Boy Howdy, Folks, the boys scoured the territory and they done brought back one of the first authors kind enough to brave the campfire, Cheryl Pierson!  My heart is beatin’ like a horse hooked to a runaway stage at the fine U.S. Marshal Kaed Turner, hero from her book FIRE EYES, taggin’ along with Cheryl today. Why I almost spilt coffee all over when he turned those dark eyes on me!  Good thing Kaed likes his coffee shakin’ not stirred! *looks away wiping drool from chin hopin’ he didn’t see*

But Cheryl didn’t stop there! Just like Santey Claus hisself, she opened her carpetbag and pulled out a special treat sharin’ all about FIRE EYES what inspired the current release and what we can look forward to in the future, and an excerpt of FIRE EYES that’ll put the fire in your eyes!! So keep on readin’ to the end!

AND Cheryl is givin’ away a copy of FIRE EYES to one lucky commenter today! All ya havta do is leave a comment and you can choose between an ebook or paperback! I’ll be drawin’ the name before that darned ol’ rooster crows on the morrow, and announce the winner back at the campfire!

As always Cookie has a doggone disclaimer –Paperback is only available to U.S. residents!  But ebook is available for any commenter, so don’t be shy, leave a comment and jaw a bit with Cheryl, me and Kaed!  *bats eyes at the good Marshal*

Renegades… Lawmen… Love’s healing power… Wounded by sadistic renegades who rule the borderlands, U.S. Marshal Kaed Turner understands he faces certain death. Then Fate and a war party of Choctaw Indians intervene, delivering him instead to an angel with the skill to heal him. Jessica Monroe has already lost a husband and a brother to the outlaws who tortured Marshal Turner. As the rugged lawman lies bleeding on her bed, she faces a difficult decision. Can she afford to gamble with her heart one last time? For when Kaed recovers, he is sworn to join in the battle to wipe out the renegade gang—once, and for all. When vengeance is done, will Kaed keep riding? Or will he return to claim his future with the beautiful woman the Choctaw call Fire Eyes?

KIRSTEN’S THOUGHTS:   I read FIRE EYES in January 2011, under its original publisher and cover (which is probably a good thing since I’m not sure I would have made it past this hot cover, I mean I’ve been sitting here staring for the past half hour).  But seriously, I fell in love, with Kaed, with Jessica, with baby Lexi, and the other Marshals, and with Cheryl’s style of writing.  As you’ve probably noticed I like gritty Western romances. That’s how I write Westerns and how I like reading Westerns, and Cheryl provides just enough grit to make it real mixed with enough sweet and tender to capture your heart.

I had been writing for only months and finished a couple romantic suspense manuscripts, and though I loved them, there was something missing. Three authors and three stories inspired me and showed me where my heart was these were Stacey Kayne’s, MOUNTAIN WILD; Ellen O’Connell’s, EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD and Cheryl Pierson’s, FIRE EYES. I decided then and there that’s where my voice was, where my roots were…the West. And I wanted to bring the same raw emotion stirred in me when reading FIRE EYES, and write characters like Kaed and Jessica with whom readers have a real gut attachment.

So, I’m not going to give any further information about the story than the blurb and what Cheryl provided, because anymore would just be giving away the story, and not giving it justice…plus after you read the excerpt Cheryl provided no other words will be needed. There will be fire across your keyboard, you’ll be typing so fast to snatch up a copy.

But Kaed and Jessica will be in your hearts just as soon as you meet them on the page. Their connection is so intense and just what each needs it’s hard to believe they meet for the first time under such horrible conditions and haven’t known each other all their lives.  And even as Jessica is healing Kaed they are healing each other.  Neither expects life to be easy, why should it start being easy now, but they trust they can face what the world hurls their way together.

Jessica’s spirit is what captures your attention, just like it captures Kaed and even the notice of the Choctaw Chief. Not just that she’s strong and feisty, but her spirit for healing and providing a balm just by being present.  Her calming presence provides solace in a story with evil and darkness threatening any peace.  There’s something very comforting when Jessica is around, and believe me Kaed is a man who needs solace and peace as relief from his inner and outer wounds. Cheryl provided a heroine who’s real in her sorrow and strength, but just as real in her unearthly talent to heal Kaed’s broken heart, as well as his broken bones.

Kaed…let me pause to catch my breath.  Kaed is strong, sure, hardheaded and not a man to find yourself on his bad side, or at the working end of his revolver.  He’s also sweet, tender, funny, and hotter than a fire in July.  I love a hero who uses their strength and character to build up others encouraging them to find their own strength and honor and that’s what Kaed does so well, not just with Jessica, but with the other Marshals.  He’s a hero who deserves the respect he receives without us having to be told we should respect him. From page one; you just admire Kaed…a natural hero.

I’m thrilled Cheryl  re-released FIRE EYES giving us the expanded version and the opportunity to see the whole story things that I read that brought me even closer to Kaed and Jessica and revealed more about what motivates them and made them into the people they are when Kaed is dropped, literally, at her door.  And scenes that if I would have known they existed the first time, I would have demanded their inclusion.  So, even if you’ve read the first version, I highly, highly, highly recommend you pick up this version


Fire Eyes is always going to be the “book of my heart”—most special to me for several reasons.  By the end of my writing career, it may not be said that it’s my best work, but it will always remain the most memorable, because it was my first one.

I know e-books are the wave of the future, but I’m old fashioned.  I love to hold a real book in my hands and read from paper.  And when that first box of print books arrived at my doorstep, I was elated.  I can’t tell you how long I sat and fondled the books as I took them out of the box.  BEAUTIFUL! My husband wondered if I was going to “rub the paint off” the covers. But there is nothing to compare with receiving your first box of YOUR OWN BOOK and opening it up—the smell, the feel , the excitement of finally bringing your story to life for others to enjoy.

Writing Fire Eyes happened by accident.  I had written a much longer “saga” type novel, Brandon’s Gold, and had queried for it.  I received several letters of interest back from agents, finally settling on one that I thought would be a good fit for me and for my book.  His first question to me was, “Do you have anything shorter?”  Through other responses received from my queries, I knew that Brandon’s Gold was far too long for a first novel; far too long to be commercially viable, so I wasn’t surprised.

I had already started working on another novel after finishing Brandon’s Gold.  But halfway through that second novel, the idea for Fire Eyes occurred to me.  I set my WIP aside and started writing Fire Eyes instead.

The story of Marshal Kaed Turner and Jessica Monroe unfolded quickly, but as I wrote it, I couldn’t keep from developing subplots that I feared would eventually make it too long, as well.  Finally, I gave myself permission to just write the story and get it polished enough to send it out.

Eventually, Fire Eyes was contracted through The Wild Rose Press.  I had a wonderful editor there, Helen Andrew, who literally made my dream come true.  We worked on that manuscript and cut and edited until I sometimes wanted to cry. She really explained in detail why certain things couldn’t stand and had to go or be changed.  But the end result was wonderful, and it couldn’t have happened without her. A lot of very hard work had gone into that story, not just from my perspective, but also from many other people who were involved in one way or another.

Fire Eyes was a 2010 Epic Award Finalist, and received many wonderful reviews, including a 4 star review from Romantic Times Magazine.  It also received the “Reviewers Top Pick” award from PNR reviewer Karen M. Nutt.

Three years later, in April of this year, I asked for my rights back to Fire Eyes. I loved that story, but I wanted to put it out the way I had written it in the beginning. It was a great story, even with the edits, to be brought out in the TWRP romance line. But part of what ‘had to go’ for the TWRP guidelines was important to the story, in my mind. There were company guidelines to be followed when Helen and I had worked so hard three years ago to make it ‘fit’, and neither of us could change that. So we’d worked together to find a way to take out the parts that made it more “western” than “romance” and still came out with a fine story.

But I wanted to put it back together again, like I’d intended. I submitted the story to another small publisher who has an imprint for westerns and western romances, WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER.  I was able to re-edit the book and add in much of what I’d had to take out or rewrite in the first version. It was released again, May 15, just three years shy of my first release date, with a brand new Jimmy Thomas cowboy cover and lots of renewed interest.

The e-book version is available now at Amazon, Lulu, Monkeybars, Barnes and Noble, Sony and Apple, as well as many other e-book retailers.

Here are the links for Smashwords and Amazon:



The print version is also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, among other retailers.  I’m very happy about breathing new life into this wonderful story. I’ve ordered my print copies, and I’m sure I’ll sit on the floor and ‘rub the paint off’ again when they arrive. And I’ll be grateful that I’ve had two chances to get my story out there—another thrill, a second time around!

Future plans for Fire Eyes? Evidently, many of my secondary characters in that story have piqued interest and requests for those characters to have their own stories.  One of the younger deputy  marshals, Travis Morgan, intrigued me so much I felt the same way! He needs his own story…and he’s going to get it. In Fire Eyes, Travis has been mentored by Kaed Turner, the main character of the story. He’s learned a lot during the time he’s been riding with Kaed, but he’s still relatively young and pretty arrogant.

The more I thought about Travis, the more I wondered about where he’d come from and why he’d decided to become a U.S. Federal Deputy Marshal in the first place—it was a thankless job; dangerous, and not well-paying. Why would he do it? And what would ever make him give it up, once it became the way of life he was familiar with?

A WOMAN, OF COURSE! And one that he never suspects will steal his heart. That’s what will be coming up in the sequel to Fire Eyes. I’ve also written another book, Gabriel’s Law, that I’m still looking for a publisher for, that has Travis as a character as a young boy, so we can see where he came from and gain a bit of insight into his character and the man he becomes later on.

I will keep you posted on the follow up book to Fire Eyes as well as Gabriel’s Law.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by today to read. Please don’t forget to comment! I’ll leave you with an excerpt from Fire Eyes:


THE SET UP:  Marshal Kaed Turner has been deposited on widow Jessica Monroe’s front porch by a band of Choctaw Indians with orders from the chieftain:  “Do not let him die.” But can she save him?  He’s been severely beaten by a band of renegades that run the borderlands between Arkansas and Indian Territory. The last man they brought to her doorstep died.  What will become of Marshal Turner?  Can she save him?


The bath could be put off no longer. Kaed lay quietly, watching Jessica’s nervousness.

“Jessi.” When she looked at him, his bones liquefied. She wanted him. All question of how the night would end were answered as their eyes met and held over an achingly sweet moment.

Jessica sank her teeth into her lower lip, her fingers moving to the tiny row of buttons at the front of her day dress. She slowly began to work them open. “Kaed, would you, um, I mean, well, I need to get my bath now.”

“I suppose that means I need to at least turn my head.” His mouth was dry. It was hot in the cabin all of a sudden.

“Uh-huh.” She kept right on unbuttoning the buttons, caught in his gaze. “And close your eyes.”

Yeah, well it wouldn’t matter if he did. He’d still see the picture she burned in his mind as she stood there opening those buttonholes.

Her fingers hesitated at the button just above the rich swell of her breasts. Kaed wet his lips, not turning his head or closing his eyes.

“Kaed?” Her voice was a husky whisper. That made him close his eyes. The sound of his name on her lips had him imagining doing all the things that a man did with a woman. All the things that were soon to come.

God. The heat was unbearable.

“Huh?” He slitted his still-swollen eyes open and saw she had released that button and moved down to the next one. He gritted his teeth.

“Turn…your…head.” A teasing smile played about her mouth, as if she knew exactly what he was thinking, what he was imagining.

Turning away would be a good thing right about now. If he could only persuade his neck to cooperate.

“Yeah. Okay.” He turned his face toward the window. Sort of.

“I’m trusting you.”

Kaed sighed, frustrated. “I know.” It was the one thing she might’ve said that would have kept him true to his word, that part about trusting. He couldn’t betray that. “I’ve gotta move slow. Hurts.”

“Don’t—” The dress whispered to the floor.

“I won’t,” he gritted, the words bitter in his mouth.  

OH MY! I wonder what happens after that bath?

Thanks for having me today!  Please leave a comment.  I love to hear from readers and other writers! For all my books and short stories, go to:

Cheryl’s Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson

 WHOO-EEE!! *wipes sweat from brow*  Don’t know about y’all but I need a long soak in a tub full of ice and more sarsaparilla than the law allows after that excerpt!  “Cookie! Doggonit! Get me a dozen fans and a cool drink!”  

I’ll leave y’all to comment for a chance to win, or to rush on over to Amazon and pick up a copy of FIRE EYES before ya melt dead away! I’ve gotta go find a cold mountain lake to sit in! “Cookie!…


Folks I know we’ve been havin’ a hog killin’ time at Fort Laramie, but Cookie has a bug to keep movin’.  So gals step away from all those soldiers and let’s move ‘em out!

Today we’re gonna be seein’ many landmarks and keepin’ our wagons rollin’ over the Emigrant Road!

The Emigrant Road over which the early pioneers of California, Oregon and Utah traveled was not a single road, but a number of paths. These paths ran at a parallel route from Fort Laramie to South Pass with wagons taking cutoffs depending upon where they were headed. These included the Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, California Trail, and the Sublette Cutoff, as well as the Lander Cutoff and Cherokee Trail.

It is estimated from 1849 through 1860, some 275,000 people traveled through Wyoming on the trails. Therefore, Wyoming has been described as a place through which one passed on the way to someplace else.  Now we could take the more southern and faster Overland or Cherokee Trail, which is mainly used by the Concord stages, or the Greyhounds of the old west, or we could head off on the Sublette Cutoff, popular with emigrants not needing to go to Fort Bridger.

Let’s take a quick look at the trails we won’t be traveling. The Overland Trail Mail route was established and owned by Ben Holladay, the “Stagecoach King.” Sometimes confused with the Oregon or California Trail, which actually followed the North Platte Valley from Nebraska through Wyoming, the Overland Trail refers specifically to that portion of the mail and passenger route, established in 1862, that avoided the Indian uprisings that were occurring on the Oregon Trail farther north through central Wyoming along the Sweetwater-South Pass route. In July, the US Post Office Department ordered Ben Holladay, the Overland Stage Company, to officially relocate from the central Wyoming route, to a route which had been known, in part, as the Cherokee Trail. Not just a cutoff or a detour, it became for a while the only emigrant route on which the US Government would allow travel, and consequently was the principal corridor to the west from 1862 to 1868.

The Overland Trail ran westward from Atchison, Kansas, following the Oregon Trail with some diversions created by Ben Holladay. At Julesburg, Colorado, it essentially left the Oregon Trail, paralleling on the south side. At Latham (present day Greeley), one could travel south to the Cherry Creek settlement of Denver, or cross the river and loop north along the foothills, following the established Cherokee Trail.

Continuing north, the Overland Trail split into at least two separate routes between LaPorte and Virginia Dale. One route veered off to the east toward Fort Laramie, located about 50 miles north of present day Cheyenne; the other route took a bit more westerly route to the home station at Virginia Dale. The first station established in Wyoming was Willow Springs. From there the trail crossed the Laramie Plains and skirted the north side of Elk Mountain near Fort Halleck, and the Medicine Bow Mountains. Crossing the North Platte near the mouth of Sage Creek, it continued west, through Bridger’s Pass, roughly paralleling present day Highway I-80 and the Union Pacific Railroad through Wyoming, finally rejoining the Oregon Trail again in western Wyoming at Fort Bridger.

The Cherokee Trail was formed in 1849, when a group of whites and members of the Cherokee Nation from Washington County, Arkansas rendezvoused for the sole purpose of going to the California goldfields. Under the leadership of Captain Lewis Evans, they used the journals of John C. Fremont and became the first wagons over his trail. The White/Cherokee Pack Company followed a trail along the front range of Colorado then turned west along the Colorado/Wyoming Border toward Fort Davy Crockett and then on to Fort Bridger. They blazed the trail south of Elk Mountain in Wyoming and then across the Red Desert to Fort Bridger (this differed from Fremont’s trail as he had turned North toward the Oregon Trail).

In 1850, four separate wagons trains of Whites/Cherokees arrived at the South Platte in present Denver, crossed the South Platte and then proceeded north to LaPorte and onto the Laramie Plains and onto Fort Bridger.

The Overland and Cherokee Trails run parallel and became important stage routes while serving as secondary migration routes in the mid to late 1800s.

But since y’all are on my wagon train and Cookie hankers to take the slower more scenic route, and I hanker for a sure source of water, we’re gonna travel the central Emigrant Road following the Sweetwater to South Pass.  The travelin’ might be slow, and like most pioneers we’ll suffer from a bit of boredom, but I’ll point out some of the interesting sites so y’all won’t be like one pioneer who reported in his journal that he hoped Indians would attack to relieve the boredom.

First stop on the trail is Independence Rock. This is one of the most noted landmarks on the emigrant trails. It is said emigrants needed to reach this point by July Fourth, thereby giving it its name.  But pioneers arrived at this site throughout the traveling season. Another source states its name came from a party of fur trappers who camped here on July 4, 1824. And still another source states the rock was named by William Sublette in 1830, when his freight wagons reached the rock on the Fourth of July.

However, it got its name Independence Rock became a popular place for emigrants to inscribe their names on the sturdy granite.  The large granite outcropping is 1900 feet long and 700 feet wide, rising 128 feet. Many pioneers commented that it looked “like a huge whale” from a distance.  Over 5,000 names were placed on the Rock.

As early as 1842, a fur trapper, Rufus B. Sage noted the number of names “the surface is covered with names of travelers, traders, trappers, and emigrants, engraved upon it in almost every practicable part, for the distance of many feet above its base…”  Jesuit Priest, Father Pierre Jean DeSmet, called the Rock a “great registry of the desert, for on it may be read in large characters the names of the several travelers who have visited the Rocky Mountains…”

John C. Fremont commented on the names “many famous in the history of this country, and some well- known to science, are to be found mixed among those of the traders and travelers for pleasure and curiosity, and of missionaries among the savages…”  Like many travelers before and after him, Fremont made camp at Independence Rock. Upon leaving, Fremont left a cross at the rock.


Names were placed on the rock through engraving or by painting them with wagon grease, tar or a combination of buffalo grease and glue. Over time many of these names have flaked off or been obscured by lichens. Despite this, thousands of names remain to be enjoyed by those still traveling the trails.

For the emigrants a day’s travel west of Independence Rock, the wagons had to detour away from the Sweetwater where the river wends its way through a narrow gorge known as Devil’s Gate, a magnificent natural landmark. The cleft in the Sweetwater rocks is about 370 feet deep and 1500 feet long. The cleft is 30 feet wide at the base but nearly 300 feet at its top.

Although wagons were forced around the cleft, emigrants frequently stopped to hike around this feature and carve their names. Bighorn sheep could be seen climbing the hills. One Oregon-bound emigrant James Mathers wrote “…encamped above the pass of the river, between high rocks. This is the most interesting sight we have met with on our journey.” From journals it is believed nearly 20 emigrants are buried here, although only one known grave remains. The occurrence of several murders in this region led some emigrants to believe this truly was a bedeviled site.

The Shoshone and Arapahoe Indians attribute Devil’s Gate to the actions of an evil beast with enormous tusks that once roamed this area, preventing the Indians from hunting and camping in this region. Eventually, the Indians became disgusted and decided to kill the beast.  From the passes and ravines, the warriors shot the beast with a multitude of arrows. Enraged, the beast tore a hole in the mountains with his large tusks and escaped.

A popular stop on the trail a Pony Express station was established at Devil’s Gate and even later former Army scout Tom Sun place corrals for his ranch at the end of the gorge. Sun known for many things in this valley, the least noble concerned his role in the lynching of Ella “Cattle Kate” Watson.

To the west of Devil’s Gate, pioneers came across the “Ice Slough.” The Ice Slough is a small stream that flows into the Sweetwater River. In the Ice Slough the marshes soils and plants insulated the previous winter’s ice and it melted slowly throughout the summer. Under the marshes a thick mat of ice could be found late into June or early July.  The slough provided in the heat of summer unusual refreshment, and a way to preserve meat.  J. Goldsborough Bruff wrote “…by digging a couple of feet, ice is obtained. The surface is dug up all around by travelers, as much from curiosity as to obtain so desirable a luxury in a march so dry and thirsty…”  Captain George Belshaw of Indiana noted in his diary that lemonade was made with the ice and “it relished first rate.” Because of changes to the drainage wrought by irrigation, the sub-surface ice no longer forms.

We’ve traveled to two of three distinctive granite landmarks, Independence Rock and Devils Gate. The last of these is Split Rock. Split Rock, guided travelers for decades before the emigrants arrived. The distinctive “gun sight” notch in the Rattlesnake Range was visible for the better part of two days on the trail. Rising some 1000 feet above the prairie, Split Rock aimed the emigrants directly at South Pass, still more than 75 miles away.


Nearby along the river was established an early Pony Express Station know as Sweetwater Station. The original station lasted about a year and was replaced by the Split Rock station. Split Rock station was replaced by a fortified stage and telegraph station also known as Sweetwater Station.  A crude log structure and pole corral that were part of the station are now part of a private ranch homesite.  This area offered weary pioneers a short, and much needed, respite on their long journey.

So, like those who stayed here before us, we’re gonna hunker down here and make camp.  Let the young’uns run around a bit! So next time yer drivin’ through ol’ WYO on HWY 285 stop a spell at these here natural features and see what had the early pioneers talkin’ and jottin’ down notes in their journals.

See y’all next week on the trail where we’ll stop a piece at South Pass!


Wyoming Tales and Trails. Oregon Trail. www.wyomingtalesandtrails.com



Jording, Mike.  “A Few Interested Residents: Wyoming Historical Markers & Monuments.” Helena, MT: Falcon Press, 1992.



My buttons are about burstin’, folks! It took a bit to get things back in order after Cookie’s big shindig last week, but the boys sure made it up by roundin’ up Ellen O’Connell and her slew of swoon worthy heroes! Why I’m about fixed to have a fit of apoplexy with Cord Bennett, Matt Slade and Gaetan all takin’ up room ‘round the fire! Either these men are hot, or I’m gonna have to switch to a cold drink! Ms. O’Connell sure does know how to pick ‘em to ride the river with.

To add sugar to yer coffee, Ellen is offerin’ up a giveaway of one ebook (either Kindle, ePub, or pdf format) of each of her releases!! Slap me and call me Aunt Mable that means three of y’all will be sashaying off with one of these fine heroes, though just a bit of friendly advice don’t get too close they’re each attached to a woman who knows how to hold onto her man. Just leave a comment and I’ll put yer name in the hat!

Let me introduce y’all, ‘cause these are men with stories ya definitely want to hear! Ellen kindly provided a bit of what inspired her to write, so don’t miss that after the book list! It’s always a treat to hear what drove others to put their stories and heart onto paper.

In 1885 Colorado, Anne Wells, unmarried at 28, is the disgrace of her rigidly proper family. Cord Bennett is the feared black sheep of the Bennett clan. When these two misfits are found alone together, her father’s fury leads to violence, and Cord’s family is quick to blame him. Can Anne and Cord use the freedom of being condemned for sins they didn’t commit to make a life together? Or will their disapproving, interfering families tear them apart?

KIRSTEN’S THOUGHTS:  So I bought EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD because Amazon recommended it in July 2010, and then it sat in my Kindle for months as I finished a manuscript of my own.  Then with a few days off my day job for Thanksgiving I was determined to get through some of my TBR pile.  I grabbed a cup of coffee, settled on the couch, and opened the Kindle to EYES, and promptly forgot the coffee, the lumpy couch and everything else but Cord and Anne and their amazing story.  I read EYES straight through only stopping for a few necessities, and at times just to take a break from the strong emotions this story of two people from two different worlds who the world doesn’t understand, yet they completely understand the other stirred.

Cord is stoic and resigned to what he believes is his place in the world, and to the negative attitudes and fear he constantly endures. That is until Anne enters his life. Watching him not only come to the place where he accepts Anne’s love, but accepts that he deserves her love was both heart rendering and heartwarming.  He’s not the romantic hero who quotes sonnets (thank goodness), but his love and respect for Anne shines through every time he turns to her for her opinion or protects her from any threat, or simply kisses the daylights out of her.

Anne is a heroine I really compare all other heroines (including my own) to since reading EYES.  She is smart and strong, but she listens to Cord and accepts he knows more about some situations than she does.  She doesn’t cower under his sometimes harsh personality, but works beside him, learns and grows under the pride and respect he shows her.  And Anne will fight just as hard to protect Cord in her determination to make others see the man she knows.

Their families…well most of the time I just wanted to go down the line and shake, slap or both each member of their family and don’t even get me started on Anne’s father.

But I don’t want you to think this is just one long drama. There are plenty of lighthearted moments just like in any life to keep hope alive in the dark moments.


Sarah Hammond is the overprotected daughter of passionate Massachusetts abolitionists. Matt Slade is the orphaned son of hardscrabble Texas settlers. Sarah knows about every Civil War battle from studying newspaper accounts. Matt fought in the bloodiest of them under Generals Longstreet and Lee. If Matt and Sarah ever crossed paths, it should have been for an unremarkable moment. He would tip his hat. She would nod and pass on by.
Except as survivors of a Comanche attack, Matt and Sarah spend far more than a moment together. They come to know each other, depend on each other, and love each other. The vicious revenge of Sarah’s humiliated, jilted fiancé allows him to say, “I destroyed them.” Did he? Or when Matt and Sarah meet again years later, can they put their lives and their love back together?

KIRSTEN’S THOUGHTS:  After I finished EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD, I was determined to read whatever Ellen O’Connell published. I didn’t have to wait too long because in December that year, SING MY NAME was released.  I instantly bought it, and then let it sit in my Kindle. Mainly because after reading EYES I knew I wanted to read this when I’d have recovery time, because the blurb even warned of years of separation. I knew heartache was on the horizon and if I got half as attached to these characters as Cord and Anne…well I didn’t want to have to explain to my boss why I was crying over fictional characters.

While on vacation over Christmas, I opened up the book, met Matt and Sarah, and it’s a good thing my family didn’t have plans for that day because I was knee deep in trouble in Texas, and the tide was rising fast.  Goodness this is such a great story; I don’t even know where to begin. The blurb really tells the story, but it’s the deep emotion and struggles these characters go through that transforms it from a great story you enjoy, into a great story that stays in your heart.

When we first meet Sarah and Matt both are in very different circumstances, and both are looking for a lot better than the circumstances they’re in.  After the Comanche attack and as they struggle to survive they both mature and in the desert find what they’ve been looking for in each other.

I won’t give away the circumstances that lead to their separation, but I will say I absolutely LOVED Sarah’s grit and determination and her steadfastness to the man she loved no matter what others said. She is a heroine worth admiring on so many levels.

And Matt is definitely a hero worthy of Sarah’s steadfast heart.  If you don’t walk away half in love with this hero than you need to check for a pulse.  He’s been through more than any man should before the Comanche’s attack and then things just get worse.  But he is so honorable and there is such a sweetness about him you so want Sarah to hold on tight, and I think that’s why I like her so much because she does.

Like, EYES, SING MY NAME is so well balanced between the laughter and the tears it’s what makes it so real.


After escaping robbers intent on murder, Katherine Grant says, “I jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Before long I’ll be dancing on the coals.” The highwaymen were the frying pan; the handsome young Apache who saved her from them was the fire; and the coals? Gaetan.

Rage against the enemies of his people has consumed Gaetan from boyhood. The only use he ever found for any white was to test the sharpness of his knife. Forced by his brother to endure Katherine’s company, Gaetan tries to deny what he sees — the white woman has a man’s temper and a lion’s courage. She has an Apache heart.

In spite of hate, distrust and fear, surviving in the rugged country of southern Arizona and northern Mexico forges a strange bond between Katherine and Gaetan. When the bond turns to love, can they admit it? Can they bear the consequences?

KIRSTEN’S THOUGHTS:   Keeping right on track Ellen O’Connell’s most recent release DANCING ON COALS  gives us another great pairing between a hero and heroine who shouldn’t even be in the same region let alone together, but by the end of the story you can’t imagine one without the other.

This story was a bit different in that the hero, Gaetan, doesn’t speak for a good many pages. I mean nothing folks.  Until, like Katherine you don’t know whether to thank him or shoot him.  But, like Katherine, you know exactly what Gaetan is feeling, which is mainly frustration at being stuck with a white woman. And it was a great way of pulling us into Katherine’s point of view, because I found myself going through her emotions of needing Gaetan, and her attraction to him, but at the same time the irritation of being treated like a nuisance and having to blindly follow.

Katherine is an interesting heroine. She’s very capable, in fact extremely capable, but smart enough to know she needs Gaetan to survive, so we don’t have any of those annoying attempted escapes that can occur in stories, only to have a heroine run blindly into a situation endangering everyone. Not to say Katherine doesn’t have troubles, but they’re believable and sympathetic.  She’s also smart enough to learn about those around her, and to accept friendship when it is offered.  And her internal struggles against Gaetan are hilarious as she goes between gratefulness and attraction to really wanting to slap him upside the head with the skillet. Again, Ellen O’Connell, gives us a heroine we can not only root for, but one we wished we actually knew and could sit down and visit with.

It’d take a strong man to capture Katherine’s heart, so it’s a good thing she visits the West so she could meet Gaetan.  Gaetan seems to do everything possible to get rid of the unwanted white woman, even as he does everything possible to keep her safe and with him.  I enjoyed his journey as love became stronger than hate in his heart.  It was also sweet to watch as a man who seemed to take care of everyone else finally found a woman to take care of him.

The bond these two form connects them whether they want to be, or not, and eventually binds their hearts.  I think that’s what made this story special is to watch Gaetan and Katherine’s relationship grow from needing each other to survive a desperate situation, to acknowledging their mutual respect for the other and eventually their love it was truly a realistic and captivating progression.

I have always found the history of the Apache extremely interesting and DANCING ON COALS breathed life into this time period by dropping two characters we can care about into the sad events of this history.

There are some stories you read and love and read again, but in between times you might forget certain scenes or the emotions stirred by the story and characters fade. This is not the case with any of Ellen O’Connell’s books. Just reading or hearing the title slams all those feelings right to the heart and the scenes play before me like I just read “the end.”  Her characters are real to the point I hate calling them characters, but they live and breathe every time I enter their world. Really folks Ellen should have warning labels on these books “May cause spontaneous throat tightening or smiling (as you think of a certain scene) and spontaneous sighing (every time one of the heroes crosses your mid). Symptoms last years after finishing story.”

I love how Ellen takes two people from completely different worlds, who should never end up together, and the world tells them they shouldn’t be together, but they fight together and for each other and prove just how right their love is. Her heroes are rugged and real and her heroines are determined to hold onto them against all odds. And I love that with each story you can walk away feeling good about both the hero and heroine and thrilled that each got their HEA, because doggonit they sure do have to fight for it.  :o)

I asked Ellen what inspired her to write. Please read her answer below.

Ellen O’Connell: As to what inspired me to write my romances:

A writer’s blog I follow has the following quote from Toni Morrison in its banner:

“If there is a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

Long before I read that quote, I knew the feeling. I like to read romance. There are many romances on my (now digital) keeper shelf. But the fact is I often found myself wishing for more romances in general and westerns in particular that skipped the domineering, manipulative and sexually expert hero on the great black stallion and featured a strong, quiet guy on a chestnut gelding. Eventually my longing for a book like that evolved to the point I decided to write it. I wanted my story to be realistic, not just as to setting and level of knowledge and attitudes of the time, but as to human emotions and character. I wanted a hero and heroine who got to know each other over time and who developed a strong relationship in spite of, or maybe with the help of, adversity. I wanted to be able to believe those two people suited each other so well they would love each other through children, hard times, good times and when hair turned gray and wrinkles appeared. So I wrote Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold for myself, because I wanted a story like that, and because I could see two misfits like Cord Bennett and Anne Wells Bennett coming to that kind of love.

In April of 2010 when Eyes was released, I didn’t believe there was much of an audience for a western historical romance, much less one reviewers often describe as “gritty.” Readers proved me wrong, and the success of Eyes inspired me to write Sing My Name and Dancing on Coals, stories I hope readers will find quite different from Eyes but equally believable.

This is Kirsten again: I can hardly wait to see what Ellen O’Connell has in her hat for us next!  If she keeps churin’ out stories and people like those in EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD, SING MY NAME,  and DANCING ON COALS y’all can bet the ranch I’ll be snatchin’ my copy right off the get go!


All right folks we’re back on the trail and headed north through ol’ Wyoming. We’ll be followin’ the deep ruts left by the wagons of those brave men and women who made this trek before us lookin’ for a better life. But ya know ol’ Cookie and me we zig and zag a bit, so ya just don’t know where we might end up before we get where we’re headin’.

“Cookie! Where the heck are we headin’?”

Guess we better stop off and load up on supplies…just in case.  “Cookie pull this here rig into Fort Laramie. WHOOEEE look at those boys in blue!”

One of the most memorable shrines in Western America, and a location that appears in many books and movies about the West, is found in Eastern Wyoming at the junction of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers.  Today the restored buildings of Fort Laramie remain preserved as a National Historic Site, where weary travelers can still stop by off the trail and step back in time.

From 1834 to 1890, Fort Laramie served as a log stockade, adobe trading post, and evolving military post.  Fort Laramie was a classic setting for the colorful pageant of the West. Explorers, trappers, traders, missionaries, emigrants, freighters, Pony Express riders, stage drivers, cowboys, homesteaders, as well as soldiers and Indians, all perceived Fort Laramie whether camp-ground, way-station, provision point, fortifications, or temporary home as an island of civilization where the Great Plains met the Rocky Mountains.

The reason for Fort Laramie’s importance was its strategic location on the great central continental migration, more commonly known as the Oregon Trail.

American and French-Canadian trappers were the first white men to explore the headwaters of the North Platte. The first documented visit to the Laramie Fork was seven men of the American Fur Company led by Robert Stuart.  Stuart noted in his journal that here “a well wooded stream apparently of considerable magnitude came in from the South West.”  He also referred to buffalo, antelope and wild horses in this region.  Stuart’s party is credited with the discovery of a near-level Platte River route which led to a natural mountain gateway.

Several geographical names attest to the early infiltration here of French-Canadians, among them a shadowy figure commonly identified as Jacques Laramee, or Laramie. According to an 1831 report a J. Loremy, a free man, was killed by Arapahoe Indians in 1821 presumably near the river and later fort now bearing his name, the euphonious “Laramie” being bestowed on many features throughout Wyoming.

Throughout the 1820s fur trappers and other enterprising Americans such as, Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith, and Thomas Fitzpatrick rediscovered the South Pass area, and lush beaver country west of the Continential Divide, and established a rendezvous on the Wind River.

In 1826, William Ashley of St. Louis sold out to Jed Smith, William Sublette and David Jackson, and Sublette brought the first wagon caravan up the Platte. In 1832, Sublette and Robert Campbell formed a trading partnership, contracting to supply others at the rendezvous, and in 1834, they built the first fort on the Laramie. The first fort Laramie was named Fort William (according to one of Sublette’s party William Anderson the name was in honor of the common name shared between himself and Sublette).  In 1835, Sublette and Campbell sold Fort William to Jim Bridger, Thomas Fitzpatrick and Milton Sublette. These men sold out within a year to the American Fur Company.

In 1836, an overland caravan led by Thomas Fitzpatrick escorted the first white women to cross the continent, Narcissa Whitman and Elizabeth Spalding, missionary wives. These women enjoyed special consideration at the fort with chairs with “buffalo skin bottoms.”  The women caused quite a sensation among the trappers and Indians.

In 1837, as Scotch nobleman, Sir William Drummond Stewart, traveled with artist Alfred Jacob Miller. Miller’s sketches remain the only pictorial record of Fort William. Later visitors of record include, Kit Carson, Joe Meek and Osborne Russell, Father De Smet, and Augustus Johann Sutter (whose ranch in Sacramento would later host its own hordes of gold seekers).

Fort William enjoyed a monopoly of the trade in the North Platte until in 1841 when a new fort was built right under their noses.  Fort Platte was an adobe-walled fort right on the bank of the North Platte and within rifle-shot of Fort William (or if you’re not measurin’ by shootin’ at your rival that’s about a mile apart).

Not to be outdone the American Fur Company abandoned its log palisades and built a massive adobe structure.  They named the new fort, Fort John honoring John B. Sarpy, an officer of the company.  Fort John was used consistently in official correspondence, but as in the case of Fort William, the name Fort Laramie prevailed in popular usage.

For years the rivalry between the two posts intensified. Both sent trading parties to distant Indian tribes and flouted the illegal selling of liquor in the cut-throat competition.  For a while both of these establishments thrived on the trade in buffalo robes, each spring sending them to St. Louis by wagon caravans or flat-boat flotillas down the Platte.  Then in 1845, Fort Platte was abandoned leaving the field wide open for the American Fur Company.

Prior to 1841, the visitors to Fort Laramie consisted of trappers, traders, Plains Indians, missionaries and the random adventurers.  However, that was about to change with the arrival of the Bidwell-Bartleson expedition and the White-Hastings expedition the following year. These were the first avowed settlers bound for the west.  Both of these expeditions hired Thomas Fitzpatrick, veteran mountain man, as a guide.

The year 1843 saw the first great migration to Oregon, about 1,000 people led by Marchus Whitman and Peter Burnett. These settlers crossed the Laramie and obtained supplies at the post.

The trickle to Oregon became a respectable river of 5,000 in 1845, and for twenty years after Fort Laramie witnessed the annual emigrant stream of humanity moving westward on prairie schooners. Camping, repairing equipment, buying provisions, and mingling at the fort became standard trail procedure.

While provisioning pioneers became a brisk business for the Fort, Indian trade continued to decline.  Like a swift prairie wind brings a storm, conditions at the fort were ripe for change. The American Fur Company retired from the scene and a new owner better attuned to the rise of Manifest Destiny hailed its arrival with bugle and drum.

The Government had been looking at establishing a military post along the Oregon Trail, and the site of the Laramie Fork was recommended.  President James Polk proposed the action and in May 1846 Congress approved “An Act to provide for raising a regiment of Mounted Riflemen, and for establishing military stations on the route to Oregon.”  The first fort raised was Fort Kearney on the south bank of the Platte.  But, in 1848, when the news of gold discovered in California raced across the country the urgency to extend the chain of forts increased.

Lieutentant Daniel P. Woodbury, Corps of Engineers, was authorized to purchase the buildings of Fort Laramie “should he deem it necessary to do so,” in 1849.  On June 27, 1849, it was reported that this was the most eligible site and Woodbury purchased Fort Laramie from the American Fur Company for $4000.00. Major W.J. Sanderson of Company E, became the first commander of the fort.  Sanderson reported that good timber, limestone, hay and dry wood were readily available and that the Laramie River furnished abundant good water for the command.

Company C, Mounted Rifles, arrived in July and Company G, Sixth Infantry in August completed the garrison. The temporary shelter of the adobe post was decrepit and infested with vermin. However, by winter a two-story block of officers’ quarters, a block of soldier quarters, a bakery, and two stables had been pushed to completion. This began Fort Laramie’s forty years as a frontier command post of the United States Army.

The Fort saw an estimated 30,000 Forty-Niners pass through on their way to California gold.  This was but the first wave of covered wagon emigrants stampeding toward California. The following years, 1850-1854, saw even larger waves crashing against the little Army post on the Laramie, at times exceeding 50,000 each season.

To a large extent the history of the fort during this period is essentially its role in serving “this transient population during its Exodus from the States, across the vast wilderness known vaguely as Indian Territory to the Promised Land.”  For many the Fort was the only civilized place between Fort Kearny and the West Coast.

The emigrant season of Fort Laramie was short, maximum of 45 days.  One had to leave the Missouri jumping-off place no sooner than the spring rains could green the prairies for vital pasture for mules and oxen (any time during the last half of April) in order to reach the Sierra Nevadas well before October. Therefore the prime season for Fort Laramie was May-July with the majority of emigrants arriving in June.

The Fort provided care for wounded and sick, and sometimes the final resting place for travelers in the old fort cemetery. Some emigrants disposed of their surpluses here, others were in need of provisions, which the Post Quatermaster was able to supply, and the post blacksmith did a land-office business. However, the busiest place was the post sutler’s store where emigrant coin and valuables were exchanged for canned goods, liquor, patent medicines, lotions, muslin, sunbonnets, and other essentials.

Another busy functionary was the post adjutant, who ran the official emigrant register.  Every wagon was stopped and numbers of men, oxen, horses, etc. were tallied. One such record for the season showed: “33,171 men, 803 women, 1, 094 children, 7,472 mules, 30, 616 oxen, 22, 742 horses, 8, 998 wagons, and 5,270 cows” recorded as of July 5,1850.  

Contrary to beliefs both then and now, Plains Indians did not attack wagon trains as a habit, especially during the period of 1841-1858. However, two incidents would break the bonds of understanding and disrupt the peace on the Great Plains.

First in 1853, a North Platte ferryman, busy with emigrants, refused to transport a party of young Sioux. The Sioux seized the boat and one fired on the soldiers, who recaptured it. Lieutenant H.B. Fleming and 23 men were dispatched to the nearby village of Minniconjou Sioux to arrest the offender. The Sioux refused to give him up. In the ensuing exchange of gunfire three Indians were killed. The enraged Sioux then threatened the fort. Captain Richard Garnett, post commander, through skillful negotiations diffused the situation, but the seeds of mistrust were planted.

Then on August 18, 1854, eight miles east of the Fort a Mormon caravan passed a village of Brule Sioux. A cow wondered into the village and was promptly butchered by the hungry Indians. Upon complaint by the owner, Lieutenant John Grattan with an interpreter and 28 men was dispatched to arrest the offender. After a brief parley, a fusillade by the soldiers resulted in the death of Chief Conquering Bear, and the retaliatory massacre of Gratten and his entire command. Fort Laramie was threatened, but the Sioux moved away before inflicting any casualties there. But the harmony was destroyed and 25 years of warfare began.

The first serious disturbances did not occur until spring of 1862 when Sioux raided stations west of the fort, running off horses and scalping the tenders. To protect lines of communication vital to the Union Army fighting a Civil War, cavalry companies were ordered to the western theater. Colonel William Collins arrived at Fort Laramie with a battalion of the Eleventh Ohio Cavalry. It was his unenviable duty to guard the route between courthouse Rock and South Pass (a distance of over 500 miles). This blue line seemed powerless to intercept the mounted warriors of the Sioux, or to chase them down.

In the spring and summer of 1864, there were large-scale Indian attacks on stations and ranches in Nebraska and Colorado, disrupting all travel. Then came the unauthorized surprise attack in November by volunteer troops under Colonel Chivington upon a Cheyenne-Arapahoe camp at Sand Creek near Fort Lyon in southeast Colorado. The massacre of around 250 men, women and children, far from squelching the Indian spirit, precipitated a powerful and vengeful alliance of tribes.

Sioux and Cheyenne focused their wrath on the key trail junction Julesburg, where they sacked the town and killed about 20 soldiers and civilians. Then they moved northward. Colonel Collins assembled a force from Fort Laramie to assist Mud Springs.  They successfully protected the town and the warriors withdrew to the Powder River.

With the end of the Civil War plans were made to restore order to the Plains. However, the vastness of the desolate terrain, Indian aggressiveness, skill and agility, and poor initial organization and execution resulted in much success for the Plains Indians during 1865 and a dismal year for the soldiers of Fort Laramie.

Instead of a campaign to crush the tribes, in 1866, with Fort Laramie as the setting, runners were sent out from the Fort to “hostile” camps with invitations to a great council to be held in June.  Hope appeared on the horizon, when Spotted Tail, head chief of the Brules, brought in the body of his daughter for burial among the whites because it was her express wish. In a ceremony containing all the pageantry of the military and the tradition of the Sioux her body was placed in a coffin on a raised platform on the plateau beyond the fort cemetery.

Peace commissioners assembled on 1 June with the chiefs of the Sioux and Cheyenne.  While the ceremonies were still in progress, Colonel Henry Carrington arrived with 2,000 troops, heavily armed and equipped to set up a chain of posts along the Bozeman Trail. To Red Cloud, such an armed occupation made a mockery of any peace treaty. He withdrew in anger, and the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1866 was the shortest lived peace treaty on record.

As forts were erected on the Bozeman Trail hostility continued to mount until in 1868 the Army and Sioux met again at Fort Laramie. The Forts on the Bozeman Trail evacuated and the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 gave the Sioux as a reservation all of present day South Dakota west of the Missouri River. It also gave them hunting rights in the great expanse north of the North Platte and east of the Big Horn Mountains.  As mentioned in the post about the Battle of the Little Big Horn, this treaty failed, as well as leading to a series of small skirmishes and the massive clash in southeastern Montana.  Though a temporary victory for the Sioux and Cheyenne, in the end the Government was left with the ability to dictate the formal relinquishment of the Black Hills.

Before  the organized large-scale fighting against the Sioux and Cheyenne reached its climax there began an upsurge of civilian activity vitally affecting Fort Laramie. This was the mass influx of settlers to the Black Hills and the development of commercial traffic to and from Cheyenne.

Fort Laramie’s destiny was welded to the “Magic City of the Plains” about 100 miles to the south that began as a huddle of shacks springing up at the end of track when the Union Pacific construction crews reached that point in 1867. The Sioux wars and the stampeded to south Dakota combined to make Cheyenne a great supply depot and jumping- off place for the Black Hills while Fort Laramie became its principal gateway and guardian.

In November, 1875, the Wyoming territorial legislature authorized the survey and designation of a road from Cheyenne via Chugwater Creek and Fort Laramie to Custer City.  By March 1876, the new line was in operation. Vehicles on the new Black Hills Road included bull-trains, buckboards, spring wagons, and anything else that would roll. However, the queen of the road and bright symbol of Fort Laramie’s new era was the colorful Concord stage. The vehicle could accommodate nine first-class passengers inside and equal number on the roof, plus up to 1500 pounds of cargo and luggage. The driver managed the six horses with reins and the crack of his long whip.

The run to Custer City was 180 miles, or 266 miles to Deadwood. The route from Cheyenne to Fort Laramie followed the Chugwater and Laramie Rivers where there was a series of road ranches. The stop just below the fort was Three Mile Ranch, just off the military reservation, which doubled as a place of “entertainment,” complete with assorted belles for off-duty soldiers. The Post Trader was permitted to build a log structure on the fort itself known as the Rustic Hotel.

What would our Westerns be without the colorful stage and its potential holdup, or colorful occupants? The fine art of highway robbery reached a new peak in their assaults on armored stagecoaches with strong-boxes of gold heading for Cheyenne. Fort Laramie cavalry patrols were frequently assigned to guard danger spots or track down criminals. Among incidents in the Fort Laramie neighborhood were several killings at the Three Mile Ranch, the lynching of horse thieves by masked men just north of the iron bridge, and stage hold-ups along the Laramie River.

Among the patrons of the Cheyenne-Deadwood Tail were Generals Sherman, Sheridan and Crook, Chiefs Red Cloud and Spotted Tail, Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. In fact, Calamity is alleged to have played various roles in the saga of Fort Laramie, including stage driver, roustabout, and occupant of one of the boudoirs at the Three Mile Ranch. Buffalo Bill Cody was another celebrated visitor, as a scout for the Fifth Cavalry.

By the 1880s the small post of 1849 had blossomed into a city unto itself. The Fort structural complex gradually evolved into a sprawling assemblage of adobe, stone, frame and lime-grout buildings, about 70 Army buildings and civilian appendages were identified in 1888, being the most recent or most durable of a total of over 180 buildings constructed between 1849 and 1885.

The Fort was a stabilizing influence on the Great Plains, resembling a county seat in a region shifting from wild frontier to the beginnings of a permanent settlement. Range cattle and cowboys were replacing buffalo and Indians. Mines and ranches became the nuclei of communities sinking roots into the land. Stage lines faded as railroads, trunk lines and branches advanced. But the precursor of such civilization was doomed by the very peace it provided.

During this decade except for occasional assistance to civil authorities in upholding law and order, field exercises, maneuvers, and target practice, military activity was at low ebb, while grand balls, celebrations, dress parades, theatricals, picnics, and tree planting became the dominant preoccupations. This is not the stuff of which epic history is made.  And the bright star of the plains was fading fast.

The actual demise of Fort Laramie occurred from May 1889 to March 1890. Various units of the Seventh Infantry were transferred to Fort Logan, Colorado. A detachment from Fort Robinson stripped buildings of doors, windows, fixtures, and accessories and the buildings and furniture rejects were auctioned off. The War Department issued its final order transferring to the Secretary of the Interior the military reservation and the wood and timber reservation at Laramie Peak, “the same being no longer required for military purposes.” And like so many who served in the garrison or passed through on the search for a better life the great military post faded into history.

But put those handkerchiefs away folks and dry those pretty little eyes, cause y’all can still make an Old West pit stop, just like our predecessors, at Fort Laramie!  Why there’s still barracks and officers’ quarters ya can walk through or traipse across the parade grounds just like ya wore Blue! And iffin’ ya visit in July or August why ya can really experience the thrill of sweatin’ under that big ol’ Wyomin’ sun it’ll take ya back for sure.  Doggone, Cookie! Does a gal have ta beg for a sarsaparilla? My biscuits are burin’ for sure!

Have fun at Fort Laramie folks! See ya next week on the trail!!


FORT LARAMIE NHS: PARK HISTORY. (March 2003) www.nps.gov/fola/history/part1-1.htm

www.historicwyoming.org (Fort Laramie)

McChristian, Douglas C. and Paul L. Hedren. Fort Laramie: Military Bastion of the High Plains (Frontier Military Series).  The Arthur H. Clark Company.  2009.


WHOO-EEE folks!! This is Cookie here, yep the myth the legend at your service! Kirsten’s off for a couple days doin’ some cotton pickin’ history thingamajig and with a bunch of those seafarin’ types, so I’m turnin’ this trail into my own fandango!!

So talk to ol’ Cookie folks! What do y’all like about Western romances?  What’s yer favorite place in the West (Hint: Wyomin’) Just funnin’ with ya!  What is it about us cowboys that really butter yer biscuits?  Just jaw for a bit about the West, old and new, and I’m spendin’ the boss lady’s hard earned coin to giveaway a free e-book (commenter’s choice from any past Roundups) to one of y’all.

Don’t leave ol’ Cookie alone ’round the campfire (’cause honest it’s a bit lonely without the boss lady) Come on in and sit a spell. Let’s talk Colts, Cowboys, Beeves, Spurs, Chaps and yer favorite trails West!




We’ve been makin’ tracks like a posse’s on our backside and I’ve been told we’re well ahead of time on the trail. So let’s dip down into the Black Hills since we’re right here and all, and visit a couple monuments worth takin’ a gander at.  Don’t y’all worry we’re just leavin’ Wyoming for today, we’ll be back on the straight and narrow in no time.

Last time we gawked at a monument created by nature, and Devils Tower was a goodun! Today we’re gonna swing by a monument man carved out of the mountain…Mount Rushmore (sorry no hidden treasure folks, I don’t care what Nicholas Cage says).  Wagons Ho, folks! We’re burnin’ daylight.

Doane Robinson, the aging superintendent of the South Dakota State Historical Society, had a vision of a massive mountain memorial carved from stone and so large it would put South Dakota on the map and increase tourism.  In 1923, Robinson started telling everyone of his dream of giant statues of Western figures including, Chief Red Cloud, Buffalo Bill Cody, Lewis and Clark and legendary Sioux warriors marching along South Dakota’s skyline.  [On a personal note as awesome as Mount Rushmore is, Robinson’s original idea of a monument to Western personalities sounds amazing]

Robinson began campaigning for his mountain statues, speaking to local organizations and writing letter upon letter to government organizations.  Many South Dakotans believed Robinson’s massive sculptures would attract thousands of tourists and their wallets. Others found the notion ludicrous. When newspaper stories stopped and snickers ceased, Robinson enlisted the aid of the respected U.S. Senator Peter Norbeck.

Norbeck, a frequent visitor at the White House, held the admiration of his peers in the Senate, as well as, the farmers and ranchers of South Dakota who sent him to Washington. He was instantly captivated by Robinson’s mountain-carving proposal and encouraged Robinson to seek a sculptor capable of commanding such a project.

In August of 1924, Robinson contacted Gutzon Borglum who was working at Stone Mountain, Georgia on Robert E. Lee.  Robinson invited Borglum to visit South Dakota and talk over the possibility of carving a mountain.  Borglum took Robinson up on his offer and met with him in September of 1924 and again in August of 1925. During his second trip Borglum found Mount Rushmore.  Next, Borglum and his party climbed Harney Peak. At 7,242 feet, this is the highest point between the Rockies and the Swiss Alps. The surrounding vista inspired him.

“Here is the place!” Borglum exhorted. “American history shall march along that skyline.”

He set his sights on the craggy, pine-clad cliff known as Mount Rushmore, near the isolated mining town of Keystone. It had southeastern exposure, giving it direct sunlight most of the day, and was made of sound granite relatively free from fracture. Borglum carefully explored the crevices and samples the rock of Mount Rushmore reconfirming with each test that he found his mountain.

SIDETRAIL:  Mount Rushmore is named after New York City attorney Charles E. Rushmore, who came to the Black Hills in 1884 to check legal titles on properties.  On returning to Pine Camp he asked Bill Challis the name of this mountain. Bill replied, “Never had a name, but from now on we’ll call it Rushmore. “  Never hurts to ask, folks ya might get a mountain named after you. Okay back on the main trail.

However, Borglum informed Robinson and Norbeck his life’s work would not be spent immortalizing regional heroes. The sculptor insisted the work demanded a subject “national in nature and timeless in its relevance to history.”  So then who…

George Washington:  First President.  Led the early colonists in the American Revolution. Father of the new country and laid the foundation of American democracy. Because of his importance, Washington is the most prominent figure on the mountain.

Thomas Jefferson: Third President. He was the author of the Declaration of Independence, as document which inspires democracies around the world. He also purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, which doubled the size of our country, adding all or part of fifteen present-day states.

Theodore Roosevelt: Twenty-sixth President. He provided leadership when America experienced rapid economic growth as it entered the 20th Century. He was instrumental in negotiating the construction of the Panama Canal, linking the east and the west. He was known as the “trust buster” for his work to end large corporate monopolies and ensure the rights of the common working man.

Abraham Lincoln: Sixteenth President.  Held the nation together during its greatest trial, the Civil War. Lincoln believed his most sacred duty was the preservation of the Union. It was his firm conviction that slavery must be abolished.

Robinson now had his sculptor, but the challenges to his dream had just begun.  Now permission was needed to carve into the mountain. Senator Norbeck and Congressman William Wiliamson (a man equally inspired by Robinson’s vision) were instrumental in getting legislation passed to allow the carving.  Williamson drafted two bills, one for Congress and one for the State Legislature. The bill requesting permission to use Federal land for the monument easily passed. The bill sent to the State of South Dakota was not going to pass so easily. The Mount Harney National Memorial bill was defeated twice and almost a third time, when on March 5, 1925, Governor Gunderson signed the bill.  The Mount Harney Memorial Association was established later that same summer.

More than the legislation involved was finding money to fund the project, despite Borglum’s promise of large donations from wealthy eastern businessmen.  Borglum also promised the people of South Dakota they would not be responsible for paying for any of the mountain carving.

With Congressman Williamson’s assistance, President Calvin Coolidge agreed to visit the Black Hills in 1927. Borglum planned a formal dedication of the mountain. Borglum hired a plane to fly over the State Game Lodge in Custer State Park where Coolidge was staying. As he flew by Borglum dropped a wreath inviting the President to attend the dedication ceremony. Coolidge agreed, and on August 10, 1927, Mount Rushmore was formally dedicated. President Coolidge gave a speech promising federal funding for the project.

Borglum met with Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Mellon and convinced the Secretary of the projects importance. Mellon offered to fund the entire project, but Borglum said he would only need half the money from the government, the rest he could raise privately. Senator Norbeck was stunned than Borglum turned down full funding (Hint from Kirsten: NEVER turn down full funding)

President Coolidge signed the bill authorizing federal funding matching funds up to $250,000.00 and created the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission. The Commission would consist of 12 members appointed by the President. Coolidge appointed ten and said Hoover should appoint the other two.

Hoover quickly appointed the final two members, when he took office, but he never met with the Commission. The Commission had to meet with the president to begin work. Congressman Williamson was asked to make an appointment with the President. Despite interference from Borglum that almost ruined everything, Williamson eventually met with the President and convinced him of the importance of the project.  Hoover met with the Commission within a couple days. Officers were elected and the day following the meeting Williamson and Boland (the secretary of the executive committee) went to Mellon and received the first funding.

One notable, and sad, exclusion from the new Commission was Doane Robinson. The father of the project was not even put on the list of potential candidates to serve on the committee to be selected by the President. Robinson continued to support the project and generously offered, “Let me help where I can.” Soon, feeling unnecessary, Robinson moved away from the Rushmore project altogether.

Now with the Commission organized and money in the bank, workers were hired and carving began.  After only a few years under the National Park Service, in 1938, Borglum removed all road blocks to his complete control of the Rushmore project. The Commission was reorganized granting Borglum control.  Again, Borglum’s ambition threatened the project, when he proposed a Hall of Records, a large repository carved into the side of the canyon behind the carving of the Presidents, to the story of Mount Rushmore and America. Work was stopped in 1939 because the threat of losing all funding if the money was not used on carving the faces as was intended. Work on the Hall of Records ceased and was never started again.

Carving the monument was a project of colossal proportion, but would end in colossal achievement. It involved the efforts of nearly 400 men and women. Duties ranged from call boy to drillers to blacksmiths and housekeepers.

Workers endured conditions that varied from blazing hot to bitter cold and windy. Each day they climbed 700 stairs to the top of the mountain to punch-in on the time clock. Then 3/8 inch thick steel cables lowered them over the front of the 500 foot face of the mountain in a bosun chair. Some of the workers admitted to a fear of heights, but during the Great Depression any job was a good job.

The work was exciting, but dangerous, 90% of the mountain was carved using dynamite.  The powderman would cut and set charges of dynamite of specific sizes to remove precise amounts of rock.  Before the dynamite charges could be set off, the workers were cleared from the mountain. Workers in the winch house on the top of the mountain would hand crank the winches to raise and lower the drillers.  If they went too fast, the drillers in their bosun chairs would be dragged up on their faces.  To keep this from happening young men and boys were hired as call boys. Call boys sat at the edge of the mountain and shout messages back and forth assuring safety. During the 14 years of construction not one fatality occurred.

Dynamite was used until three to six inches of rock was left to remove to get to final carving surface. At this point, drillers and assistant carvers would drill holes into the granite very close together. This was called honeycombing. The closely drilled holes would weaken the granite so it could be removed often by hand.

A great story about honeycombing comes from the workers.

Visitors would become very interested in the honeycomb granite and would ask, “How can I get a piece of rock like that?”

The hoist operator would respond, “Oh, I can’t give that away. I’m holding onto it for a buddy of mine that works up on the mountain.”

The visitor would respond, ” I’ll pay, I’ll give you $2.00 for it.”

The hoist operator’s reply was, “Nope, nope, I’d really catch if I gave away my buddies piece of granite.”

Well the visitors were very determined to get a piece of that granite. They would make another offer. “I’ll give you $6.00 for that piece of honeycomb granite.

Well, the hoist operator would pretend to pause and think about it… then he would say, “Alright for $6.00 I’m willing to take the heat.”

The hoist operator would give the visitors the piece of Honeycomb granite and take their $6.00. The visitor would leave very pleased with their rare and hard won souvenir. The hoist operator would wait until he was sure the visitors were gone, then he would get on the phone going to the top of the mountain and he would say, “Boys send down another one!” Another piece of honeycomb granite was sent down, ready for the next visitor looking for a special souvenir from Mount Rushmore.

After the honeycombing, workers smoothed the surface of the faces with a hand facer or bumper tool. The bumper tool would even up the granite, creating a surface as smooth as sidewalk.

From 1927-1941 the 400 workers at Mount Rushmore earned $8.00 a day building a monument people from around the world would visit for generations.

For the final two years of the project, Lincoln, Borglum’s son (who had been literally following in his father’s tracks during the entire project) took over while Gutzon constantly tried to get more money for the project.  In March of 1941, as the final dedication was being planned, Gutzon Borglum died. With the artist gone and a World War on the horizon work on Mount Rushmore drew to a close. October 31, 1941 the monument was declared complete.

Between receiving permission, finding funding, dueling personalities at times it was harder to keep the project on track than to do the colossal carving of the four Presidents.  However, in the end cooler heads, charm and determination saw the project through to the end, and created an American icon in the Black Hills.

And while yer trekking through the Black Hills stop on over and see the Crazy Horse Monument. Still being carved from the mountain this one should be a real beaut!

Equipped with only a sledge hammer, a single-jack drill bit and a box of dynamite, Boston-born sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski went to work on June 3, 1948 creating his 563 by 641-foot sculpture of an Indian man atop a spirited warhorse. This would later be called Crazy Horse Memorial.  He would spend the next 36 years of his life doggedly blasting away 7,400,000 tons of granite near Custer, South Dakota to rough out virtually the entire figure, in the round.

Now years after Korczak started carving and his death in 1982, work continues on the world’s largest sculpture. The dimensions are awe inspiring. The mountain-sized statue is as long as a cruise ship and taller than a 60-story skyscraper!

When Korczak died, critics reckoned the mountain outlasted the man. But Korczak’s wife Ruth and their ten sons and daughters were determined to keep his vision alive using the plan books and scale models he left behind.

Together, the wife and children brought forth a heroic face from the granite of the Black Hills during the decade of the 90s. The 88-foot-high face of Crazy Horse was dedicated on June 3, 1998, 50 years to the day after Korczak’s first blast.

Work now focuses on the 219-foot-high horse’s head. Blocking out the 22-story high figure has surpassed the halfway mark. There’s a lot of excitement about witnessing Crazy Horse’s steed take shape as these cliff-hanging explosive experts work their fleet of drilling equipment. A new generation of visitors watches as a new generation of workers carry the Crazy Horse dream forward.

If ya haven’t seen Mount Rushmore, and takin’ a gander at what they’re accomplishing with the Crazy Horse Memorial, well than brother and sister load up the wagon and get ya there!  I mean NOW doggonit! Don’t just sit there starin’ at the dang computer screen get out and see it for yerself!

Now I’ve gotta go drag Cookie away from the dang helicopter ride. “Cookie! Ya old coot, no one needs ta see yer carcus hoverin’ over the Presidents in that there whirly-bird! Get on back to the wagon!”







WHOO-EEE!!!  It is another blazen hot day here on the trail and all ‘cause Ms. Linda Broday came ridin’ up to the campfire with two heart seizin’ cowboys, and two stories that are guaranteed to touch the ol’ ticker (and if they don’t well I’d head to the nearest sawbones and make sure alls workin’ proper in that area)! WHEW! The fire just got a whole lot hotter with Duel and Luke takin’ up space!

To sweeten whatever that is in Cookie’s pot, Ms. Broday is givin’ away one ebook (Kindle only) copy of KNIGHT ON THE TEXAS PLAIN and THE COWBOY WHO CAME CALLING!!!  That means two commenters have a chance at takin’ home a cowboy today! Just leave a comment and before I break a tooth on Cookie’s biscuits tomorrow mornin’ I’ll draw two names.

Be sure to read the inspirations for these stories, as touching as the stories themselves!

A man who’s lost everything that matters…a child no one wants…and a woman with trouble to spare.

Duel McClain sees no reason to keep taking up space on this earth until a poker game changes everything and he leaves the saloon with a baby in his arms, a baby he’d won. He hasn’t a clue what to do with the child. He only knows he’ll protect the little girl with his life if need be. Thinking his life can’t get more complicated, he gets another shock when a woman stumbles into the light of his campfire.

Jessie Foltry is running for her life. She’s hungry and afraid but the man and his child pose little threat. Trusting Duel is the easy part…living without her knight on the Texas plains will be next to impossible.

But is the price too high to become a family?

KIRSTEN’S THOUGHTS:  Three lost and broken individuals find healing with each other and form a complete family. Warmth spreads through my chest just thinking of this story and the people Linda Broday brought into my home and left in my heart. Duel McClain *Huge Sigh* is truly a knight in buckskin.  A man trying to avoid anything involving his heart can’t stop a heart the size of Texas from rescuing a sweet little girl and a shattered woman. I mean really I don’t know how many times I felt my mouth stretch in a smile at his interactions with his family and little Marley, or just want to cry at his gentle spirit and healing ways with Jessie. But there’s no mistaking this gentle giant leaves a Texas sized boot print on the backside of anyone who threatens his family.

And Jesse, talk about a heroine you can root for even as your heart breaks for her past. And boy does this woman have a lot to overcome from a past so steeped in horror and pain it would take a man like Duel to show her the world isn’t only made of darkness as she brings light to his world, as well. I loved watching her bloom under Duel’s tenderness and both of them find joy in little Marley (who if you just don’t love to death…well you need to get off my trail).  Jessie easily became one of my favorite heroines. For all she’d been through and the abuse she took, she could have easily been bitter and hard, but instead instantly cares and coddles Marley and aches for the love of kindhearted Duel.

A secondary character who snatches your heart will be Duel’s father, and equally goodhearted man who longs for his children to find happiness and peace. There are plenty of lighthearted moments, and the town of Tranquility and the people come to life in vivid color under Ms. Broday’s skilled pen, but I’ll warn you have tissue nearby there are some moments that steal your breath, and cause your eyes to leak.


Another secondary character who I could have loved if Duel hadn’t already stolen my heart was Luke McClain, and it just so happens…


Luke McClain thought the worst of his problems was losing his job as a Texas Ranger. That’s before he runs into a bullet and finds  himself staring into the beautiful eyes of Glory Day. She’s the kind of woman who can make a man forget everything…except finding the way to her heart. Calling on her is the answer to a dream, but leaving her is next to dying.

Glory has had more trouble in her life than most women her age. With her mother ill and her father in prison, she’s all that stands between her sisters and starvation. Then to top everything off she had to go and shoot Luke. Bringing him home and patching him up is the least she can do. She just never expected to find heaven in his arms.

But the real question is…can the meddlesome cowboy be tamed?

KIRSTEN’S THOUGHTS: Two people deep in shadows of struggles they’re trying to hide, find in each other the vision that might lead them to their deepest desires. Okay, Luke is not a calming, gentle force like his brother, Duel.  Luke is a teasing, smart-mouthed rogue more likely to stir a fire than douse the flame, and he keeps Glory caught between wanting to kiss him and shoot him. So she does both! But I’ve always loved teasing, smart-mouthed rogues so I of course I love Luke McClain and his Texas sized mouth and ego. Because you always know beneath all that swagger is a man who’s struggling with a big hurt and a heart in need of a strong love and a lesson in true strength.

Glory Day can meet Luke flame for flame, but her fire doesn’t stem from teasing or self-assurance, her drive is contrived of preservation, hers and her family.  Her burdens are about to top out, and then she faces the loss of her eyesight, making all her struggles that much heavier. Glory is a heroine who grabs your heart. Glory is a young woman who is always told how strong and brave she is, and all she wants is someone who will share her load and stand by her side as she fights her battles. Good thing, Luke McClain comes calling.  (Another tissue alert folks the ending caused Cookie to get a “little smoke in his eye’).

As in KNIGHT ON THE TEXAS PLAINS, the secondary characters in COWBOY CAME CALLING are priceless. I won’t go into each, but you’re sure to love Glory’s sisters; Quiet, loving Hope with a hidden strength to rival Glory’s, and rowdy, sassy Patience who only wants to be like her oldest sister. As Luke noted the sisters reminded me a lot of the sisters in LITTLE WOMEN (their favorite story).


Both of these stories are just brilliant. You will truly become a part of the story, Linda does such a fabulous job of breathing life into every character and place. The family dynamics both the McClains and the Days are so true to life it’s like sitting in their kitchens, parlors and living rooms and participating in all the antics you’d expect with siblings.



When I growing up, our family lived next door to a Latino couple and they had a little girl who played with me sometimes. I learned that she was won in a poker game by the man who posed as her father. He was a horrible drunk and made her life miserable. She always told me she was going to look for her real parents some day. That was the inspiration for Knight on the Texas Plains. I knew I had to write a story that was similar to hers except I wanted to give her a happy ending.

Then when I wrote The Cowboy Who Came Calling I was struggling with deteriorating eyesight because of a disease I have. It seemed no matter what I did we couldn’t stop the progression. It was a very scary time for me. In the book the heroine Glory Day has to face losing her vision. That wasn’t good for someone who was the sole support of her mother and two sisters. I totally related to Glory and was able to immerse myself in her character. Maybe that’s one reason that book is so strong and won the National Readers’ Choice Award.

Make sure to check out other must read stories by Linda Broday. This lady knows how to write about cowboys and the women who love them, so if you’re lookin’ for a yarn for ‘round the campfire just carry one of these in your saddle bags. But make sure ya start with KNIGHT ON THE TEXAS PLAINS and THE COWBOY WHO CAME CALLING!



Cookie if yer missin’ yer money pouch well that’s yer own fault I told ya… Oh sorry y’all, Cookie’s blamin’ that nice Sundance for swipin’ his money.  What? Some of y’all are missin’ a bit of coin? Well then I say it’s time we get back to the trail while we have the gold in our teeth.

We’ll be near Sundance…keep yer hands down this ain’t no hold up…I mean Sundance, Wyoming. We’re headin’ for the Nation’s first National Monument! Yep, that’s right Wyoming is home to the First National Park, Yellowstone, and the First National Monument, Devils Tower.

Located in present day Crook County in Northeastern Wyoming, Devils Tower rises 1,267 feet above the surrounding terrain including the Belle Fourche River. At its summit this core of a volcano exposed by erosion is 5, 112 feet above sea level.

Although it is highly likely early trappers and explorers saw the Tower from a distance there was not any direct reference to the formation until 1875. A U.S. Geological Survey party who made a reconnaissance of the Black Hills called attention to the uniqueness of the Tower.  Colonel Richard I. Dodge, commander of the military escort, described it as “one of the most remarkable peaks in this or any country.”

Colonel Dodge is credited with giving the formation its present name.  In 1876, he published a book “The Black Hills,” where he called the formation Devils Tower. He explained “The Indians call this shaft The Bad God’s Tower, a name adopted with proper modification, by our surveyors.” One of the geologists on the expedition countered Dodge saying “the name Bear Lodge (Mateo Teepee) appears on the earliest map of the region, and though more recently it is said to be known among the Indians as ‘the bad god’s tower,’ or in better English, ‘the devil’s tower,’  the former name, well applied is still retained.” Despite this response the name Devils Tower remained the name generally used, although for a time Geologists continued to use the original name.

The year before the Geological Survey party entered the Black Hills in 1874, in direct violation of the Treaty of 1868, General George A. Custer led an expedition into the Black Hills. The Treaty of 1868 guaranteed this region to the Indians.  As a result of Custer’s expedition and his reports of the discovery of gold in the Hills, miners invaded the region.  Though the Army attempted to keep order, troops were withdrawn in 1875 and miners and settlers poured into the region with towns like Custer City and Deadwood springing up overnight.

The subsequent battles and Custer’s fate was thoroughly discussed in a past blog, but in the end, the Indians were compelled to cede the Black Hills and most of their lands in Wyoming to whites.  This opened up the lands around Devils Tower. In early 1880s the first settlers came into the Belle Fourche Valley in the vicinity of Hulett.  With the exception of such outfits as the Camp Stool and the Driscoll, most of the settlers were small-scale farmers and ranchers from the mid-western states. In the vicinity of Moorcroft and the Tower, on the other hand, most of the land was occupied by large-scale outfits, such as the 101.  From 1889 to 1892, the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad extended its line from the South Dakota State Line through Newcastle, Moorcroft, and on to Sheridan. From several points along this line, the Tower can be seen.

The Government took early action to prevent the Tower from passing into the hands of individuals wishing to exploit the Tower for personal gain. In August 1890, the General Land Office issued an order rejecting all application on the lands around the Tower.

In February 1892, Senator Francis E. Warren of Wyoming wrote the Commissioner of the General Land Office asking him for assistance in preventing the spoliation of Devils Tower and the Little Missouri Buttes (several miles northeast of the Tower).  Weeks later the office issued an order setting aside some 60.5 square miles including the Tower and the Little Missouri Buttes as temporary forest reserve.

That same year, the Senator introduced a bill to establish Devils Tower as a National Park.  The bill included Devils Tower and the Little Missouri Buttes. The bill was read twice and referred to committee where it appears no further action was taken.  It wouldn’t be until fourteen years later when Devils Tower would become a national monument.

Frank W. Mondell, Representative from Wyoming and resident of Newcastle, lent his support to a plan to have the area preserved as a national monument in 1906. Mondell was a member and later chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands. It was result of his influences that President Theodore Roosevelt, on September 24, 1906, proclaimed Devils Tower as the first national monument. The Little Missiouri Buttes were not included in the monument area and remained opened to settlement.

While difficult to reach, the Tower became a favorite camping and picnicking spot for people in the area.  One of the inviting features was a large spring of pure cold water located near its base.  It could only be reached over unimproved roads or trails by horseback or wagon.  It was said it was necessary to ford the Belle Fourche River seven times to get to the Tower.  This trek did not stop the people of the area from visiting Devils Tower once or twice a year and spending a few nights there.  Fourth of July celebrations were sometimes held at the Tower and people came from considerable distances to attend these events.

The Fourth of July celebration best-known is the 1893 celebration when William Rogers, a local rancher, became the first known man to climb the tower. Rogers with the help of another local rancher, Willard Ripley, prepared a 350-foot ladder to the summit of the Tower. The men drove pegs, out of oak, ash, and willow, 24 to 30 inches in length and sharpened on one end, into a continuous vertical crack found between the two columns on the southeast side of the formation.  The pegs were braced and secured to each other by a continuous wooden strip to which the outer end of each peg was fastened.  Building the ladder was probably more hazardous than climbing the Tower itself.

People came from as far as 125 miles to witness the first formal ascent of the Tower. Conservative estimates say 1,000 people came by horseback, wagon and buckboard to see the feat. Rogers began his ascent after proper ceremonies were conducted. After a climb taking about an hour, he reached the top.  Amid cheering, Rogers unfurled an American flag, specially made for the occasion, and attached it to a flagpole that had been attached to the ladder.  Unfortunately, a gust of wind tore the flag loose and it drifted to the base of the Tower, where promoters tore it up and sold the pieces as souvenirs.

Others climbed the Tower using Rogers ladder. One of the first being Linnie Rogers, who duplicated her husband’s climb two years later on July 4, 1895 becoming the first woman to reach the summit. The last to reach the top, by this method, was “the Human Fly”, Babe White, in 1927. Much of the ladder has since been destroyed, but portions of the ladder can still be seen from the south side of the Tower Trail.

In 1937, Fritz Weissner and two other mountaineers from the American Alpine Club of New York City climbed the summit using rock-climbing techniques. Their ascent took four hours and forty-six minutes.  Jack Durrance pioneered the classic and easiest route to the summit in 1938. Today climbers still flock to the Tower to test their abilities and reach the summit of Devils Tower.

Representative Mondell continued to seek funding for roads and bridges so tourists could reach the monument. However, bill after bill fell on the deaf ears of Congress. Finally, in 1917 the National Park Service with the help of Crook County built a three mile road leading to the formation.  And after petitions signed by the people of Wyoming and South Dakota, and pressure from Senators Warren and John Kendrick a bridge was finally constructed over the Belle Fourche in 1928. The roads and bridge allowed tourists in the ever popular motor vehicles access to the monument.  Although for many years the conditions of the roads made the trek to the Tower a difficult one, but despite these hardships visitors continued to make their way to visit, picnic, and camp at the Tower.  Access would improve with the construction of the Custer Battlefield Highway (U.S. Highway 14) between Spearfish, South Dakota and Gillette, Wyoming.  The state of Wyoming also improved roads into Sundance from U.S. Highways 85 and 16, and a paved highway was also constructed from U.S. Highway 14 to Alva making the south entrance entirely accessible by paved roads.

The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) of the 1930s provided extensive development for the Tower.  New roads were built, modern water and electrical systems installed, footpaths were laid out, picnic areas were established with tables and benches, and trailer and overnight camping areas were provided to the visitors. Residences for employees, workshops, and machine shops were erected, and in 1938 a museum was completed. The result of these improvements was a flock of tourists to the area.

Unfortunately, World War II would detract from the Tower’s new improvements and with the War tourism dropped dramatically.  But just prior to the war, George Hopkins would bring thousands to the Tower, and draw national attention. As a publicity stunt, Hopkins parachuted onto the summit of Devils Tower. His untried preparations for an easy descent failed, and stranded the stuntman on the summit. Food and supplies were dropped by plane to the stranded man, but for six days Hopkins waited while attempts and plans were made to locate a method to get him down.

Jack Durrance, a student at Dartmouth College, skier and mountain climber, who led the second mountain-climbing ascent to the summit in 1938 offered his assistance.  Durrance led seven other climbers to the summit where they found a surprisingly upbeat Hopkins. The descent was made with little difficulty.  Over 7,000 visitors came to the monument to see Hopkins and witness the rescue over the six days he was stranded on the summit.

Following World War II, tourists returned to the Tower and local celebrations were resumed.  Today visitors are invited to walk the 1.3 mile paved trail that encircles the tower or visit the prairie dog town just inside the park.  The Wyoming towns of Sundance, Moorcroft and Hulett provide lodging, food and entertainment.

For many Devils Tower is an interesting rock formation, or a challenge to climb. To many American Indian tribes, the Tower is a sacred place central to their culture. In the 1930s, first person narratives were recorded of the legend of the Tower to many of these cultures.

Arapaho Legend

An Arapaho lodge was camped at Bears Tipi. The father of this lodge was a head lodge and had seven children, five boys and two girls. The two girls had made an arrangement between themselves that the one who found the end bond (end rib) of a buffalo should receive the most favors from the brothers. The boys often made trips to other tribes. After a long search one of the girls found an end bone of a buffalo and on picking it up she turned into a bear and made some big scratches on her sister’s back. The bear-girl told her sister, “if you tell the dogs will howl and this will be a signal so I will know that you have told.” The sister did tell her brothers and when they heard the dogs howl and give the signal they were scared and started to run.

The bear-girl heard the signal and ran after them. The girl who had told was carrying a ball in her hand which she dropped and accidentally kicked. The ball bounded up on the big, high rock. The bear-girl reached over her sister’s shoulder to grab the ball, slipped and made very big scratches on the big rock and fell on her sister and broke the sister’s chest. The bear-girl climbed to the top of the big, high rock and told her family that there would be seven stars in the shape of a diamond appear in the east and the first star out would be off to one side and would be brighter than the other stars. This first star would be called Broken Chest Star. From this time on the Arapaho called this big, high rock “Bears Tipi”.

This legend was told to Dick Stone by Sherman Sage, 81 years old. Otto Hungary, Interpreter.

Cheyenne Legend

A band of Cheyenne Indians went on one of their visits to Bears Tipi to worship the Great Spirit; as did many other tribes before the white man came. The Cheyenne braves took their families with them as they felt that would be safe as Bears Tipi was a holy place.

After having camped there for several days, one of the Cheyenne braves noticed that his wife was often gone from camp, staying away for a short time. As time went on he noticed that she was gone longer than before. This brave could not understand why his wife should be gone from their lodge so much as he had always been devoted to her and being a good hunter, as well as a brave warrior, she always had much buffalo, antelope, and deer meat. He furnished her fine skins to make nice clothes.

Becoming suspicious that some other brave in his band might be courting his wife, he watched to see what man was missing when his wife left camp. He found that no man was missing when his wife was gone. This man also saw that his wife had a skin over her shoulders now that she did not wear before coming to this camp.

One day when she had been gone longer than usual, he laid in wait for her, on her return he asked her where she had been and what drew her from camp so much of the time. She would not answer any of his questions. Then the man became mad and tore the skin from her shoulders and saw that she was covered with scratches.

He demanded that she tell him which man had abused her. Becoming frightened at the way her husband was acting she told him that she had been charmed by a very big bear that lived in the big rock. The bear had no mate and had become infatuated with her while she was out gathering fruit. Fearing for the safety of the camp, she had submitted to the bear’s embraces, which accounted for the scratches on her shoulders.

Then the warrior told his wife to lead him to the bear so he could kill it. When they found the bear, the man had great fear because the bear was big, very big. The bear slapped the woman with his paw and changed her into a bear. The man ran to the camp to get the rest of the braves to help him kill the big bear.

They found the bear had crawled into a cave, leaving his hind feet in the door. The bear’s feet were so big that nobody could get past them. They could not get close enough to the bear to kill him so they shot at his feet to make him come out. When the bear came out he was so big that all the warriors were scared and climbed up on a big rock.

The men were so scared that they prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. In answer to their prayers, the rock began to grow up out of the ground and when it stopped it was very high. The bear jumped at the men and on the fourth jump his claws were on the top. The Great Spirit had helped the men and now they had great courage and they shot the bear and killed him. When the bear fell, he fell backwards and pushed the big rock which made it lean.

After that, the bear-woman made this big rock her home, so the Cheyennes called it Bears Tipi.

This legend was told to Dick Stone by Young Bird. Samuel Weasel Bear, Interpreter.

Crow Legend

Once when some Crows were camped at Bears House, two little girls were playing around some big rocks there. There were lots of bears living around that big rock and one big bear seeing the girls alone was going to eat them. The big bear was just about to catch the girls when they saw him. The girls were scared and the only place they could get was on top of one of the rocks around which they had been playing.

The girls climbed the rock but still the bear could catch them. The Great Spirit, seeing the bear was about to catch the girls, caused the rock to grow up out of the ground. The bear kept trying to jump to the top of the rock, but he just scratched the rock and fell down on the ground. The claw marks are on the rock now. The rock kept growing until it was so high that the bear could not get the girls. The two girls are still on top of the rock.

This legend was told to Dick Stone by Rides the White Hip Horse. Goes to Magpie, Interpreter.

Kiowa Legend

Before the Kiowa came south they were camped on a stream in the far north where there were a great many bears, many of them. One day, seven little girls were playing at a distance from the village and were chased by some bears. The girls ran toward the village and the bears were just about to catch them when the girls jumped on a low rock, about three feet high. One of the girls prayed to the rock, “Rock take pity on us, rock save us!” The rock heard them and began to grow upwards, pushing the girls higher and higher. When the bears jumped to reach the girls, they scratched the rock, broke their claws, and fell on the ground.

The rock rose higher and higher, the bears still jumped at the girls until they were pushed up into the sky, where they now are, seven little stars in a group (The Pleiades). In the winter, in the middle of the night, the seven stars are right over this high rock. When the people came to look, they found the bears’ claws, turned to stone, all around the base.No Kiowa living has ever seen this rock, but the old men have told about it – it is very far north where the Kiowa used to live. It is a single rock with scratched sides, the marks of the bears’ claws are there yet, rising straight up, very high. There is no other like it in the whole country, there are no trees on it, only grass on top. The Kiowa call this rock “Tso-aa”, a tree rock, possibly because it grew tall like a tree.

Told by I-See-Many-Camp-Fire-Places, Kiowa soldier at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, 1897.

 Lakota Legend

In the Sioux tribe long ago was a brave warrior who often went alone into the wilderness where he would fast and worship the Great Spirit in solitude. Being alone helped him to strengthen his courage so that in the future he could carry out his plans.

One day this warrior took his buffalo skull and went along into the wilderness to worship. Standing at the base of Mato Tipila after he had worshipped for two days he suddenly found himself on top of this high rock. He was very much frightened as he did not know how he would get down. After appealing to the Great Spirit he went to sleep. When he awoke he was very glad to find that he was again at the base of this high rock.

He saw that he was standing at the door of a big bear’s lodge as there was foot prints of a very big bear there. He could tell that the cracks in the big rock were made by the big bear’s claws. So he knew that all the time he had been on top of this big rock he had been standing on a big bear’s lodge.

From this time on his nation called this big high rock Mato Tipila and they went there often to worship. The buffalo skull is still on top of this big high rock and can be seen on the highest point.

This legend told to Dick Stone by Short Bull, who lived a short distance west of Ogalala, South Dakota, on July 31, 1932. Mark Running Eagle, Interpreter.

For me it’s one of my favorite memories of my first visit to Devils Tower  when I was only eight-years-old, and my dad passed on one of these legends to my brother and me.

So let’s circle the wagons up here for a bit. Cookie can whip up a picnic…Yes ya can you old coot!  And iffin ya got a mind to go ahead and shimmy on up to the top. I’ll cheer ya on from right here!


Mattison, Ray H.  “The First 50 Years.”  National Park Service. 1955






YEE-HAW!  We’ve rounded up another ace high series by author Celia Yeary!! I love me a great family series and Ms. Yeary serves one up Texas style with the Cameron family. You’re sure to be hooked with the first story and the next two won’t let ya down! So come on ‘round the fire and look these over then head on out grab ‘em up!

And don’t forget to read to the end where Celia provides a gander into the future of these families! It’s a fun look into an author’s crystal ball. The people of Texas better hold onto their ten gallon hats with the new generation!

She wasn’t a fit mother… So said the county judge who hired Buck Cameron to retrieve his little daughter. But when Buck finally locates the pretty mother and child, he finds the claim very hard to believe. Now, he faces a dilemma. Should he obey the order? Or should he defy the judge and rescue Marilee and her child from isolation? She’d been banished… Rejected and abandoned by her father, Marilee Weston used the pain of betrayal to survive. Now, she needs a way out of the forest, where she and her daughter had lived for five years. But the towering pines and fear of the unknown imprisoned her. How could she begin a new life for herself and five-year-old daughter? Will the alluring stranger free her, or prove to be even more dangerous?

KIRSTEN’S THOUGHTS:  TEXAS BLUE is a tender story of a woman who battles her own fears of what she knows can be a heartless world and the man who helps her realize her own strength and just how much fight she has in her. From the very first pages, I admired Marilee. Though extremely young when deserted by her father and left to raise a baby, born from a violent attack, she has pluck. She desires the best for her daughter, Josie, and is determined to see she is raised a happy child, and to look beyond her own fears to see her daughter has what she needs.  And you just can’t find a better hero than Buck Cameron. A man who encourages Marilee to find her strength even though it might cost him her and his heart in the end. Honestly, I got a bit miffed at Marilee ‘cause I’d have snatched Buck up and held on tight, and of course it all works out in the end, but whoo-eee is it ever a ride.



After two years, Jo King’s life as a widow abruptly ends when her husband returns home to Austin. Unable to understand her angry and bitter husband, she accepts a call from the New Mexico Territory to meet her dying birth father whom she knows nothing about. Her plan to escape her husband goes awry when he demands to travel with her.
Dalton King, believing lies his Texas Ranger partner tells him about Jo, seethes with hatred toward his wife. Now he must protect Jo from his partner’s twisted mind, while sorting out the truth. Jo’s bravery and loyalty convince him she’s innocent. But can they regain the love and respect they once shared?

KIRSTEN’S THOUGHTS:  TEXAS PROMISE was my favorite of the stories. It was the first one I read, and I read it in two nights (only because I had to work).  Then I read it again after reading TEXAS BLUE and it was more fun, but a bit heartbreaking,  to watch the children from TEXAS BLUE grow, and the darling, precocious girl and the boy who asked “if he could keep her” married.  But Dalton isn’t the carefree boy he was.  After being left for dead and struggling back to life and through horrendous pain to make it back to Jo, only to believe she no longer wanted him, he’s turned into a bitter hard man.  Jo, much like her mother Marilee, is a character you instantly like and connect with and cheer on, as a warm, loving woman with an inner strength that has seen her through hard times and heartbreak.  I loved that Jo was still as precocious as the five-year-old who stole Buck’s , and my, heart in TEXAS BLUE. Still a tomboy at heart.

There was just something about Dalton that even at his hardest and meanest I just still loved this character. It was so touching watching these two wonderful people work through all the lies, heartbreak and a dark threat from Jo’s past to find their way back to each other.



At a Governor’s Ball in Austin, Texas, True Lee Cameron meets suave Sam Deleon. Before the night is out, she transforms from the coddled and protected younger sister to a woman in love. Reality crashes down when she accidentally learns her new husband has deceived her. Daring to disobey him, she follows Sam to the oilfields and determines to live wherever he does. Has she made a mistake? Will she give up and return home where she can make her own rules?

KIRSTEN’S THOUGHTS:  TEXAS TRUE is a fantastic story, sometimes just as gritty as the oilfield, of two people swept away by love and appearances and then have to face the reality of what love really requires when real life intrudes on the dream. Although coddled and protected True Cameron is a young woman I liked from TEXAS PROMISE and continued to admire her in her story.  She comes from a loving family, and wants the same thing for herself. Her determination to follow her husband to the oilfields and push up her sleeves and do what it takes to survive there, to show her husband she could, made her every bit as likable as her sister Jo.  As she takes on more struggles moving to Sam’s ranch, taking on his sister’s children and learning of the secrets that haunt him you really watch True bear up with each new challenge and grow into a strong woman who can stand on her own, even as you hope she and Sam’s love can bear up just as much and bring them to their HEA.  And though at times you’d like to thump Sam upside the head, like Dalton, he’s a hero you hope can get past his inner demons and hold tight to True and their love.

I also found the history in this story extremely fascinating. I didn’t know much of the history of the oilfields in Texas and Celia describes the hard life and hard work on the oilfields so well you can almost smell the black gold and see the shanties, tents, and shacks that made up the “town” where the workers and their families made their homes.


All three stories are balanced between the challenges each faces as they work towards love and the dangers they face from outside forces that threaten to destroy them and tear them apart. The history Celia weaves through made each an enjoyable history lesson, as well, and I felt a connection to Texas and her people.

In each story the characters are so real you’ll just fall in love with them.  The Cameron family ties are portrayed in such a way that although the sisters, Jo and True, don’t share many pages in each of their stories their love and support for the other comes through loud and clear and helps each get through their individual struggles. It is their family bonds and the example of their parents that encourages each woman to accept her worth and not take their worth or love for granted. The secondary characters in each story are vivid and real and help complete the stories without detracting from the man and woman at the heart of each.  Celia Yeary pens such wonderful characters and their stories you just hate to see them end, and for an added treat today Celia provided a look at the future generations of Camerons, Deleones, and Kings, so the stories continue…


Don’t think I’m a little off, but I had so many characters in my Texas books, I made a genealogy chart to keep them straight. I’ve discovered I love to write a series, and it’s much easier to begin a new book when I have ready-made characters in my stories.

Unless I get a serious mental block, I have a list of characters for future novels or novellas:

~*~Lee Cameron King–he appeared in Texas Blue as a small boy who picked his nose and rode imaginary horses around the yard. I’d like to make him an early 20th Century entrepreneur  during the oil boom in Texas–a wildcatter, a risk taker, a rich man with money to make money, a tough businessman who has a big sense of humor. I’d have him run into a real buzz-saw, a serious woman who is investigating oil company monopolies for a New York newspaper.

~*~Jackson Rene Deleon–he was the baby boy in Texas True. I see Jackson grown up and the heir to the great Deleon fortune. At a young age, he becomes the head of an empire consisting of ranching in Texas, gold and silver mines in Colorado, and shipping lines out of Houston. I’d have him meet a titled British lady whom he must convince to marry him and live in South Texas on the ranch–the headquarters for the Texas Star Corporation his father formed.

~*~Lacy Deleon–she was the little niece of Sam Deleon in Texas True, born in the Flats in Austin, a prostitution area where she and her little brother, Antonio, were born and lived. When True Cameron married Sam Deleon, she found the small girl and boy and brought them home, causing a huge problem. But True was determined to raise them as their own children. Lacy, now grown into a proper young lady, discovers her lurid birthplace and challenges the local government to do something. She would meet a brash, young attorney/senator and entice him to help her.

~*~Antonio Deleon–Lacy’s little wild brother in Texas True. He was a hellion as a kid, although lovable and good-hearted. But he didn’t understand the word “no.” I see him grown and sowing too many wild oats and getting in trouble. I’d like him to meet a strong-willed female rancher who challenges him to straighten up and learn to be a man.

~*~Laura Lynn Paxton–Jo King’s half-niece in Texas Promise .  Beauty Laura Lynn has a horrible past she knows little about but sets out to find the burial place of her prostitution mother in New Mexico. In doing so, she hires a strong rough tracker to help her.

~*~Alexander King–son of Dalton and Jo King in Texas Promise. I have high hopes for the darling child. Just look at his name. He has it all–handsome, rich, smart, educated, adored by the entire family…and he takes it all for granted. Until…what? His story will require much thought.


What? Ya say ya’d love to read one of Celia’s stories, but ya just don’t have time for one of those full-length jobbers.  Well prepare to be just as happy as cat with cream, cause Ms. Yeary has solved your problem! She’s published some Dime Store Novels for 99cents each!! Why ya can’t get a cup of Cookie’s coffee for that! And while they’re shorter stories her characters and stories are just as tip of the star as her full-length books!

But really folks I’d give the Cameron series five thumbs up if I had that many thumbs, ya just won’t be sorry layin’ your money down cause this is one series you’re gonna read and read again.