Monday, April 30, 2012


By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky
If there is one thing history has taught us, it’s that every age loves a hero—individuals who seem larger than life, and who through their words, experiences or contributions helped blaze the trail for others to follow. Unfortunately, very often the truth about them has been misinterpreted, fictionalized, and/or so embellished over time that the line between fact and fiction became so blurred we don’t really know what the “truth” is anymore. Such is the case for the subject of my post today.

Last September, I wrote a Sweethearts post about the State Fair of Texas. While visiting the fairgrounds with my family, we saw an exhibit about Texas heroes. Among the heroes included in this exhibit was the now legendary Davy Crockett.

As I studied the fiddle, pipe, and derringer that allegedly belonged to Crockett, I found my curiosity about the man triggered. I’d never seen the ‘Davy Crockett’ television series starring Fess Parker, although I have seen several films about the Alamo. But since Hollywood has a way of embellishing or distorting the truth about historical figures for the purpose of ‘entertainment’, I wanted to know how much about the established folklore on Crockett was true.

My journey led me to the one historical resource that I found most intriguing and trusted for accuracy, an 1834 autobiography written by Crockett himself. One of the first things I noted was that he never went by the nickname “Davy”, but used David Crockett throughout his lifetime. The nickname, right along with the coonskin cap and notion (as popularized by the Disney theme song) that he killed a bear when just three years old, have become part of the mythology connected with this man.

When I read the story of Crockett’s life written by his own hand, I soon learned that even in 1834 he was aware that stories were being told about him that just weren’t true. Some were exaggerations about his appearance and preconceived notions about his intelligence, or blatant lies being perpetuated by political rivals. In the preface of his book, ‘A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee’, Crockett made a point to state why he chose to write a book about himself. “A publication has been made to the world, which has done me much injustice; and the catchpenny errors which it contains, have been already too long sanctioned by my silence.” He then conveys that he is aware of a curiosity about him, which when compounded by the erroneous statements about him as a person made him more of a caricature than a human being.

“I know, that obscure as I am, my name is making a considerable deal of fuss in the world. I can’t tell why it is, nor in what is it to end. Go where I will, everybody seems anxious to get a peep at me…” ~ David Crockett

I must confess that 176 years after his death, I also wanted to get a peep at him—but beyond the larger than life folklore and misty myths. I wanted to get to know DAVID CROCKETT – the real man who lived and died – from boyhood to adulthood. I wanted to see beyond the image of a coonskin cap wearing mountain man that has become iconic imagery, and feel as if I were sitting down and talking with him in person. I felt I was able to do that by his reading his words about his life.

Ask any Texan and they will proudly tell you that Davy Crockett was a famous frontiersman and one of the valiant heroes who fought and died at the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. There is even a famous painting of him brandishing his rifle “Betsy” like a club at soldiers of General Santa Ana’s army because he had no more ammunition.

Yet, even this image, so deeply embedded in the minds and hearts of many Texans—and even portrayed in several motion pictures on the subject—has been subject to scrutiny by historians and scholars over the years. Although I can well understand the historical significance of the battle and its moment-by-moment sequence of events, does it really matter at what time and how Davy Crockett died? The fact remains Col. David Crockett fought bravely, just as he had done many times throughout his life—and died a true hero. In my opinion, the focus should not be on how he died, but rather how this man lived.

David Crockett was the fifth of six sons born to John Crockett and Rebecca Hawkins on 17 August 1786. His father, of Irish heritage, also served as a soldier in the American Revolution. After the war, John Crockett settled in eastern Tennessee, along with his parents and siblings. Those were dangerous, brutal times, and both of John Crockett’s parents were killed in their home by Creek Indians. John Crockett’s brother, Joseph, was wounded in the attack, but escaped. However, a younger, disabled brother named James was taken prisoner. His fate would not be known until “seventeen years and nine months” later when John Crockett, and his elder brother William found him. They purchased their younger brother from an Indian trader, and James Crockett was returned to relatives. In 1834, when David Crockett wrote his autobiography, his Uncle James was alive and living in Cumberland County, Kentucky.

John Crockett was a farmer and very poor. In addition to their six sons, John and Rebecca Crockett also had three daughters. There is no question the family endured harsh, difficult lives in the wilderness of Tennessee. However, it should be noted that when David Crockett cites his earliest childhood memory, it had nothing to do with killing a bear as a toddler.

Rather, Crockett states: “…to show how soon I began to be a sort of a little man, I have endeavoured to take the back track of life, in order to fix on the first thing I can remember.” He then shares with the reader his earliest memory of playing with his four older brothers by a riverbank, along with a 15-year old neighbor boy. The older boys left David on the shore as they went out on the river in his father’s canoe. David (who recalls being too young to even wear breeches at the time) watched—not at all happy they had left him behind. He recollected watching them then steer themselves into great danger, and how a neighbor saw the canoe headed toward the rapids and proceeded to strip and jump in the river to save them. The neighbor was able to intervene and bring the frightened boys (with their father’s canoe) safely back to shore. Yet, even the sight of the life-threatening drama did not ease young David’s indignation. Rather, he felt they got what they deserved for leaving him behind on shore.

This is not only the first memory Crockett shares, but conveys his stubborn streak and desire for adventure very early in childhood. This desire for adventure would become a constant thread in David’s life. Because they were extremely poor, struggling to survive, the Crockett children worked with their father from an early age on the family farm. Schooling was not possible at this time for them. However, like most men, John Crockett wanted to improve his situation in life and provide better for his family.

When David was about seven, the family moved to the mouth of Cove creek where his father joined with a business partner to build a mill. In his book, Crockett related, “They went on very well with their work until it was nigh done, when there came the second epistle to Noah’s fresh, and away went their mill, shot, lock, and barrel. I remember the water rose so high, that it got up into the house we lived in, and my father moved us out of it, to keep us from being drowned.“

The Crockett family next moved to Jefferson County, where John Crockett opened a tavern on the road from Abbingdon to Knoxville (pictured).
It was while living here that young David would experience his first adventure away from home. An old Dutchman, moving from Tennessee to Virginia, had stopped at John Crockett’s tavern. The man needed someone to help on his journey and asked John Crockett if he could hire his then 12-year old son, David.

Thinking the work experience might help his son learn an occupation, especially since at 12 years of age David Crockett still could not read or write, his father allowed the Dutchman to hire his son just for the journey. Having never lived away from his parents, young David left on a four hundred mile journey by foot with someone he’d never met before. “I set out with a heavy heart,” David Crockett wrote. He conveys that though the journey was not of his choosing, he did it out of obedience to his father. There was just one problem. When the journey ended, the Dutchman persuaded David to stay with him. The continued offer of employment was confusing to the 12-year old. As to the dilemma he faced, Crockett wrote: “I had been taught so many lessons of obedience by my father, that I at first supposed I was bound to obey this man, or at least I was afraid openly to disobey him; and I therefore staid with him…”

Still, the boy longed for home, despite the brave front he showed his employer. And a month later, chance offered him an opportunity to go home. David happened to see three wagons while playing by the road near his employer, and recognized the drivers. He struck up a conversation with them and when he learned they were going to Knoxville, he told Mr. Dunn of his situation and that he wanted to go home. Mr. Dunn told him that they would be spending the night at a tavern seven miles distance,and that if David could get to them by the next morning, they would take him home. Mr. Dunn further added that if David was scared, he would protect him. Such acts of kindness from people who often helped David Crockett in his life was something he never forgot, and would have a profound effect on the compassionate man he would become.

The longing to be back home with his parents was so strong, that David returned to his employer’s house and gathered his meager belongings, stowing them under the head of his bed. “I went to bed early that night, but sleep seemed to be a stranger to me. For though I was a wild boy, yet I dearly loved my father and mother, and their images appeared to be so deeply fixed in my mind, that I could not sleep for thinking of them.”

Three hours before dawn, this 12-year old boy began his trek—in a blinding snowstorm—to reach Mr. Dunn seven miles away by the designated time. Here is our next insight to David Crockett the man. From an early age, he possessed courage and determination. When he set his mind to something, he did it. “I had not even the advantage of moonlight, and the whole sky was hid by the falling snow, so that I had to guess at my way…”. He continues, “…the earth was covered about as deep as my knees; and my tracks filled so briskly after me, that by daylight, my Dutch master could have seen no trace which I left.”

He reached the tavern in time, and Mr. Dunn treated him with care and kindness. “My heart was more deeply impressed by meeting such a friend, and ‘at such a time’, than by wading the snow-storm at night, or all the other sufferings which my mind had endured.”

David Crockett returned to the warm embrace of his family; in the fall, he attended a country school for the first time in his life. However, four days later, David had an altercation with a much bigger, older boy. Having taken just about as much as he could, David waited in the bushes and when the bully was walking home from school, he leapt out and began to give the older boy ‘salt and vinegar’. Thus, is unveiled the next aspect of David Crockett’s personality. He’d always had a longing for education, and recognized that he lacked book learning. However, he deeply resented when people assumed that because he was poor and had no formal schooling that he was not intelligent.

After the incident with the bully, Crockett never went back to school. He knew the schoolmaster would punish him and David Crockett refused to get a whipping. Instead, he concocted a plan. He would leave with his brothers for school in the morning then hide all day in the woods, and walk back home with them. Of course, the deception eventually became known to his father, and an argument ensued. John Crockett ordered his son back to school. David said he would not go back and get whipped. With his father’s Irish temper now in full swing, John Crockett grabbed a hickory switch and said he would give his son a whipping. A chase ensued, and it was only by outrunning and diving into some bushes at the top of a hill that David was able to hide from his father. Then, fearing the punishment when he went back home that evening, he ran away.

It would be several years before David returned home again. He traveled from Tennessee to Baltimore, and worked for farmers, waggoners, and even a hatter in Virginia. He even came close to becoming a cabin boy on a ship bound for London. There’s that love of adventure again. And, without question, he had a strong work ethic. But once more he missed his loved ones. Not knowing what type of welcome he would receive, or if his father was still angry with him, a now 15-year old David Crockett entered his father’s tavern with a group of waggoners who had stopped for the night. But he’d grown up so much, no one recognized him. So, in silence, he sat and watched his family—soaking up the sight of them again. It was not until everyone was called to supper, and he sat down at the table, that his eldest sister recognized him. Just like the parable of the Prodigal Son, she jumped up and ran and hugged him, exclaiming, “Here is my lost brother!”

Crockett wrote of the incident as follows: “The joy of my sisters and my mother, and, indeed, of all the family, was such that it humbled me, and made me sorry that I hadn’t submitted to a hundred whippings, sooner than cause so much affliction as they had suffered on my account.”

While home again, he worked hard to help his father, and even indentured himself to two different men to pay off debts his father had owed. Not long after these notes were paid, David developed his first crush on a pretty Quaker girl, the niece of his last employer. When he learned she was engaged to another man, he felt his lack of schooling was an impediment to proving his worth as a prospective suitor for any woman. He contracted to work for another Quaker man who kept a school a few miles away. In exchange for going to school four days a week, David worked the other two days to pay his board and the cost for schooling. The total of six months learning he received during this time would be the only schooling David Crockett ever had.

He eventually became engaged to a beautiful but conniving female who two-timed him and promised to also marry another man. He became very depressed and began to think there might be something wrong with him. He even confided to some neighbors, a Dutch widow and her daughter, about his fears. The kindly daughter told him if he would come to a reaping scheduled very soon, she would introduce him to the “one of the prettiest little girls” he would ever see. Although skeptical, David attended and brought several friends with him. Not only did he find Mary “Polly” Finlay more beautiful, she was "sweeter than sugar". He courted her and they married on 12 August 1806.

David and Polly would have two sons, John Wesley Crockett and William Finlay Crockett, born in 1807 and 1808 respectively. Like his father before him, David wanted to provide well for his wife and children. In 1809, they moved to Lincoln County where Crockett began to “distinguish himself as a hunter”. But the need for bigger game to better feed his family prompted Crockett to relocate them again in 1811 to Beans Creek in Franklin County.

A daughter named Margaret would be born in 1812. Then, on 29 August 1813, Chief Red Eagle and his Creek warriors attacked Fort Mims and massacred over 500 men, women, and children. Thus began the Indian Wars, and David Crockett volunteered to fight in the militia. His young wife begged him not to go. She was now a stranger in a part of the backwoods country where they lived, and had no family or friends there.

“It was mighty hard to go against such arguments as these”, Crockett wrote, "but my countrymen had been murdered, and I knew that the next thing would be, that the Indians would be scalping the women and children all about there, if we didn’t put a stop to it. I reasoned the case with her as well as I could, and told her, that if every man would wait till his wife got willing for him to go to war, there would be no fighting done, until we would all be killed in our own houses; that I was as able to go as any man in the world; and that I believed it was a duty I owed my country."

And so he went and served. Due to his skill with a rifle and as a woodman, he was chosen to scout for Major Gibson’s special regiment. During the war, he often went off alone to hunt and help feed his fellow soldiers who were all but starving from lack of provisions. His initiative to do this is another trait Crockett possessed. After the war, and for the remainder of his life, whenever a neighbor or even a stranger was hungry and needed to feed their family, David Crockett would take it upon himself to go hunting with them. Even at times when he was not feeling well or just exhausted from a hunting trip to feed his own family, he would turn around and go out again, unable to refuse someone in need. An interesting side note of his compassion and determination to feed his fellow soldiers is when he even traded gun powder and 10 lead bullets to an Indian for a hat full of corn. At this time, the war was winding down, and they were so isolated from the main army, Crockett knew if he didn’t find a way to feed the soldiers in his unit, they would die.

He returned home after the war ended, and worked his farm. But, tragedy would pierce his heart on 11 Jun 1815. Crockett writes, “Death, that cruel leveler of all distinctions,--to whom the prayers and tears of husbands, and of even helpless infancy, are addressed in vain,--entered my humble cottage, and tore from my children an affectionate good mother, and from me a tender and loving wife.” He goes on to poignantly share his emotional turmoil, devastation and his need to trust in God, “whose ways are always right, though we sometimes think they fall heavily on us; and as painful as is even yet the remembrance of her sufferings, and the loss sustained by my little children and myself, yet I have no wish to lift up the voice of complaint. I was left with three children; the two oldest were sons, the youngest a daughter, and, at that time, a mere infant.”

[Pictured: Gravesite of Mary "Polly" Finlay Crockett.

Unable to bear the thought of “scattering his children”, Crockett realized he needed to marry again. His second wife was Elizabeth Patton, a widow whose husband had been killed in the Indian Wars. She also had a son and daughter, close in age to Crockett’s children. David and Elizabeth would remain married until his death in 1836, and have three children together: Robert Patton Crockett, Rebecca Crockett, and Matilda Crockett.

Crockett would eventually relocate to Shoals Creek for 2-3 years. Since there was no law in this deep backwoods area, the need to establish a form of government found David Crockett appointed one of the magistrates. This position eventually led Crockett to the state Legislature, and eventually to Congress. Without question, the rise of David Crockett from an illiterate, uneducated backwoods frontiersman to a popular and respected member of Congress was a remarkable journey. He was truly a man of the people, and felt a serious obligation to those people who believed in him and voted him into office. As a result, he cared not for party loyalties but followed his own conscience and sense of right and wrong. In fact, it was ultimately this innate honesty and strength of character which made him stand up against the Indian Bill of President Andrew Jackson.

[Pictured: President Andrew Jackson]

Other members of Congress even told Crockett he would be ‘ruining himself’ since the Indian Bill was a “favourite” measure of the president.

In 1834, Crockett wrote: “I told them I believed it was a wicked, unjust measure, and that I should go against it, let the cost to myself be what it might. I voted against this Indian bill, and my conscience yet tells me that I gave a good honest vote, and one that I believe will not make me ashamed in the day of judgment.”

When his term ended, Crockett left Washington, D.C., and went home to Tennessee. Almost immediately, measures were taken by the media, politicians, and “pin-hook lawyers” to try and discredit him, his character, and destroy his political future. He writes in his autobiography that to go against President Jackson at that time was, “considered an unpardonable sin”.

It is ironic to compare the media manipulation and corruption we so often find common in politics today and the striking realities of its existence and influence in the early part of the 19th century. All too often we tend to look through rose-colored glasses on the past. We fail to realize there were men even then who cared more for power and political careers than the best interest of the nation they were elected to serve and protect.

Today, President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Bill is remembered for its cruel persecution of Native Americans, and the shame it brought to the United States. In what became known as the “Trail of Tears”, the president’s ‘favourite’ Indian Bill ordered the “forced relocation” of Native American Indians from their home lands to the Indian Territory (now the state of Oklahoma). Many died from exposure, starvation, and disease. In fact, 4,000 of the 15,000 members of the Cherokee nation died on the journey.

[Pictured: Trail of Tears exhibit – Cherokee Heritage Center, Tahlequah, Oklahoma]

Ultimately, it was a combination of many things that led David Crockett to Texas in 1836. He had become disgusted with Washington, D.C., and the corruptive partisan politics that all too often had little regard for what the people of the United States wanted. And when we remember his strong work ethic, love of adventure, and determination to provide a better life for himself and his family, clearly, the promise of adventure, opportunity, and freedom in a new frontier beckoned him to Texas.

David Crockett was 49 years old when he died during the Battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836. Without question, he died a hero, fighting with honor to the very end. But, it is important to also remember him as a flesh and blood man—just like the other men at the mission. He knew poverty and hunger, and had fought for survival most all his life. Whether walking knee-deep in snow to get home, working as an indentured servant to help his beloved father, or years later braving icy, swollen rivers to feed his family and neighbors in the dead of winter. It was the sum total of his hopes, dreams, beliefs, and lifetime experiences that ultimately brought David Crockett to Texas.

A devoted son and brother, he was also a trusted friend and caring human being. A loving husband and father, he experienced joy and heartache, as well as the worry, fear and determination to do whatever was necessary to provide for his family. He was a patriot who loved his country and was ever willing to fight and die for freedom. At the same time, he was not afraid to stand his ground—alone, if need be—and disagree with the President of the United States when he knew something was unjust and wrong. He faced numerous struggles, illness, and adversity with a positive attitude, determination to persevere, and good humor. He was a self-taught man who repeatedly proved his insightful intelligence and wit. He loved and respected nature, as well as the elements. Most of all, he was a man of faith who believed the principles of honesty, fairness, and compassion—especially toward those in need—were of greatest value in a man’s life.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my post about the ‘real’ David Crockett. I hope you enjoyed it, and truly appreciate your taking the time to visit. ~ AKB

Resource: A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee (1834) by: David Crockett [Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1834, BY DAVID CROCKETT, In the Clerk’s Office of the District Office of the District of Columbia]

Saturday, April 28, 2012


In the category of “dreams come true”, here is one of my best ones so far. I became

a member of the WESTERN FICTIONEER group a couple of years ago with the help of one of my friends, Kit Prate. Kit’s a fantastic western writer who’s been doing this a lot longer than I have, with many more “notches in her belt”—figuratively speaking—in the writing world. She put my name before the group and I was accepted—a greenhorn in the truest sense of the word.

I’m still totally in awe. Robert Randisi, Jory Sherman, Peter Brandvold, Kit Prate, Kerry Newcomb, Troy Smith, Larry Martin, James Reasoner, Livia Washburn Reasoner…the list goes on—these are the members of the WESTERN FICTIONEERS.

A few months after I joined up, they decided to put together their first anthology. Livia and James Reasoner worked tirelessly on it—collecting the stories from those of us who wanted to submit, editing, formatting, writing the introduction to the book, and even deciding the order of the stories. One of the other contributors, Pete Peterson, provided the gorgeous artwork for the cover of the book.

This book is not, by any means, a romance offering. But there are stories from 24 different authors with many different “takes” on the west. It’s the largest anthology of original western short stories ever put together, and though every one of them might not be to your liking, you’re sure to find some different authors you might want to try out for further reading pleasure from this fantastic collection.

My story is called THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS. It has a LOT of paranormal twist to it, but it’s one of my favorite projects I’ve ever worked on.

I’ll leave you with a blurb and an excerpt.

Jericho Dean is on a one-man mission: to track down the outlaw gang that murdered his wife and daughters. When Freeman Hart joins forces with him, Jericho isn’t sure which side this peculiar stranger is on. Determined to gain his revenge no matter the cost, Jericho finds redemption in a most unlikely circumstance. Will he take that fork in the road, or will his thirst for revenge end his chance for a new start?


Jericho gave Dan one final pat. “Ain’t many men lost as much as I did on that day, Freeman. My wife, my daughters, and my desire to exist in this world without them.” He pointed at the growing pile of wood. “No fire.”

Hart gave a sage nod. “I see. You’re expecting to be reunited once you complete your mission—kill the Comancheros. Once you die, you think you and Elena will be together again, along with Maria and Ana.”

Jericho stood completely still. How did this stranger know the names of his family? How did he know Jericho’s own heart and purpose so clearly?

Hart dropped the last two pieces of wood on top of the pile, then dusted his hands. “We need to have a talk, Jericho. A good long visit about things. I don’t aim to do it in the cold. And make no mistake, this night’ll be an icy one—way too cold to spend without a fire. Trust me, boy. They ain’t gonna know—or care—if you spend it warm or freezin’. Got a match on you?”

Jericho sized up the other man once more, a shiver running up his spine. No, things were not what they seemed, but whether for good or evil, he didn’t know. He cursed his luck, either way. He didn’t want to be burdened with whatever it was this Freeman Hart brought to the table. He hadn’t asked for it, either way. He remembered that he had deliberately not prayed, carefully refrained from asking God for any favors, so he wouldn’t have to be in His debt. Well, he still didn’t plan on owing Him anything, no matter how this all worked out.

He finally forced his legs to move, walking stiffly to his saddlebags. He put the brush away, and drew out the box of matches wrapped in oilskin.

Hart caught them when Jericho tossed them over, opened the box and struck one of them on the bottom of his boot. The match head flared in the gathering semi-darkness and Hart hunkered down, cupping his hand around the flame as it caught the base kindling of the pyre and the wood above it began to burn.

Jericho stood watching as the fire flared to life, remembering how he’d burned the cabin. After he’d buried Elena, Maria and little Ana, he’d poured kerosene throughout their home. The smell of it had made his stomach twist and roll over. He’d poured it over the cabinetry he’d built so lovingly for Elena, remembering how proud she’d been to have a pantry in her kitchen. He’d poured it across the bed where they’d made love. Made children. Made a family together.

He’d opened up the old trunk that had been Elena’s, full of her keepsake treasures. He had taken only one thing from the chest before he’d saturated the rest of the contents with the kerosene remaining in the can. He’d stood at the door and tossed in the match, watching as the trail of fire raced across the dirt floor of the cabin and began to eat the furniture, the woodwork, and finally the walls.

Then, he had turned his back on the entire dream he’d created and then destroyed, riding away from it as it burned. It maybe burning still, he mused. That entire northern part of Indian Territory could be nothing but acres of smoldering blackness destroyed by his hand. Right now, if he could, he’d set the entire world ablaze.

Yes. A fire would be good to have tonight.

“Say, Jericho. You hungry? Me, I’m so hungry my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut. I’ve got some tins of beans and peaches we can open up.” Hart rose and crossed to where his saddlebags lay, rummaging for the tins of food. He pulled them out and came back toward Jericho, who stood rooted to the spot where he’d gone moments earlier to get the matches.

Hart nodded toward the fire. “C’mon. Let’s get some grub. Talk a spell. I can see you’ve got some questions.”

“Who are you?” Jericho’s voice was hoarse.

Hart laughed. “I knew that’d be the first one.”

THE TRADITIONAL WEST is available at Amazon for Kindle
Cheryl's Amazon Author Page:

and here at Barnes and Noble for Nook.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


By Callie Hutton
Guest Author Callie Hutton

Have you ever been in love with a place? Maybe love is not the right word, but I have a deep fascination for Guthrie, Oklahoma. To prove my love, I will give away one copy of A RUN FOR LOVE and one copy of A WIFE BY CHRISTMAS to two lucky commenters.
Although I was a history major in college in New Jersey, somehow I missed the story of the Oklahoma Land Run. In most of my classes, my professors seemed more interested in bouncing from one war to the next. I guess that’s what happens when you have mostly males teaching history.
A little over four years ago, when we settled in Oklahoma, I took a job in the Archives Division of the Oklahoma State Library. It was there I learned about the Land Run. I researched it, and read everything I could get my hands on. The story of these brave men and women who left places they were familiar with, to race with thousands of others to get a piece of land, captivated me.

Oklahoma Land Run

In my research, I discovered two main cities resulted from the Run. One was Oklahoma City—the present capital of Oklahoma, and the other was Guthrie, which was the Territorial Capital. Once Oklahoma became a state, the capital was moved.
While I researched this amazing piece of Americana, the idea for a romance novel grew. Eventually, I had to find a way to stop the voices in my head, so my fingers hit the keyboard, and the story of Tori and Jesse ensued. Once A RUN FOR LOVE was completed, I decided to write a story about another character in that book, and A WIFE BY CHRISTMAS told the tale of the youngest niece, Ellie.

Before I started A WIFE BY CHRISTMAS, I took the forty minute ride from my house to Guthrie−camera, pen, and paper in hand. I was enthralled. You can see from the pictures that Guthrie has kept a lot of the old buildings. Some of them date back to the year of the Land Run.

On April 22nd, 1889−a bright, sunny day−thousands of men, women and children circled Oklahoma Territory (formerly Unassigned Lands), and waited for the bugles to blow, and the cannons to roar. Precisely at noon, the race began. The land-hungry pioneers raced on horseback, in wagons, on bicycle, and some even on foot. The area was so immense that not too long after the race began, the runners had disappeared. Some never saw another soul until they claimed their land.
Of course, nothing is perfect, and the race had its cheaters−dubbed “Sooners.” These claimants snuck into the territory before the official start of the race. Some uncaught Sooners waited until the homesteaders nearly arrived, and jumped onto their horses and rode until the animals were sweating and out of breath, making it seem as though they had just arrived. Another Sooner was already living there with a plowed garden and onions sprouting several inches high!
Years of lawsuits followed the Run, straightening out titles to land that had been illegally claimed.

Guthrie, Oklahoma after land run 1889

Guthrie started that day with zero population and a tiny train station, and ended with more than ten thousand people living in tents. By the end of the first week, buildings had already been erected, and a thriving town established.

Guthrie retains early aura

Guthrie today has kept its small town flavor. I recently attended the 89er Celebration−the anniversary of the Land Run. Lots of activities were scheduled−a rodeo, chuck wagon feast, old time baseball game, and a parade. People from all over the state descended on Guthrie to honor the men and women of the Land Run. The many antique stores did a booming business.

Guthrie utilizes early buildings

A couple of weeks ago, I typed the words “The End” on the manuscript for A PRESCRIPTION FOR LOVE, the story of the oldest nephew (Michael) in A RUN FOR LOVE. At least two more stories are planned. Writing about Michael, a pharmacist, drew me to the drug store museum in Guthrie. Another trip to that town produced the pictures indicating the early nineteenth century pharmacy was well stocked with medicines, some good, some questionable.

Old-fashioned drug store still in Guthrie

I hope you enjoyed this little bit of history that I find so fascinating, and the pictures showcasing the town one hundred and twenty-three years after horses thundered over the plains, carrying riders full of hope and dreams.
Buy link for A RUN FOR LOVE:

My website:

Readers, remember to leave a comment to take part in the drawing for a free copy of either A RUN FOR LOVE or A WIFE BY CHRISTMAS.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ante Up

Contributed by Lauri Robinson

The Western Romance genre is strictly American, nowhere else in the world can lay a claim to the “Old West”. Other countries had their wild and rowdy times, but no one else had the vast open land west of the Mississippi—land of promise, change, beauty, wonder and riches. Of course there was also pain, hardship, broken dreams and death. Men had to be bold, women tough. But above all, they had to be willing to gamble. Ante up. 

People of all walks of life went west. Rich and poor alike. Single men and women and families. Those with trades and those with nothing more than dreams. And it was one big gamble. Not just with their lives, but with their money and possessions. 

Though it’s somewhat of a slapstick movie concerning gambling in the old west, I love the move Maverick with James Garner and Mel Gibson. It portrays how acceptable gambling was. 

As communities formed, some local laws were put into place, but ultimately, gambling wasn’t illegal. It was a much sought after activity and in some instances, the only hope people had. Prostitution was illegal either, and very few, if any, laws governed guns, alcohol, or drugs. 

Just like those who set up other businesses—trading posts, hotels, bath houses, blacksmith shops and general stores—those setting up gaming halls were welcomed, especially by groups building churches and schools. Many gambling entrepreneurs were known for their generosity, and community leaders recognized that. 

Gambling wasn’t any more taboo than riding a horse or wearing a gun. It was a part of life. Not even churches preached against gambling until after the temperament movement. Ultimately, gambling played a huge role in winning the west.

In my May 1st release from Harlequin, The Sheriff’s Last Gamble, the heroine, Stacy Blackwell is a gambler. (Yes, many, many women gambled.) She’s not a ‘soiled dove’, gambling to survive. Raised by her gambling grandfather, Stacy’s a thoroughbred gambler who excels in her chosen profession. Trouble happens when she encounters Sheriff Jake McCrery, a faro gambler turned lawman. The sparks fly between these two and Stacy recognizes she’s in the game of a lifetime. 

Here’s a short excerpt:
It was the man astride the animal that held her attention. Tall, broad, and with hair as golden brown as the horse’s, Sheriff Jake McCrery had to be the most handsome man in these entire United States, based on her experience leastwise, which was considerable.  Pappy had hauled her to most every state and all the territories in their twenty-three years of living together. The past three months in Founder’s Creek Township was the longest span of time she’d ever spent in one place.
Stopping on the bottom step, she pushed open the parasol that matched the mint-green linen dress, tailored just for her without the prominent bustle some women found so stylish. All that extra material made sitting much too difficult.
“Hello, Sheriff.”
Jake McCrery swung one leg over the saddle horn and landed on the ground as smoothly as an eagle swoops into its nest.
“Miss Blackwell.” He greeted her with a slight nod.
With her insides tingling, and without a doubt he’d follow, Stacy started walking along the road. “Tell me, how is dear Uncle Edward today?”        
“Fine,” Jake answered. “He’d like you to visit soon.”
“I’ll bet,” she said flatly. There was no sense getting riled over Edward Blackwell. She’d told him exactly what she thought of him three months ago, shortly after arriving. Her heart, not always in agreement with her mind, stung strongly enough to make her tighten her hold on her parasol.
“Speaking of bets,” Jake said, “how much did you win today?”
Stacy pretended to glance over her shoulder at the palomino at their heels; in reality she wanted Jake to see the smile on her face. “Now, Sheriff McCrery, this morning you specifically forbade me from gambling.”
“That hasn’t stopped you before.”
“Tsk, tsk.” She shook her head so the hair she’d spent an hour curling this morning fluttered around her shoulders. She’d learned years ago to style its mousy brown color to catch attention, therefore keeping people from watching her face too closely during an intense point in a game. Lately, though, thoughts of the handsome sheriff filled her head while curling the tresses—actually, while she did most everything. “We both know I never gamble while you’re in town.”
“How much was it?”
At times Jake seemed immune to her charms, and that had her wondering if she’d missed a lesson or two of Pappy’s teachings along the way—not that Pappy had taught her about men, but he’d taught her about life and the two went hand in hand.
Shrugging, mainly to keep a sigh from slipping out, she answered. “A few hundred.”
Jake caught her arm, and though the heat of his touch had her toes curling, fury flashed in his mahogany-brown eyes.
“Gambling’s a dangerous game, Stacy. You’re going to get yourself shot.”
His concern was genuine, and that warmed her heart, but not even Jake McCrery would stop her from playing. “I’ve played in far worse places than Founder’s Creek.”
“Then go there to play.”
An unreadable poker face was one of her most prized accomplishments, but keeping it on right now was a struggle. Not only did Jake sound exasperated, he said the words like he meant them. Wrenching her arm from his hold, she started up the street. Anger snapped inside her, but more painful was the possibility he wanted her to leave. “I can’t,” she said.

Friday, April 20, 2012


By Lyn Horner

Did you know there are two rivers called "Red River" in the U.S? Yup, there’s a Red River of the North, which forms the border between Minnesota and North Dakota. This stream flows northward into Manitoba, Canada.

The Red River of the South separates Texas from Oklahoma, formerly known as the Indian Territory. This river gave its name to my favorite old time movie, Red River, starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift. It’s a fictional account of the first cattle drive up the Chisholm Trail. I love that movie so much that I decided to include a trail drive in DASHING DRUID, book two in my Texas Druids trilogy.

Crossing "Big Red" was a dangerous business. During dry periods, sand bars with treacherous patches of quicksand posed deadly traps. When heavy rains flooded the river, it became a raging torrent capable of sweeping away cattle, horses and men. Three different crossing points were used over the years. Doan’s crossing lay on the Western Trail, used during the later years of the trail drive era.

Crossing The Red River

Andy Adams described Doan's Crossing this way:
"Red River, this boundary river on the northern border of Texas, was a terror to trail drivers. The majestic grandeur of the river was apparent on every hand, with its red bluff banks, the sediment of its red waters marking the timber along its course, while the driftwood, lodged in trees and high on the banks, indicated what might be expected when she became sportive or angry. The crossing had been in use only a year or two when we forded, yet five graves, one of which was less than ten days made, attested her disregard for human life. It can safely be asserted that at this and lower trail crossings on Red River, the lives of more trail men were lost by drowning than on all other rivers together."

The trail drive in DASHING DRUID follows the Chisholm Trail, crossing at Red River Station, where the current helped the drovers shepherd their longhorn charges toward the north bank. I came by this information from an elderly gentleman named Glenn Wilson, whose father lived during the trail drive era. A good friend, who loves helping me research, accompanied me to Nocona, a town of some 3,000 residents near where the town of Red River Station once stood. There, we met with Mr. Wilson, and I’m grateful for the honor of meeting him.

Acting as our guide despite being legally blind, this kindly man directed us to the exact place where Texas herds crossed the Red. He told us why this bend in the river was so popular as a crossing point, describing how the river current carried cattle toward the north bank as it rounded the bend, and pointing out the low, accessible banks on both sides of the river. I used these facts for staging the cattle crossing in DASHING DRUID.

Red River between Texas and Oklahoma
Photo courtesy of

Here are two excerpts from the scene:
Ahead, Lil spotted her father riding back from the river. He’d escorted the wagons to Pegleg Dave’s ferry. Noting his wet duds as he rode up, she surmised he’d also helped Luis and Jubal take the remuda across.

"Chic made it all right, the horses too," he shouted over the commotion.

"Pegleg’s fightin’ his way back now. Then he’ll haul the other wagon across. I’d feel better if you’d go with him."

"Pa, I’m not some frilly pink pretty in corsets and lace," she shouted back, slapping her rope against her saddle to keep the cattle moving. "I’ve never taken the raft across and I ain’t doing it now."

He glowered at her. "Sometimes you’ve got too much spunk for your own good, girl. The river’s come down a lot, but she’s still boiling."

"Yeah, and you’re gonna need every hand you’ve got to get these steers across. We both know that."

The creases around his mouth deepened. She thought he’d argue, but he didn’t. Tugging on his hat, he snapped, "Missy, you watch out for yourself, you hear?"

"I will. Quit worrying."

"Easy for you to say," he grumbled, kneeing his horse ahead.

Lil knew how he felt. She couldn’t stop worrying about Tye. Dang man! He was loony as a jay bird to take on the river all tore up like he was. She hoped he wouldn’t drown or be gored by a panicky longhorn.

He’d cornered her at the picket line a while ago and had apologized for the other night. One look at his pleading blue eyes, and she’d found it impossible to stay mad. Not that anything had really changed between them. She still needed him to leave her be. No matter how much she longed for him, she’d be loco to give herself to him. She had no future with him. He’d made that plain, hadn’t he?

Big Red’s ominous rumble drew her attention. A moment later the river came into view. It was lower all right, and the water was less choked with debris than the last time she’d seen it, but it was still moving plenty fast.

"I’ll take the lead," Pa called from the bank.

"We’ll be right behind ye," Neil replied for them both. He sent Lil a wry grin. "Time ta get wet, Lassie."

"Oh well, I need a bath," she joked, making a face.

He grinned but didn’t reply as they ran the lead steers down the cut toward the water. Her father rode his powerful sorrel into the flood and Jefe plunged in after him. The other leaders followed, prodded by the crowd behind them. Bellows of protest trumpeted over the water.

Neil urged his horse into the torrent. Having sent her boots, carbine and six-gun across in the hoodlum wagon, Lil tapped Major’s flanks with her stocking-footed heels. The chestnut splashed in, snorting, and Lil caught her breath as cold water engulfed her nearly to her armpits. Small geysers showered her throat and face.

"Good gravy, it’s cold enough to freeze your teeth!" she cried, clutching a handful of Major’s mane as he struck out from shore. He was a strong swimmer, or she might have needed to slide off and hang on to his girth strap to avoid weighing him down.

"Aye, and a few places farther down," Neil called from the opposite side of the herd.

Mildly shocked, Lil glanced over at him and laughed. Then she got down to business. Guiding Major against the strong current, she nudged a confused longhorn back into line.

Her father was almost halfway to the north bank, with the lead steers at his back. They were carried along by the current as the river rounded a bend and tumbled toward the far shore. That helpful bend in the current was the reason they crossed here year after year.

Shouts rang out behind Lil as the other hands drove more steers into the river. Alongside her, the swimming cattle formed a mass of heads and horns. Nothing else showed above water, but beneath the surface, their powerful legs churned. They could handle the rough water if they didn’t panic. It was up to her and the other drovers to make sure they didn’t.

Available on Amazon

Excerpt Two:
At least half the herd was across now, and most of the men were in the water, Tye included. Minutes ago, Lil had seen him driving cattle into the river. He was supposed to bring up the rear with Kirby, but he must have traded places with Dewey, because the black cowboy wasn’t in sight. She knew why Tye had done it; he wanted to keep an eye on her. She was certain of it because she’d caught him watching her with a worried look on his face.

He was as bad as her father. She wanted to shake him. All cut up like he was, he was the one who had no business in a raging river, not her.

She spotted him near the south bank. From the way he moved as he swatted a wayward longhorn into line, you’d think there wasn’t a thing wrong with him. The dumb galoot! Chic would likely have to stitch him up all over again. She shook her head in exasperation and turned her attention to the cattle. A moment later, she was nudging a steer back in the right direction when all hell broke loose.

"Lil, look out! Tree comin’!" Tye shouted.

Jerking her head around, Lil saw an uprooted stump headed straight for her. She gasped and kicked Major hard. He plunged forward just in time to avoid being rammed by the snag.

Several longhorns weren’t so lucky. The tree stump barreled into them with a sickening crunch of horn and bone. A few sank and were carried away along with the stump; others bawled in terror as they collided with their neighbors. Panicked animals milled in all directions. More went under, and some didn’t resurface.

It was move fast or lose dozens of cattle. Unmindful of danger, Lil headed Major into the tangle of bovine bodies. Neil, Jack, and the others did likewise, yelling and lashing out with their ropes as they fought to stop the mêlée. Luckily, they were over the sandbar; that made things a little easier. After several moments, all the steers were finally headed north again.

Lil glanced around for Tye. He’d swum the big roan he rode out to help. Bobbing in the water about twenty yards away, he met her gaze, and a relieved look spread across his face. She was just as relieved to see him safe. He smiled and waved, and she returned the gesture. Then she noticed how sluggishly Major was moving.

"Sorry, boy, I should’ve cut you loose to rest," she said, patting his neck. "Let’s head for shore."

They’d just left the sandbar behind when a wild-eyed sabina steer swerved out of line toward them. Lil tried to guide Major out of the way again, but he couldn’t react fast enough. The longhorn hooked him in the shoulder with a sharp horn. Screaming in pain, the chestnut pitched over sideways.

Lil cried out and heard Tye shout her name; then her head went under. Water filled her nose and throat. She kicked frantically, managing to break free of the thrashing horse and propel herself upward. She broke the surface coughing, fighting for air.

Major managed to right himself, and Lil grabbed for him. She missed as the tricky current carried him away. He kicked feebly; she was terrified neither of them would make it.

"Lil, I’m coming!" Tye cried, her terror slamming into him, doubling his fear for her as he forced his horse between two thrashing steers that blocked his way.

Lil twisted in the water to look at him. Then a wave slapped her in the face, dragging her under again. Tye held his breath the instant she did, experiencing her fear and desperate will to live as she fought her way upward amid the thrashing longhorns. She surfaced and he gulped air along with her, then silently cheered when she grabbed onto the horn of a passing steer. Its owner bellowed and tried to shake her off, but she clamped an arm around his thick neck and clung to him.

"Hang on, Lily!" Tye shouted, heart beating like a drum.

Lyn Horner resides in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband and four cats. After a career as a fashion illustrator and art instructor, she quit work to raise her children and took up writing. A member of Romance Writers of America, Celtic Hearts online RWA chapter, and Yellow Rose RWA chapter, she enjoys crafting passionate historical romances. The first book in her epic Texas Druids saga, DARLIN' DRUID, features a clairvoyant heroine, inspired by Lyn's own prophetic dreams. That book won the Paranormal Romance Guild 2011 Award. Lyn has also published a memoir, SIX CATS IN MY KITCHEN. To learn more about Lyn and her books, go to or find her on her Amazon page at She is also on Facebook and Goodreads

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

1835 Journal Entry--Who is Elmina Ingram?

Journal Entry: Fall, 1835, Brazoria, Texas
Today is my 16th birthday. Mama and I have prepared for this most wondrous occasion for two months. She wanted a beautiful, grown-up dress for me to wear to my party, so she sought the services of Miss Emilie Milam to create a very special gown. No longer shall I wear calico, nor style my hair in braids, nor run and play with my brothers. Ladies do not act in such a manner in our household, for each member is born to a role, and best we carry out our duties or most likely face the wrath of Papa.

Secretly, I shall miss the days of riding my pony bareback across the coastal plains, through our plantation, chasing my brothers, for all four of them can out-race me every time. Ah, well, such is the lot of the female persuasion. Now, my brothers believe they have become my protectors, especially when young gentlemen look my way. Brazoria County fairly bursts with bachelors, young men, some wealthy, some poor, but each one seeking a bride to ensconce in his home.

One young man, Mr. Randolph Long, nears my person at every opportunity, at church services, all-day dinners, and when Mama and I shop in town. Papa forbids me to speak with him alone; as a result, our conversations become awkward, as each of us stumbles on words we know perfectly well. After my party—of which he will attend!—I plan to speak with him as any grown woman may do with any gentleman she wishes.
Worrisome events have surfaced over this part of Texas. Papa hears tales in town, at the saloon, the community hall, and the warehouse, and he brings the stories home to share with Mama and my brothers. Of course, they all believe they have protected my delicate ears, but I listen and they do not know. It seems a crisis of some sort has arisen in Anahuac, a small place not far from our home. I am uncertain of its exact location, but the news is that General Santa Anna sent a small detachment of soldiers to Anahuac to enforce the collection of customs there and in Galveston. The merchants and the wealthy landowners—such as my papa—object to this unfair treatment, and when Papa speaks of the Santa Anna’s army and their ways, he becomes red in the face and begins to pound on the table!

Now, just before my party, he tells of a gathering of Mexican troops, more as the days go by. But the most frightening news comes from Gonzales, where Papa said a Colonel Domingo de Ugartecha, commander of troops in San Antonio, sent five cavalrymen to Gonzales to retrieve the six-pound canon that had been provided four years earlier for defense against the Indians. The Texan officer in charge hid the canon, telling the military he had no authority to give it up. He sent out dispatches calling for military aid.
Four hundred Texans, who worked in a loosely formed military troop, heard the call, turned from their original destination, Goliad, and marched to Gonzales. One hundred Mexican soldiers were already there to seize the canon. But a Colonel Moore and one-hundred and sixty Texans loaded the canon with chains and scrap iron, and strung a banner across it inscribed “Come and Take It.” Then the Colonel and his men attacked the Mexican troops, forcing them to retreat to San Antonio. I wanted to cheer! However, I did not wish to reveal my hiding place from which I listened avidly of the exciting battles.

Dread fills my heart, now that I understand what is to come. Papa says we must prepare, put away our frivolous desires for the present, and do our part to secure Texas for ourselves. I can only pray the war does not last too long.

My party will go on, however, and I must end this writing to don my beautiful dark blue silk gown, adorned with a lovely inset of lace, and an ivory brooch at my throat. Handsome coils of braid divide the lace from the silk. Underneath, my pantalets are of the finest linen, and my petticoat is of a fine silk. Mama will arrange my hair atop my head in a manner befitting a grown young woman. I do hope I look beautiful, or at least pretty, for a photographer will capture me in my new gown.
Would it not be magical if someone two hundred years hence finds my photograph and wonders about me?

Signed--Elmina Ingram

!!Special Note from author Celia Yeary: The sixteen-year-old young woman in the photo is one of my real Texas ancestors, but I did not use her real name. I have no idea where she grew up or lived in Texas. I took the date from the photo, 1835, and used historical events of the beginning of the Texas Revolution. The story about my ancestor is fiction, however, a figment of my imagination.

***In TEXAS TRUE, I opened the book with a young lady dressed for a grown-up ball, and she meets an older man, Sam Deleon who steals her heart away very quickly. The young lady is True Lee Cameron, the younger daughter of Buck and Marilee Cameron. Raised in a protected atmosphere and educated in a girl's school in the East, True's world comes crashing down when she learns more about her new husband. But she is a "Cameron" and refuses to allow Sam and his mother to ruin her life. She takes control. Sam? The man has a real awakening when he learns exactly of what that this sweet pretty thing he married is truly made. ~*~*~
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