Monday, January 25, 2016

Cattle Drives ... and a New Release!

Every single book I write gives me the opportunity to learn something new.

When I sat down to write A Narrow Road, Kansas Crossroads #8, I realized I hadn't yet written about a cowboy. That seemed rather shortsighted of me - I'm writing Western romance, but I hadn't written about a cowboy yet? I decided to remedy that by making the main male character a cowboy, and I sent him off on a cattle drive.

My first idea was to have the cattle shipped into San Francisco, as much livestock was at the time. But a quick chat with my mentor, Kirsten Osbourne, helped me realize that driving the cattle up from Texas would be a much better choice. She pointed me to some articles, one of which was about the Chisholm Trail.

Courtesy of
The Chisholm Trail was a well-traversed path by which cattle drivers would move their stock north after purchasing it in Texas. That state was famous for its Longhorns, and ranchers from everywhere were anxious to purchase the animals and start breeding them. One thing Kirsten taught me was that the cattle were tough and stringy from being on the move so much, and they didn't produce juicy meat until they'd been fattened up at their respective ranches. Chicken fried steak came from these long cattle drives - the cooks needed a way to make the tough meat palatable, so they'd pound it, season it, and fry it.

This trail was pretty tough. There were rivers to cross, hills and mountains, and gorges, but it was the most direct way to get the animals from the stockyards in Texas up to the stockyards in Kansas, where they would then be shipped all over the country. One of the most expensive parts of the journey was paying the dime-a-head toll to the Indians for the right to pass through Oklahoma without harassment, as it was still Indian territory at the time the Chisholm Trail was in use.  Despite this tax, the cattlemen still made a profit, as the cattle would sell for three times their purchase price elsewhere.

Courtesy of
The cowboys who ran these drives had to be tough and used to all conditions. The food wasn't great, they'd take turns sitting up for guard duty, and they were exposed to all the weather. They'd take just what they could carry on horseback and hope it was enough to keep them warm and dry - or, during the summer months, protected from the sun. These men were often sunburned and wiry, not unlike the cattle they drove.

If the cattle stampeded, that could mean the loss of some of the herd, which was costly, so the cowboys stood guard, ready to guide the animals and calm them if they became upset.

When at last the cowboys reached their destination, they'd often turn right around and look for their next cattle-driving job. They loved being out of doors and appreciated nature in all its beauty. Because of them and the cattle drives, we have cows all over the nation today.
If you'd like to learn more about A Narrow Road and read about Wade's cattle drive, you can pick up a copy here

Amelia C. Adams is the author of the Kansas Crossroads series and also of the Nurses of New York series, as well as two volumes in the acclaimed American Mail-Order Brides series. You can learn more about her by visiting her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter.

By clicking this link, you can download a copy of her first Kansas Crossroads novel free!


  1. Interesting post Amelia--especially since I just finished a road trip across Texas and I was thinking of the cattle drives! It was SO FLAT!

    I haven't read any of your books before, so I appreciate your offer of your first Kansas Crossroads novel for free. I downloaded it and look forward to reading it.

  2. Thanks for the book, I look forward to reading it. Living near where the Goodnight/Loving trail went, along with the ranch Goodnight had in Colorado, cattle drives and cattle are a part of the history here. You are correct, it took some special people to do that kind of work. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines-author