Cowboys, Cattle Drives and Romance

Today, I’m sharing more about the upcoming release of Smitten Historical Romance Novella Collection: The Cowboys, all four novellas feature adventure and fun romance with hunky cowboys. Jennifer Uhlarik, award- winning author and lover of all things western set her novella Being Brave on a cattle drive. It is so exciting and swoon-worthy. Jennifer is sharing her knowledge of all things cattle drive and more about our novella collection.

The Jobs on a Cattle Drive

One of the most enduring and iconic images of the Old West is the cattle drive—where cowboys moved several thousand cattle from Texas to a rail town in Kansas. There, the herd was sold and transported to stockyards in the east. This major undertaking happened yearly after the spring roundup, and typically, several ranches pooled their cattle into one large herd and hired men to drive them north. But what were the specific jobs or positions on a cattle drive?

 

Trail Boss—The head honcho of the outfit. This seasoned cattleman plotted the day’s course, including any breaks, watering holes, and the end-of-day campsite. He was also in charge of keeping track of the brands in the herd. Likewise, the Trail Boss’s job was to make decisions on how to handle injured animals, newborn calves, any strangers they came across along the trail, and mediate any disputes that cropped up among the crew.

 

Point Rider—The Point Man rode out in front of the herd, setting the pace for the day and acting to lead the herd in the direction the Trail Boss had told them to go. The Point Rider became the focal point for the herd, and everyone else followed after him. In larger drives, there might be two Point Riders.

 

Swing Riders—The Swing Riders were situated about one third of the way back in the line of cattle where the herd began to widen out. There would be one Swing Rider on either side of the herd. This position helped keep the herd bunched and also helped the Point Riders turn the herd as needed. The men riding Swing would constantly watch for any animals trying to make a break away from the herd. It was their job to catch them before they got too far away and turn them back in with the main group. If, for any reason, the point rider left his position, a Swing Rider would move up to lead until the Point man returned.

 

Flank Riders—Similar to the Swing Riders, these cowboys rode one on either side of the herd, although about two thirds of the way back. Their main job was to back up the Swing Riders and keep the herd from fanning out across too wide an area.

 

Drag Riders—This was the least desirable position in the cattle drive, often reserved for the greenest cowboys. The Drag Rider rode behind the herd, driving the back end of the herd to stay up with the front and rounding up any stragglers or strays who break free from the tail of the herd. The Drag Riders had the unfortunate daily experience eating the dust that the thousands of cattle in the herd kicked up.

 

Wrangler—The Wrangler was in charge of the remuda (or horse herd). An average cattle drive would require some 100 or more horses to keep the cowboys mounted and moving each day. The Wrangler’s job was to drive the horse herd along the day’s course, doctor any sick or injured mounts, as well as help with camp chores, such as collecting fuel for the fire, washing dishes after the meal, and the like.

 

Cook—The cook’s job was to provide the food for the crew each day. He rose hours early to prepare breakfast, then arrived at the evening campsite before the herd to start dinner preparations. In addition, he would cut the crew’s hair, act as a banker, help the Trail Boss mediate disputes, and most importantly, act as doctor for any health issues with the cowboys.

 

Average pay for those on the cattle drive were as follows: the Trail boss earned roughly $100-$120/month. The cook could count on about $60/month. And a typical drover (any of the other positions) would earn roughly $40/month. All were paid at the end of the trail after the herd was sold.

Coy Whitaker the hero of Being Brave.

This photo inspired the character of Aimee Kaplan

It was a load of fun to write about a cattle drive in my latest release, Becoming Brave, one of the four novellas in The Cowboys novella collection. In the story, cowboy Coy Whittaker stumbles across the lone survivor of a terrible attack, Aimee Kaplan, while moving his boss’s cattle through Indian Territory to Kansas. He and the crew band together to get Aimee to safety while defending against the outlaw gang who killed her family. In addition to my story are three other wonderful novellas by award-winning authors Cindy Ervin Huff (our host today!), Sandra Merville Hart, and Linda Yezak. Hope you’ll take a few hours to read these fun romances!

 

 

 

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers, Women Writing the West, and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.

 

Buy Link:

https://www.amazon.com/Cowboys-Jennifer-Uhlarik/dp/194601690X

 

Cover Blurb:

The Cowboys

Taming the west—one heart at a time.

Healing Hearts by Cindy Ervin Huff
Lonnie Holt’s external scars remind him of his failures, his internal scars torment him. Genny Collins seeks safety at the ranch once owned by Lonnie’s uncle. When Lonnie and his brother arrive, sparks fly and distrust abounds. While Lonnie and Genny fight the love growing between them, his past haunts him, and her past pays them a visit.

Becoming Brave by Jennifer Uhlarik
When Coy Whittaker stumbles upon a grisly scene littered with bodies, he wants nothing more than to get his boss’s cattle out of Indian Territory. But when a bloodstained Aimee Kaplan draws down on him, his plans—and his heart—screech to a halt.

Trail’s End by Sandra Merville Hart
Wade Chadwick has no money until his boss’s cattle sell, so he takes a kitchen job at Abby’s Home Cooking. The beautiful and prickly owner adds spice to his workday. Abby Cox hires the down-and-out cowboy even though the word cowboy leaves a bad taste in her mouth. Just as she’s ready to trust Wade with her heart, money starts to disappear … and so does her brother.

Loving a Harvey Girl by Linda Yezak
Eva Knowles can’t imagine why the local preacher doesn’t like Harvey Girls—women who work serving tables instead of finding a husband and falling in love. But if Eva can get the handsome and wayward cowboy Cal Stephens to join her in church, maybe the reverend will accept the girls. Or maybe she’ll forfeit her job for a husband, hearth, and home!

Next week we’ll hear from Sandra Melville Hart and Linda W. Yezak as they share some historical tidbits about their stories. If you missed it here’s the link to my post about Healing Hearts, my novella in this collection. And don’t forget if you post below regarding your favorite cowboy you’ll be entered in a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card.

 

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Who Doesn’t Love Cowboys? And a Giveaway?

It’s coming! Tomorrow will be August. On the 15th The Cowboys will be released. I’m so excited. In this post I thought I’d share the WHAT IF moment behind my novella Healing Hearts that appears in this collection.

Don’t you just want to ride off into the sunset with hm?

My editor Pegg Thomas, from Smitten Historical Romance (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) asked me if I’d be interested in being in a collection where the main character is a cowboy. Who doesn’t love a good cowboy story? Three other wonderful authors joined me in the adventure: Jennifer Uhlarik, Sandra Melville Hart and Linda W. Yezak, all wonderful, award-winning authors.

In romance the female character is the first character you met. The book starts by introducing her. But The Cowboy starts with scenes of the male lead. So that was an interesting challenge. Kansas was chosen as the setting for all the stories in the collection. After some emails circulating between the four authors we each chose our main characters setting, time period and dilemma. Cowboys rescue damsels in distress. 😊

A cabin in a blizzard Pixabay

My setting

I decided Healing Hearts would be set on an isolated ranch. The year 1866 sets me up for wonderful possibilities with the Civil War barely over.

Lonnie Holt and Jed Holt are identical twins. so this pic serves for both.

 

My Cowboy

I decided I wanted to introduce two cowboys. Identical twins Lonnie and Jed head to the Kansas ranch they inherited from their late uncle. Both brothers are pacifists. When the war broke out Jed chose a chaplaincy in the Union army. Lonnie chose to stay on the family Texas ranch and not take up arms. Both paid a price for their stand. They only have each other and the hope of a new start.

Lonnie is physically scarred and full of guilt and regret. Jed still has strong faith even with his physical weakness due to time in a confederate POW camp. My hero, Lonnie’s focus is helping his brother get well and keeping him safe.  He has no time or patience for anything else. He’s a bit of a grump, and very protective of his remaining family member.

 

The woman who tames him

Now I needed to have a strong female character to become Lonnie’s love interest. Genny Collins grew up in wealth only to live in poverty because of her father’s gambling addiction. Her past is full of secrets and helpful experiences that play into the plot.  She is weary of men and afraid for her future.  The twins come upon her in their cabin and you’ll have to read the story to discover how she got there.

Genny Collins my heroine

 

Add plot twists

Once they met I had to keep the two stubborn characters together long enough to get to know each other. Voila, a blizzard. Now they can’t send her packing.  Then I added illness, a bit of mayhem and personality clashes to create a good start to a sweet romance. Throw in a few twists that tear at their hearts and Lonnie and Genny find their happily-ever-after. I love these characters. They were so fun to write.

 

A few historical tidbits I’ll mention that you’ll find in the book.

  • Beef was growing as a food staple back east since the railroad made it easier to transport cattle from the west. Ranching would become a very profitable business in the nineteenth century.
  • Marriage Licenses did not exist until 1867. This is a year after the setting of my novella. Until that time writing the name and date in the family Bible might be the only record of a marriage.
  • Without refrigeration many ways were discovered to preserve eggs. The best method recommended and still used by those who prefer a pioneer lifestyle today is slat lye. Unwashed eggs were placed in a slat lye water mixture in a crock. It preserved them through the winter.
  • Sourdough starter was the most common leaven for baking. It was easy to create and could be substituted for baking powder and soda as well as baker’s yeast.

If I have your interest:

Links:

Here is a link to the first chapter of Healing Hearts. The Cowboys is available for preorder. If you want to order an autographed copy from me here is a link to that page. You can order autograph copies of any of my books at this same link.

Over the next two weeks I’ll be posting guest blogs from my three co-authors. If you’ve not subsribed do it now so you don’t miss those posts.

Giveaway: Everytime you post a comment and share the posts about The Cowboys on social media over the next two weeks you’ll be put in a drawing for a $10 Amazon e-card. Today I’ll give you something to comment about to get you started. (All comments mjust be in this blog site to qualify.)

Tell me in the comments whose you’re favorite cowboy. I’ll start. Sam Elliot. His look and voice are the epitome of the imagine in my mind of the American cowboy.  If you know a real life cowboy share a bit about him too.

You’ll have three more chances to enter when Jennifer, Linda and Sandy stop by for a visit.

 

 

 

 

 

Populating Your Historical Story World

 

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Notice the diversity in these cowboys.

I am a pantster, I write my stories as my characters speak to me. I don’t usually outline and sometimes characters appear I never met until the words appear on the page. During my research in preparation for my historical novel, I was fascinated by the various nationalities, who populated the geographic setting of my story. Because the information ruminated in the back of my mind, many minor characters took shape from those tomes.

 

Potpourri of ethnicity

During the mid -1800s significant immigration by many diverse people groups to the unsettled regions of the Midwest occurred.  African Americans came west after the Civil War. Former slaves looking to start new. Irish immigrants who’d help build the railroads and were sick of big city life in the East. Some who in order to gain citizenship fought in the Civil War on both sides. Chinese nationals helped build the railroad. Wikipedia places them only on the west coast. However, my resource books show they also moved inland. Not all Native Americans were on reservations either. And Mexicans were the first immigrants to the area under the Spanish flag.

All of these nationalities took up residence either on the ranch or the surrounding community in my novel, Secrets and Charades.

Research the nationality of your setting

 

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Irish immigrants. Notice the one in the union hat.

 

When populating your novel with characters, it’s important to know who settled the area. For example, did you know that most police officers and firemen in New York in the 1800s were Irish? Those jobs were considered dangerous. The Irish were treated as second-class citizens when they arrived on American shores. Some had military training, either in Ireland or were Civil War veterans. Because these jobs paid better than most available to the Irish, many took up the call. Often patrolling tenement areas housing Irish

irish-laundry-girls

Irish women took any job available. These washerwomen might have traveled west for a better life. My ancestors among them.

immigrants. So, it would be appropriate to have Irish police officers in your novel set in this time period in New York. Those same poor, abused Irish immigrants came west as farmers, miners and the like. The various free land opportunities gave them a chance for a better life.

 

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Former slaves on their homestead.

 

African-Americans

African Americans who had served during the Civil War also participated in homesteading opportunities. Former slaves with specific skills such as blacksmithing could make a living out west.  Black communities sprung up throughout the west. The stigmatism leftover from slavery made it safer to form their own communities.

 

vaqueros2

Mexican vaqueros taught the American cowboy many things.

 

 

Mexican -Americans

Mexican-Americans from the rich to the poor had to make room for many settlers. The poor Hispanics found work on ranches. Non-Hispanic cowboys learned their skills from these experienced vaqueros. Often the household staff on large ranches were Hispanic.

 

chinese-railroad-workers

Chinese railroad workers

 

Chinese

The Chinese usually create their own communities in a section of town. Their different dress, language, and culture put them under suspicion. Chinese were not permitted to bring their families with them. Although I don’t explore the seedier side of their communities in my novel, sadly there was one.  Rather I chose to paint them with a more compassionate brush. Asians have been part of American culture for hundreds of years. Besides, a key scene in Secrets and Charades would be impossible without my Chinese characters.

 

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Native Americans

 

Native Americans

Native Americans were ever present in the old west. Not all lived on reservations. Their life was hard, abuse at the hands of the white man is well-documented. Still, there are accounts of Indians and mix-race families living peacefully with white neighbors.

Less Vanilla

Knowing the culture of those who lived during the time you place your story can make the tale not only more believable but far more interesting to the reader. Don’t hesitate to add some color to your otherwise vanilla characters.ed1c1dd3bf71efd7db9ad9c540d4421a

Who are the characters that populate your story world?

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Riding A Horse With No Name

I’ve ridden very few horses in my life. But I’ve ridden on the best of them through the pages of a book. My sister, Linda, however, not only rode horses but also owned a few and did rodeo roping and barrel racing. She was one of my go-to people when I did my research for my historical romance. I was quite surprised to learn that cowboys didn’t name all their horses.

photo by morguefile.com

photo by morguefile.com

Horses were work animals serving a purpose like cows, sheep and chickens. Most horses on a ranch were used for tending cattle and transporting cowboys from point A to point B. A wise cowboy took care of his horse before he took care of his own needs. The horse he was riding aided in his survival. A well-rested, well-fed horse made the difference in the productivity of a ranch and the success of a long cattle drive. Can you imagine naming a herd of horses? It wasn’t practical.

photo from morguefile.com

photo from morguefile.com

Many cowboys didn’t even own a horse. They owned their saddle and rode whatever horse the rancher provided for him. Those who did own a horse consider it one of their prize possessions. Nameless horses tamed the west on cattle ranches, Calvary units and service animals helping lay railroad ties. So important were horses in the old west, stealing them was a hanging offense.

photo from morguefile.com

photo from morguefile.com

Jake Marcum in my novel Secrets and Charades has a fine gray horse named Traveler. Jake served in the Confederate Army in the Civil War. If you’re up on historical trivia Robert E. Lee’s horse was named Traveler. Jake admired the man and respected his horse enough to give him a noble name.

LeeOnTraveler

Tony Sanchez named his horse Bonita. He spends his spare time working with Bonita teaching her tricks. He is very attached to his horse and is the top horse whisperer on the ranch. He trains Artie Weaver’s horse to follow the lad like a dog. This is connected to an important plot twist.

Jake gives Evangeline a gentle mare named Sage. Evangeline has not had good experiences with horses. So Sage will also play a part in her healing.

photo from morguefile.com

photo from morguefile.com

Nameless characters are also present in novels. An incidential human character may not have a name either. The waiter is the waiter and remains nameless. He serves a purpose in the scene, but unless he is a pivotal character in future scenes, he remains nameless.

A horse has no name unless there is a connection to the human characters that contributes to the plot. So if the horse has a name be prepared to see some specific action occur in the plot with that horse’s name on it. 🙂

What fictional horse is your favorite horse hero?

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Creating Jake: My inspiration, Readers Imagination

Sam ElliottSam Elliott is the epitome of the cowboy persona he’s successfully portrayed for decades. He tops John Wayne in my book as best cowboy ever on the silver screen. His smoldering eyes and soft-spoken manner always make the womenfolk swoon. He is the basis for my hero in my novel Secrets and Charades. Although Jake’s hair is black he has the mustache and the persona of Sam.

I didn’t actually paste a picture up of Sam as I wrote. Many novelist have photos of their characters in their workspace. I’ve seen enough of his movies to sense how his cowboy characters would react. However, I’ve tempered that persona a bit because Jake is a man of faith. His faith plays an important role in how he interacts with his world, on the ranch, the cattle drive, in town. Jake is awkward around women while treating them with the utmost respect. Even the disagreeable ones won’t hear a mean word directed toward them.

He’s a hard-working, determined rancher with dark places in his past. Guilt pushes him to be a better man for his niece, his ranch hands and his mail-order bride. Can you envision Jake?

Tom Selleck john cusack

Because Secrets is historical, I can’t mention he looks like Sam Elliott. That would be so wrong. We are in the 1870’s and I want my reader to be there with me. My description might stir up an image of a different actor for the reader. Perhaps Tom Selleck or John Cusack or any number of your favs. Which is wonderful because as the reader you get to decide what he looks like.

Henry-Darrow Erik-Estrada

I wrote a very short description of Tony Sanchez. A secondary character and Jake’s ranch hand. My sister was totally enamored with him. “You described him perfectly.” My brief description of his Mexican heritage complete with black hat, silver head band and spurs gave her all the information she needed to visualize him. I had pictured Henry Darrow from an old TV series High Chaparral for Tony but she may have been thinking of Eric Estrada. (You know, the motorcycle cop from CHIPS.)

If the setting for a novel is contemporary, it’s easy to refer to a character as a Sam Elliott or Tom Selleck look-a-like. Although I have a friend whose reference to Medea got shot down by a publisher. Apparently, the publisher had no idea who the character Medea was and felt others would not. (I digress.)

Cowboys are the ultimate hero in American literature, even today with Science Fiction heroes traveling the galaxies. Think Hans Solo. The cowboy persona lives on. He rights wrongs, lives by a moral code and saves the ranch, the damsel and his horse with no thought for his personal safety.

If you were creating a cowboy character what actor would he resemble?

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