by Tara Manderino
The west was more than cowboys.
I love cowboys. But there are more people who lived in the west than the men who ran the ranches and kept the herds in line. I admit I am one of the people who used to watch Big Valley, not just to see Nick and Heath. My favorite episodes featured Jarrod, the lawyer. I have been totally fascinated with the life of the school teacher, the shopkeeper, the lawyer, the preacher --everyone in the town. What made the mail order brides come west? What about the sheriff? The Civil War heroes? The newspaper man? The banker?
The openness of the western territories drew many types of people, not just cowboys. For many, it was a chance to start a new life, to leave their old ways behind and reinvent themselves. Some went because they craved a challenge, some for the cheap land, and others because they simply had nowhere else to go.
The first two titles in my series, Presidents Orders, takes place in the west -- Oklahoma Territory and Colorado. As agents for the relatively new Secret Service Agency, Simon Barr and Luke Hayden travel across the country, wherever they are needed, solving crimes that could affect national security, and dealing with their respective love interests. Think Wild Wild West meets Romancing the Stone.
The Secret Service was the last act signed into effect by President Lincoln, hours before he left for the Ford Theater, although it did not officially receive its first commission until 1865. Interestingly enough, the Secret Service was not originally created to protect the President, but rather to investigate counterfeit currency. Later, it was expanded to include any issue threatening national security. The first book in the Presidents Orders,False Notes, deals with counterfeiting, while the second, Heart Quest, has the men searching for a stolen stone from the Heart of Egypt, and returning it to its rightful owner before an international incident occurs.
As partners, the men rely heavily on each other, in turn, giving strength to others around them. Both men have a deep sense of integrity and wide moral streak, making them among the best at what they do. Simon is definitely a man of action, quite happy to ask questions later, whereas Luke tends to think things through, often providing a voice of reason, at least when his hearts not involved.
Here is a brief excerpt of the beginning of False Notes, giving you an idea of Simon's opinion on the west.
The night was clear; he swore the stars were only inches from his head and he only had to reach out a finger to touch them. It was one of the things he so enjoyed about the territories. He had no complaints when assignments took him this far west, although he knew a lot of the other government agents didnt care for the area, or the people. They werent civilized enough, he often heard.
He snorted aloud at that; the people he had encountered were a lot more civilized than their eastern counterparts. And that included the Indians. When his horse snorted
back, he chuckled and reached over to pat the horses neck. You agree, I see.
He put one booted foot in the stirrup, started to heave himself into the saddle, and then stopped, his right foot still touching the ground. He cocked his head to the side,
listening again for the sound, and sure enough, it camea slight scraping noise. When Pride turned his head, as if questioning just what Simon intended to do, he pushed aside the big horse's head and removed his left foot, then quickly and quietly looped Pride's reins around the nearby hitching post. Rubbing the horses nose, indicating that he should be quiet, he swiftly pressed himself up against the wooden wall of the building and into the shadows, trying to gauge the direction of the sound. There was nothing sinister about it, but it was out of place. Finding what didnt belong was part of his job.
In Heart Quest, Maj, Lukes love interest, tries to calm a young students fear of moving west:
Uncle Albert said I have to leave here. I have to go west.
And Maj couldnt wait to go back. Tamping down her excitement, she waited to hear the girls concerns.
All of those savages live out west, Deidre said from her lofty age of ten years. Since her easel was next to Annabelles there was no chance the child wouldnt have heard her.
Annabelle cried harder and Maj sighed. Standing, Maj reached in her pocket for a freshly laundered handkerchief. Taking Annabelles chin in her hand, she turned the childs face toward her as she dabbed at the girls tears. Putting both hands on Annabelles shoulders she made sure she had the childs complete attention before speaking.
Annabelle, did you know I am going to go with you?
The girl stopped crying for a moment and stared at her.
Really? Youre coming with me?
Not for always, but I will be with you on the train out west and stay with you at your aunts for a few days.
Arent you afraid of the Indians? Deidre asked.
Maj refrained from scowling at the girl. Not at all. No need for the girl to know that was a lie. Some of the tribes terrified her. I know a lot of Indians, she said not quite truthfully. Leaving her hand on Annabelles shoulder, she stood and realized she had a little audience, mostly made up of girls ten and under. She suspected the older ones were listening but wouldnt be caught dead admitting to it.
I used to live out west, you know. In Oklahoma. Its really not too different from the east, she told them.
I heard houses had dirt floors.
True, some of them do. The house she had shared with her sister in Minnesota when they were children was one of them. But there are also grand houses as fine as any Ive seen here. A lot of people who live in the west used to live back here, so theyve brought their ways with them. And now that the railroad goes across the country, Im sure people will be visiting more and more.
Do you really think so?
Yes, I do. In spite of the harum-scarum way she had traveled east, it had still been relatively easy. Certainly much quicker than her trip from Minnesota to Oklahoma when her uncle had come for them. He hadnt been one to spend any extra money; they traveled by wagon despite the fact they had few possessions to bring with them.
But what about the Indians?
Maj tried not to heave too loud a sigh. What about them, Deidre? Some of them go to school back here, you know. Some even go to other countries for schooling.
My father said the savages dont have any schooling, Deidre sniffed and turned back to her painting.
Maj refrained from commenting. It wasnt her place to get into an argument with the students, and she certainly didnt intend to negate what the girls father said, but as far as she was concerned, some of those savages were much more polite than Deidre.
Adventurous heroes. Audacious heroines.
Tara Manderino books.