Hollywood and pulp fiction gave us gun slingers strutting down dusty streets, tanned cowboys riding on the open plains, rowdy saloons overflowing with lawlessness, and the mysterious Native Americans forced to endure the invasion of the white men. Those movies and re -run TV shows were great fun growing up. Even I couldn't resist strapping on a set of shiny silver plastic six shooters and donning a faux suede vest one Halloween. When the classic westerns faded and were replaced with the less violent Little House on the Prairie and Grizzly Adams, I kind of lost interest. They were too tame. I did admire the frontier struggle, and watching families (for the most part) stick together through it all. The men were tough. The women were tough in their own way. They held their families together which was admirable. Yet whenever I watched them I instinctively knew that not all women would have been happy filling the role as frontier wife and mother. Week after week I silently wished more women would toss their crisp aprons aside, grab a shot gun, and ride alongside the men. Or simply leave the beans cooking in the Dutch oven and head off into the sunset in search of a life that suited them better.
I spent some time researching women of the West before writing the LASSOED LOVERS series. What I discovered made me smile. Maddie Catalan in RAW HIDE & SEEK and RAW HIDE AWAY is a combination of the notable women I found. My research proved that there were plenty of women who indeed rode alongside the men, or veered off the path of 'proper women'. There were plenty of women that were more at home in a saddle than in the kitchen, or more at home in a brothel than the barnyard. Two of these women spoke to me the loudest. They made headlines. They had a lust for life. Despite their affluent backgrounds and family influence, they certainly followed their own paths. Both of their names were Pearl.
Pearl de Vere (circa 1862 - June 5, 1897), known as the "soiled dove of Cripple Creek", was a 19th century prostitute and brothel owning madam of the American Old West. Little is known about her youth. She was believed to have been born in Chicago, Illinois around 1862, and raised by well to do parents. She migrated to Denver, Colorado, while in her teens. She was known in Denver as "Mrs Martin", although it is not believed that she was married at the time. By the age of either 14 or 15 she was a working prostitute in Denver. When business slowed, she moved to the new boomtown of Cripple Creek, Colorado, in 1893.(Wikipedia)
Pearl was said to have been a good businesswoman, strong willed, and smart. Her girls were encouraged to practice good hygiene, and have monthly check- ups. When Pearl's husbands mill and her first brothel was destroyed in a fire, he went off to accept a position as a smelter in Mexico, she opened a new brothel (The Old Homestead), a lavish structure which cost guests $250 per night (other establishments charged $3). Pear was found unconscious one morning by one of her girls. Although the doctor believed she died of morphine overdose ( she often used morphine to sleep) but that was never confirmed. Of interest was the fact that the night before she had gotten into an argument with a wealthy Parisian admirer. One wonders if her death wasn't investigated simply because she was a madam. Interestingly, the Parisian man later mailed a check to cover her funeral costs, an extremely lavish affair. The entire town came of Cripple Creek came to witness her burial. The Old Homestead is now a museum.
Pearl Hart, née Taylor, (c. 1871 – after 1928) was a Canadian-born outlaw of the American Old West. She committed one of the last recorded stagecoach robberies in the United States; her crime gained notoriety primarily because of her gender. Many details of Hart's life are uncertain with available reports being varied and often contradictory. (Wikipedia)
While attending boarding school at the age of 16 Pearl became besotted with a young man. They eloped. Later she discovered he was an abusive drunk. They parted and reconciled many times, until Pearl became involved with Joe Boot. The pair committed many robberies, including what is believed to be the last stage coach robbery in history. Hart maintained that the money was for her ailing mother. The media jumped all over Pearl's story. A Cosmopolitan article said Hart was "just the opposite of what would be expected of a woman stage robber, when angry or determined, hard lines show about her eyes and mouth." That makes me smile. What on earth did they think a female stage coach robber should look like? Upon Pearl's prison release she was given a train ticket to Kansas City, Missouri. The facts of her life after that are sketchy. Pearl's life has been portrayed in pulp fiction, film, and also in many books.
PG EXCERPT RAW HIDE & SEEK:
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Maddie approached Randy while she was atop Mia. He was saddling up one of the stallions.
“Howdy,” she said casually as she stopped next to him. Mia stomped her hooves after sniffing the other horse.
“Hey,” Randy said after touching the brim of his hat.
“My aunt has a list of things she needs in town for the upcoming horse show. I told her I’d give you the list,” she said as she held up the square of paper in her hand.
“Aw, you’re such a good girl,” he said with a playful grin. Maddie frowned at him.
“First of all, I’m not a girl. Second of all, I’m not always good,” she said sassily. When she stuck her tongue at him he laughed. Then he held his hand up to her.
“Okay, you got me there. The list, madam?” he asked in a mock French accent. Maddie pursed her lips. She shoved the paper in her cleavage.
“Ever play hide-and-seek?” she asked. Randy stared at her.
“Yeah,” he responded carefully.
“Well, I’m quite good at the game. I’ll hide. You seek. If you want your list, then come and get it, cowboy.” With that Maddie was off like a shot. She headed right to the fields, which led to the river. The world raced past as Mia broke out in an all-out run. At one point, Maddie looked back, and she grinned. Sure enough Randy was after her. At that point he was a speck in the distance, but he would catch up quick. She aimed to reach her special spot before he did.
As soon as Maddie reached the huge weeping willow at the river, she slid off Mia quickly. The horse was panting heavily as she headed to the water’s edge. Maddie fished the paper from inside her shirt and shoved it in the crotch of her jeans as she scooted under the canopy of the willow tree. Just as she pulled her hand out, Randy charged into the clearing.
“Oh, Maddie,” he called out sweetly. “Come out, come out, wherever you are.” She stifled a giggle as she watched him through a break in the drooping tree limbs. He took off his hat and mopped his brow with a cloth before placing the hat back on his head. Then he began stalking toward the tree with a wry grin. She thought she would pee from excitement.
“Gotcha,” Randy said as he pushed back a section of drooping tree. Maddie laughed out loud and backed against the tree trunk.
“You found me, but you haven’t found the list,” she said before biting her lower lip. She slid her hand over her breast, to her hip, and then to her crotch. Randy stared at her. The dark look that came over his face was not what she expected.
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