Friday, April 18, 2014

The Amazing Theodore Roosevelt

Sarah J. 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. Her website:   

                                               THE AMAZING THEODORE ROOSEVELT

There have been quite a few good presidents of the United States, but my favorite is Teddy Roosevelt. I love him and consider him one of my heroes up there with Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Walter Cronkite, Jane Goodall and Louis May Alcott.

He was born a rather sickly child with health issues and asthma on October 17, 1858 in New York City. His father, whom he adored, advised him to box, lift weights and work his intellect. During those early years, Teddy enjoyed ornithology, taxidermy and natural history.
                                                                  (Badlands Hunter)
He graduated Harvard College, magna cum laude, and then attended Columbia Law School. He didn’t stay long in law school, opting to join the New York Assembly representing New York City.
He married Alice Hathaway Lee who died two days after delivering their first child. His wife and his mother died on the same day (February 14, 1884). He was so distraught he left New York for the Dakota Territory for two years. There, he lived as a cowboy and cattle rancher, leaving his infant daughter in the care of his elder sister. I think this part of his life is what I admire about him—flushing out sorrow with hard work. He returned to New York and political life, serving in different positions until he joined the service as Col. Theodore Roosevelt to fight in the Spanish-American War. We all have read his part in leading his men up San Juan Hill in the Battle of San Juan Heights, in 1898.
                                             (Theodore as New York City Assemblyman)

He married his second wife, Edith Kermit (love her last name) soon after his return to New York. He regained custody of his daughter and then had 5 more children with his second wife. He was a devoted father.

Once he returned to political life, his own Republican party, wanted to silence him concerning his progressive ideas and chose him to run in the thankless job as vice president with William McKinley. Well, most of us recall that McKinley was assassinated soon after he took office and “that damn cowboy” as one reporter remarked, became the 26th president of the United States. He won a second term in 1904.Among his greatest achievements in office was his polices geared toward breaking up monopolies, the “Square Deal” under the Sherman Antitrust Act—a domestic program that embraced reform of the American workplace, government regulation of industry and consumer protection, with the overall aim of helping the middle class. Roosevelt had a charismatic personality and impassioned combination of fist pounding and emphatic rhetoric undoubtedly helped in pushing his agenda.

In 1905, Teddy Roosevelt walked his niece, Eleanor Roosevelt, down the aisle (Theodore's brother, Elliott, had died in 1894) during the wedding ceremony for Eleanor and her fifth cousin once removed, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Around the same time, Roosevelt initiated a massive public relations effort. He bulked up the U.S. Navy and created the "Great White Fleet," sending it on a world tour as a testament to U.S. military power. He also helped expedite completion of the Panama Canal, allowing ships to pass between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in half the time previously required. President Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his role in negotiating the end of the Russo-Japanese War. (Roosevelt believed that diplomacy rather than war was the best way to handle international disputes.)
                                                                  (Rough Rider)

Roosevelt's anti-war stance spurred the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, which claims the right to intervene in cases of "wrongdoing by a Latin American Nation." Some critics assert that the doctrine designates the United States as the "policeman" of the western world.

His civil rights record is notable, and he supported desegregation and women's suffrage. He also defended Minnie Cox, who experienced racial discrimination in the South while working as a postmaster, and was the first to entertain an African-American, Booker T. Washington, as a guest at the White House.
Roosevelt has also been deemed the country's first environmentalist president. In 1906, he signed the National Monuments Act, protecting sites like the Grand Canyon and preserving countless wildlife sanctuaries, national forests and federal game reserves. He also made headway with the nation’s infrastructure, instigating 21 federal irrigation projects.

The presidential manse officially became called the White House when Roosevelt had the name emblazoned on his stationery. During his presidential term, the White House—although he hired the most illustrious architects of the time to renovate the decrepit mansion—it also served as a lively playground for the Roosevelts' six children; due in no small part to the president's passion for sports and books, each room of the home was enlivened with activity, from crawl space to library. "Giving the pony a ride in the elevator was but one of many stunts" of the Roosevelt White House, according to memoirs published in 1934 by Ike Hoover, the White House's chief usher.

Roosevelt left office in 1909 and felt he had left the office in good standing with his old friend, Howard Taft. He went on a few adventures including an African safari, but returned home disgruntled over what he felt was weakness in Taft’s presidency and decided to take another run for president under his newly formed “Bull Moose Party”. While Roosevelt was campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 14, 1912, a saloonkeeper shot him, but the bullet lodged in his chest only after penetrating his steel eyeglass case and passing through a thick (50 pages) single-folded copy of the speech he was carrying in his jacket. Roosevelt, decided, since he wasn’t coughing blood, the bullet had not hit his lungs, and he declined suggestions to go to the hospital immediately. He delivered his speech with blood seeping into his shirt. He spoke for 90 minutes. His opening comments to the gathered crowd were, "Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose."  Afterwards, he learned the bullet would be less dangerous if left in place. Roosevelt carried it with him for the rest of his life. The bullet lodged in his chest exacerbated his rheumatoid arthritis and prevented him from doing his daily stint of exercises; Roosevelt would soon become obese. Roosevelt, for many reasons, failed to move enough Republicans in his direction and lost the election.

After his failed attempts at election, he went to South America with his son, Kermit on another adventure to explore and map the Amazon. He suffered a severe wound to his leg in an attempt to keep 2 canoes from crashing on the rocks. He also contracted malaria. Upon his return to New York, he had lost 50 pounds and his health was failing.

Despite his health issues, Roosevelt remained active to the end of his life; he was an enthusiastic proponent of the Scouting movement. The Boy Scouts of America gave him the title of Chief Scout Citizen, the only person to hold such title. On the night of January 5, 1919 at 11:00 PM, he experienced breathing problems. He felt better after treatment from his family physician Dr. George W. Faller and went to bed. Theodore's last words were "Please put out that light, James." to his family servant James Amos. Between 4:00 AM and 4:15 AM the next morning, Roosevelt died unexpectedly in his sleep at his home, Sagamore Hill from a blood clot detaching itself from a vein and entering his lungs. Upon receiving word of his death, his son Archie telegraphed his siblings simply, "The old lion is dead." Woodrow Wilson's vice president, Thomas R. Marshall, said that "Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight." In addition to sisters Corinne and Bamie and his wife Edith, Theodore was survived by five children and eight grandchildren.

The first “teddy bear” was named for Teddy Roosevelt (he hated the nickname Teddy, by the way) and that term still exists today.

Here are a few famous and amusing quotes from Theodore Roosevelt. (Just a note: his was the first presidential voice ever recorded.)

"Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds."
- Theodore Roosevelt, 1901
"Don't hit at all if it is honorable possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft!"
- Theodore Roosevelt.
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt.
"When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty'."
- Theodore Roosevelt.
"When you play, play hard; when you work, don't play at all."
- Theodore Roosevelt.
"Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it."
- Theodore Roosevelt
"No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency."
- Theodore Roosevelt, 'The Strenuous Life,' 1900.
"There is a homely old adage which runs: "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." If the American nation will speak softly, and yet build and keep at a pitch of the highest training a thoroughly efficient navy, the Monroe Doctrine will go far."
- Theodore Roosevelt, Speech in Chicago, 3 Apr. 1903.
"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."
- Theodore Roosevelt, Speech in New York, September 7, 1903

                                        (Theodore Roosevelt Memorialized at Mount Rushmore)

Theodore Roosevelt Jr.. (2014). The website. from
All photos are from Wikipedia

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

To "Dye" For....~Tanya Hanson

For every Easter of my life, I’ve decorated eggs…. Yep. Even one April, when we were in Hawaii I colored eggs –the condo had a big kitchen, and we took the finished product along on picnics at the beach. Something I can’t resist about those little glass cups brimming bright with color. My favorite part is pouring the colors down the drain when I’m done. My own particular rainbow. To this day, the scent of vinegar always evokes this much loved pastime.
But the little PAAS kits got me thinking. How did kids on the prairie dye their Easter pretties in days gone by? I thought I’d do some digging. 

First off, the child might draw a design on a clean egg with candle wax. Then comes the fun. 

Mother Nature has a beautiful pallet and plenty of “natural” ways to get the job done. These old-style tricks certainly work today. Onion skins seeped in hot water were and are a popular method of adding various shades of yellow, brown and even red. The skins can simply be added to water for soaking or boiling, or the skins wrapped around the egg with cloth. 

The juice from cooked beets can make tints of pink and red. A green leaf wrapped around an egg “leaves” behind a beautiful imprint. 

To create a marbled design, a child –and Mama; it seems to have been a project requiring more than two hands--would wrap dill or parsley around an onion-skin covered egg, tying it on with string, before boiling, afterward polishing the finished product with oil. 

Turmeric and white vinegar is said to produce a lovely yellow, and paprika with vinegar, a delicious orange. Walnut husks leave behind a rich dark brown color, and elderberry juice a lovely deep purple. Strong coffee with a couple spoonfuls of white vinegar also produces beige, tan, and brown hues.
 I learned of an old-fashioned mother re-straining the commercial “blueing” in her laundry rinse water to produce a blue tint. Blueberries and red cabbage will produce purple, my favorite Easter color of all.

For green eggs (to go with that Easter ham LOL) soak eggs in water along with four cups of fresh spinach. (One household hint said to use baking soda for this one rather than vinegar.) 
These methods all call for a ratio of one quart to two tablespoons white vinegar, and a good overnight soak before boiling. The longer the egg remains in the water, the more intense the color. Boil the eggs for ten minutes in the juices they soaked in. 

Anybody eager to give these old-time methods a try this Eastertime? 
Thanks to, Holidays Central, and The District Domestic for these down-home hints and helps!) 
Coming soon:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Stagecoach Mary

By Anna Kathryn Lanier

A while back, I did a blog on “Working Women of the West.”  No, I wasn't talking about the soiled doves.  These were the women who didn’t just follow their husbands to California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, etc. and took up keeping house the way they did back East.  These women found ways to work and to support themselves and their families. It’s a short blog and if you click HERE you can it.

In doing research for a class I teach (Pioneering Women of the West) I came across several interesting women.  One in particular was mentioned in just two lines in PLAINS WOMEN: WOMEN IN THE AMERICAN WEST by Paula Bartley and Cathy Loxton. “Black Mary, as she was known, lived in Montana and became the second woman in history to drive a U.S. Mail coach.  She spent eight years hauling freight and was a familiar sight with a cigar clamped between her teeth.”  Well, I had to look up more information on her, didn't I?  There’s quite a lot on Mary out there on the internet.  

Black Mary was better known as Stagecoach Mary, and some even knew her by her given name Mary Fields.  Mary was born as a slave in Tennessee. Her year of birth is in dispute and has been listed between 1814 and 1820.  Like some slaves of the south, Mary was taught to read and write alongside her master’s daughter, Dolly.  The girls were friends growing up and after she was set free, Mary was invited by Dolly, now a nun, to join her at a Native American school. The story goes that Dolly was sick and Mary went west to nurse her back to health. Once Dolly recovered, Mary stayed on as help at the St Peter Mission School. Being six feet tall, weighing 200 pounds and toting two six-shooters, Mary took on the role of protector and ‘handy man.’ She did the heavy work, chopped wood, dug holes, made building repairs and fought off wolves and outlaws to bring supplies to the school.

Her character followed her stature and she was known to drink, smoke and to get into brawls.  One such fight, on school grounds, got her fired.  A local worker was upset that a black woman was making a better wage than he was and called her out.  She left the gun fight the winner, but also jobless, as the bishop couldn't abide her reckless ways.  Upset at losing a close friend, Dolly and the nuns pooled their money to help Mary open a restaurant, but she went broke feeding the homeless.

When word went out that the Postal Service was looking for drivers, she applied.  Though the other applicants snickered at a 60-year-old black woman applying for the job, she soon proved her stuff. Mary hitched the teams of six horses faster than any of the men and got the job.   For ten years, rain, shine or snow (sometimes on foot in the snow) Mary delivered mail to the surrounding farms and towns of Cascade, Montana.  At age 70, Mary decided to ‘slow down,’ and is said to have opened a laundry.  She also tended a garden and avidly followed the local baseball team.  She died in 1914 from liver failure and was laid to rest at St. Peter’s Mission. 

Mary Fields references:

A lesson from Pioneering Women of the West online workshop.
copyright 2012

Anna Kathryn Lanier
Never let your memories be greater than your dreams. ~Doug Ivester 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Into the Valley of Death: Texas’s Immortal 32

By Kathleen Rice Adams

Bejar, Feby. 24th. 1836

To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World—

Fellow Citizens & compatriots—

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna — I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man — The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken — I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls — I shall never surrender or retreat.  Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch — The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country — Victory or Death.

William Barrett Travis.
Lt.  Col. comdt.

A stone memorial on the Alamo grounds honors
the Immortal 32. (courtesty TheConduqtor)
At dawn on March 1, 1836, the only reinforcements to respond to Travis’s urgent appeal fought their way into the Alamo. The Gonzales Ranging Company of Mounted Volunteers, a hastily organized cadre of boys and men ages 16 to 54, forged through a line of 4,000 to 6,000 Mexican soldados, dodging fire from their compatriots atop the mission’s walls.

All but three of the rangers rode into history as the Immortal 32.

The story started months earlier in Gonzales, a settlement in DeWitt’s Colony, one of the original empresario land grants in the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas. Established in 1825, Gonzales became known as “the Lexington of Texas” when the first shot in the Texas Revolution was fired there Oct. 2, 1835. The Battle of Gonzales began over a cannon the Mexican government had given the Texians in 1831 so they could protect themselves from frequent Indian attacks. In September 1835, as disputes between the Texians and the Mexican government heated up, the governor of Coahuila y Tejas sent 100 Mexican soldiers to retrieve the cannon.

The men of Gonzales — all eighteen of them — refused to give up the artillery. Defiant to the core, they told the soldados to “come and take it.” The Mexicans tried, the men of Gonzales — later known as the Old Eighteen — held their ground until reinforcements arrived, and the resulting skirmish went to the Texians.

The Mexican Army did not take the defeat well.

This cannon, displayed at the Gonzales Memorial Museum,
may be the disputed artillery. (courtesy Larry D. Moore)
Four months later, when Travis, already besieged, sent his final appeal, the men of Gonzales and the surrounding area felt honor-bound to go to the defense of the Alamo defenders. Twenty-five men left Gonzales on the evening of Feb. 27. More joined the group as it traveled. When they reached San Antonio de BĂ©xar, they spent two days trying to figure a way past the sea of Mexican troops. At 3 a.m. on March 1 — knowing their chances of survival were slim — the rangers made a mad dash for the mission gates, braving the fire of Mexican soldiers and Alamo sentries who mistook them for enemy combatants.

The Immortal 32 fell with the Alamo on March 6, never to see the wild land for which they died become an independent republic. They composed about 20 percent of the Anglo casualties. Mexican troops burned the bodies of all the Alamo defenders, whom they considered traitors.

The majority of the Immortal 32 were husbands, fathers, and landowners. Five had been among the Old Eighteen, and one was the younger brother of an Old Eighteen member.

The Immortal 32

Isaac G. Baker, 21
John Cain, 34
George Washington “Wash” Cottle, 25 (brother of an Old Eighteen member)
David P. Cummins, 27
Jacob C. Darst, 42 (Old Eighteen)
John Davis
Squire Daymon, 28
William Dearduff, 25
Charles Despallier, 24
Almaron Dickinson (Old Eighteen)
William Fishbaugh
John Flanders, 36
Dolphin Ward Floyd, 32
Galba Fuqua, 16
John E. Garvin, about 40
John E. Gaston, 17
James George, 34
Thomas Jackson (Old Eighteen)
John Benjamin Kellogg II, 19
Andrew Kent, 44
George C. Kimble, 33
William Philip King, 16
Jonathan L. Lindley, 22
Albert Martin, 28 (Old Eighteen)
Jesse McCoy, 32
Thomas R. Miller, 40 (Old Eighteen)
Isaac Millsaps, 41
George Neggan, 28
William E. Summers, 24
George W. Tumlinson, 22
Robert White, 30
Claiborne Wright, 26

A crypt in the San Fernando Cathedral purports to hold the
ashes of the Alamo defenders. Historians believe it is
more likely the ashes were buried near the Alamo.
Three men who rode into the Alamo with the Immortal 32 survived because they were sent out March 3 as couriers or foragers. All three were attempting to return to the Alamo when it fell.

Byrd Lockhart, 54, later served in the Texas army.
John William Smith, 44, became the first mayor of San Antonio.
Andrew Jackson Sowell, 21, became a Texas Ranger.

A monument in the Alamo Shrine commemorates the valor of the Immortal 32, as does an entire cemetery in Gonzales's Pioneer Village.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


My family's roots are deep in Dallas, Texas, I was born there a few years back.

Amon McCommas, my g-g-g-g-grandfather came to live in Peters Colony in the Fall of 1845, just after John Neely Bryan arrived, and helped start the town. He preached the first sermon on the banks of the Trinity River and started the first Christian Church. Part of his original land ownings encompassed the area in and around Dealy Plaza and the Triple Underpass. He donated the land for the original Courthouse and for the Old Red Courthouse that still stands today.

So, when I decided to write a historical, it made sense to me to set a portion of the story in Dallas. As most know by now, research is a necessary part of writing a historical. If we don't get the facts right, someone will let us know.

The story line I decided on is actually a prequel to my Texas Code Series. I wanted to write a couple of short stories for each generation of the Bennings and McTiernans to chronicle their beginnings in Texas and to show how these two family names were intertwined through their history. I sat down and prepared a genealogy record for each generation all the way back to 1870 with the main players. Any family members that hitch up for the story can be added as needed.

 So, here I am starting in Jefferson, Texas in 1870. I do my research of the town at this time, including the mode of transportation. Train travel is an option, so Dermot McTiernan and Ian Benning travel to Dallas to his ranch located north of the city. This is great. There are pictures of the downtown area, although the dates say they were taken circa 1873, I figure I can make my descriptions work. 

Writing. Writing. Writing. My heroine, Kathleen Gilhooley, lives over a busy eatery in town. She goes downstairs early one morning to start breakfast for the patrons. She needs eggs and milk and gets them from -- I know there's no refrigerator. Do they have ice boxes then? Were they able to have ice then? I don't know.

Here's where I have to be specific. In all my searching, I finally found out that ice making was possible, but started in San Antonio circa 1870, then moved north to Austin and Waco. Dallas didn't have an ice producing plant until 1880 where it possessed Texas's largest single ice plant. Artificial ice cost Dallas consumers about 2 1/2 cents a pound.

Well, here's where you know the rest of the story. Kathleen goes to the back room where the eggs and milk have been delivered fresh that morning and she receives the meat from the butcher, who, it turns out, is sweet on her and gives her good cuts of beef. WooHoo!

Anyway, it's all part of the process and one I found interesting this afternoon. I hope you do, too. Thank you for stopping by. When I get Katie and the Irish Texan finished, I'll let you know and you can tell me how I did - historically speaking.

fall in love, under Texas Skies

   I changed the year to 1873. ;-)

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reluctant Hero and Heroines

By Celia Yeary

The reluctant hero is typically portrayed either as an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances which require him to rise to heroism, or as a person with extraordinary abilities who nonetheless evinces a desire to avoid using those abilities for the benefit of others.
In either case, the reluctant hero does not initially seek adventure or the opportunity to do good.

In many stories, the reluctant hero is portrayed as having a period of doubt after his initial foray into heroism. This may be brought about by the negative consequences of his own heroic actions, or by the achievement of some position of personal safety - leaving the audience to wonder whether he will return to heroism at the moment when he is needed the most.

The movie High Noon is one of the best examples of a reluctant hero.  Will Kane (Gary Cooper) the longtime marshal of Hadleyville, New Mexico Territory, has just married pacifist Quaker Amy (Grace Kelly) and turned in his badge. He intends to become a storekeeper elsewhere. Suddenly, the town learns that Frank Miller—a criminal Kane brought to justice—is due to arrive on the noon train.

Miller had been sentenced to hang but was pardoned on a technicality. In court, he had vowed to get revenge on Kane and anyone else who got in the way. Miller's three gang members wait for him at the station.

Kane and his wife leave town, but fearing that the gang will hunt him down and be a danger to the townspeople, Kane turns back. He reclaims his badge and scours the town for help, even interrupting Sunday church services, with little success. During this time, Amy begs Kane to leave with her, but Kane has strong beliefs that he must defend the town...even alone.
Yes, he is a Reluctant Hero, but he stands his ground, finishes the job, turns in his badge again, and leaves with Amy.

But what about Amy? She does not leave as she threatened, and in the end grabs a gun to shoot a gang member who was in the process of trying to shoot Kane. The gang member grabs her as a hostage, but she fights him off, giving her husband a clear shot.
Once the gang members are dead, the town residents emerge to cheer for him. But Kane will have none of it. He throws his badge in the dirt with contempt, and rides out of town with his wife.

I see both Kane and Amy as reluctant heroes. Not one review site or blurb gives credit to Amy for being a strong heroine. It's all about Kane.

Amy foregoes her religious beliefs for a few moments, in order to save the life of the man she loves. Did she do that easily? Or quite reluctantly? I believe she had to grit her teeth and blank out her Quaker teachings in order to perform her deed. Absolutely, yes, she is reluctant. Just as reluctant as Kane, or more so.

I like reluctant heroes. In fact, I'd say more men...and women...are reluctant to act heroic than set out to be the hero.
In Texas Promise, Dalton King has not a heroic bone in his body. He can carry out difficult jobs as a Texas Ranger, but when it comes to protecting his wife from harm, he has to overcome his suspicions of her that she's deceived him. He is reluctant all the way, but in the end, does the right thing.

In Texas True, Sam Deleon has no intention of acting as a real husband to True Cameron. He  has other plans and believes he can accomplish his goals without falling in love with her. In fact, he doesn't even know what love is. But she teaches him, and in doing so, he opens his heart and his eyes and understands what he must do to makes things right.  To do that, he must act heroically, something he had no intention of doing.

In my newest release, Texas Dreamer, Lee King does not use his fists nor his gun to act the hero. His type of heroism is more subdued, but highly effective. He stands loyally beside his friend who is accused of trying to kill Lee; he uses the law to make a situation right; and he silently waits for Emilie to come to the correct conclusion concerning lies told about him. He never sees himself as a hero.
I should have titled this novel "The Quiet Man."

Texas Promise, Texas True, and Texas Dreamer can be found under  "Celia Yeary" on Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, Sony, iTunes, and Smashwords.
Thank you!
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Visual Trip Across Texas

Thought I'd blog a little differently today. I actually wrote this blog entry in September of 2007. My grandmother had just died and we were heading for Midland, Texas from Central Texas. Prior to this time, I’d been writing Kaitlin's Silver Lining and I'd never been to the part of Colorado where the story took place. I wanted a clearer picture in my head of the terrain and at the time I could find very little in terms of details. We all know how much writers crave details to insert in their stories. With that in mind, I decided to work up a visual journal of our trip across Texas in hopes another writer might find it of use.

September, 2007 While cloudy, we managed to escape the rain until reaching our destination. We headed northwest on FM 485, a rather straight unimpressive route. Most of the farmland had been tilled in preparation for the next crops, but a few fields still had cotton. Puffy white clouds dotted the dried plants. We passed a large baler and I wondered if he was on route to one of these crops. Rolled bales of hay lined the pastures. Folks with acreage receive tax breaks if they use their land for agricultural benefit and those not interested in growing crops or ranching will often bale hay. Out front of a two bedroom home with faded, chipped paint, four black gentlemen played bones (dominoes) on a worn out card table. The weather was very pleasant for this activity with the temperature about 89 degrees.

Turning onto Hwy 53, I noted tall grain silos. The land was mostly flat, but rich with oak and mesquite trees. One house had a string of laundry hanging to dry. Once we passed Temple, the land became less flat. Rolling hills denoted the edge of hill country. Creek beds were lined with limestone. Vegetation included prickly pear cactus, mesquite, cedar and juniper trees. We crossed the Leon River which looked more like a lake. I believe it feeds into Belton Lake.

West on 84, our drive took us through more hills. The land was wide open with few trees. I saw a herd of sheep, several herds of cattle, but very little farm land. The gold carpet of grass that graced our earlier route changed to a greener shade. Past Goldthwaite, we passed lots of goats. Mills County is known as the goat capital of the world, or so I'm told. One sight made me chuckle as we passed goats that were being herded by a mule.

Past Brownwood (the location for my second historical western, Julia’sGolden Eagle, btw), the land became very hilly and then suddenly tapered into flat land again. The majority of trees along this route were mesquite. Once we hit Hwy 67, we found farmland on one side of the road and cattle on the other. It's interesting to note that in Texas, farmers and ranchers co-exit next to each other. Eventually, we lost the trees to shrubs and the land became very flat and open. By this time the temperature had dropped to 77 degrees.

On Hwy 158. I saw a crop of 6" maize struggling to grow in the hot, dry clime. We passed a dead porcupine. We see so few porcupines, yet the woods must house plenty. Mostly we see raccoons, deer, coyote, skunks and possums. You have to be out in the country to see bobcats and other wildlife. The color of the soil had changed from sandy dirt to red. I suspect due to the iron content. Outside of Sterling before Garden City, we found our first oil well. The iron horse bobbed its head up and down in beat to its own steady rhythm.

File:Storm midland tx.jpg
Midland, Feb 20, 1894 Sand storm from
United States National Archives
and Records Administration
Midland, our destination, was unusually wet. Midland is more likely to receive a dust storm than rain. Most of the houses have tall, cinderblock fences to help block the sand and the tumbleweeds. As a child, I remember playing in the sand dunes, acres of nothing but sand between Midland and Odessa. Sage is a favorite shrub tree and I now have one in my own yard because I love the purple blooms.
On a personal note, my grandmother, coming from great Swiss stock, died one month shy of her 101 birthday.