Monday, November 20, 2017

The Many Thanksgivings of Texas

Did you know El Paso, Texas now lays claim to the first Thanksgiving in North America? Yup, it’s true according to the Texas State Historical Association’s TEXAS ALMANAC. First observed in April 1989, the day honors Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate who, with his expedition members, held a day of thanksgiving on April 30, 1598.

One of Oñate’s followers wrote of the celebration, “We built a great bonfire and roasted the meat and fish, and then all sat down to a repast the like of which we had never enjoyed before . . .”

Hmm, sounds like they stuffed themselves, a lot like we do on Thanksgiving Day. Of course they were also grateful for a short break in their difficult journey which continued up the Rio Grande, eventually reaching the Santa Fe area.

Texas has another claim to the first Thanksgiving. In 1959 a marker was placed outside the town of Canyon declaring the expedition of Francisco Vazquez de Coronado celebrated the first feast of Thanksgiving in nearby Palo Duro Canyon in May 1541. However, research indicates grapes and pecans were gathered for the feast, and neither grow in the canyon. The feast might actually have been held farther south, probably Blanco Canyon on a fork of the Brazos River. It’s also possible the day was not a special thanksgiving, but rather to celebrate the Feast of the ascension.

While Texas is hardly the only claimant to the First Thanksgiving title – several other states insist their ancestors celebrated the first one – the Lone Star State is one of a few states that celebrated two thanksgivings in the same year, one week apart. You see, the first national Thanksgiving was set in 1863, during the American Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.

All well and good until 1939 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving. The country was still in the grip of the Great Depression, and Roosevelt thought an earlier Thanksgiving would provide a longer shopping period before Christmas. He hoped increased sales and profits for merchants would help spur recovery from the Depression. Within two years, Congress passed his decree into law.

However, Republicans decried the change as an affront to Lincoln’s memory. People started calling the fourth Thursday holiday “Franksgiving”. Many football teams traditionally played their final games on the last Thursday in November, and their schedules could not instantly be changed. Since a presidential declaration was not legally binding, Roosevelt’s change was disregarded by 22 states. Some, including Texas, decided to make both dates government holidays.

In 1940 and 1941, November had four Thursdays, and Roosevelt declared the third one to be Thanksgiving. As in 1939, some states went along with the change while others stuck with the traditional last-Thursday date.

"Until 1956, Texas’ official state Thanksgiving holiday was the last Thursday in November. In some years, that was a week after the national holiday, which was cussed in Texas as a federal abomination."  Mark Hoffer

Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and romantic suspense novels, all spiced with paranormal elements. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and a gaggle of very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged children.

Amazon Author Page:
Newsletter:  Lyn’s Romance Gazette
Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A “Puzzling” Inspiration by Sarah J. McNeal

Most writers draw on people, events, places or objects  as inspiration for their stories…and so do I.

For my Christmas story, "A Christmas Visitor", in this year’s Prairie Rose Publication holiday anthology, SWEET TEXAS CHRISTMAS, I needed to have something for my hero to redeem himself to the heroine for his two year absence. It had to be something that took thought, time, and effort on his part…and it had to be something out of the ordinary, something lovingly special.

Just so happens I have a rather unusual box on my dresser which I bought some years ago at a shop that sells handmade items from around the world. This box is carved to represent two fish swimming in opposite directions like the astrology sign for Pisces. The special thing about this box is it is a puzzle to open it. It takes some twists, removal of pieces in a particular order, and some sliding movements to get to whatever treasure inside.

Puzzle boxes, known as himitsu-bako were first invented during the Meiji Period by three artisans, Takajiro Ohkawa, Tatsunosuke Okiyama, and Mr. Kikukawa who lived in Hakone, Japan. Hakone was a favorite tourist town and soon the small trinket boxes became popular. The boxes became bigger and more elaborate and soon became known as sikake-bako (trick box) or tei-bako (clever box).

Japanese puzzle boxes can only be opened by someone who knows or can figure out the correct sequence to unlock the secret compartment. Simple boxes may have as few as four moves while the more elaborate designs may take as many as sixty moves to open. The sequence, at first only known to the craftsman, is essential to solving the puzzle and getting into the secret compartment.

My hero in "A Christmas Visitor", Sterling Thoroughgood, comes from a family of carpenters and woodworkers. Although Sterling has chosen cattle ranching as his life’s profession, he is also a woodworking artist. He creates a puzzle box for Matilda and inside its secret compartment is something very special, something he hopes may win Matilda’s hardened heart.

SWEET TEXAS CHRISTMAS is an anthology of sweet historical western romances that take place in the state of Texas written by veteran western romance writers: Stacey Coverstone, Sarah J. McNeal, Cheryl Pierson, and Marie Piper.
(my contribution) A Christmas Visitor
Prairie Rose Publications
Released November 5, 2017

 He left her…Now he’s back…But not for long…

Sterling Thoroughgood was Matilda Barton’s first and only love, but he left her three years ago to seek his fortune in Wyoming. And now he’s come back with a puzzle box as a gift with a secret inside. But as far as Matilda’s concerned, it’s three years too late.
Is love lost forever or does the mysterious puzzle box hold the key to happiness?

Excerpt (from the opening):

“Don’t you even think about stepping up on this porch, Sterling Alexander Thoroughgood, or I’ll shoot a hole in you big enough for a team of horses to jump through.” The woman wearing a faded blue calico dress aimed the shotgun straight at his heart…and sometimes his liver since she wasn’t holding the shotgun all that steady.
Sterling raised his hands in the air. His bare hands were practically numb from the cold. He glanced up at the slate gray sky. Snow’s comin’. Then he grinned at the woman holding the shotgun. “Merry Christmas to you, too, Matilda.”
She dipped the shotgun for just a moment, but raised it again as if on a second thought. “What do you want here after being gone for three years? Did you break some hearts up in Wyoming? Maybe you have some fathers and brothers gunning for you and you thought you’d come running back here to hide.”
Well, there it was. He’d hurt her when he left and she wasn’t about to let him forget it.

Excerpt (Sterling gives Matilda the puzzle box):

When she glanced up to ask Sterling how to open the box, he stood before her with a grin spread across his face. Before she could ask, he answered her unspoken question. “It’s a puzzle box, darlin’. There is a way to move the pieces to open the box. It took a while for me to draw up the plans and quite some time to get it to work just right. I thought about what pleasure it would be for you, so I was determined to make it just right.” The light of pride fairly glowed in his eyes.
“It’s a beautiful thing like a work of art. That it is made into a puzzle box with such intricacy and thoughtful design, makes it the most significant present I have ever received.” She heard something shift inside the box when she moved it to examine it more closely to discover how to open it. “There’s something inside?”
Sterling nodded his dark head. “Yes. In fact, the greater gift is inside the box.” Again, he grinned with a boyish delight. “I made it big enough to hold all your treasures. Do you like it?”
“Oh Sterling, I positively adore it. I can see the craftsmanship you put into it. I didn’t know you could create such a beautiful thing.” She smiled. “And I am so delighted to know you made it with me in mind. Would you open it for me so I can see what’s inside?” Matilda tried to hand him the box, but he shook his head and refused.
“No ma’am. You must discover how to open it yourself. That’s half the fun.”

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Love's Blessing by Linda Hubalek

Working the Past into the Present

In Love's Blessing, my new contemporary story in the First Street Church Kindle World, newly widowed Jenna McDowell, and medically discharged soldier Riel (Gabriel) Shepard, meet at his grandfather's Cooper Ranch near Sweet Grove,Texas.

They both came to the ranch to heal from their individual heartbreaks. Jenna’s husband committed suicide and left her destitute. Riel lost his foot in a military accident and suffers from PTSD. 

Time and help from their family and pastor finds them healing and falling in love, but are they ready to marry?

Starts the new Clear Creek Legacy Series

How did I tie the past into the present? Riel's ancestors, Reuben Shepard, was featured in Darcie Desires a Drover in the Brides with Grit series, and Gabriel Shepard, in Gabe's Pledge in the Grooms with Honor series.

Riel is given a box of leather tools once used by his ancestors, because he is named after his great-great grandfather. Holding the tools makes Riel realize he's been handed a new profession, a saddle maker, as his ancestors were before him in Clear Creek, Kansas.

My new contemporary stories in the Clear Creek Legacy series will connect descendants, with their ancestors, as they struggle with a life-changing crisis.

Has anything handed down from your ancestors, pointed you to a new career? 

In my case, old family photos, family history, and quilts started me writing down the stories of my ancestors, and led me to writing and publishing over thirty books.

Many thanks from the Kansas prairie!

Linda Hubalek

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Squawteat Peak

I.H. 10 snakes across Pecos County, just south of Squawteat Peak. The peak is a dominant
feature of the landscape that rises high above the surrounding desert floor and is visible for
miles around. Prehistoric hunter-gatherers returned to camp in the shadow of the peak for
thousands of years. TARL Archives.
Back in the 1980s we lived in Alpine, Texas for a few years. My mother lived in Brownwood and I drove our son back to see his friends. One trip they rode back with us to visit the area. When we traveled the I 10 route Squawteat Peak always signified we were almost home; however, this trip the sign was gone. You know those green highway signs naming the mountain and elevation. Confused I studied every peak we passed. I'd planned to give the boys a history lesson and alas, had nothing to show them. There were several mountains that somewhat resembled the original, but none were in the right place. After some studying, I learned that TXDOT's highway construction had changed the landscape somewhat.

Burned rock middens are all that remain of large rock ovens.
This is what I remembered, but now there were roads around it. From my research I learned that Squawteat Peak is a cone shaped limestone hill hat juts 300 feet from the desert floor. "It is known for its wickiup and tipi rings—all that remain of shelters constructed by prehistoric hunter-gatherers at the site hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years ago." Though there is little vegetation, the bare bedrock supports an abundance of natural resources. They include lechuguilla, sotol, cacti, and mesquite. "Flint resources are also abundant in nearby natural outcroppings."

"Squawteat Peak was first examined by the Archeology Section of the State Department of Highways and Public Transportation (now TxDOT) during mitigation of I.H. 10 in the summer of 1974." A large burned rock midden (trash heap) was located in the right of way and excavated under the direction of Gary Moore. In the early 1980s Wayne Young and Wayne Belyeu of TxDOT returned to Squawteat Peak to make a topographic and feature map of the portions that had not been destroyed, but much information had been lost.

The most important features identified at Squawteat Peak are 14 clusters of stones believed to be wickiup and tipi rings and the rocks were used to hold up the branch supports of small brush shelters. The larger rings would have supported large wooden poles for hide tipis.

One of Squawteat Peak's wickiup rings. The rocks in this ring would have been
used to bolster the branch supports of a small brush structure. TARL Archive.
Pair of mortar holes carved into the bedrock of Squawteat Peak.
Also found were burned rock hearths and mortar holes that have been worn into the exposed bedrock. Some of the mortar holes have been ground to over 12 inches in depth which suggested they were used over long periods of time. They may have used wooden manos to grind cactus fruit (or tunas) or mesquite pods for meal.

"According to archeologist Michael Collins, who surveyed the area in the 1980s prior to the proposed construction of oil rig roads in the area, the use of this quarry goes back to at least the Late Archaic period, if not further, based  on several Shumia projectile points that he recovered during his investigation."

"The largest burned rock hidden was the focus of the 1974 excavation and is the only area of the site that has been radiocarbon dated. The midpoints of the dates taken from the around around the midden range from A.D. 900 to 1530, and midden itself (technically, the last use of the midden) dates to approximately A.D. 1300."

The research data on Squawteat Peak continues but this is all I had room for. I hope if you're interested you'll do more researching on your own. At this time there are no hiking trails to the top of the peak that reaches and elevation of 2,884 feet.

Carly Whelan; Michael Collins; Miller, Miles R and Nancy A. Kenmotsu; Young, Wayne.

Here is my favorite picture. I wish I could say I took it, but I actually found in in in Google images.

Thank you for stopping by Sweethearts of the West today and I hope you'll return often. Please let me know your thoughts on this post.

Linda LaRoque

Sunday, November 12, 2017

From There to Here

by Rain Trueax

Much as I love learning about other writers, from where they came, and what motivates them in their writing, when it comes to write something about myself, to introduce myself to those who don't know me, I freeze up. What to tell? What is interesting? What matters? 

Many times, I've written about living on a sheep and cattle operation in the Oregon Coast Range with my husband of 53 years. Our home is on the banks of a creek and where we raised two children to adulthood and enjoy having four grandchildren visit when they aren't too busy with their activities. I've written less about from where I come and how that has impacted what I write today.

My parents' story probably influences some of that. Mom, born in Oregon, was a professional musician who traveled around the country including Mexico, with all girl orchestras where she played bass and sang. Dad, born in South Dakota but moved to Oregon with his parents, was a stagehand at the Portland theater where her band was playing. He was a carnie, a guy who dropped everything to travel with the carnival through the summers. They dated. Then, leaving without a word, he stood her up. One of the hands told my mom that he'd never amount to anything for her. He returned at the end of the summer. By May, he'd changed her mind, and they were married. A little older, they weren't sure children were in the cards but turned out two were. 

A WWII baby, as I became a child, the United States was coming off a major war, and we were under the threat of a nuclear holocaust. If we could forget that, our schools had bomb shelters where we were supposed to go in the event of an attack (exactly what those were supposed to benefit us, I'm not sure as we all knew about the dangers of radiation).   

Friday, November 10, 2017

Thanksgiving Wasn't Very Nice by E. AYERS

Thanksgiving in America like many holidays has its roots in the East. Although Plymouth, MA tends to be thought of as the birthplace of Thanksgiving, I'm going to talk about another Thanksgiving, the first continuous settlement in the New World, Jamestown, VA. We think of the wonderful Powhatan Indians bringing gifts of food to the new settlers in a gesture of friendship. Exactly how much is fable and how much is truth seems to be muddied. One thing we do know was it wasn't very pretty.
What do we know? Not much. We think that the Indians who lived in these parts greeted us as intruders. They were skeptical and it didn't take them long to decide that we were not their friends. We put a settlement on their hunting lands. We brought infectious diseases from Europe and the we also succumbed to all sorts of illness from the Virginia environment and blamed it on the Indians. It's a bad case of finger pointing.
Knowing this area as I do, I can't imagine the settlers drinking water directly from the James River. For starters, it's brackish water. The salt content is almost as high as the Atlantic Ocean as the tides push ocean water into the Chesapeake Bay and into the rivers and inlets. It didn't take the settlers long to run out of food. And a bad growing season left them starving. They ate shoe leather and turned to cannibalism of their fellow dead. They wanted land to expand and hunt. The Indians didn't want them encroaching on their lands. Major fighting broke out.
We were better armed with guns and cannons! Can you imagine the surprise the Indians faced with these loud weapons when they only had spears and other primitive methods to protect themselves? It wasn't just the Englishmen's guns. The thing that sent the Indians to their knees was the simple act of burning their canoes. The settlers were ordered to burn any and all canoes as a way to overpower and control the Indians. Don't think of today's modern canoes or even those birch bark canoes, instead think of taking a tree trunk and hallowing it out. The canoes were massive often as much as 40-60 feet long and were virtually chipped out. It wasn't unusual for one to take maybe as much as two years to build.
The tribal leaders decided they had enough. If they continued to loose canoes, they would end up starving because it was their way to get around. They went hunting and after they had killed several deer, they took them to the English settlers of Jamestown. Please take the deer and stop burning our canoes. And we all lived happily ever after. (Not even close!)
Things remained rocky. And it probably didn't hurt that Pocahontas married John Rolfe. But, it's presumed that Chief Powhatan had probably long since given up on the daughter who had been kidnapped by the English, taught Christianity, how to act like a proper Englishwoman, and dress like one.
There was a feast in Virginia, except we don't know exactly when it took place. Probably fall or early winter because that would be the prime time to hunt deer but the year.... Actually there were several feasts along the east coast. Plymouth got to claim it and that still might not be correct. The Spaniards probably have the right to claim the first Thanksgiving and that's still ignoring the fact that the Indians had been celebrating a bountiful harvest long before any Europeans stepped foot in the New World.
Yes, the English settlement of Jamestown was grateful for the deer. Much like a child who
receives a gift, they then expected it all the time. And their demands on the Indians only lead to more problems. The English were superior to the Indians, not in intelligence, but in weapons.
The lovely notion of everyone sitting around the fire and enjoying a meal together is more of a fantasy then an actual event. The old harvest festival was alive and well. Although it would be another 200 years before Thanksgiving became a holiday.
Our new president, George Washington, declared the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving. But he only had one such celebration. It was meant as a celebration for our success in the Revolutionary War. Various states created their own Thanksgiving, mostly as a religious holiday. Lincoln declared the holiday for the last Thursday in November to honor the widows and orphans of the Civil War and as a day of prayer to heal the nation being torn apart. Then during the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the date back a week to help spur the economy's health.
The real person who helped to make Thanksgiving a holiday was Sarah Josepha Hale, author and magazine editor. She worked diligently for over 36 years to make it a recognized holiday, but with a religious bent. She wrote articles, editorials, and letters to senators, governors, presidents, and just about anyone who might listen. She even suggested the menu, complete with recipes, and that menu became today's normal table. She succeeded when she convinced Pres. Lincoln who declared it in the midst of the Civil War.
Those first Thanksgivings weren't the traditional meal of today, unless your table consists of venison, and maybe a goose or duck. New England had cranberries, but they weren't in a sauce, try a bowl full of berries. (Can we say tart? Just thinking about it makes my mouth pucker.) Of course there were beans, and there was plenty of popped corn. (What we call kettle corn today minus the sugar and all the salt.) No pumpkin pie or even pie shells - no wheat flour. No potatoes, they were a South American thing and hadn't made their way here. And sweet potatoes also hadn't made their way this far north. The fare was plain, but to the early settlers, it was a true feast, a celebration that lasted several days.
To many American Indians, the holiday marks a day of mourning. It was the beginning of the end of their rule over this great land. It's a day for them to honor their forefathers who ruled.
For the rest of us, it's a day to be with family, count our blessings, watch a football game with loved ones, and eat until we can't handle another bite while the kitchen explodes with dirty pots, pans, and dishes. Lately, it's also become the early shoppers start of the Black Friday sales.
For me, it's a day to spend with my girls. They take turns hosting such events. I get called upon to make the gravy or whatever last minute culinary need arises. We all chip in with the clean up and it's done in a flash. We laugh and joke, I play with the granddogs, and in general, it's a quiet family sort of a day, but at least we are all together. No one is burning any canoes...although there was that year I got the flat tire. It didn't take to two years to replace.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

WINTER WISHES--new 99cent release

By: Celia Yeary

Winter Wishes—Three short romance stories.

The three short stories in Winter Wishes came about in an odd way. I was with my first publisher back then, and on the main website was a list of Free Reads. I asked my editor if I could write one, and if so, what were the criteria?

Fifteen hundred words, basically. “Is that all? I can’t write a story that short." My editor replied,” You can if you omit useless words.

So, I wrote Merry Christmas, Victoria. Good little story, she said, but you have 2200 words. Cut it down to 1500 words.

“What? No way, I need those words.”

Her reply. “No you don’t. Now work on it.” I did, over and over when I finally got it down to 1500 words.

At one point I begged her to do it for me..I can still hear her laughing.

Anyway, I did cut it down.

Now, about the story—how do you get ideas for stories? I was listening to a CD by Ray Charles, and he sang, “You give your hand to me, and then I say Hello, and I can hardly speak, my heart is beating so..but you don’t know me…You don’t know the one who dreams of you at night..etc.”


So, Merry Christmas, Victoria was easy to write.

Another one—Wishes Do Come True—This one just popped in my head. I had been reading stories that involved Orphan Train children, and yes…this story came to me. I hope you like it.

The third one is The Cattleman’s Ball—I was writing a novel titled TEXAS DREAMER, and the hero of the story got his start when as a fifteen year old runaway, he stumbled upon a rundown ranch owned by one elderly rancher. The rancher took him in…and together they built it up. The hero here was old enough to travel to Chicago to sell his cattle by himself and was instructed to attend the Cattleman’s Ball to “make contacts.” But this young man found a lovely woman instead, and even with his unpolished demeanor..well, you’ll just have to read this story.

WINTER WISHES IS 99cents, and I thank PRP for putting these three stories in one volume: WINTER WISHES

Amazon Link: