Tuesday, June 30, 2015


By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky
Liberty (lib-er-ty) n - the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views.

I realize it is the end of June, but since the Fourth of July is just four days away, I wanted to touch on ‘liberty’, its definition, and what it should mean to all of us. Very often in life we take for granted the gifts given to us by our ancestors. We look with hindsight at the mistakes they made and forget the struggles they endured to establish the United States of America. It's easy to forget these people lived in a time as different from ours, as future generations will look upon the way we live. They experienced things on a daily basis we cannot comprehend, and they forged a nation that (at least to me) is the greatest nation on Earth. [Photo Credit: Liberty Bell, Philadelphia, PA – Richard Cummins, Corbis]

Still, more and more people rake Founding Fathers over the coals, and look at their lives with arrogance and contemporary disdain. Rather than be grateful for the wisdom and light they brought into the world, and the good they accomplished, they focus on the mistakes made. And yes, there were many mistakes during that time period that not only scarred the tapestry of this nation but seem to now be having a growing ripple effect in the 21st century. Modern day sensibilities cannot be applied to history. Rather, let us strive to remember they were learning and growing, just like we need to do today regarding certain issues and events.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to diminish in any way the negative, often horrible things that happened. Nor do I think society must become complacent. Quite the contrary; I think it vital people remember.

Our nation fought a War for Independence, so that its citizens would have freedom and democracy. A hundred years later, a Civil War was waged to conquer injustice against one’s fellow man, and ensure that freedom for all would be fully realized. [Pictured: Painting of ‘Home Sweet Home’ by Homer Winslow, 1863]

It was a War for change; change from slavery to freedom, and overhauling an economic ideology (that had been passed down from previous generations).

One side fought for continuing their way of life, threatened by any change being forced upon their beliefs, fearful of how such a change might affect them personally and financially. The other side fought for stopping a way of life that was cruel and denied people freedom and the lawful right to be treated with equality. This side fought for compassion and acceptance, for the nation to move forward united toward a better life for everyone.

Battles were waged, thousands upon thousands died. Cities and towns were destroyed. Land was stained with the blood of brother fighting against brother. In the end, the nation moved forward, slowly, surely, along with a hope that the loss of life was not in vain. That the country had learned to be better as a united people. That the wounds that tore the nation apart would mend and heal. Amazing strides have been taken, yet there is still more to do. Change is not easy to accept. Unfortunately, rather than deal with the present and work toward peaceful progression, some people now want to blame reminders of the past for any act of ignorance or hatred in the present.

So, do we build over Gettysburg Battlefield now? Pretend it never happened now?

Rather, isn’t it imperative to learn from the past and move forward? Remembering the past, especially for future generations, means learning about history—good and bad. In order to ensure continued growth of a country and its people, and gain perspective on the individual rights of all its citizens, as we learn from the past, so must children be educated so they can carry on the high ideals of their country. From history, individuals learn from the hard-fought principles of justice and equality, purchased with blood and sacrifice.

To ban a book, movie, or any other work of art, because it addresses a time in history that offends some, is intentionally censoring truth as well as the individual’s right to speech in the format they choose. If slavery or the Holocaust extermination of Jews during World War II are not taught in school, how do we remember those that suffered and died? What happens to truth?

There will be people (and trust me, there already are), who do not believe the Holocaust even happened.

For example, Sophie Nelisse, the talented child actress from Canada who portrayed Liesel in the powerful film, The Book Thief, admitted on a press tour that the Holocaust was not taught in her school. She had never heard about it before the book and making the film. And she voiced that she felt it was very important that young people learn about what happened. [Pictured above: The book burning scene from The Book Thief, 2013, directed by: Brian Percival; distributed by: 20th Century Fox]

When I write a historical novel, incorporating the history of the period is important to bring that time period to life – warts and all. When I read a book like Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell, or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, it brings awareness to not just how people lived, but documents the cruelty and injustice prevalent at that time. Films like To Kill A Mockingbird and Schindler’s List (both of which are based on a book) are important for the truth and light they cast on history. It would be irresponsible for a writer to NOT include that important aspect of history.

Hence, how can a person grow if they are prevented from learning the truth? What happens if books (fiction, non-fiction) or now school textbooks do not address the bad, the injustice, or anything considered not “politically correct” today? What happens if classic books are banned from summer reading lists? If teachers are handicapped from teaching the true history of their country, often reflected in literature, if that material is censored? What becomes of humanity if the struggles and battles fought, and what was learned from them, are never addressed?

Don’t we all fight struggles and battles in life? Every generation has obstacles it must overcome to move forward—hopefully. Humanity must evolve. Every generation learns from the past and improves—hopefully. But people cannot grow if they wear blinders, or put them on children. We cannot ban something because we don't like or believe what it says. And we, as a nation, cannot learn and grow about the rights of all people, regardless of their color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation if we are divisive, and close our minds and our hearts.

So, today, I felt compelled to write about the importance of history and education. Much as I love the ‘Liberty Bell’, I am looking at a much smaller bell right now. The bell [pictured] has been in my family for over 150 years, and belonged to an ancestor who was a schoolteacher in a one-room schoolhouse on the plains of Texas. Her name was Emma; she never married. She devoted her life to teaching children, and each day she would ring this bell to call her students to class. The sound of that bell to those children meant, ‘liberty’ -- a way to learn, grow, and improve their lives.

Eventually, the bell came into the possession of my widowed great-grandmother. She lived in what was then rural Dallas, in a tiny house situated between two of her daughters’ houses. One of those daughters was my grandmother. My great-grandmother would ring this bell if she needed help. She was quite elderly at the time, and they had no telephones in their homes. For my great-grandmother, that bell meant ‘liberty’ -- a means to have her voice heard.

The bell was given to my grandmother, who gave it to my mother. My mother gave it to me. So, I sit here – looking at this small bell – thinking about Emma, the spinster schoolteacher in my family tree, and her love of education and children. I think about how brave she was to endure loneliness and hardship on the almost barren frontier, dedicating her life to sharing her knowledge with children who would not have had an opportunity to attend school if she wasn’t there.

I think about my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, and all the mothers who teach their children about heritage, their personal history, and what they learned in life. How hard we try to teach our children about faith, goodness, right from wrong; to fight for what is right, to respect all people; to be polite, have manners, show kindness, and be compassionate.

For children whose families first settled on the frontier, there wasn’t even a town. There sure wasn’t a school to attend. Very often these children worked alongside their parents on the family’s farm. If they were able to learn how to read and write, it was because one of their parents had that ability. More often than not, they didn’t. Names were signed with a simple, ‘x’.

As more and more families moved west and towns were established, education and the establishment of a real school became very important. The schoolhouse, built by townspeople, symbolized an investment in the future—the future of their children, their community, and their country.

In an effort to document their history and the importance of these historic schools, there are many one-room (and two-room) schoolhouses being preserved across the country.

The Log Cabin Village located in Fort Worth, Texas has a preserved one-room schoolhouse from the 1870s. The Marine School, originally located on Commerce Street on the north side of Fort Worth, is constructed of vertically placed boards and batten.The interior of The Marine School is similar to the photograph you see pictured here, except its blackboard was not slate on an easel.

As with most schools of the 1800s, the blackboard was painted on the walls. Having a slate blackboard (or chalkboard) came with time. Paper and pencil were costly, so most schools provided students with an individual slate and chalk for work at school. Sometimes a student would have to share their slate with another student.

With regard to the interior decor of the schoolhouse, unless the town provided supplies (which was unlikely), or the teacher owned materials, i.e., maps, books (literature, history, botany, or a dictionary), portrait of George Washington, etc., that she brought with her, the classroom was not at all colorful or well supplied, but rather Spartan. The school usually had a cloakroom, as well as a wood-burning stove. Coal stoves were also used in certain areas.

Small in size, the school had one main room where children of various ages were instructed together. The grade level went from 1st grade to 8th grade, with the younger children seated closer to the teacher at the front of the room.

You may notice that I am posting several photographs of oil paintings by Homer Winslow. Apart from Winslow being one of my all-time favorite artists, his paintings document everyday life in the 1800s. Several paintings were about education.

If you are curious about the marks on the “Blackboard” painting from 1877 [pictured], they were to teach drawing to school children during the 1870s. Another interesting note is that when he signed the painting, Winslow made it look as if written in chalk.

The photograph [pictured below] is of a one-room schoolhouse from 1921. Note the simple wooden construction of the walls, and the handmade benches for the children. The older boys in the back row are reading from a book in their lap, while the younger children in the front are listening to the teacher. There is also a stove in the center of the room to provide heat. Since these simply constructed schoolhouses were not insulated at all, imagine how cold and drafty the building would get during inclement weather.

Today, there are sixty (60) one-room (and two-room) schoolhouses in Montana, still operational. The historical legacy and importance of these schools has become just as important at preserving any other historical landmark. And rightly so.

In fact, in 2013, the National Trust for Historic Preservation added Montana’s rural schoolhouses to a list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, an action that speaks volumes about the significance of these structures.

By and large, most schoolhouses resembled a simple frame construction. Depending upon the climate, and what building materials were available, they might resemble a log-cabin. The more common schoolhouses were constructed of milled wood, usually painted white. Where trees were few, the school was constructed from other materials. For example, in the Southwest, a one-room schoolhouse might be made of stone or adobe. Early schools on the plains of the Midwest were made from sod. If the town had funds for it, the school might have a school bell housed inside a cupola, or a bell mounted to the building outside the door so that the teacher could sound it every morning. More often than not, the teacher had a hand-held bell, like the one my long ago relation, Emma, owned.

Living quarters for the teacher was usually attached to the schoolhouse, or close nearby. In some townships, unmarried teachers were provided room and board with a local family. Providing the teacher with a place to live was important.

Very much like the country doctor making visits to the sick in his horse and buggy, these early rural teachers were valued, respected, indispensable members of the community. Long before the school day began at 9 am, particularly during bad weather, the teacher would light the stove so that when the children arrived—perhaps having walked a mile or more to school—the room would be warm and inviting. Some children rode a horse to school, and a paddock was nearby to secure it. If many children lived far from school, families might take turns bringing them to school by wagon. Would you call that wagon-pooling???

The students had a 15-minute morning and afternoon recess, and an hour for lunch. It was not uncommon for the teacher to prepare a soup or some hot lunch on the stove to share with her students.

Each school day ended at 4:00 p.m. Many teachers were hired from advertisements in newspapers back east, and the expense for their transportation to the township was paid by the school board or community. Often children who had received an education at their local one-room schoolhouse later taught there as adults. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about attending school and become a teacher in her books. [Pictured: Painting of ‘Snap the Whip’ by Homer Winslow, 1873]

There is much to be learned from the past, and from the lessons we've learned individually and collectively. Whether that lesson happened in a one-room schoolhouse, on a bloody battlefield, researching your family tree, making your way in the world, fighting for an important cause or hope of acceptance, watching a powerful film, or reading a book—the important thing is to keep learning.

Holding tight to our history is important. So is learning from history and moving forward to protect freedom, justice, and equality. Preserving history and learning from history are critical aspects of having Liberty. They go hand-in-hand. Perhaps we should all have a little bell to remind us that every generation has struggled, and that the freedom and opportunities we all cherish apply to everyone. A bell that resonates inside our hearts and minds when we become judgmental, to help us remember we are all connected as human beings.

As history has shown us, if the message is important enough to be heard throughout the land, the bell of justice, wisdom, and compassion might even crack. So might the struggle within us all. Even so, it may help to be reminded of the inscription from the Bible (Leviticus 25:10) on the Liberty Bell which says: “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All The Land Unto All The Inhabitants Thereof”.

[Photo Credit: Liberty Bell, Philadelphia PA - Racheal Grazias, Shutterstock.com]

My personal hope for this Fourth of July and every day is that all of us--as individuals and as a collective humanity--focus on the positive, honor the wonderful foundation of freedom and democracy given to us, yet also learn from past mistakes. Show compassion and respect toward one another--especially for our differences as human beings. I pray we can be united as a people and a country, and treat each other with respect. dignity, and acceptance.

Thanks for visiting today, and I hope you enjoyed the post. Out of respect for the other members of this blog, please be aware the comments made in this post reflect my personal opinion...which, I hope, others will share. ~ AKB

Sunday, June 28, 2015


HEY, HEY, HEY! GUESS WHAT'S HERE! It's release day for Prairie Rose Publications' latest anthology, A COWBOY CELEBRATION--and it's all about the 4th of July! Each story mentions a delectable dish (no, not the heroes!) and the recipes are included for each scrumptious item! And you will love this "explosion" of great stories, too! http://www.amazon.com/Cowboy-Celebration-Lorrie-Farrelly-ebook/dp/B00ZLY2WN8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1435334180&sr=1-1&keywords=A+Cowboy+Celebration

MORGAN'S REDEMPTION AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER--RELEASE DATE JULY 2! What starts out as a simple trip to Willow Bottoms, Texas, for supplies turns into something rancher Morgan Banning never counted on. When he hires two drifters to work at the Rocking B, he soon discovers they keep a secret that he never suspected—one of them is the most beautiful woman he’s ever met. As he tries to keep his emotions for Shaina Miller in check, danger strikes the Rocking B when a disgruntled former employee, Buck Henson, decides to exact his bloody revenge. Morgan knows he is the only man who can stop Henson and his blood-thirsty partners. He has no choice but to ride out to save three young girls who have been kidnapped, but how can he leave the Rocking B unprotected?

In a final showdown, Morgan and Shaina fight side by side to protect the ranch, their families, and the young women who have endured so much—but will it all be for nothing? They are outnumbered, out-gunned, and out of luck. Will the town of Willow Bottoms rally in time to show their true colors, and lead to MORGAN’S REDEMPTION?



Penelope Canby is happy with her life. Newly married to the man of her dreams, her world is comfortably predictable. Surrounded by familiar people and places, she can’t imagine living anywhere else—until the day her veterinarian husband decides to pursue his career halfway across the country. Thrust into life in the small town of Rio Milagro, Texas, Penelope risks losing her sense of self as she dutifully supports her husband’s dreams of life in the West. Fireworks loom on the horizon as the town prepares for its annual Fourth of July battle reenactment and barbecue. Disturbed by a local divorcee’s obvious attraction to her husband, Penelope is left to wonder whether Steve is really working late all those nights. Will she lose all she holds dear, or will Rio Milagro—Miracle River—prove to be a real home, a place of healing and new life?



IT'S HERE! You can pre-order now! CAPTURE THE NIGHT will be released on July 7, but you can order it today for your Kindle and it will magically appear on the 7th for your reading pleasure. CAPTURE THE NIGHT will also be available in print on the 7th.

Divorcee Alexa Bailey and undercover cop Johnny Logan finally find the love they have longed for as they are plunged into a hostage crisis on a Dallas hotel rooftop. The clock is ticking: Can Johnny survive a “winner-take-all” battle high above the city, or has love come too late for them both? http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01097PHXI


Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment!

Friday, June 26, 2015


What do you think of when you think of homesteading the West? I think of families or lone men. However, in Marcia Meredith Hensley’s book. STAKING HER CLAIM: WOMEN HOMESTEADING THE WEST, I learned that many lone women became homesteaders.

I read the Women of Paragon Springs series, by Irene Bennett Brown, and loved the stories of women making their way West to set up their homes. What I didn’t realize, though, was how true-to-life Ms Brown’s fictional stories were.

Paragon Springs series, book one

Ms Hensley’s book relates many women settling in Wyoming Territory. And why not? Wyoming was far ahead of the rest of America in recognizing a woman’s right to vote and other basic rights. But other stories take place in Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Idaho, Colorado, and Utah.

As you can imagine, these women set out for the West for various reasons. Some were ill-equipped for the hardships. Others flourished in their new enterprise.  Ms Hensley includes letters written back East by some of the women homesteaders telling of their experiences. Fact or fiction?

“On the whole, women who wrote about their experiences homesteading alone told positive stories. . . Although homesteading was difficult, they achieved success and had many enjoyable adventures as well. Women could do most of the work themselves, but, if necessary, they could count on help from neighbors, family, or one of the many men in the vicinity.”

Only about one in three women who homesteaded actually succeeded. In a 1921 article about her homesteading experience in Utah, Kate Keizer includes a section titled “Not All Roses” in which she cautions that for the typical homesteader without much money “the first two or three years are usually accompanied by privation and hardships.” She lists difficulties such as the high cost of freighting in supplies and having your claim contested if you were absent very long. Her greatest torments were the hordes of rabbits and prairie dogs that destroyed gardens in spite of scarecrows, guns, and poison.

Looking back on her homestead experience, Dr. Bessie Rehwinkle tempered her account of the exhilarating experience of becoming a Wyoming landowner with the admission that “it is not as easy or glamorous as the storybooks about the westward trek of the covered wagon often picture it. It is a slow process and a hard day-to-day struggle, and only the strongest are able to survive.”

The Homestead Act was in force from 1862 through 1976 (with a ten year extension for Alaska). Statistics provided by the National Homestead Monument suggest two million people attempted to earn a patent on land through the Homestead Act. Ms Hensley theorizes that 200,000 of these were women, of which 67.500 may have proved up on their claim.

I suggest reading Marcia Meredith Hensley’s book for fascinating non-fiction accounts of successful women homesteaders. For fictional accounts, nothing beats Irene Bennett Brown’s Women of Paragon Springs series: LONG ROAD TURNING, BLUE HORIZONS, NO OTHER PLACE, and REAP THE SOUTH WIND. In fact, LONG ROAD TURNING is one of my favorite books and the detail reminds me of Sweethearts' member Linda Hubalek's TRAIL OF THREAD, Trail of Thread series book one. 

True, the books are different in that LONG ROAD TURNING begins as a woman alone while TRAIL OF THREAD is a woman with a family, but the accuracy of the time period and subject matter is impressive. Both bring out the mores of the time (which favored men) and both show women determined to succeed against difficult odds. The other books in Linda's great series are THIMBLE OF SOIL and STITCH OF COURAGE.

What about you? Would you have attempted to claim your land alone?

Caroline Clemmons's latest single release is O'NEILL'S TEXAS BRIDE, available in ebook from Amazon, Apple, Nook, and Kobo and available in print from Amazon, CreateSpace, and Barnes and Noble. One of her novellas is included in the recently released box set, WILD WESTERN WOMEN RIDE AGAIN, available from Amazon for Kindle for 99 cents.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hideout and Secret Meetings by Paty Jager

After moving to Harney County we had several people ask us if we’d been to Malheur Caves. One day when we had company, we decided it was time to check out this cave only five miles down the road from us.

Never have I been some place that my writer brain started zapping ideas so fast and furious!
But to start it off, I felt my character Isabella Mumphrey in her first book Secrets of a Mayan Moon. I have a fear of bats. Yes, just like my character. And the first thing my brother-in-law said as he entered the cave, “Look, a bat.” But I wanted to see this cave so bad, I pulled the hood of my sweatshirt up and followed the beam of my light on the floor. Twenty feet in, it no longer smelled like bats and I looked up because everyone else was ooing and awing.

silver slime
The ceiling had streaks of sliver running jagged across it like lightning bolts. When I did research on the caves, I discovered the silver was cave slime. But I have yet to learn what the cave slime is made of to make it shine silver in the beams of the flashlights. 

The cave is a 3000 foot lava tube. The entrance is 8 feet high and farther in it is 20 feet high with a 1300ft long lake that is 23 feet deep.

According to local historians the first people to find and use the lake were the Paiutes of this area.  Two or three families of Paiutes used the cave to live in during the winter. When word came to the Paiutes that the Bannocks were on the war path and after women and children for slaves.  The whole Paiute band carried all their belongings and as much food as they could gather quickly and moved into the cave. Then they rolled rocks in front of the entrance. When the Bannocks discovered the hiding Paiutes, they decided to wait them out not knowing there was a fresh spring running in the cave and that the Paiutes had food. Eventually, the Bannocks left but not before firing many arrows at the rocks in front of the Cave.
Size of the cave

It took many decades before the cave was discovered by the White man. The cave is situated in such a way that unless you are approaching the entrance you would never know there was a cave. And the entrance was still mostly concealed by the rocks the Paiutes had rolled in front to protect them. They discovered many arrow heads at the entrance of the cave and as more and more archeologists came to the cave they found many useful artifacts.

The cave is 68 degrees year round.  Locals who knew of the cave would venture out on weekends. In 1924 there was a resort that led excursions to the cave. Row boats were docked on one end of the lake in the cave and people could row across to the other side and back.

Entrance from the inside
In 1938 the masons started using the cave for a yearly meeting. The land was owned by an old man who said they could hold their meetings. They built bleachers in the widest part of the cave and later installed electric lights that could hook up to a generator. When the man died the Masons continued using the cave. The relatives didn’t live in the area and let the taxes lapse.  In 1952 the Masons paid the back taxes and purchased the land from the old man’s relatives. It is now the property of the Masons, but they allow the public to enjoy the cave all year except the last weekend of August when they hold their yearly meeting.

On top of the cave.
While traipsing through the dark, looking at the walls, the ceilings, and the rocky floor my mind came up with an idea for a book with the Paiutes, a book about outlaws, and a book about a stranded family during the 1800’s. Yes, this was a wonderful place to get so many ideas!  

Monday, June 22, 2015

ROSE OF SHARON #Kindle #series Guest Author @ArlettaDawdy1

by Guest author, Arletta Dawdy

I am delighted and honored to be here with Sweethearts of the West and to acquaint you with my work and myself. I’ve enjoyed many a post here and learned much, especially about Texas! 

My stories are set in Southeast Arizona Territory which I’ve studied extensively, visited weeks and months at a time. I’ve camped on top of windy Carr Peak in the Huachuca Mountains, plowed my way through Garden Canyon seeking the petroglyphs of Fort Huachuca and learned that Wah-chew-ca is not pronounced: Oaxaca! I know something of the trails, the canyons, and the wonders of a snowy spring day there and more about the museums, the San Pedro River and the towns of Tombstone and Bisbee. 

When you read my books, you enter into a special place and time where the snake weed flourishes, the spring melt rushes and myriad hummingbirds mark a summer day.

My heroines tend to be very strong women who face major obstacles with determination, resourcefulness and courage. Josephine, the HUACHUCA WOMAN, is a businesswoman/rancher and tells her borderlands history in tales of her long life and the historic characters and events that populate it. BY GRACE briefly follows Grace’s life after she trains at the Tiffany Studio and is forced to flee west to escape a would-be killer and ends up in the Huachucas. But, it is an aspect of ROSE OF SHARON that I write of today.

Orphaned, lost and in need of family, Rose of Sharon finds hope only to lose it again with the mental illness of her new mother, an attempted murder, a painful inter-racial love affair and abandonment. Rose’s paranormal and writing gifts set her apart as she faces her life trials. Precocious in all aspects of her life, including in her love of White Buffalo Abraham Douglass, she struggles against all that would isolate her.

Daring to write of another culture or racial identity calls on the author to research carefully, mindful of gaps in history and accuracy, especially when going back to another era where documentation may be scant or prejudicial. I have done this in each of the three books of the trilogy and had the least pre-knowledge when it came to the Chiricahua Apaches. I wrote of Geronimo in the first book, studied the history of the white man’s intrusion into the area and its impact and followed them through the loss of their lands, culture, lives and transplant to the wretched environs of Floridian swamps. 

White Buffalo, Aunty and a few others, I decided, would escape from the round-up at San Carlos reservation to the north and hide out in the land of Cochise in the Dragoons. While I didn’t find any historical evidence of Chiricahuas in the Huachucas, I exercised my literary license and placed them there. 

In the following excerpt, Rose and White Buffalo meet when she discovers him sitting under the classroom window in 1890; she is 10 and he is about 14:

“So, what’s your name?” Rose finished her half-sandwich and dug the carrots out of her pail.

“Which name you want? I got at least three.”

“How come so many?” Rose handed him a couple of carrot sticks, but didn’t want to share her pie. Nobody, not even her real mama, made pie crust as sweet and crispy good as Mama Elise.

 “I have my Apache name, my Nigra name and my white name. Can’t many men claim so much in their history, or girls either.” The boy looked around furtively, as if afraid for anyone to see them together.

“That’s true. I’m only white but I’m American with some Scot blood in me. Least I think so.”

“What is this ‘Scot’? Sure you don’t mean scout like they’s got at Fort Huachuca?”

“No, silly, the Scots come from across the seas a long, long time ago.”

 “Maybe you’s Nigra, too. We come from across the sea.”

“Ain’t not and don’t you go sayin’ so or I won’t be your friend.” Rose’s dander was truly up now.  “What’s your three-peoples name, anyway?”

“I’m White Buffalo Abraham Douglass. The Apache calls me White Buffalo. That’s what my mother’s family named me. My father was a light-colored Buffalo Soldier, part white. So, I’m named Abraham for that white president that freed the slaves. Douglass is for a famous darkie. My pa’s folks took that name when they was freed.”

“Were freed.” Rose corrected him.


“When he was, when they were. You got to talk right.”

“And I want to, but you are losing me,” the boy laughed quietly.

“You talk as if your father isn’t around anymore.” Rose wanted to go around the tree, the better to see just what this White Buffalo looked like.

“That’s the God’s honest truth…”

 “Shame, don’t you be takin’ the Lord’s name in vain.” She stood up and started to walk around the tree, but thought better of it.

“What’s this lord?”

“Don’t you know nothing?” Rose stretched farther around the tree, but still couldn’t see him. She let out an annoyed “harrumph,” and re-settled on her side of the oak.

“I know how to trap a rabbit, hunt a deer, heal a wound, chase a Mex across the border…”

“Okay, okay. You know lots of stuff except about God, the Maker of all things.”

White Buffalo looked down at his Levi-clad legs,  stuck one leg out for her to see and asked, “What’s the god that made these?”

“Now you’re just being ornery. I’m talkin’ about the God in heaven who watches over us.” She threw a dirt clod toward him.

 “Hey!” he let out. They were both quiet for a short while. “Somethin’ you know that I don’t,” the boy said, “is to read and write.”

“I know you been sittin’ under the window of a morning, listening to our lessons.”

“Yeah, I heard that story about how Columbus discovered America. Funny thing is, us Indians been here forever so how come Columbus to discover what was already known?”

“It means the people in Europe didn’t know, I guess.” She paused to think about that. “What else you been learning?”

“Sums come easy. I look at the board when I can and work the numbers in the dirt pretty good. And I got the alphabet, but I dunno what to do with it. Maybe you can teach me?”

“Maybe so.”

They both heard the bell sounding the end of recess. Rose stood and dusted the dirt from her dress and apron, gathered up her pail and notebook and, without a whisper to her new friend, ran back to class. She heard a crow squawk and wondered if it was White Buffalo.

The love affair between Rose and White Buffalo has no future; it is doomed from the start, reluctantly acknowledged by each, but in the process magic happens between them and a child is conceived.  Nearly nine years later, White Buffalo sheds his Apache identity and heads to New Orleans, where he is hopeful of making a life for the two of them. 

For Rose, it is another abandonment until Aunty comes to assist Rose in birthing Abigail Feather Welty in the Apache tradition. With Rose squatting on her knees, and holding onto a post, Aunty uses antelope sage bathing waters to massage the young mother as she chews salted bits of yucca to hurry the process along. 

Rose of Sharon’s family continues to evolve.

Praise for Rose of Sharon: “…a delightful, wonderfully imagined prequel to Grapes of Wrath;”   “Characters are born out of the fabric of their landscape;” “…brilliantly crafted descriptive passages.”

Author Arletta Dawdy

Arletta Dawdy lives and writes in Northern California but her heart is in the Old West, especially in the Arizona Territory of the late 19th century and early 20th. The Huachuca Trilogy is comprised of Huachuca Woman, By Grace and Rose of Sharon. All are available on Amazon.com, Kindle and by order from your favorite bookstore.

Also on Facebook and Twitter (ArlettaDawdy1)

SOURCES: Morris Edward Opler, An Apache Way of Life
H. Henrietta  Stockel, Women of the Apache Nation,Chiricahua Apache Women                   and Children, and with Bobette Perrone and Victoria Krueger, Medicine Women, Curanderas, and Women Doctors


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Galveston, “Yellow Jack” & UT Medical Branch

Back in late February, hubby and I visited Galveston to research the setting for my new release, Decoding Michaela (Romancing the Guardians, Book Two). On our first day there, we took an historical tour of the oldest part of the city and lunched at Fisherman’s Wharf, a wonderful seafood restaurant on the bay side of the island. Seated next to the windows, we admired the tall ship Elissa, a restored 1877 three-masted barque moored close by, outside the Texas Seaport Museum.

Photo 1 taken by sailor in U.S. Navy, in public domain; Photo 2 taken by author's husband

The day was cold and windy, so we passed up going aboard the ship, although my ever-helpful mate did snap several shots of her. Then we toured the museum, watched a fascinating video detailing the Elissa’s restoration, and purchased several books in the gift shop. One, Galveston A History by David G. McComb, was recommended by our historical tour guide, and it’s excellent.

While I haven’t yet read the whole book, being occupied with writing, one part caught my attention. (See why below.) In a chapter titled “The Oleander City” I came across several pages devoted to the scourge of “Yellow Jack” (yellow fever) and how the prestigious University of Texas Medical Branch came to be located on the island.

Yellow fever plagued our southern coastal cities in earlier times. New Orleans, Galveston and Houston suffered many terrible epidemics. In 1839, virtually everyone in the city of Galveston took sick with the fever. Symptoms ranged from chills, fever, headache, body aches, nervousness and jaundice to severe vomiting and coma. In the last stages, victims threw up “black vomit” caused by internal bleeding, usually resulting in death. One-fifth to one-forth of victims died. Survivors were henceforth immune to the disease.

Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito; note white
markings on its legs and thorax
Yellow fever is carried by a certain type of mosquito, but this was not discovered until the early 20th century, thanks to experiments conducted in Cuba by U.S. Army physician Major General Walter Reed and colleagues. Prior to then, doctors believed the fever was spread by contact with clothing and bedding soiled by victims.

Major General Walter Reed, ca. 1901; in public domain

Treatments included confinement to bed, mustard baths for the feet and plasters on the stomach, cold compresses on the forehead, moderate food, warm tea and “no busybodies in the room.” Hmm, that last one might make the sufferer feel better for a little while. You think?

“Burning tar fumigated the city, grass filled with small green frogs grew rank on the Strand [a main street], and ringing of church bells for the deceased was so constant that it irritated the sick and living.” One resident “observed the beds of the dying drawn close to open windows—white faces with cracked ice to cool them, moaning, raving, shrieking, vomiting, and a strong, sickle smell of yellow fever mixed with the heavy, sweet odor of oleanders.” ~McComb

Red oleander; I have one in my backyard. It's gorgeous!

Eventually, quarantine was recognized as the best way to halt the spread of an outbreak. Mosquitoes spread the disease by ingesting blood from an infected human and passing on the virus to the next person they bite. By quarantining affected people, the spread was stopped. However, harsh measures were often necessary to prevent panicked Galvestonians from fleeing the island when cases of Yellow Jack popped up. Armed militiamen stopped trains carrying terrified citizens across the bay to the mainland. All transport of goods and people between New Orleans and the island was halted, angering merchants but saving lives. The same applied to other cities. Yellow fever deaths in Galveston decreased from hundreds or thousands in earlier epidemics to only seven in 1873. From then on both Texas and Louisiana employed strict quarantines.

 According to McComb, it was Galveston’s comparatively high disease rates “which brought to it the city’s most prestigious institution, the University of Texas Medical Branch.” A key player in this accomplishment was Ashbel Smith. Called “Old Ashbarrel” behind his back, Smith was a small man with strong opinions and a hot temper. He studied medicine at Yale and in Paris, came to Texas shortly after the revolution (Texas’s of course) and became the Republic’s first surgeon general. He served in the Texas legislature, fought in the War with Mexico and was wounded fighting for the Confederacy in the Battle of Shiloh.

Statue of Ashbel smith in Baytown, his home across
 Galveston Bay form the island

A colleague of Smith's, Greensville Dowell, helped start Galveston Medical College in 1865, but the college faltered due to trouble between Dowell and the faculty. Smith helped his friend reorganize the school into the Texas Medical College in 1873. He was a trustee for the University of Texas and president of the Texas State Medical Association. As cities competed for the colleges, he argued before the legislature in favor of Galveston because "the Island City possessed size, wealth, opportunity to study diseases, noble citizens, and a school already in operation." Students needed practical experience as well as theoretical learning, he stressed, and Galveston offered that.

Opponents argued that the island was too vulnerable to hurricanes and the Texas Medical College didn't amount to much. However, the small private college graduated eight newly minted doctors in 1880, and the Galveston Daily News boasted, "No city in the south possesses better hospital accommodations and a greater diversity of diseases than Galveston."

In October 1881 Texans voted to locate the UT Medical campus in Galveston. Construction of the Ashbel Smith Medical Building was begun in 1890. John Sealy Hospital opened that same year, and the medical school -- now affectionately known as "Old Red" because of its exterior of red brick, red Texas granite columns and sandstone embellishments -- began operation in 1891.

Ashbel Smith Medical Building, photo from Wikipedia commons

 Since opening its doors, the medical school has grown from one building with 23 students and 13 faculty members to a modern health science center with more than 70 buildings, over 2,500 students and more than 1,000 faculty members. We were unable to see Old Red for ourselves because it is now completely surrounded by the sprawling complex, and I was not up to walking into the center of the maze. But I found the above photo online. Isn't the architecture magnificent?

So, why was I so interested in the history and of UT Medical Branch? Because the heroine of Decoding Michaela did her residency there and practices her specialty, psychiatry, on the island.

Now let me introduce you to Michaela and her wannabe hero, Dev Medina.

Peterson lived in Galveston’s historic East End, where nineteenth century architecture harked back to the island’s heyday. Some of the Victorian homes – Painted Ladies he’d heard them called because of their many colors – were of average size, others he would call mansions. All were ornate and pricey, meaning the doc must be doing okay, no surprise for a doctor, Dev supposed.
Familiar with the area, it didn’t take him long to find the right house. He parked out front and looked the place over. Raised on stilts or blocks like most buildings on the island after the deadly hurricane of 1900, it was two stories high but not very wide, with only a few yards separating it from neighboring homes.
Dev assumed the house had suffered flood damage in Hurricane Ike, but the owner had obviously seen to its repair. Painted light tan with darker tan and green trim, decked out with fancy Victorian gingerbread, and framed by palm trees and oleanders, the place was picture-perfect.
Striding up the pavestone walk, he climbed a flight of steps to the front door and pressed the buzzer. Nervous because he still didn’t know exactly what he would say to the doctor, he stuffed both hands in his pants pockets and waited. Within seconds, he heard footsteps approach inside. The door opened to reveal a stout woman with tan skin and graying hair combed tightly back from her round face. A dark blue dress outlined her matronly form.
“Can I help you, señor?
“Yes ma’am, I’m here to see Dr. Peterson. I phoned earlier.”
“Ah, sí, I remember. The doctor came home a few minutes ago only. I do not think –”
“Who is it, Bianca?” a woman called from somewhere within. Her voice sounded familiar.
“It is a man who called before, señora.”
Dev heard high heels clicking on a tile floor. The housekeeper – he assumed that’s who she was – stepped aside. A tall woman walked out of the shadows and Dev stopped breathing. It was Mickie, his golden goddess! Instead of a sarong, she now wore a black cocktail dress that hugged her shapely figure then flared out below her hips, ending a few inches above her knees, showing off long, gorgeous legs. She looked sophisticated and every bit as beautiful as on the beach.
“You!” she blurted, halting a few feet away, light eyes wide with surprise. “Did you follow me?”
Dev released his breath. “No ma’am. I’m here to see Dr. Peterson.” He paused to clear his raspy throat. “I had no idea I’d find you here.”
She frowned. “Do you have an appointment?”
“Uh, no, but I need to speak to him, the doctor, I mean.”
Her lips quirked upward and she made a strangled sound, like suppressed laughter. “Oh, you do, do you?”
“Yeah, it’s urgent. Are you his wife?” He sure hoped not. “Can you give him a message for me?”
Her half-smile faded. “No, I am not his wife and I won’t take a message. If you really need to see the doctor, call the office on Monday and make an appointment.” She started to shut the door but Dev grabbed the edge of it and stopped her.
“I said this is urgent. It can’t wait ’til Monday.”
“Let go of the door!” she demanded, angry color flooding her cheeks.
“Un-uh. Is the doc here? Tell him I must speak to him. Now.”
She glared ice-cold daggers at him. “I am the doc!” she said through gritted teeth. “And I demand you let go of my door!”
Stunned, Dev nearly lost his hold. “You’re Dr. Michael Peterson?”
“No, you dunderhead! I’m Dr. Michaela Peterson. Now release this door and leave right now, or I will call the police.”
“Ah, hell!” Feeling like a damn fool, Dev sighed and shook his head. “I’m sorry, ma’am, I mean Dr. Peterson. I got the code wrong. I missed the ‘A’ at the end of your name.”
She stopped shoving at the door but continued to scowl at him. “Code? What code? What are you talking about?”
“The code Lara Spenser had me decipher. I’m here to deliver a message for her.”
The doc’s fine golden brows lifted. “I don’t know any Lara Spenser,” she said uncertainly.
Dev frowned, wondering if she was playacting because she didn’t trust him. Then it dawned on him that Spenser might be an alias Lara was using to conceal her true identity. “Maybe not, but you do know her uncle,” he replied. “Or you did. His name was Malcolm Flewellen.”
She sucked in her breath audibly. “Did you say was?”
“Yes ma’am. He was killed in a car accident several months ago.”
“Oh no!” Color drained from her face. Releasing the door, she staggered off balance and sagged against the entry wall.
“Hey, easy there!” Alarmed, Dev threw the door wide open, stepped inside and gripped her arms. “Don’t go fainting on me."

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