Trailing Horses

I just read an article on the Cattlegrowers blog about trailing horses. Author Jack Blerry says, “With the widespread use of the truck and stock trailer, trailing livestock, especially horses, has become a thing of the past in most parts of the country. Many hands do nothing more than jingle up horses out of a horse trap come a morning. In big country, whether out on the desert or way back up in the mountains, one still needs to know how to trail horses from one place to another.”

In 1930 my grandparents, faced with drought, dwindling grass, and potentially starving horses, trailed their 100 head from Cut Bank, Montana to Salmon, Idaho. The 350-mile trek took a good two months and took them over the narrow, steep Lost Trail Pass between Montana and Idaho.01_12_19---Horses-New-Forest_web

Following is an excerpt from my upcoming novel Follow the Dream, which shows some of the hazards faced on that trip.


“Gitup there.” The cowboys yelled and whistled to push the horses toward the bridge spanning the wide Flathead River. Despite the long drought, blue-green water raced over jutting boulders, and formed deep, eddying pools along steep, tree-lined banks.

Nettie looked across the long wooden bridge. Must be a good 500 feet. Those side rails didn’t look like they’d hold back a calf, much less a herd of horses. And it was a good ten feet to the rock-strewn river below.

Jake rode up front, leading a draft pair on a rope. They would cross first and the rest of the herd would follow. At least that’s what Nettie hoped. She reached over and slapped a straggler on the rump with her hat.

The men closed ranks on either side of the horses. Nettie pushed from behind, her nerves strung tight. “Go on, git, git.”

Jake’s pair stepped onto the structure but halted as their hooves thumped on wooden planks. They snorted and pawed at this new footing, then tried to back off. Jake tugged on the lead rope. “C’mon now.”

First one, then the other horse thrust a leg forward, hesitated, then made another step, and another. Jake coaxed them toward the other side. The next several horses followed, then more. Nettie reined Tootsie to the left then back again, urging the group to keep moving. Ah, maybe this wouldn’t be too bad after all.

Hooves thundered and planks rattled. The entire structure swayed. Nettie gripped her reins. The bridge might not hold up under all that weight. Maybe they should have taken them across one at a time so the horses wouldn’t crowd each other until the railings gave way.

Jake made it across with his lead pair. He called and clucked at the horses on the bridge. Those who reached the other end bolted off. The structure shook in their wake. The horses still on solid ground on Nettie’s side balked at the entrance. They milled around in confusion, flailed the air with their hooves, and whinnied with fear. Anything to avoid stepping onto that swaying, noisy bridge.

Dust swirled. The horses’ fear and sweat was sharp in Nettie’s nose. She saw confusion in the great mass of horseflesh. Animals turned every which way. Some came back toward her. Teeth gritted, she urged Tootsie into a fast trot, criss-crossing the rear of the herd. The men riding the flank did the same, whooping and slapping at the stubborn horses with their lariats.

Someone motioned to Shorty to help and he pulled the chuck wagon up on the left, just before the bridge entrance, to form a barrier.

Nettie caught a breath. Neil’s still inside. “Get him outta there!”

Published in: on August 24, 2009 at 12:26 am  Comments (15)  

Gwyn Ramsey Interview Continues

The last couple of days, I’ve been talking with Gwyn Ramsey, author of the novels Journey to Tracer’s Point and Winds of Change.Winds ChangeFront cover copy

Tell us about the sequel, Winds of Change. Does this continue the story of Caroline and John as they seek a new life in the California gold fields? Winds of Change is the second book in the series which brings part of the Anderson family full circle, including John Anderson. This historical family saga is a continuation like Little House on the Prairie and Lonesome Dove. The book brings to life the story about Sarah Anderson, who, after being kidnapped by Indians, becomes the wife of Running Swift, an Arapaho Indian and a mother to his son, Little Feather. Sarah faces the challenges of Indian life, until disaster again changes her world.

What is your next project? My next project is the third book in the series titled Bound for Texas.  It is a life story of another person in the Anderson family and their survival after the trip west, their personal quest to find the Anderson family, and their destiny.

Do you have a favorite author or someone you’ve modeled your writing after? I read many different genres and enjoy them all. If I had to pick two I would say Elmer Kelton and Tony Hillerman. Also I love reading John Jakes and Dana Ross Fuller. But then again I read Karen Rose, Cheryl L. Wilson, Virginia Henley, Jane Kirkpatrick, Ann Parker, Dorothy Solomon, Cindy Sandell, Fern Hill, and of course Heidi Thomas, just to name a few. I could go on and on with names of writers who I have enjoyed reading their works.

What inspires you to write? My characters inspire me daily, nightly, no matter what time of day or what I am doing.  They bother me until I put the words to paper.  Once I begin to write and research for the one small particular piece of information, I can’t quit until my head begins to nod.  Usually that is around 1 or 2 in the morning.  What I truly hate is when I’m swimming laps, scenes and words spill forth. I’m extremely wet with no paper or pen. It’s exasperating.  Of course by the time I’m out and dried, I can’t remember a thing. Ahhhh!

Do you have a schedule you stick to? My writing schedule is pretty sporadic.  I do have to say that I prefer writing at night from 9 to 1 or 2 in the morning. No phone, no visitors and my husband asleep in bed. That time is mine, peace and quiet.  I spread out my books and papers and dig in.

Gwyn Ramsey 2What advice would you give to beginning writers? Writing is not a hobby, it is a business. Of course when you begin, you will treat it as a hobby. The best advice I can give is to love what you do, never give up, and keep your derriere in the chair. The story can’t get out until you decide you will write it. As Cheryl Ann Porter used to tell us at TARA, you can’t fix a blank page. So write, write, write and then worry about editing.

Tell us about the business of writing. There are three phases of writing.  The first will seem the hardest and that is getting your story written and printed out. Once you write “The End,” most new writers feel they are done.  Not by a long shot.

The second phase is submitting to agents and publishers. This takes courage and developing tough skin, for you will receive many rejections. Hey, you won’t be alone. Steven King first two novels were turned down a multiple of times. It wasn’t until his third book, Carrie, that he was published. I personally have three thick folders of rejections on Journey to Tracer’s Point and I’m very proud of every one of them.

The third phase of writing is promoting and marketing. This is a whole different avenue of business. I do believe this part of writing that scares many authors but it shouldn’t. If you’ve made it this far, you are doing fantastic. Marketing is why you decided to write.  You want people to read your story, to love your characters, to stand waiting for your next book.  One thing though…you must keep writing after phase one. If you don’t, you will never have another phase two or three.  So the key word to everyone is to write, write, write.

To be honest I never thought I would be a writer. It was the farthest occupation from my mind. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve enjoyed every nail-biting word.

Great advice, Gwyn. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. I wish you the best in your future writing and marketing endeavors!

Thank you, Heidi, for having me on your blog.  It’s been a wonderful experience and a pleasure I will always remember.

Journey to Tracer’s Point and Winds of Change are both available from Treble Heart Books.

Author Interview: Gwyn Ramsey

Gwyn Ramsey 2My guest today is Gwyn Ramsey, author of the novels Journey to Tracer’s Point and Winds of Change. Gwyn is a member of Women Writing the West, Western Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Tampa Area Romance Writers (TARA), Peace Rivers Writers, and EPIC.

Welcome, Gwyn. You have two novels out in your series. Was Tracer’s Point your first novel? Yes, this was my first novel, a story of my heart.  I have several others written, but Tracer’s Point is one I’ve loved from the very beginning and what a challenge.

Tell us what inspired you to write it.  I’ve been asked this plenty of times and to be honest, I never gave it much thought until the question was posed. I would say that after 45 years of genealogy, the idea of writing a historical was born. The thought of going west in a covered wagon always piqued my interest.

Have you always wanted to write or did you come to it later in life? Actually, my writing didn’t develop until 2000.  I’m a late bloomer and have more stories waiting on the sideline than time will allow me to finish.

Did these books require a lot of research? Yes, lots. Research is a skill that all writers develop whether in small amounts or on a larger scale. Journey to Tracer’s point took three Journey coveryears of research and writing. Together, the book took on a life . . . one of love.

What did you do to find the information you needed? I began with interlibrary loans, the Internet and then progressed to the Library of Congress as a researcher.  Also I traveled to many of the areas mentioned in my book. I called people to interview them regarding their pioneering skills and developed my own personal home library. It was an on-going process even after the book was published.

What kind of preparations did the characters have to do before they left? The process of trip preparations was huge. Material had to be woven and two changes of clothes had to be sewn for each person on the trip. Candles had to be made as well as soap for once at their destination many people lived in their prairie schooner for months until a cabin could be built. Food was gathered from the cold cellar or bought, cooked, and packed. The medicine bag had to be put together and herbs collected. Land had to be sold as well as the entire homestead, stock, etc. Personal possessions had to be sold or given away for only the necessary items were required for the trip. During 1849 in the back country of the Virginia mountains people didn’t own a lot, and what they have they was handed down from generation to generation. So selling or giving away personal items had to be a heart-breaking experience.

What a difficult journey this must have been, from Virginia to California by wagon train, especially for the women and children. What kinds of things did they have to endure on this trip? Planning the trip, gathering the necessary provisions, building a wagon and then heading west on trails without a GPS or Atlas to show them the way was just the beginning. But the real difficulty didn’t arrive until the pioneers left from the jumping off place at Independence, Missouri to reach either destination, Oregon or California. There were turbulent rivers to cross and high river banks to climb, prairie fires from lightning challenged them as well as tornadoes, cholera was ever present and claimed many lives, a shortage of money was always a problem, long walking hours in all kinds of weather wore the people down, not to mention wagon crashes or the loss of their animals. These people were hardy pioneers and constantly pushed themselves to reach their destination, their dream. They walked 3,500 miles through some of the nastiest terrain.

Wow, Gwyn, they were indeed brave and hardy souls.

Join us on Monday for the second half of the interview, in which Gwyn talks about her sequel, Winds of Change. Both novels are available from Treble Heart Books.

A Visit to Multnomah Falls

My husband, sister-in-law and I recently went to the Portland, Oregon area for a family reunion–our uncle’s 85th birthday and a cousin’s 30th. We had a wonderful time, seeing relatives on my husband’s side, many of whom we hadn’t seen in many years.

Multnomah & Bridge

We were close enough to Multnomah Falls, so did a side trip to this beautiful site.

Multnomah thru foliage

Vista House

Vista House provides a rest top and a fantastic view of the Columbia River Valley.

View of Coumbia 2View of Columbia 1

And another gorgeous falls, Latourell Falls.

Latourelle Falls

Published in: on August 4, 2009 at 12:19 am  Comments (2)  
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