Friday, June 30, 2017


By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky

Every life has a story.

The story may be riddled with tragedy, challenges that often seem insurmountable, or shine with steadfast love and unshakeable faith.

Life is a journey for all of us, and we know not at its beginning where the road will take us. History has recorded famous lives, but very often the everyday man or woman has no biographer. Yet within their lives were moments of joy, laughter, love, hardship, courage, sacrifice, inspiration, and perseverance.

If not, how many of us would be here now?

Depending upon what part of the country one called home, whether an individual was wealthy or poor, the color of their skin, or simply a person’s gender, many life stories have been lost over time. Some, however, were preserved, passed down by oral history among family until such time (in the distant future) when the telling and re-telling reached a larger audience.

As an author of historical fiction and a person long fascinated with history, very often while doing research I come upon someone’s story that is so compelling it not only stays with me, but inspires my work. In this instance, however, I also find that as a woman (someone’s daughter, sister, wife, and mother), I relate very strongly to a woman who cared little for her own safety and who risked everything for someone she loved.

One such life is the subject of this post.

Picture this. You are in Montana Territory on June 17th, 1876. During a fierce battle between Cheyenne and Lakota Indians against the US Army, Chief Crazy Horse ordered his warriors to retreat. As the braves did so, a Cheyenne woman suddenly rode out on the battlefield. She had seen someone who could not retreat; one wounded and now forgotten. Known as Chief Comes in Sight, that warrior was her brother. With US Cavalry rifles firing at her, Buffalo Calf Road Woman raced onto the battlefield. Imagine the courage. The focus! Despite Army gunfire, she managed to reach down from her horse, pull her brother up, and brought him off the battlefield to safety.

[Picture Credit: By Lookoo - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,]

As the Cheyenne witnessed their tribeswoman's courage, they surged with renewed determination and returned to the battlefield, defeating General George Crook and his men.

Thereafter, among the Cheyenne, the Battle of the Rosebud was referred to as “The Fight Where the Girl Saved Her Brother”. Buffalo Calf Road Woman was henceforth known as “Brave Woman” among her people.

Yet there is more to Brave Woman than her valiant actions in saving her wounded brother. Eight days later, during the Battle of Little Big Horn on June 25-26, 1876, she also fought alongside her husband, Black Coyote.

The Lakota, Arapaho, and Northern Cheyenne had joined forces to fight the US Army’s 7th Cavalry Regiment. Not only was Brave Woman a participant in what has since become known as Custer’s Last Stand, history of the battle released publicly in 2005 by the Cheyenne revealed that it was Brave Woman (aka Buffalo Calf Road Woman) who “struck the blow that knocked Custer off his horse before he died.”

It should be noted there were other women who reportedly fought at the Battle of Little Big Horn. One Who Walks With The Stars was the Lakota wife of Crow Dog. While rounding up horses by the river, she fought and killed two soldiers.

Pretty Nose [pictured], an Arapaho woman and a War Chief also fought during Battle. So did a Hunkpapa Sioux woman named Moving Robe Woman, fighting alongside her father, in place of her brother who had been killed previously by Custer’s Army.

At a time when one’s home was being systematically attacked, where one’s people were being killed or displaced, it is interesting to note that there were women who rode beside the men and fought.

The interpretation of history has many points of views. Yet what documentation has shown is that the Native Americans were being displaced (or robbed) from their lands. Lands they held long before there were any white men in the West. It is tragic to think that peace could not be attained where the white man and the Indians could live in trust and respect.

So, what prompted the Battle of the Rosebud? The Battle of Little Big Horn?

In a nutshell, the Lakota and North Cheyenne (of which Brave Woman belonged), were given a reservation including the Black Hills in Dakota Territory AND a large area in what later became Wyoming and Montana. These lands were pledged in the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868.

Additionally, the lands were promised for the exclusive use of the Indians. Non-Indians were forbidden to trespass. However, officials of the US Government could. This "official" entitlement, in retrospect, should have been a red flag regarding the strength and/or sincerity of the US Government with regard to the Treaty.

Naturally, in 1874, when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, the Government wanted to “buy” the land back. Not only did they want to buy the land, the government ordered ALL the Lakota and Cheyenne to come to the Agency office on January 31 to “negotiate” the sale.

Understandably, some did not want to sell their land. Yet when they did not show up on the deadline date, the US Government took military action to force Chief Sitting Bull, Chief Crazy Horse and their people onto the reservation. Like wild mustangs they were to be denied the freedom of their rightful treaty lands and detained like prisoners on the reservation.

United States military action began with the Battle of Powder River in March 1876. Make no mistake, the objective of the US Cavalry was to find, attack, and force non-complying Indians onto the reservation; to not only repeal their rights to their Treaty lands but further restrict their freedom. Skirmishes ensued, leading up to the Battle of the Rosebud where a young Cheyenne woman named Buffalo Calf Road Woman rode alone onto a battlefield to save her brother.

There was victory that day for her and the Cheyenne.

Yet, as we know from history, there would be no lasting victory for the Cheyenne, the Arapaho, the Lakota, or other Native American nations.

[Pictured: Southern Cheyenne Reservation, c1880]

Brave Woman and her husband, along with their two children, eventually surrendered to the US Government. Along with other Northern Cheyenne, they were sent to live on the Southern Cheyenne Reservation in what is now Oklahoma.

However, in September 1878, she left the reservation with her family, wanting to return to their true home in Montana. On the journey, an argument occurred. Her husband shot and killed a Cheyenne chief named Black Crane. What instigated this event remains unclear. Still, as a result, Black Coyote, Brave Woman, and their family (now totaling eight people) were banished from the Cheyenne band led by Little Wolf.

When her husband, Black Coyote, and two other Cheyenne warriors attacked two US soldiers, killing one, the family was hunted down by the Army. They were captured on April 5, 1879. Separated from her husband, Brave Woman was taken to Miles City, Montana. (Ironically, the county seat for Custer County today.) Meanwhile, Black Coyote and the two other Cheyenne men were tried and convicted of murder. They were scheduled to be executed in June 1879. Sadly, in May, Brave Woman died from diphtheria in Miles City. When her husband learned of her death, Black Coyote hanged himself.

What became of their children and whether or not they have descendants living today, I do not know. What we do know is that Brave Woman and the other women who fought at Little Big Horn clearly dispel the Hollywood image that Native American women were nothing more than subservient squaws who performed menial female duties i.e., preparing meals, clothing, and caring for children and the home (or tipi) itself. They were skilled horsewomen and fighters, just as protective of their home, family, and heritage as the men…and they were willing to die for what they believed, if need be.

Every life has a story.
[Pictured: Cheyenne woman and child.]

Sadly, more often than not, they do not always end well. Still, much can be said for courage, and perseverance against all odds.

Although Brave Woman did not live a long life; it is estimated she was only 28 or 29 when she died, we do know that the Arapaho War Chief who also fought at Little Big Horn did live a long life.

Relocated to the Wind River Indian Reservation in western Wyoming, Pretty Nose lived to be 101 years old. Her grandson served with the United States Marines during the Korean War, and returned to the reservation. He was a tribal elder of the Arapaho. Pretty Nose died in 1952, having lived long enough to see her grandson return from the war after fighting for his country. [Pictured: Cheyenne woman and child.]

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you enjoyed reading about Buffalo Calf Road Woman known among her people as "Brave Woman". ~ AKB

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


What was the worst writing advice you ever received? Is there any such animal as “bad writing advice”? Not according to novelist and screenwriter Chuck Wendig. "There's only advice that works for you and advice that doesn't."

Is that true? Sometimes it seems, as writers, we can get so caught up in “the rules” that we forget the story and how to tell it. We become frustrated, and it can be downright maddening to try to remember every piece of advice from every writing source we’ve ever come across and tried to use properly.

Translating our ideas into language is one way of looking at our writing process, but how do we start? I have to admit, I am truly a ‘pantser’, not a ‘plotter’—which is really out of character for me in every other aspect of my life. But somehow, orchestrating everything to an outline and strictly adhering to that brings out the rebel in me. I just can’t do it—and I’ve tried. Here’s an example of the differences from Richard Nordquist’s “” publication on writing:

In his essay "Getting Started," John Irving writes, "Here is a useful rule for beginning: Know the story--as much of the story as you can possibly know, if not the whole story--before you commit yourself to the first paragraph." Irving has written far more novels than I. Clearly he knows what works for himself in a way that I don't always for myself, but this seems to me terrible advice. I'm more inclined to E.L. Doctorow's wisdom. He once wrote that writing . . . is like driving at night: You don't need to see the whole road, just the bit of illuminated blacktop before you.
(Debra Spark, "The Trigger: What Gives Rise to the Story?" Creating Fiction, edited by Julie Checkoway. Writer's Digest Books, 1999)

Yes. That’s what I do. I don’t always see the entire big picture, and I don’t need to from the very beginning. But I do see more than “just the bit of illuminated blacktop”—in other words, the immediate “coming up next” section of the story. So I guess I’m in category #3—Swiss cheese author—I know the basics of what’s going to happen, but even so, there are a LOT of little (and big!) surprises along the way.

Nope. Neither is this one...And by the way, this anthology held the #1 western slot at Amazon for a few days a few years back, and contains my short story IT TAKES A MAN, which was a Western Fictioneers Peacemaker nominee in the Best Short Fiction Category for 2013

Aside from being on one side of the “plotter/pantser” fence and being told you’re wrong by the other side, what is the worst writing advice you’ve ever had? You don’t have to say who gave it to you—but I’m curious…what was it? And do you agree with the idea that there is no bad writing advice, just “advice that works for you and advice that doesn’t”? Bring on the comments and opinions! The worst writing advice I ever received? “Try to write an Amish romance. That’s what’s 'hot' now…” (from an agent). What’s yours?

No. It's not an Amish Romance...

For some great reading, stop by Prairie Rose Publications here:

or take a look here at Painted Pony Books for reading for young and older alike:

Monday, June 26, 2017


Researching for the books I write leads me down interesting trails. I have to admit I'm guilty of meandering off the topic. I can’t resist learning more about the Old West. Today I’ve been looking at home photos for another book. I needed a nice one to put on Pinterest, but came across intriguing information on sod houses.

Victorian home in Pacific Grove, California
from Deposit Photo

Some things about modern houses are consistent: indoor plumbing, electricity, air-conditioning, central heating, windows, and doors that seal. This list is of things that are important to me and probably to you. Consider the pioneers moving west and making their home from whatever the land offered them. They were so eager for a fresh start and their own land that they endured many hardships. Entire families crowded into homes the size of a room. How hopeful of the future they must have been. 

Log cabin in the woods

Paintings usually show early settlers living in a log cabin. That wasn't necessarily accurate. Where I mostly lived growing up was Lubbock in West Texas. There were no trees. Well, now there are trees because residents have planted them, but the land was pretty bare when Anglos arrived—except in the canyons where there was water.


The first Anglos to settle in America’s massive Great Plains would have had to live in tents, covered wagons, or sod houses. I’ve seen sod houses, or soddies, in museums, but I’ve never seen one in which someone was living. They could be dug into a hill (called a "dugout"). Another style was partly dug and then built up from about three or feet (see photo above). This makes me think there would be trouble when it rained. One style was where the home was completely dug and then a roof was added as in the photo below. Another style was built on top of the ground from cut sod. From what I’ve researched, there were numerous problems with all of them.

Dugout with real roof
This one appears thoughtfully-constructed

Imagine eating dinner in a soddie and having a snake drop onto the table. Euww! I read of this happening while someone was visiting a family in a soddie. The matriarch speared the snake, dispatched, and continued the meal as if nothing had happened. I suppose she was used to this happening, but the visitor was shocked.

Some soddies were lined with cheesecloth to prevent that sort of uninvited guest. I’ve read tales of people watching bugs crawl inside the cheesecloth. Euww again!

Soddie in Kansas
There are six in the photo and
another sod home in the background. I wonder
how many live in that tiny house.
Folks occasionally whitewashed the inside of the soddie to limit falling dust and brighten the interior. Unfortunately, the whitewash was made primarily of slaked lime and chalk. Many people were allergic to the substance.

I suspect people with allergies didn’t last long in that environment. One of the stories from my ancestors includes that of a boy whose asthma turned into pneumonia and the family had to move him into a tent outside the sod house. He survived and the family eventually was able to afford a typical frame home.

Sod home taking advantage of the rolling prairie

The elaborateness of the sod home varied due to the builders. Some were made of sod formed into bricks and constructed into a fairly stable structure. Most were simple and—to my mind—unsatisfactory. However, I have read accounts stating they were cool in summer and snug in winter. Compared to the later hastily thrown up wooden homes, perhaps they were better.

In our family is the story of one of my relatives and his brother staying in a boarding house one winter. They weren’t that far from home but had stopped due to strong wind and a coming snowstorm in which they were afraid to travel at night. The sturdy female owner brought them the thickest duvet they’d ever seen. The brothers told her they really didn’t need that because of the blankets. The woman told them they would before morning. Sure enough, when they woke the next morning, they were dusted with snow that had blown through the cracks in the walls and around the windows. There was even snow on their eyelashes. Hmmm, maybe a soddie would have been warmer. ☺

Dugout on the Oklahoma PrairieDo you suppose all six and the baby live in that home?
(courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society)

A friend told of her great-grandmother Jane living in a soddie. While Jane’s sons and husband were working in the field out of sight, two bulls got into a fight on the roof. Dust drifted down into the home and she feared the animals would fall through. They didn’t but that must have been a terrifying event for a lone woman with two small girls to protect. In fact, being an early settler must have been an ordeal that required grit and resourcefulness every day.

Apparently, the sod bricks were durable

I don’t know how you feel, but I’m grateful for my mid-twentieth-century-built brick home. The weather outside is hot, but here at the computer in my little pink writing cave, I’m cool and comfortable. Electricity provides for the climate controlled interior, the computer, and the music playing while I write. Hero has brought me my favorite beverage, a Cherry Dr Pepper, in my favorite glass (you see why I call him Hero). 

I positively love writing and reading about the Old West, but I’m so glad I live today instead of then!

Caroline Clemmons is an award winning and Amazon bestselling author who lives in North Central Texas cowboy country with her Hero and their menagerie of rescued pets. Her latest release is LORRAINE, book 6 in the Bride Brigade series.

Coming July 15 is SNARE HIS HEART, book 5 of the Loving A Rancher series for Debra Holland’s Montana Sky Series at Kindle World.

Check out her Amazon author page and her website at Sign up for her newsletter and receive a FREE novella, HAPPY IS THE BRIDE.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Cowboys, Animals, and Romance by Paty Jager

Men who take up jobs that deal with animals can find themselves in less than heroic situations a good deal of the time. Yet, seeing a man deal with animals and children without losing their tempers, can also be an endearing quality for a hero.

You'll find six such heroes in the 6 novella contemporary western box set, Cowboy Six Pack

Each of the stories has a hero in a job that requires them to deal with animals and in many cases, feisty or ornery women. ;) 

To Steal a Cowboy’s Heart by Kari Lynn Dell has a hero who is a rodeo announcer. Here is the tagline -  Rule #1: when undercover, never get personal. He’s the exception she can’t afford…or resist. If lying is your job, is true love possible?

In Cowboy Courtship by Allison Merritt the hero is an auctioneer, running his family's auction yard. Here is the tagline -  Despite work-place trauma and domestic drama, Dean and London might be able to overcome any relationship trouble with a little patience and a sweet cowboy courtship.

Changing a Cowboy's Tune by Stephanie Berget uses a past relationship to spark the attention of the hero who has come home to help out with the family ranch. Here's the tagline -  After years apart, can the barrel racer and her cowboy see past their own dreams and cultivate a life they both love?

Catch the Rain by Paty Jager has a hero who is a veterinarian. A city boy who loved the country when visiting his grandparents in the summer and set up practice in a rural community. Here is the tagline -  Zach MacDonald, the new veterinarian in town, sees in stable hand, Kitty Baxter, more than she sees in herself.

Broken Vows by Melissa Keir has a cowboy turned big city firefighter. Tagline -  Distance causes problems for Rick and Julie. It turns their world upside down. When Julie puts her foot down, will Rick make the right choice or will their vows break?

Cowboy Wrecked by D’Ann Lindun has an injured bull rider as the hero. Tagline -  Can a schoolteacher who wants nothing more than a family of her own and a bull rider unable to father children find a way to build a life together.

This collection of novellas are all well worth the read for $.99!

Every woman loves a six-pack! Six sexy cowboy stories sure to make you swoon as they ride, rope and two-step into your heart!

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 30+ novels, novellas, and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award for her Action Adventure and received the EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Western Romance and a RONE for her Murder Mystery. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
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