Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Enter Peter Dalton - Excerpt from Chapter 25

Peter Dalton was traveling in style. This job was a little out of his element, but if this was one of the benefits of working with a mining whiz, then he'd learn to adjust. All he needed to be set was a lady. But that would come at another time.

Why, he'd be so rich when all this was over, that the women would fall all over him. Or so he told himself.

The truth of the matter was this: Peter Dalton was a contradiction in terms. He was a quiet man, which is not to say he was soft-spoken. His motto was “walk tall and carry a big stick” and his stick held .45 caliber bullets. He was tall and lanky, with wiry blonde hair and a reddish-orange beard.

No one in the family could figure out the reason for such carrot-like color, but thought it might be from his father's side of the family. There were some Irish blokes in the mix back a generation or so, but who was to say. None of the other men were gifted with such an outrageous hue.

Dalton thought maybe his mother had participated in a little “what's good for the goose is good for the gander”. His father was notorious with the ladies, so why not, he thought.

At any rate, he was stuck with this gruesome facial hair, so he chose to make the best of it, letting it grow and grow, sometimes braiding it, sometimes not. But it made people remember him. He always stood out in a crowd. And there was no convincing him that was not always a good thing!

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Cherokee Connection

Meet Marcus Wright: a graduate of Harvard Business School, whose dream was to be a part of the mining boom in the West United States.

Marcus was born of meager means to a Cherokee mother and white father, and lived on the reservation in Tahlequah. His was loved, nurtured, well cared for, and had a dream. And he followed that dream to perfection.

His best childhood friend was a boy named Reggie. Reggie and Marcus were joined at the hip; they did everything together. Marcus knew things in Reggie's adoptive home were not happy. Reggie was born on the reservation as well, but adopted out at birth to an Irish family...O'Keefe was their name...and when he was able, Reggie became a workhorse for the family and a whipping post to his father.

Marcus's mother loved Reginald. Something about him reminded her of someone in her distant past. But Marcus didn't mind the attention she paid to his friend. Marcus knew Reggie needed someone to love him. The two boys were like brothers. Could have been brothers. The two forged a friendship that withstood the test of time.

They made a vow to grow up, go to University, and head out for the mines...and work at wherever they were given a position first. Reggie went to the University of Oklahoma in Norman; Marcus to Harvard Business.

At the end of their college years, Marcus married his sweetheart in a small family ceremony in Boston. Then they set out for Colorado...Ouray, Colorado...where they would meet up with Reggie. Marcus had been given a position in the business end of mining on Red Mountain and had convinced them to take Reggie as well.

But things were different now. Marcus, half Cherokee, knew the cards were stacked against him and he had a lot to prove. He worked hard; he loved his wife; he was successful. But he worried about his friend.

Reggie seemed to be slipping in to a dark abyss. Reginald met and married a beautiful young girl, Augusta, and bought her a monstrosity of a house...a house only the very wealthy could afford. He hired a house full of servants. And he treated Augusta and everyone in the house like so much dirt on his boots.

Marcus, out on a stroll, caught Reggie roaming the streets of Second Avenue...the Red-Light District. He also knew Reggie had gathered together a group of men who were high-grading inside the mines...filling their pockets, boots, hats, shirts full of ore. No wonder he could buy a house like that.

But all good things to come an end. And Marcus would drop the ax.

*****Read more about Marcus and Reginald in "The Disappearance of Simon Archer" to be released soon.

(PHOTO: Red Mountain Town, 1891)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What a Summer We've Had in Colorado

All in all, Colorado summers are mild. The communities in Teller County have a fair amount of part time residents, ranging from about 30 to 45 per cent  who are only summertime residents.

Suffice it to say, that the snowbirds, as they are called, didn't plan on 20 arson fires in our county alone within the span of one week, two larger fires in Teller and El Paso Counties that evacuated approximately 34000 people in Colorado Springs, Woodland Park, Ute Pass and surrounding areas of Lake George and Florissant (where we live).

Then we had the Movie Theater Shootings. It's been 13 years since Columbine, and it brought all those memories streaming back to us. I've read on Facebook comments of how we just need to get over it. I understand how people from other areas would grow weary of our ongoing problems, but a little empathy, please. We are grieving and dealing with loss of one kind or another. All we ask is to be treated as others would WANT to be treated themselves.

People from my hometown in Arkansas, which, by the way, is the home of notorious Bill Clinton interest, Paula Jones, have called, texted, written, facebooked, etc., etc., wanting to know what the devil is going on in Colorado.

Well, my answer is simple: I HAVE NO EARTHLY IDEA WHAT'S HAPPENING. But I'm ready for it to stop.

The day the fire spilled over the side of Rampart Range into the Mountain Shadows subdivision in Colorado Springs, my chest closed up. I couldn't breathe. The fear was gripping.

We live up in the mountains, but we could see the plumes of black smoke as Colorado Springs west side imploded. From our front porch we watched it everyday. A little part of me died during that fire. I will never forget all I've seen.

I lived in Colorado Springs for 23 years before making the move up Ute Pass. A lot of my friends lost their homes that day. 346 homes gone in only  a matter of minutes.

As a result of all we in Colorado have endured this summer, my book is being dedicated to the ones who saved our homes, our businesses, our lives. The first responders. There is NOTHING we can do but owe them our eternal gratitude.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Wanderlust, Money and Mining

Wanderlust, money, and mining....the three went together in the time of mining like a hand and glove.

We all suffer from the terminal American illness. Our forefathers passed it down to us. The pilgrims crossed over in hopes of religious freedom, the Native Americans crossed the Bering Strait filtering out in all directions from the North Pole to the tip of South America, people from all parts of the world have stepped onto our soil in search of a better life.

The miners were no different. From the first cry of "THAR'S GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS" the rush was on. And what a rush it was.

While researching the mining world for my stories, I settled upon the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado as my launching pad; however, the research led me to a place on 15 miles from our home in Teller County, Colorado. Cripple Creek and the Cripple Creek and Victor Mining Company.

Today there are reminders everywhere around Cripple Creek and Victor of abandoned mine digs, now just big holes in the ground scarring the landscape. But in 1894 a huge miner's strike took place that got so out of hand that 3000 men were deputized and awaited their notification to move over in Divide, Colorado. (See picture below.) The dispute was over a pay dispute and grew to the point that the miners fought back with dynamite and weapons, destroying property, injuring people and the Governor of Colorado instituting martial law, which, is the only time in US history martial law was invoked over a strike.

So great was the strike that every mine in Colorado honored it and ceased operations. The strike lasted five months. The was chaos.

In 1896 two fires, just days apart, took down much of the city. What was once a thriving, mining town of 35000, once considered as the location for the State Capital, is now a town, dependent upon casinos and the Cripple Creek and Victor Mine.

It is our county seat in Teller County. The history exudes from its very fibers. Sitting at an altitude of 9494 feet above sea level, it isn't a place for the faint of heart, but it is a place for me.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Meet Molly Brown and John Jacob Astor...and All Their Friends

My husband and I live in the Rocky Mountains on land bordering The National Fossil Beds and the Pike National Forest. With all that untouched land, comes lots of wildlife. There are bears, foxes, elk, raccoons...and lots of deer.

One day I was walking through the yard and a ginormous doe comes running up to me, stopping about two inches from my face. "My what big eyes you have, Deer!" I said, my husband laughing. He said, "Good grief. Could she come any closer?"

Well, much to my surprise, she sort of adopted me...so I named her. Molly Brown. At the time, she was VERY pregnant. In July last summer she disappeared for about three weeks and then showed up with a surprise...two fawns, one boy, one girl. Over time, the fawns became friendly towards me, I suppose following the lead of their mother. The girl was a little more standoffish, but the boy...well, he was a real pistol. He wanted to be my buddy. So I named him, too. John Jacob Astor.

Before long, these two began showing up with more and more of their family and friends. One other mommy deer came with her new fawns, twins as well. From neighbors I learned she and the deer I call Molly (aka Pretty Mama by a neighbor lady up the road) are sisters. She's larger than Molly and very distinguishable. She has the biggest dang ears I ever saw. We named her Not Molly.

Not Molly will sit outside with me on a bridge that joins our front yard from the driveway. It sits in an aspen grove and is quite cozy. When I sit there sometimes I get a little nudge on my back, turn around and she's sitting there waiting to be pet between her enormous ears. She's a real love.

Also coming for an occasional visit is one buck we call "Titanic" because he is ONE BIG DEER and probably the Grand Poobah of the group...and more than likely the Stud Muffin for this little harem. He is 14 points and came in the beginning, I have not doubts, to see who this person was who is more interesting to the ladies and kids than he is. He follows me around the yard and I generally tell him he's too close because he's just a little creepy...albeit a magnificent specimen,. He is amazing!

So that's it. We now have about 12 deer who call our yard their favorite hang out. But I must warn you, if you come by to visit, you may just step in it...if you catch my meaning.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What is an Opium Den, You Ask....

Opium dens? What the heck is an opium den, you ask? I didn't know either until a recent Google search took me through a historical journey of their epic proportions. I was stunned at the reality of which I read.

Back in the day when the good old USA had virtually no immigration or import/export policies to speak of, clipper ships full of opium began to make their way from the Far East to ports of call all over our East and West Coasts.

San Francisco was one of the hardest hit cities by this new and growing enterprise. In Chinatown alone, there were more opium dens than anyone could count. When the city fathers began to recognize there was a serious problem, the den owners decided to laugh in their faces, and opened a den just two short blocks from City Hall.

The problem grew and grew as there were no laws against it. Young men and women, as well as successful businessmen frequented the dens, only to succumb to opium's stupor-like effects. Eventually, the City of San Francisco fought the industry, taking it all the way to the State of California's Supreme Court, in a valiant fight to make opium illegal unless used under a doctor's care.

Not to be outdone, the owners of these dens spread their product far and wide, many in mining communities, where they popped up in the notorious red-light districts.. It seemed opium and prostitution went hand in hand.

I was so stunned with the history and lure of the opium dens that I knew I had to include a story line about one in this book.  Although the story is fictional, my character follows closely similar stories of addicts who surfaced in opium dens of old.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Augusta Finds a Man

Augusta was a cute little thing. So much so that none of her clients could keep their hands to themselves. Only there was one problem. Augusta lived in Ouray, Colorado in 1890. A time when women were to be soft spoken, demure, ladylike, always looking their best, not showing much cleavage or wearing makeup. Augusta had another problem. She was a single lady desperate for money.

She found a job working in the Red Light District. The men loved Augusta with her long, dark hair, big brown eyes with lashes that swept across her cheekbones when she lowered her gaze,  her petite figure, and silky negligees.

She was young. Her job was to charm the pants off the local men...literally. She was just a child. Sixteen. But who was going to tell? The men adored her and the women chose to believe she didn't exist.

All that changed the day she met Simon Archer....and Reginald O'Keefe. Neither one knew of the other, but both were spellbound by the alluring Augusta, the Belle of the District.

Simon was a married man whose eyes wandered from the woman who married him all those years ago when she was just a girl herself. He was willing to give up everything he had to be with Augusta. His work took him to the ends of the earth and he brought her trinkets from all the ports of call. He bought her silk dressing gowns, ivory combs for her hair, pearl necklaces, teas from China, lace from Scotland. Yes, wherever he went he brought back expensive gifts with which to lavish the exotic Belle of the District.

Reginald was a newcomer to the community, moving to Ouray upon graduation from college to work on Red Mountain in the mines. He was a handsome man, a loner, who did not play or work well with others. He had a plan. A plan for success. To become a wealthy miner and he would see his plan to fruition whether by hook or by crook. And the plan only intensified the day he met Augusta. He fell in love with her, knowing full well that he was not the only man who shared her bed. But despite it all, Reginald vowed to take her away from this place.

Who wins her heart? Will Simon leave his wife and children to begin a life with a woman half his age who was no more than a wandering sheep, lost in the world of prostitution? Or will this fallen woman find warmth and safety in the arms of Reginald O'Keefe and his mysterious ways?