Monday, February 20, 2012

LITTLE WOLF & DULL KNIFE GO HOME

In 1878 the Northern Cheyenne left the Indian Nation, broke out, I should say, because going off reservation was forbidden. Leaders Dull Knife (Morning Star) and Little Wolf led the small party north, pursued by soldiers who would pick off stragglers wherever they could. For six moons (months) they traveled by foot. There is in all mankind a desire to "go home." It was more so ingrained then than now, for too many people were taken from their homes by force, rather than leaving by choice.

This was the story of the Northern Cheyenne. All they wanted was to return to their home in the land of the yellow stone. What we today call Yellowstone Park. But the whites wanted all Indians contained on reservations which they had chosen for these "savages." What is today Oklahoma was not a good substitute for their home, no more than it was for the Cherokee, Osage and other tribes deposited there by force.

Little Wolf wanted peace, had not led his people in battle against the white man except once, and only once,  and that was to avenge the attack and massacre of his people at Sand Creek in 1865. Yet, fighting had occurred around their homeland and the surviving Cheyenne were herded south to Indian Territory after what the white soldiers termed an uprising following Sand Creek.

Gathered in this alien place, they soon began to go hungry because supplies promised were not forthcoming. Army contractors made millions out of all the starvation flights of 1877 and 1878, as Congress cut appropriations below treaty stipulations. The "Beautiful People" longed for their homeland, Among those who began the long trek under the leadership of Little Wolf and Dull Knife was Buffalo Calf Road, the Cheyenne warrior woman who had charged her horse into the horrendous battle at Rosebud (Little Big Horn) to save her brother. Many young people traveled with them as well, for they were the tribe's future. One young man I found interesting, and his presence kicked off my research and writing of Stone Heart's Woman. This was a light-haired boy called Yellow Swallow, the Cheyenne son of General Custer, who by then had been slain.

It was known among the people that Custer was fond of lying with the Cheyenne and Sioux women, while he spent his daylight hours killing members of both tribes. Women claimed that Yellow Swallow was not his only prodigy. This gave me a hero, one born of this brutal white General and a Northern Cheyenne woman. Raised white under his father's tutelage, one day he would be torn apart by the two worlds to which he belonged.

And so the stage was set when the people reached Fort Robinson only to be attacked in a horrible battle that would kill and wound many, including my hero Stone Heart, who had joined his mother's people in their struggle to return home. They would fight to the death rather than be sent back. And there my story begins.

                                                    Little Wolf & Dull Knife (Morning Star)
Stone Heart's Woman was released February 17 to Ebooks and is also available in paperback. To order this and other of my Ebooks, check out my Kindle Page. If you purchase and read any of my books, would you be so kind as to write a review on Amazon? Thank you so much for reading my work.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

EXCERPT IMAGES IN SCARLET


The man lay across the trail on his back, one arm curled above his head, the other crooked over his chest. He looked so peaceful he might have been asleep. A long-legged bay mare waited patiently nearby, as if she were used to such unusual antics.
Allie reined in the mules. With a deep ditch on one side of the road, an incline on the other, she couldn't drive around him. He could be dead, shot maybe. Or it might be a trap, someone else waiting in the bushes to spring out at her. Wrapping the fistful of leather reins around the brake handle, she hopped down and studied the man.
He hadn't even twitched.
Beneath the duster, a Navy Colt hung heavy on her belt. She tucked the coat back to clear the butt of the revolver and glanced around cautiously. Ringo, her spirited palomino stallion, pawed up dust and tugged at the line that held him to the back of the wagon. Clearly he liked the looks of that fine mare.
"Hush up, you randy old stud," she said, and approached the man with caution.
His chest rose and fell in the rhythm of sleep. No blood, no visible bullet holes. No one else around. She eyed him once again, shrugged. If he wanted to sleep in such a strange place that was his business, but blocking the road was not.
Expecting bandits to spring out of nowhere, she took another quick look around. A light wind stirred the early spring leaves; the only other sound was the swishing of the animals' tails. She hunkered down, shoved her Stetson back with a thumb, skinned off one glove and touched his forehead. A sheen of sweat there, but he felt cool.
He didn't move.
In repose, he had a pleasant face. Fine dark brows, gently sculptured cheekbones and a high-bridged nose. A battered brown felt hat lay smashed under one shoulder, ebony hair powdered with dust spread around his head in waves. He was beautiful in a wicked sort of way, a little gaunt, as if he hadn't eaten much lately, or slept.
Despite the frustration of the moment, she grinned. He was certainly making up for that. For a while longer confusion kept her from acting.
The truth was, she didn't know quite what to do. She didn't need the trouble this might bring. Let someone else come along and help him out, if he needed help. Maybe he was just a bit strange and liked to sleep in odd places. She could go back a ways, get off the road and bypass him. Leaving him lying in the middle of the trail like this didn't seem right.
Ahead, the mare moved uncertainly, eyed the rambunctious stallion, then trotted off, eyes rolling. She was clearly not in the mood for romance, even if Ringo was. If the mare ran off, she would be faced with yet another dilemma. Worse to leave a man afoot and lying across the trail than to simply leave him and his horse to their own weird business.
Despite her inclination to escape the situation, she stomped back to the wagon for a canteen of water. "The last thing you need, Allie Caine, is some stray to take care of." She untied the bandanna from around her neck and returned to the slumbering man, still grumbling under her breath. When she knelt beside him, he made a small noise down in his throat that startled her, brought her up short. She waited. He slept on, and finally she wet the cloth and began to bathe his face.
Long dark lashes shadowed his stubbled cheeks and they fluttered when she wiped his brow. The hand flung across his chest moved, brushed lightly over the swell of her breast and grabbed at her arm.
It had been a long time since a man had touched her, and pleasant memories feathered through her mind, delicious as a river breeze on a hot summer night.
Without opening his eyes he ran his tongue over dry lips, and she tipped the canteen, letting a few drops dribble into his mouth. He licked the moisture away, rolled his head, groaned.
She could kiss him or kill him; he was that vulnerable.

End of Excerpt

I think my readers are going to thoroughly enjoy Allie Caine and Jake as they travel from Westport, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Outlaws and ladies in distress, betrayal and murder, all follow the caravan as it wends its way west. I particularly enjoyed writing this book and when it was finished didn't want to stop writing. Allie with her need to forget the past, Jake with his desire to remember it, carved their way into my heart and soul and I think of them often, as if they are alive.
Perhaps they are.
Check out my other blog for a chance to win a Kindle copy of Images In Scarlet.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

THEY WENT BY WAGON TRAINS

The ongoing series How Women Won the West


In May of 1843 the Ohio Statesman printed this short article: "The Oregon fever is raging in almost every part of the Union. Companies are forming in the east and in several parts of Ohio, which added to those of Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, will make a pretty formidable army. The largest portion will probably join companies at Fort Independence, Missouri and proceed together across the mountains. It would be reasonable to suppose that there will be at least five thousand Americans west of the Rocky Mountains next autumn."

Lucy Hall Bennett was 13 when her family joined the emigration to Oregon. She wrote:
"We came across Steve Meek, (he) told us of a better road to Williamette Valley. Part of our train refused to take this cut-off and went by the old immigrant road, but a good many of us followed Meek on what has since been called Meek's Cut Off…The road we took had been traveled by the Hudson Bay Fur traders, and while it mght have been alright for pack horses, it was certainly not adapted to immigrants traveling by ox train. The water was bad, so full of alkali you could hardly drink it. There was little grass and before long our cattle all had sore feet from traveling over the hard sharp rocks. After several of our party died, the men discovered that Meek really knew nothing about the road.

Accidents occurred nearly every day on these extended trains. During the long trips children lost all fear of jumping off the wagons to keep from asking that they be stopped. One little girl, Catherine Sager, caught the hem of her dress on an axle handle while leaping out of the wagon. She was tossed under the wheels which passed over her left leg before her father could stop the oxen. He leaped down and picked her up, then saw her broken leg dangling unnaturally and cried out, "My dear child, your leg is broken all to pieces."

Her father was later killed in a buffalo stampede, but as he lingered he bitterly wept, wondering what would happen to his frail wife and his child so recently crippled. Soon after childbirth his wife came down with "camp fever" and she succumbed in a few days, leaving their seven children orphans, the eldest was 14 and the youngest only a few weeks old.

The Sager children traveled on until they reached the missionary settlement of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman in Oregon. The Whitmans were Presbyterian missionaries who had established the mission in 1836. Narcissa had lost a child earlier and when she saw the orphaned children, it was the baby she wanted, and so all six remained there with her and her husband.

As fate would have it, and such things certainly make us wonder, Cayuse Indians attacked the mission in 1847, killing the Whitmans and twelve others, among them both brothers of Catherine Sager who survived to marry and raise a family.

Accidents were only one of the horrible ways that the lives of these early emigrants could be threatened. Cholera was the scurge of travelers in those days, and when it struck, young and old alike were cut down.
But for every sad story there is a happy one. Some young couples were filled with excitement and a spirit of adventure. They yearned to see the new world. One young wife wrote that she and her husband were "indifferent to fear," and she felt confident that they could go almost anywhere.

An example of such "adventure" can be found in the diary of Nancy Hembree Snow Bogart who wrote of crossing the Deschutes River.

"The women took their places in the boats, feeling they were facing death…the frail craft would get caught in a whirlpool and the water dashing over and drenching them through and through. The men would then plunge in the cold stream and draw the half-drowned women and children ashore, build fires and partly dry them, and the bedding and start on again."

And so did the women of those days conquer the west with fortitude, courage and strength, much of which we can't imagine today.