J.v.L. Bell Guest Blog

The Sandhill Cranes of Kearney, Nebraska

When pioneers crossed the Great Plains in their wagon trains, were they awoken by screams and by a sky dark with birds? In the evening, did they hear noises on the Platte River and wonder what new terror was approaching?

After visiting the Sandhill Cranes in Kearney, Nebraska, I’ve wondered if there are any first-hand accounts of pioneers encountering the birds. If you know of any, please send me information at Julie@JvLBell.com

 For those that don’t know about the Sandhill Crane migration, every February through April, a half million Sandhill Cranes descend on the area around Kearney, Nebraska (Fort Kearney), taking a three-to-six-week rest from their northward migration. During the gold rush, the Cranes visited a three-hundred mile stretch along the Platte River. Now, because of farming and other man-made issues, many now visit Kearney, eating and increasing their weight by almost thirty percent before they fly on to their nesting grounds in Canada, Alaska, and even Siberia. 

While they are in Kearney, they eat, make tons of noise, and dance. In the evening, as the sun goes down, they drop down to roost on the shallow sandbanks of the river, forming large swarms that sound like a banshee is attacking. In the morning, one Crane will take off and they all rise into the air, turning the sky black with their wings while they screech, squawk, and fill the quiet morning air with noise.

During the day, a visitor can drive around the area and find them everywhere, eating in corn fields, dancing their unusual mating ritual, and of course, making noise. Sandhill Cranes are not stealth birds.

 If you visit, I recommend booking a morning or evening viewing in the Audubon Iain Nicolson Center at Rowe Sanctuary. The two to three-hour tour is worth every cent.  The guides are great, the money goes to a good cause, and the blind is on the river, giving you unbelievable views of the birds. It is cold, so put on your  snowsuit and then add another layer. You’ll be so mesmerized by the Cranes you won’t realize you’re freezing until you can no longer feel your fingers.

Listen to the sound of the Sandhill Cranes.

Author J.v.L. Bell is a Colorado native who grew up climbing 14,000 ft. mountains, exploring old ghost towns, and hiking in the deserts of Utah. Whenever possible, she and her family can be found hiking, rafting, or cross-country skiing.

Julie writes historical fiction and non-fiction based in Colorado. Her historical mystery series (The Lucky Hat Mine and soon to be released Denver City Justice) are set in Idaho Springs in 1863 and Denver in 1864 respectively. Her non-fiction biography of Elizabeth Byers, Denver Pioneer and wife of Rocky Mountain News editor, William Byers, is aimed at 5th graders.

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Team Winning Writer ~ February 2021 Edition

Thank you, Alice Trego for providing us with the results for the 2020 Will Rogers Medallion Awards.

** Western Nonfiction: Third Place: Geronimo, Prisoner of Lies: Twenty-Three Years as a Prisoner of War (1886-1909) by W. Michael Farmer (TwoDot)

** Western Biographies: Fourth Place: Washington Territory’s Grand Lady: The Story of Matilda (Glover) Koontz Jackson by Julie McDonald Zander (Chapters of Life Memory Books)

** Western Romance: Fourth Place: Summer of Fire – Rain of Fire – Lake of Fire by Linda Jacobs (Goodreader Press) Fifth Place: A Slip on Golden Stairs by Joanne Sundell (Five Star Publishing)

** Maverick: First Place: Catacombs by Mary Anna Evans (Poisoned Pen Press) Second Place: The Healer’s Daughter by Charlotte Hinger (Five Star Publishing)

** Western Fiction: Young Readers/Illustrated: First Place: Ruby’s Christmas Gifts by Nancy Oswald, Illustrations by Nate Jensen (Filter Press)

** Cowboy Poetry: Written: Second Place: Earthbound by Sharon Salisbury O’Toole (Red Dashboard)

** Western Fiction: Second Place: The Last Warrior: The Life and Times of Yellow Boy by W. Michael Farmer (Five Star Publishing) and Blood-Soaked Earth: The Trial of Oliver LeeW. Michael Farmer (Five Star Publishing)

** Inspirational Western Fiction: Second Place: One More River to Cross by Jane Kirkpatrick (Revell)  Fifth Place: Sand Creek Serenade by Jennifer Uhlarik (Smitten Historical Romance)

** Western Short Stories: Third Place: Boy in the Darkness by Anne Schroeder (Trailblazer Western Fiction)

We are inviting each of our WWW writing family to share awards and placings they have received for individual book titles, articles submitted and published in magazines or other periodicals. The achievements would be other than any recognition received for WWW awards. Refer to the Members Only section under Blog Submissions: Awards and Recognition, to submit your information. 

Submission deadline is the first of each month.

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Team Winning Writer ~ January Edition

Ashley E. Sweeney’s second novel, Answer Creek, recently won the 2020 Arizona Literary Award sponsored by the Arizona Authors Association. Chronicling the Donner Party saga, Answer Creek follows fictitious protagonist Ada Weeks as she travels westward in 1846 in search of a new life. 

Sweeney is the winner of the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award for her debut novel, Eliza Waite, which also placed in the WILLA and Sarton literary awards.

A native New Yorker, Sweeney splits her time between the Pacific Northwest and Tucson. Follow Ashley on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her website.

We are inviting each of our WWW writing family to share awards and placings they have received for individual book titles, articles submitted and published in magazines or other periodicals. The achievements would be other than any recognition received for WWW awards. Refer to the Members Only section under Blog Submissions: Awards and Recognition, to submit your information. 

Submission deadline is the first of each month.

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New Release ~ Square Corners A Horsewoman’s Story by Deb Donley

Growing up feminist, a tenacious woman struggles to become a successful horse trainer, loves and loses her cowboy husband, and fights through panic attacks to resume her career.  This memoir is filled with extraordinary horses, dedicated students, and the ever-present ranch dogs. 

Square Corners A Horsewoman’s Story is available in paperback and e-Book .

Deb Donley trained horses professionally for forty-two years.  Many hours spent walking out hot horses at evening cutting practices as a teenager gave her a forever love of cutting horses and the job they do.  Living the dreams of countless horse-crazy little girls, Deb began her career making house calls to help people with their horses.  As time trotted on, she worked on several different ranches, earning World and National championships along the way, all because of her extraordinary horse partners.  Before retiring, she returned to making house calls for her clients.

Horse people have shown her support and kindness throughout her entire career.  They are a singular community of animal-loving, empathetic brothers and sisters for each other.  She remains in touch with some of the students she had thirty-some years ago. 

Deb still offers advice to a number of her former students if asked, but mostly enjoys watching them succeed in their horsey experiences.  She lives in the mountains of Colorado in a cabin her grandparents built in 1940 and spends her time hiking the trails and talking horses every chance she gets. Follow Deb on Facebook.

Book cover photo by Arlis Groves Photography. Used with permission.

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Team Winning Writer ~ December Edition

Kayann Short – Her flash fiction story, “To the River,” appears in the October 2020 issue of Burningword Literary Journal.

In September 2020, Kayann’s essay, “Girls Wear Pants,” appeared in the anthology, In My Shoes: Reflections on Women’s Journeys, available https://www.kaleidoscopewojo.com/

We are inviting each of our WWW writing family to share awards and placings they have received for individual book titles, articles submitted and published in magazines or other periodicals. The achievements would be other than any recognition received for WWW awards. Refer to the Members Only section under Blog Submissions: Awards and Recognition, to submit your information. 

Submission deadline is the first of each month.

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New Release ~ Rescuing Samantha by Heidi Thomas

With dreams of raising Thoroughbreds, Samantha Moser leases the Montana ranch that once belonged to her great grandmother, a trail-blazing rodeo cowgirl. After back-breaking work to fix up the abandoned, dilapidated ranch and a disastrous blizzard, her fiancé lacks the courage that runs in Samantha’s blood, and he leaves her.

Struggling with shattered dreams, a proposed takeover of the land for an exotic animal refuge, and financial difficulties, Samantha must take a job on a dude ranch. In the midst of all the uncertainty, she rediscovers the healing power of horses for children and what life’s purpose is for her.

But knowing her purpose might not be enough. Can she help a young girl overcome her insecurities, battle the investment group threatening the land, and trust the man who has a stake in the takeover while he professes his help?

Published by SunCatcher Publications, Rescuing Samantha is a contemporary western woman’s fiction. It is available in paperback and e-book at Amazon.

Heidi M. Thomas grew up on a working ranch in eastern Montana, riding and gathering cattle for branding and shipping. Her parents taught her a love of books, and her grandmother rode bucking stock in rodeos. She followed her dream of writing, with a journalism degree from the University of Montana.

Heidi is the author of the award-winning “Cowgirl Dreams” novel series and Cowgirl Up: A History of Rodeo Women. She’s also written a children’s book, The Secret of the Ice Castle & Other Inspirational Tales. She is the recipient of the WILLA Literary Award for her book Follow the Dream.

Visit Heidi at her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Write, Share, Renew

In this month of thankfulness, let us remember the women whose small, quiet contributions have allowed us to walk proudly.

Write their stories. Share your knowledge.

Give Thanks to be in a group which encourages forgotten lives to step into the light.

WWW Membership (Renewal or To Join) now open and waiting to welcome you to a new year.

Barb Froman
WWW President 2020-2021

I’ve never talked about Miss Laura Jean but
I’m thankful for her.
She taught me how to pick cotton without making my fingers bleed.
And how to make noodles if only two handfuls of flour were left in the kitchen.
For birthdays, she gave me money. The dollar bill was always flat and folded in a little square—recently removed from its hiding place in a book.
She once told me she cried each day in the cotton field. Her newborn also cried nearby, from beneath the shade tree. She couldn’t understand why she couldn’t stop crying.
She never saw an ocean. I don’t think she missed it.
She never learned to drive. She missed it.

She saw plenty of dirt. And sun. And wind. And children.
Her example taught all of us how to get by.
She never won an award—but never expected one.
The only plaque that shows her name is in the cemetery.
She’s one of the many women of the West whose story is rolled into the stories of others.

We love, we resist, we persevere and move forward, pushed by her and now-silent women.
I am thankful for Miss Laura Jean.
I am thankful to be in an organization which so lovingly and diligently tells the stories of our mothers
And their mothers
And the women that came before.

Miss Laura Jean would have loved it, here.

B. K. Froman

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Team Winning Writer ~ November Edition

Linda Wommack – “Confidentially Told in Brown’s Park” Wild West Magazine. Wild West History Association Six-shooter Award for Best Article for 2020. 

We are inviting each of our WWW writing family to share awards and placings they have received for individual book titles, articles submitted and published in magazines or other periodicals. The achievements would be other than any recognition received for WWW awards. Refer to the Members Only section under Blog Submissions: Awards and Recognition, to submit your information. 

Submission deadline is the first of each month.

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New Release ~ Falling Forward, a Woman’s Journey West by Pat Jurgens

When her mother dies in childbirth, Louisa at seventeen is thrust into adulthood.  She is suddenly responsible for running the farm household and caring for two younger siblings. Isolated in a late 1890’s Mennonite community with strict religious doctrine and expectations, she yearns to explore the “outside” world. She falls in love and marries Thomas, who is not of the Faith, and is shunned by the entire community. They journey to California to start a new life farming melons, but Thomas dies and the farm fails. 

A widow without means, Louisa is still determined to make a life for herself and her children in the West. Eventually she makes her way to Golden, Colorado, where she opens a bakery and tearoom and learns to survive in a man’s world. She finds women friends, becomes a suffragist, and is confronted with social issues of the time. Rediscovering love with her longtime financier friend, she is poised to accept his marriage proposal when she learns the fate of her mongoloid baby sister. Louisa’s choices set in motion a transformation she never expected. 

Falling Forward, A Woman’s Journey West is available in paperback at Amazon. Watch for the eBook version coming soon.

Pat Jurgens is a writer and retired librarian who has published more than fifty articles in local and regional magazines. She has won awards from the Denver Women’s Press Club, the Poetry Society of Colorado, and the Jefferson County Historical Commission.  She loves living in an old mountain cabin in Evergreen, Colorado, with her husband Carl and rescue dog Zoe. Falling Forward, a Woman’s Journey West is her first novel.  Visit her at: https://patjurgens.com

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New Release ~ Dudes Rush In by Lynn Downey

I’ve been publishing books and articles about the history of the American West for thirty-five years, and have been reading historical fiction and historical mysteries for longer than that. Around my birthday in 2012 I put down the latest Alafair Tucker novel by Donis Casey and said to myself, “I wish I could write a historical mystery.” In the next second, someone turned on a movie projector in my head and the characters and plot of a story started to march across my inner vision.

Over the next few years, while I was still working full-time, I got more flashes of my story, and since I always keep pen and paper handy, I was able to write them down (if I was driving, I left myself voicemails). When I retired and then started my historical consulting business, I sat down to organize my notes and scanty drafts into a coherent whole. It was the hardest work and the most joy I have ever experienced as a writer. I found Annette Chaudet and Pronghorn Press, which released Dudes Rush In in October.

I love the history of Arizona and the world of the dude ranch, and that’s where my main character, Phoebe McFarland, finds herself in 1952. She’s a restless war widow who decides to give up her life in San Francisco to help her late husband’s family run the H Double Bar dude ranch in Tribulation, Arizona. When she finds an old diary hidden in the desk of the guest house where she is staying, she stumbles onto secrets from the town’s past that collide with a shocking revelation from her own. 

Book Two of the H Double Bar dude ranch series is already running through my head. 

Dudes Rush In is available at Bookshop, Amazon, and Lynn Downey’s website.

Lynn Downey is the WILLA award-winning author of Arequipa Sanatorium: Life in California’s Lung Resort for Women. Her work-in-progress is a cultural history of dude ranching, which will be published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 2022. Visit her at www.lynndowney.com, and on Instagram at lynn.downey.historian. 

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