"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Inspiration for Hattie's Cowboy

The Story:

She didn’t want a husband. He didn’t want a wife. They had the perfect relationship ... until love came calling.

Hattie Peyton Longmore hasn’t had much of a future since her selfish husband divorced her and set her out in the streets of San Francisco. Struggling to keep a roof over her head, she jumps at the chance to move to her brother’s Idaho ranch to help him raise his motherless daughter. But when Hattie arrives, it isn’t her brother who greets her, but his best friend, Jim Rider, with the news of her brother’s murder. She longs for strong arms to comfort and shelter her in this strange, lonely land, and the handsome cowboy is more than eager to comply. She doesn’t have to worry about a rake like him wanting to marry. With him, she’s safe. With him, she’ll never have to disclose her greatest failure as a woman.

Jim Rider has always been wild and free, but his best friend’s pretty sister might just be worth sticking around for, at least for a short-term love affair. Besides, he needs to find Billy’s killers—and he wouldn’t dream of leaving Hattie out in this empty land alone until she can find some hired help, or a husband. The latter shouldn’t be too hard since every available male within traveling distance winds up on her doorstep, something that soon rubs him about as raw as a burr under the collar. It comes as a bit of a shock to his freewheeling mind-set when he realizes he doesn’t want anybody in her bed except him, and he’ll do whatever it takes to prevent it ... even if it means marrying her himself!

Behind the Story:

"Wherever men have lived, there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

As a writer and student of history, this is one of my favorite quotes. You can look at any place and there will be history there. There will be people who have passed through a place, or by a place, or who have been affected by a place, if for no other reason than to avoid its harshness, to fear it for some reason, or to bury a loved one on their way to another destination. Even that lone marker left in the wilderness will carry with it somebody's story.

I chose to set one of my books, Hattie’s Cowboy*, in my own back yard, literally, because there was a story here to be told. Numerous stories, as a matter of fact. There was, first and foremost, the story of my own people who settled this region in 1915, and my own life spent here following in my grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, farming and raising cattle with my husband. My grandfather started out raising sheep; it was big business in Idaho in those days. It was my father and uncle who, in the 40s, shifted gears into raising cattle because my dad, for one, hated sheep. He spent years working all over the west shearing them in the spring, but he didn’t raise them. His dislike for the little woollies was something I had some fun with in the book. My hero, Jim Rider, a died-in-the-wool (no pun intended) cowboy, would rather die than be caught owning range maggots (sheep), an issue that nearly makes him ride off and leave the love of his life, Hattie Peyton, to tend her own darn sheep!

Besides the ranchers and farmers who settled the area, I also wanted to include others in my story: the Indians, the miners, the soldiers, and the outlaws. The latter found this untamed area ripe for the picking. They would lay in wait along Idaho’s Gold Road for gold shipments coming out of the mines in Virginia City, Montana, headed to Salt Lake City. Another road, one that ran right past my heroine’s ranch, also had historical value. It was known as the Salt Road, a winding passage through the mountains of southeastern Idaho that began near the Oneida Salt Works on the Idaho/Wyoming border and joined the Gold Road at Eagle Rock (now Idaho Falls). Not only did three hundred teams of oxen continually haul their precious white cargo over the Salt Road, but it was also traversed by soldiers, Indians, gold seekers, and emigrants.

Many might pass through this area where my ancestors took root a hundred years ago, and they might see nothing but wide open country dotted with farms and rangeland and mountains. They won’t see historical sites along the road for famous or infamous characters. It was common people who left their mark on this land. Sadly, common people seldom go down in history, but their stories, their struggles, are often more interesting than those of the notorious characters who fill the history books. Often the very nature of their mundane lives makes them easy to relate to. Why? Because we can see ourselves in their daily struggles. Because the human condition always focuses on the basic needs and emotions of all people, of their struggle to make a living and provide a home for themselves and their families, of their desire for love, success, and perhaps even power.

Hattie and her cowboy are fictitious characters, but they represent the real people who settled this part of the world. They represent my people. I hope as you read their fun, lighthearted story set in a hard, unforgiving land, that they’ll make you laugh, cry, and love every minute of their story. And perhaps, in the end, they'll become very real people to you, too. It's the most a writer can hope for.
*Available for Kindle and Nook. Hattie's Cowboy, was originally published by Zebra Books as Mountain Ecstasy. The paperback is still available under that title.