Wednesday, March 28, 2007

School Marms, Saloon Girls, & Calamity Jane

Western Heritage Gathering: Women of the West--Part IV

Molly Gloss set the record straight about women in the West. Her love of literature, and westerns in particular, has provided ample opportunity to become familiar with the "accepted" version of women's roles out West. However, dissatisfied by the dime novel and Hollywood portrayals she did a little research of her own. The result: The Jump-Off Creek and Wild Life.

Think about frontier women--women of the west--whom you have seen on TV or movies. I think of the mothers who gave their all, such as "Ma" Walton and "Ma" Ingalls. Or the rough and tumble tom-boy Doris Day portrayed in Calamity Jane. Or Judy Garland (the proper maid) and Angela Lansbury (the saloon girl) in the Harvey Girls. The other often portrayed woman of the west is the teacher, as in Christy or Ms. Beadle from Little House. More often than not, women in old westerns were portrayed in stereotypical ways and suffered from the want of a good husband. Was there more to the story?

Molly's presentation was "Proving Up: Homesteading Women in the Literature of the American West." In the late 1800s less than one-half of homesteaders were women (without men!). By the 1910s every one in five homesteader was a woman. Women made their way West as mothers and wives. But how often do we hear about the single women wanting to work the land? The hard-working widow? Or the deserted wife/mother who must make the way as head of the household?

To "prove up" an individual had to be 21 years of age, head of the household, live on the land, make improvements and farm the land for five years. The real kicker? Women proved-up more often than men!

Read about real women of the West. Dozens of books are available regaling the lives and struggles of these women. Read until you break the mold of popular novels and movies.

Tip: Look for memoirs written by women who homesteaded in your area.

And don't forget, Alice Day Pratt's Homesteader's Portfolio (1922), Three Frontiers (1955) and Animals of a Sagebrush Ranch (Juvenile, 1931). This remarkable woman, single and nearing forty, traveled from her home on the East Coast to file claim on 160 acres of land in Central Oregon (Prineville area).

For a more modern version of the homesteading woman read Jane Kirkpatrick's, Homestead. I will write more about this fabulous book in an upcoming post.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

One Hundred Years Down the Road

Western Heritage Gathering: Women of the West--Part III

The Imperial Ranch has been in operation for over one hundred years. The legacy of that first homesteader lives on in the rich history still maintained on the ranch.

What does this mean for my loyal readers? My first novel begins in the rain-drenched region of Seattle, but moves quickly into the High Desert of Central Oregon: First stop Shaniko. The Imperial ranch is fifteen miles Northwest of Shaniko. Considering the size of the ranch and the success of the same, at the turn of the twentieth century, watch for historical references to this important ranching family.

Driving north on highway 97 you may notice roadsigns proclaiming, Bourbon Lane, Starvation Lane, Egypt Lane, Rufus, Dufur, and many others. If you have ever wondered about the origins of the names dotting the West--as I have--check out
Sherry Kaseberg's, Sherman County Place Names.

Mrs. Kaseberg contributed to the Western Heritage Gathering by sharing a "field trip" through Sherman County. She presented an enjoyable slide show accompanied by informational teasers about how places were named. She grew up in Moro listening to the stories of her elders, relatives and other area residents. The data was eventually compiled to create her book.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Imperial Ranch: Ninety Miles & One Hundred Years from Bend

Western Heritage Gathering: Women of the West--Part II

The first presentation at the Womens Heritage Gathering was from Jeanne Carver of the Imperial Ranch near Shaniko, Oregon. Her energy and vitality was engaging. There was no doubt that this woman loves the land and the history she inherited as the current ranch woman.

Some of the history she imparted:

Richard Hinton was born on the Oregon trail en route to Lane County where his family settled in the 1850s. He grew up in the Willamette Valley watching the land be fenced, plowed and become overcrowded. In 1871, he shook the mud from his feet and headed to the high desert of Central Oregon.

With a lone packhorse he found his way to the area known today as Bakeoven and established his homestead at age nineteen. He bought sheep and cattle and began farming. The next year he married Mary Emma Fitzpatrick and brought her home to his bachelor pad: a dugout cave in the creekbank. Together they raised two children in this little cave. After ten years of hard work they proved their claim. Mary died the very next year.

Richard continued to be a shrewd landowner and rancher. His flocks flourished as he developed a remarkable cross-breeding program for quality meat lambs and wool. Within two years of Mary's death he met and married Clara Bird, this time bringing his new wife home to a home he had built on the ranch. Clara was a socialite and was not required to work the ranch as her predecessor had. Two more children were born.

Hinton became the largest single proprietor in Wasco county, and eventually all of Oregon. By 1900 the Hinton's were able to build a Queen Anne home, which still stands today. The family hired staff including a personal cook, house boy, private tutors and a chauffeur. The family enjoyed trips to Portland (where they maintained a rented apartment) for theatre and cultural events. Clara and her daughter were able to commission dresses made by the renowned Shogren Sisters.

James Hinton, Richard's oldest son, took over the ranch in 1915. His business acumen never equaled that of his father. James did not marry until he was in his fifties. By the 1930's a man from Antelope named George Ward joined the operation. George and his wife Mary (Hampton) earned James' respect and in 1945 a half share was sold to George.

Subsidies were introduced in the 1930s. War and synthetic fabrics further cut into the highly profitable sheep industry.

Mary Ward was a true partner to George Ward. She handled the people and the bookwork. She would drive to Portland to hire from Skid Row or to Gresham for fruits and vegetables. The ranch was still known for the entertaining begun during the days of Clara Hinton. Mary was involved in the care of her home, Wool Grower's Association, Cowbells, and the PTA. In her free time she drove to Portland to take tailoring classes.

James Hinton sold his remaining share of the ranch to George Ward in 1967. George and Mary struggled through their final years of ranching. Following a serious car accident George and Mary relied heavily on prescription drugs, pain killers and alcohol. Their children refused to continue the rigors of ranch life and the ranch was soon sold to Dan Carver in 1988.

Today the ranch continues the tradition of sustainability with four commodities in production: sheep, cattle, hay and grain. The sheep business is still a challenge, but the Imperial Ranch is finding their way. Through ingenuity and determination 100% of the meat is now sold to restaurants. Quality wool yarn and project kits from the Imperial Ranch can be found at Woodland Woolworks and The Stitching Post. Finished garments can be found through the national retailer Norm Thompson. A complete list of locations carrying Imperial Ranch products is available on their website.

The headquarters of the ranch is a National Historic District and can be viewed by prior arrangement.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Western Heritage Gathering: Women of the West

Moro, Oregon is a charming little town approximately 20 miles south of the Oregon/Washington border at Biggs. Anyone traveling from Biggs south on highway 97 to Central Oregon will pass through Moro. Just off main street is the Sherman County Historical Museum with a pleasant park and restrooms for the traveler. The Café Moro serves up a very nice meal (and when we visited, offered a Military discount which we greatly appreciated!)

The Presbyterian church, which has been active for one-hundred twenty years, hosted the Western Heritage Gathering on Saturday, March 24th. The gathering celebrated the role of women in the West (homesteaders, postmistresses, ranchers, wives, mothers, writers, and a myriad of other roles unlike those we see in moving pictures.)

Nearly one hundred twenty-five people attended the event. Drawn from all over Oregon and parts of Washington to remember the women who came before us into the great land of the Pacific Northwest.

The presenters included women who are continuing the tradition of strength and endurance in this rugged landscape. Over the next few days I will share some of the things I learned during this event.

Oh the journey that still lies ahead!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Review of Bad Kitty

In an earlier post (March 3, entitled "Weekend Warrior") I lamented having only one reader for Bad Kitty. First order of business...I was so preoccupied with the topic I forgot to properly cite this book. I will remedy that oversight now.

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel is a charming ABC book for children. My daughter picked this book at a Scholastic book fair. I was hesitant at first, encouraging her to choose something at her reading level (I admit I was pushing chapter books.)

Once we placed the book in our collection it became one of the household favorites. The pictures are colorful and fun. There is a prevailing sense of silliness. Cat lovers (and haters) will find something familiar. My children love to read along with us (my husband and I sometimes read in tandem) and the kids add the sound effects.

Bad Kitty is not your every day alphabet book. The Kitty is a character you can care about and unlike other ABC books has a plot with tension. The author has identified some unusual phrases and words to keep the rhythm and interest of readers. The best part is the ending...

Age recommendation: Great for emergent, developing and fluent readers of all ages.

Bonus: The cover pictures lend themselves to pre-reading predictions. Ask children to make predictions about why the Kitty is "bad." Also, how might the character on the back cover contribute to the story?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Response: Marriage First -- Part III

What is a husband good for? What about killing spiders, mowing the lawn and fixing garbage disposers?

But in all seriousness, the insights presented in the post below underline the fact that we should not go through life seeking our "perfect mate" on our own. We should instead trust that if the LORD needs us to be married, He will bring us together with that person in His time. Far too many marriages fall to pieces because we base them on our own strength and our own definition of marriage rather than trusting that the Maker of the universe knows what He is doing.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Marriage First--Part III

Men were not created to carry us. A husband does not supply our strength. (For a quick study of what the Bible says about strength, check out a few of the following verses: Ex 15:2; 1 Ch 16:11, 27, 29:12, Ps. 18:1, 32, 39, 23:3, 29:11, 59:9, 17, 105:4, 118:14, Isa. 33:2, 40:29, 31, 49:5, 58:11, Jer. 16:19, 1 Co. 1:25, Eph 6:10)

Let's take it a step further.

Have you ever dreamed of someone who would love and accept you completely?

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary puts Psalms 118:9 another way, "trust in him [God] alone to accept and bless us."

Oh my. Is it possible that we find the greatest acceptance in God? The one who made us and knows all about us? If you are seeking this kind of acceptance through love and marriage, you are looking in the wrong place.

"Do not trust in princes, or in human beings, who can not deliver!" (
Psalms 146:3, NET Bible)

A husband will never live up to the dream. God is the only One who can love and accept us completely. God
is Love. (see 1 Jo 4:8 & 1 Jo 4:16) And His love is perfect.

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love."

(1 Jo 4:18, NET Bible)

If a husband is not meant to be our strength, if he will never love and accept us perfectly, what is he good for?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Marriage First--Part II

Recently a friend complained that her marriage is not what she thought it would be. Her husband is not as attentive and romantic as he was before they traded rings. She lacks the interest to indulge his wants and needs. Instead of a spark turning into a raging inferno, the coals are barely warm.

My question would be, did she marry because of a heart prompting from God? Or did she marry because she was "in love" and marriage was the next logical step?

In 1995, John Michael Montgomery had a number one hit with "I Can Love you Like That." In my acquaintance, the pervasive sentiment of love and relationships is expressed in the first lines of this song:

"They read you Cinderella
You hoped it would come true
That one day your Prince Charming
Would come rescue you
You like romantic movies
You never will forget
The way you felt when Romeo kissed Juliet
All this time that you've been waiting..." ("I Can Love You Like That," by Steve Diamond/Maribeth Derry/Jennifer Kimball)

How true! Young girls often hope for Prince Charming: a romantic notion of a white knight who will sweep us off our feet. But is this a biblical view?

"It is better to take shelter in the LORD, than to trust in princes." (Ps 118:9, NET Bible)


Psalm 118 is titled "Thanksgiving for Victory." Found in the fifth section (or book) of Psalms it is part of the "Songs of Ascent," written after the second temple was finished, and used by the Israelites as a song while traveling up to Jerusalem. Wait? The Israelites, the chosen people of God? Who better to realize the faithlessness of princes or nobles? And if this verse is written by David, think of his experiences with Saul--talk about betrayal.

The verse is written in the original Hebrew as a comparison. "It is better...than..." (Ps 118:9, emphasis mine). Depend on the LORD. Rely on the LORD. God is almighty, powerful, just, and benevolent. God is truth. God is Love. Could a mere man carry us through death? God did! The death of His son on the cross carries us into eternity. If he can do that, why would we seek anything less to carry us through life?

The Psalmist is very clear. Do not trust in princes (nobles). The point is: even men with the greatest power--men who are chivalrous, honest and true--do not have the strength to lift us up--to carry us!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Marriage First--Part I

The working title of my novel is First Comes Marriage. If you read my blog sometime in the last few days you may have noticed the phrase "First Comes Love." Every now and then I slip and say the latter. The title comes from the children's rhyme, "K-i-s-s-i-n-g, then comes love, then comes marriage..." and the rhyme is embedded deeper in my mind than my own title. (By the way--I fixed the error this morning so no need to search for it.)

This is the first in a trilogy exploring the pioneer era of Central Oregon. The railroad was not complete and water was still a prized commodity. Travel from Shaniko to Terrebonne (58 miles) would take no less than 8 hours by auto-bus, 24 hours by stage or as long as 4 days by horseback! And we think we have it rough driving through Redmond at rush hour.

Each title in the series will playfully twist the familiar rhyme: First Comes Marriage, Next Comes Love, Along Comes Baby.

Why marriage first?

In the United States, the modern conventions of marriage lead us to believe that when someone falls madly in love, the natural fulfillment of this love is marriage. What if the reverse is true? Can a man and woman marry and find the natural fulfillment of this marriage is love? How does this fit with God's view of marriage?

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Character Diary: Bethrina Granger (First Comes Marriage)

July 23, 1909
Dear Diary,

Dinah plans to send me away. Truly! This time, she has set the deed in motion. I found the proof.

I have known since the first day I arrived she was unhappy with me, but this? How could she do it? If only Uncle Alfred would say something. Of course there is no hope there.

I think of the day Charlotte proclaimed her love for Thomas White. Aunt Dinah fainted! I administered the smelling salts and she came awake squealing, "My baby will never marry a lumberman!" Charlotte pleaded with her mother for nigh on a week, Uncle Alfred watched quietly from his side chair. The poor girl waited nearly three years for another offer.

In my imaginings I see myself standing before her, telling her that I will choose my own husband: I will choose my life. But how can I? She has cared for me all these years. She suffers so much from my presence. I would dishonor her, and my family to do so. Or perhaps I simply lack courage.

My only hope is for this stranger, Mr. Henry Wyatt. Oh! I can't think of that now.

I must put out my light and prepare for bed, but to what good? The new street lights glow all night long and I will never sleep.

With the hope of something new,

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Writer's Life: Rewrite #247

I am working on an article that is very close to my heart. One of my writer friends suggested I write this article--about an answer to prayer. The funny thing is, God's answer didn't look anything like I told him it should.

The article needs to be 1500 words. I have exactly 1500 words. But now, I realize a few lines must change. The most challenging is the first line. Do I leave it as is? Or do I rewrite it a few hundred times more? If the best fiction begins in the middle of the action I don't know why a grounding/reality statement is necessary (the advice I have from one in my critique group.)

Time for #248.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Weekend Warrior

The myth of the National Guard is that one weekend a month is not too much to give up. The reality is missed birthdays, school events, kid's sports, church and family time.

Not to mention that two "sleeps" (as our children think of it) sounds like forever when you are just starting to adjust to the fact Daddy is home again. Home, but not home. Two sleeps is so monumentally better than five-hundred and twenty-four sleeps some people might wonder "What difference does it make?"

We all remember that Daddy used to leave for one weekend a month. Then one weekend turned into a year and a half.

Before we became a family, Daddy and the kids would travel from Washington to Oregon to visit me. The kids remember that it is a long drive from Oregon to Washington. Now Daddy has to travel all alone, all that way.

The reassuring aroma of coffee is gone.

Only one voice is available for dramatic interpretation of Bad Kitty.

Morning snuggles leave you only half full.

Laughter is replaced by grumps and groans.

Living becomes waiting.

Friday, March 2, 2007

I Don't Like Them Sam-I-Am

In honor of the 103rd birthday of Theodore Geisel, Dr. Seuss, (did you know that his name is pronounced like "voice?") our family tried green eggs and ham this morning. The kids thought it was great fun. I thought it was most disgusting.

The eggs and ham--all green--tasted basically as they should. So, what was it I did not like? The green slime of the over easy egg? The slight marbeling of green dye soaking into the slab of ham?

When I visited Japan last spring, I tried a plethora of foods (mostly from the sea) I never imagined existed. When presented with a bowl containing a single raw egg, I waited expectantly for a means by which the unfertilized ova would become edible. Afterall, as an American, I knew that raw egg was to be avoided at all costs. There was no such transformation.

Japanese sukiyaki is meat and vegetables simmered in a pot in the center of the table. A portion is dropped into your bowl, on top of the raw egg you have beaten with your chopsticks. A chunk of meat or slice of mushroom is pulled from the mess that looks like the beginnings of an omelet. Suspended in the air the bite drips with raw egg. In your mouth you are very conscious of the slimy raw egg.

The surprise? I absolutely loved sukiyaki! Therefore, I conclude that it was not the slimy egg of my green eggs and ham I did not enjoy.

While still in Japan I was treated to a multi-course traditional Japanese meal. The one dish that stands out was the snapper boiled in sake. The plate arrived with just the head and tail of the fish--skinned to the bone and one eye protruding from the skull. I stared at that emaciated corpse for a long time, and he stared back. The tableau was frightening.

Visions of dead fish flitted through my mind when I ate green eggs and ham this morning. I saw the eye bulging, the white skeletal outline with no visible flesh to eat. I know in reality it was only a little green food coloring. But for today, my plate held a green slab of poor defenseless pig interspersed with the remnants of what could have been a cuddly chick.

Is this how God sees us when we have sinned? With a little green dye coloring all our flaws, accentuating every little thing, until He has to turn away?

Thank you Dr. Seuss, for your amazing contribution to children's literature! And for the moral--you don't know until you try it.

I tried it. I don't like green eggs and ham. I don't like them Sam-I-am.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

This isn't Kafka's Motorbike

Welcome to the launch of BlessfulWritings. Sadly, Bridget was unavailable for our launch, so I will have to muddle through. The fact is you could very well be reading the blog site of the author of one of the top ten books of our time. In the very least, it will be "very good too."

In these pages you will find a wide variety of topics including, but not limited to, articles of faith, marriage, family, literature, and Central Oregon.

Watch for recurring posts with tantalizing information about my upcoming novel in the form of character journals and historical tidbits from the era.

Also coming soon: book reviews, and scripture exegesis.

I look forward to embarking on this journey. God has called me to be a spirit-filled writer. I write to affect the hearts of women and educate young people with Love-centered stories and faith-based curriculum.

My prayer is that my readers will find encouragement and inspiration in my writing.

"Dreaming instead of doing is foolishness, and there is ruin in a flood of empty words." Ecclesiastes 5:7.

Cuppa Joe...

Good morning to the blogosphere. I'm the Assistant Author of this blog, and you'll find my submissions listed under DisplacedTexan.

I would also like to welcome everyone to the launch of BlessfulWritings. Out of the two of us, Oreganowinger is the actual author, in that she is writing books and doing research and pursuing a serious calling. I on the other hand am not a real author, but I DO play one on TV.

But seriously, what you'll see from me is one male perspective on faith and family, as well as a bit of comic relief.

Since this is the first day of National Caffeine Awareness month, I'm posting about one of my own personal vices. While caffeine is not usually considered "bad," we must remember that the Lord does not want us to allow anything worldly to control our lives. If we are afflicted with an addiction, be it caffeine, alcohol, gambling or drugs, we should pray that the Lord give us the strength to overcome the addiction.

Now, my favorite author does not drink caffeine in large amounts, but I most certainly do. Below is an excerpt from a Yahoo news article I found this morning, as well as a link to

Take the quiz and use the caffeine calculator. Find out if you wish to rethink the amount of Joe in your cup.

"Today kicks off Caffeine Awareness Month and we're buzzing with excitement at the thought of 31 days dedicated to our favorite addiction. In the spirit of the event, we wonder, are you aware of caffeine? Statistics suggest you are, since 90% of Americans consume caffeine daily, and it's the most widely-used drug in the world. Great! Our job is done: We're all aware of caffeine. But after another delicious cup of joe and some high-speed research, we discovered that we're supposed to be aware that caffeine is bad -- or at least that it has negative effects. While there are conflicting reports about its long-term effects on health, there's no denying that trimethylxanthine has immediate effects on the body. It releases dopamine in the brain, triggering feelings of pleasure and reward, just like food, sex, and many other drugs. Caffeine is a psychoactive drug, after all -- a stimulant, like cocaine and methamphetamines -- and it can be addictive and even fatal in large doses. But is it really that bad? Humans have consumed caffeine [for centuries], and just look how far we've come since then. Can that really be a coincidence?"

Take the quiz!