Waving hello to everyone! I think this is the first time I've ever been on your blog, Paty, yet we've known each other for years. Unfortunately we are on opposite sides of the USA so we don't get to drink coffee together or go riding in the hills. And I would love to go riding with you!
I grew up riding English so keeping my derrière in the saddle… It's a whole different style of riding. I think it's easier to go from English to Western than it is to go from Western to English. Posting is a little like patting your head while rubbing your tummy. Let's just say I'd get lazy and ride bareback. You have to keep your hind parts down when you do that.
When I write contemporary westerns, I have fun mixing that east/west thing into the stories. But when I write historical westerns, I don't play. I want my stories to be accurate and that extends to the attitudes of the people at that time in history. But we all know that people never really have changed. What changes is their environment. Back up 150 years and people didn't want to live in a soddy on the plains, they wanted a log cabin. Today people don't want to live in an 800 square foot house, they want the McMansion. What we want changes as we acquire more. The surfs of yesteryear wanted their children to have a trade so they weren't doing menial jobs. We want ours to go to the finest colleges we can afford so that they do better than we did. Each generation since the beginning to time ups the ante. Therefore, writing about people in the 1800's or any time frame isn't that different from writing about today. People haven't changed! Only their environment!
Understanding the things that they had and what it took to get them is they key to keeping things accurate, but there's one more piece to the puzzle - attitude. And where did they get that? Mostly from the church. That's what controlled the morals, influenced politics, etc. So not unlike today, there were people who held close to what they were taught and those who didn't. To say there was no premarital sex in the 1880's is totally wrong! Statistics show that one third of first born children were born out of wedlock until about the 1950's when birth control became a common thing.
That brings us back to people haven't changed. Hormones and desire have not changed. But how they were handled did. So the next step is to look at the characters. Who went west and for what reason? Some of the men who first went west were escaping prosecution for petty crimes. Starving? Did he steal a loaf of bread and almost got caught or maybe recognized? Run away to place so large and vast, that a change in clothes and a beard, and a new name were enough to give them a new chance at life.
These men were tough, usually from impoverished backgrounds, so they were already hardened. Survival made them tougher. They weren't all bad people or vicious criminals. They went west looking for another way of life. They didn't want to do what their father did or they were the third son and would not be able to inherit the business, store, farm, etc. They could kill for food and sell the pelt. Soon too many realized they could make good money just by killing for the pelts.
As the east expanded into the western territories, looking for precious minerals such as gold and copper, it brought a different kind of man into the area. Skilled workers, surveyors, tinkers, traders, farriers, doctors, preachers, and adventurers came and settled. The west in the late 1700's through the 1800's was like the New World to the pilgrims and other settlers, a chance for a new life, a new beginning, and a chance to reinvent themselves as someone else. That street urchin grew up and now has a chance to become a respectable member of the community. The cunning and intelligence that keep him alive on the streets of some big eastern city, kept him alive in the untamed west.
Strength and brawn were required. If they didn't have it, they gained it. The cowboy that we romanticize isn't very accurate. Cowboys were boys! Cheap labor. But that man we conjure is probably the rancher and he earned those muscles by being on the range and working with those boys roping cattle. Taking down a 1500 pound animal is no small feat. Fast, sure, skilled, confident aren't qualities that most men are born with, instead they are gained by hard work and doing a job until they can do it in their sleep.
Who doesn't want such a man? Even the most independent woman who doesn't need a man to protect her still can admire a strong body and enjoys the company of a man who is as independent and capable as she. And although a rancher might appreciate a pretty little gal in a silk dress, he needed one who could handle a gun, knew how to butcher a steer, and wasn't going to fall apart if she broke a fingernail. Those men were tough and so were the women or they didn't survive. And even the tough ones didn't always make it, thanks to things like small pox, cholera, and even the flu.
And most of marriages never took place. There was no one to marry them. They were known as common law marriages. Maybe after several years, they might have come across a minister who married them. But over half the marriages were without any official records.
I happen to like these more realistic characters who get dirt under their nails. A heroine who can shoot a rattler, make belt from the skin and cook the meat for dinner. No, I don't want to eat snake and don't try to tell me it tastes like chicken. It tastes like snake! But I do admire the gutsy women who went west and found men worth loving. The real stories of those people who carved a living where nature wasn't always kind but it's always beautiful!
Matilda “Matt” Berwyn, forced to live disguised as a boy in a mining town, longs to escape and blossom into the female she's always wanted to be. But her desire to leave Morgan's Crossing escalates when she realizes she's being stalked.
Stockyard hand Zeke Hillerman knows her secret and has fallen in love with her. He helps her flee to his parents’ home in the east to learn to be a lady, while he struggles to start his own ranch. As Matilda grapples with Victorian expectations of young women, Zeke’s plans for their future unravel, and he realizes that the cost of her ticket out of Morgan's Crossing may have been his own heart.
Excerpt from Loving Matilda:
Zeke awaken and stretched. He had found the perfect spot for sleeping. Using his bedroll as a pillow, he’d slept through the night and well into the morning hours, leaving him feeling refreshed and ready for the ride to the Reiner stockyard. He scanned the water below and didn’t see Matt. Unfortunately, he couldn't wait forever. It was important that he return to the stockyard in a timely manner. But that didn't stop the disappointment that ran through him.
As he prepared to leave, movement caught his eye and he stopped long enough to realize it was Matt. She's not playing. She really is panning for gold!
He stood there mesmerized. Whatever she was finding wasn’t small. He left his horse and went back down the pass to get a better look. A spear whizzed through the air and landed near Matt.
Zeke instantly stiffened. His rifle was with his backpack, leaving him only with his knife. There was no time to think. He had to protect Matt. He took off in a full run, his boots barely touching the ground. A blood-curdling yell resonated across the peaceful landscape as an Indian ran towards Matt. He saw the Indian attack Matt.
Zeke dove for the young man slamming him into the creek bed. With his fist raised, Zeke looked into two dark orbs that instantly widened…
"Who is he?" Gray Fox asked.
Matilda sat in the creek after she dragged the man from the water and watched him. "Not sure. Think he's going to die?"
"As hard as you hit him with that rock, he might."
As the official matchmaker for all the characters who wander through a mind full of imagination and the need to share, E. Ayers enjoys finding just the right ones to create a story.