reads.

So on to vital signs. I think a lot of writers have trouble describing vital signs in rescue scenes for instance.
Temperature: Normal is 98.6--Children can run a high fever up to 104, but at 104 the adult is really ill. Ice packs, not heavy blankets, but cooling blankets.
Pulse: Normal 60-90.  Describing Pulses: (Never check a pulse with your thumb-because you will count your own pulse and not the patients!)
Strong-normal rhythm
Bounding-unusually strong rhythm-running or the heart working hard

Thready-pulse beats are weak-losing blood or in shock

Irregular-does not have a regular beat, skipping beats-heart issues

Regular-regular rhythm- “The pulse is regular, 80”

Respirations: 12-20. Someone having an asthma attack might breath as rapidly as 60 breath a minute, but they are having symptoms. Audible wheezing etc. After a time of not getting in enough oxygen, the rate might begin to fall as you lose the person.
Blood Pressure:  Systolic (top number) 100-130    Diastolic (bottom number) 60-90. If someone is injured or in pain the blood pressure will initially rise, but if they continue in crisis or are losing blood and the loss isn’t stopped, the blood pressure will then fall. This is when you are losing the patient. The newest guidelines on blood pressures is systolic under 120 and diastolic under 80 or the patient is labeled pre-hypertensive.
Nursing Duties beyond Vital Signs: Coordinating and prioritizing multiple patients doses of daily medication which must be given within thirty minutes of the time due. This might involve by mouth pills and tablets, injections and Intravenous fluids. Follow the plan of care: Nursing Diagnosis and Assessment of each patient multiple times a shift, implementing nursing diagnosis, interventions and assessing outcomes. Record and document all necessary information, communicate with peers, subordinates, supervisors and other members of the healthcare team, research, follow legal and facility standards, teach patients, resolve issues, inspect and work equipment, maintain patient confidentiality.
Don’t forget that in history while many survived the injury, they often died of bleeding and infection some days later. Gunshot wounds-might have died right away, but many died days or even week later of infection/gangrene. Stabbings-some died right away but others might have developed infections that took them weeks to die from. Disease and illness-no antibiotics, but often herbal remedies and many died from the things we easily cure today. Writer Tips: Hand washing was a huge issue along with sanitation and cleanliness, often leading to infection if someone did survive the injury.

Stay Tuned next month for Emergencies then and now!