Monday, September 23, 2019


By Mary Davis

Squares of fabric tucked into a pocket to be at the ready for a variety of uses. Originally known as HANDKERCHIEFS but affectionately known as HANKIES. The first known use of “handkerchief” was 1530, but people had been using these nifty pieces of cloth for millennia. I wonder what they were called before handkerchief. The term hankie didn’t come into use as an abbreviation until late in the 19th century.

Handkerchiefs have a myriad of uses, from drying tears to mopping a brow to cleaning a child’s face to keeping dust out of ones mouth and nose to commemorating special events to getting a man’s attention and gifts of affection. Its utility is vast. The most common one is to blow or wipe one’s nose.

Obviously, people had need of these small squares of fabric before 1530. Depictions of handkerchiefs in art dates back to 1000 BC. Handkerchiefs also appeared in Shakespeare plays as well as elsewhere through history.

For a long time, handkerchiefs were something only the wealthy could afford because linen and silk were expensive. Because handkerchiefs were valued, they would be listed in dowries and bequeathed in wills. The wealthy would have bigger and bigger handkerchiefs and more elaborately adorned to display their wealth. 

In 1785, Louis XVI didn’t want anyone to have a handkerchief bigger than his, so he mandated a size and shape. He decided on the square shape as well. Before then, handkerchiefs could be square, round, rectangle, or even a triangle. Louis decided that square was the most pleasing. All handkerchiefs from then on made in France had to be of that size and shape.

Queen Elizabeth I had handkerchiefs embroidered with gold and silver thread. She created a whole silent language with handkerchief gestures to communicate with her servants in court.

Savvy moms of the 1800s devised the “Show and Blow” campaign. To promote hygiene and reduce the spread of illnesses, school children were required to bring a clean handkerchief to school everyday. Moms wanted their children to appear spic and span, so they sent two hankies to school with their children, a clean white one for inspections and utilitarian one for actual use. These were usually made from a calico or other leftover fabric.

Well into the 1920s, handkerchiefs for the average man were white. If a lady wanted something different, she could embroider colorful flowers and designs on her hankies.

During the depression of the 30s, women didn’t have the means to buy new clothes and often could only afford a new hankie as a fashion accessory. A lady would “change” her outfit by sporting a different hankie. In the 40s and with WWII, women collected a whole “wardrobe” of hankies; draped over belts, tied on wrists, peeking out of pockets, or tucked through a buttonhole.

During WWI and WWII, pilots were given kerchiefs with a map of area they were bombing printed on it in case they got shot down. They literally had an escape route in the palm of their hand. Hundreds of others were printed as mementos during the wars.

Handkerchiefs boasted a strong popularity in the late-1940s and 1950s with designers utilizing them in their fashions

The cloth handkerchief fell out of favor when Kleenex created the paper facial tissue. They were created in the 1920s as a face towel for removing face cream. In the 1930s, Kleenex had the slogan “Don’t carry a cold in your pocket.” But is was Little Lulu and Golden Books who tipped the scales in paper facial tissues’ direction in the mid-50s. The children’s book line featured Lulu making things like bunnies, doing magic tricks, and more with facial tissues. The first printing was an astronomical 2.25 million copies.

I remember ironing my dad’s handkerchiefs. My sisters called foul when I ironed all the handkerchiefs and pillowcases, leaving the more difficult dress shirts and pants to iron to them. I figured since they were older, it would be easier for them to iron the difficult things. Or maybe I just wanted it easy. I did start ironing shirts and pants too and left a hankie or two for them.

I have recently been more conscientious about single use items like facial tissues, plastic grocery bags, and paper towels. I’m making efforts with reducing my trash footprint by reducing my use of paper towels and plastic bags. I haven’t thought much about how to reduce my use of facial tissues. I have some nearly-antique hankies that were my grandma’s, but I don’t want to use those heirlooms. Strange to think of something one blows one’s nose on as an heirloom. I think I’d like to start using cloth hankies for light-duty use, but for seasonal allergies when my nose is a nonstop waterworks for weeks or when I have a nasty head cold, I think the disposable one might be called for.

If you have some vintage hankies you’ve been wondering what to do with, here is a link to many things you can make and do with them.

What about you? Do you use cloth hankies? Sometimes? All the time? Never?

THIMBLES AND THREADS: 4 Love Stories Are Quilted Into Broken Lives
When four women put needle and thread to fabric, will their talents lead to love?
Click HERE to order.

“Bygones” Texas, 1884
Drawn to the new orphan boy in town, Tilly Rockford soon became the unfortunate victim of a lot of Orion Dunbar’s mischievous deeds in school. Can Tilly figure out how to truly forgive the one who made her childhood unbearable? Can this deviant orphan-train boy turned man make up for the misdeeds of his youth and win Tilly’s heart before another man steals her away?

MARY DAVIS s a bestselling, award-winning novelist of over two dozen
titles in both historical and contemporary themes. Her 2018 titles include; "Holly and Ivy" in A Bouquet of Brides Collection (January), Courting Her Amish Heart (March), The Widow’s Plight (July), Courting Her Secret Heart (September), “Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in The MISSAdventure Brides Collection (December), and Courting Her Prodigal Heart (January 2019). Coming in 2019, The Daughter's Predicament (May) and "Bygones" in Thimbles and Threads (July). She is a member of ACFW and active in critique groups. Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of over thirty-four years and two cats. She has three adult children and two incredibly adorable grandchildren. Find her online at:

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Girl Guide Spies

Today, I'm very happy to welcome fellow author Patty Smith Hall, who will share an interesting story about Girl Guides. Leave a comment at the end for a chance to win a drawing of our new novella, Crinoline Cowboys, which is coming out in five weeks. 

Thank you for having me today, Marilyn.

You’ve probably heard of Mati Hari, and how Julia Child spied for the Allies during World War II, but recently, I discovered a group of females that ‘spied’ for the MI5 from the second year of World War I to the palace of Versailles where the treaty was signed. This group of patriots have been kept secret since their service until last November on the hundredth-year anniversary of the end of World War I. So, who am I talking about?

The Girl Guides or as we know them in the United States, the Girl Scouts!

The Beginning
When Great Britain entered the war in August of 1914, their secret service agency, the MI5 faced a daunting challenge. German spies had infiltrated the country, seeking information regarding troop movement and battle plans. English men were scarce, so the MI5 turned to an unexpected source for help—the Boy Scouts. But problems arose. The boys were loud and bragged to their friends about their position with the MI5 which in turn, put the boys in danger. It was then that MI5 turned to the Girl Guides for help.

The Girl Guides weren’t idle during the first year of the war. Many of them learned to hunt and fish to provide food for families in their communities. Some learned medical skills and volunteered to drive ambulances at the front. Even the youngest members were involved with making and rolling bandages. But serving with the MI5 was something even the organization’s leaders hadn’t considered.

Qualifications of a Girl Guide Spy
First, the ninety girls chosen had to be between fourteen and sixteen years old, and in good standing with their troop. They needed to be quick, cheerful, and willing to do the work, swearing on their honor never to read any of the messages or paperwork they carried. They also had to sign a statement saying they had permission to serve from both parents as well as the Girl Guide leader who recommended them. After they were accepted, the girls served a three-month probational period, earning 30 pence (37 cents American) a week with dinner and tea included. They alternated working 9-6 or 10-7 and every other Sunday. The girls were allowed a week off during the summer as well as a short break at Easter and Christmas.

Not Your Ordinary Workday
The girls reported to Waterloo house or one of the other two houses used. They would dust, fill inkwells and disinfect phones during their first hour of work. After that, they would collect documents and post them, deliver messages at various areas around London, sort cards, collect paperwork to be burned and repair typewriters. They also delivered secret messages verbally.

By January 1916, the Girl Guides had proved to be so valuable to the MI5, they were giving their own company within the organization. Each patrol was assigned a different floor of the headquarters to work.

When the war ended, a select group of Girl Guides were taken by the British delegation to France for the peace treaty deliberations where they ran errands and delivered messages to the parties involved. After the peace treaty was signed, the girls returned home. Yet, very few talked about their time with the MI5 or their contributions toward winning the war.

Have you ever heard of Girl Guides before? Were you in Girl Scouts?

Multi-published author Patty Smith Hall lives near the North Georgia Mountains with her husband, Danny. When she’s not writing on her back porch, she’s spending time with her family or working in her vegetable garden.

A Cowboy of Her Own by Patty Smith Hall

Bookish southern belle Madalyn Turner knows what she wants—to be a cowboy and own a Texas ranch. But books are far different from real life and soon she realizes she needs help.


Saturday, September 21, 2019

Four Famous Felines? (From History) and a Giveaway!

In honor bringing two new kittens home, I'm re-posting my articles about four notable cats from history! And to celebrate, I'm doing a giveaway! 

Look for the question at the end of the post and leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection. Open only to residents in the continental United States. Drawing will take place on Monday, September 23, 2019. Enter before noon EST to be included.

Cats are often thought of as the pets in the background. They’ll let you know when they want attention but don’t often call attention to themselves. Stories have been written about dogs who were faithful to their masters until the end. But what about cats? What cats have had their stories told? I found there were quite a few. I’ll begin with one from around the 9th century A.D.

By Isasza - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
Perhaps Pangur Ban looked something like this inquisitive feline.
An Irish monk sat bent over his work in the scriptorium of an abbey in Germanic territory. Near his feet scrambled his feline friend preying on an unsuspecting mouse. In the companionable silence the anonymous monk composed a poem for his cat, which he’d named Pangur Ban, translated “white fuller.” Here is the first verse of a modern translation of the monk’s ode to his pet:

The Scholar and His Cat, Pangur Ban

(Translated by Robin Flower)

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night . . .

The rest of this sweet poem can be found here:

The page on which Pangur Ban was written.
By The original uploader was Dbachmann at English Wikipedia - T
ransferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., 
Public Domain,
From 1799 to 1804, Trim was the brave seafaring cat of Captain Matthew Flinders. Captain Flinders was on the first voyage to sail around Australia. He also drew the first accurate maps of the island continent and the one who first called it Australia. For such an explorer only an extraordinary cat would do.

Matthew Flinders' account of his voyage.
By State Library of New South Wales, CC BY-SA 3.0 au,

Trim was born on the ship Roundabout as it sailed around the Cape of Good Hope. Flinders was taken with the kitten who was black, except for a white chin, a star on his chest, and four white paws which looked as though they were “dipped in snow.” The captain thought Trim was quite vain about his snow white paws as he would stretch out his front paws in front of him as the crew marched by. Trim quite enjoyed their admiration. 

The kitten, who sometimes fell overboard, liked to swim and when a rope was thrown to him would “grab it like a man and run up it like a cat” according to Flinders. The crew trained Trim to lie on his back with his four feet in the air until given a signal to roll over and stand. He even walked forward and backward on command.
By en:User:PanBK -, CC BY-SA 3.0,
A statue memorializing Trim
Trim also would sit politely on the ship’s dining table, waiting for everyone to be served. He would then put out his paw and go to each a of the crew for a morsel he felt was due to him. When Trim wasn’t obliged he would take it from the crewman’s fork when he least suspected. 

This intelligent cat went on to survive a shipwreck with Captain Flinders and returned to England. But in 1804 Trim met his demise on Mauritius while Flinders was accused of being a spy and imprisoned by the French for several years. Once Flinders was released he wrote a biographical tribute to his well-loved kitty and also wrote journals recounting his voyages before he died in 1814. You can find his tribute of Trim here.

By Rodney Burton, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.
Trim the Cat, at the feet of his master.
Long before the famous Socks of the Clinton White House of the 1990s, Abraham Lincoln kept the first “official” White House cats. When leaving Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln felt it best for his dog, Fido, to be left behind. Some time after arriving Washington, D.C. William Seward presented Lincoln with two cats, who became known as Tabby and Dixie. 

President Lincoln was very fond of cats and was known to hold the cats on his lap, wipe their eyes with his handkerchief, and talk to them for up to a half hour. After Tabby and Dixie had grown into adult cats they continued to keep the president company. During the war and his first term, Lincoln said of Dixie that she “is smarter than my whole cabinet” and observed that the cat didn’t talk back either. 

President Abraham Lincoln by
Alexander Gardner {PD}
Lincoln continued to dote on the cats and one time fed Tabby at the dining table during a formal White House dinner off of a gold fork. When Mrs. Lincoln scolded the president out of her embarrassment saying that what he’d done in front of the guest was “shameful,” he told her, “If the gold fork was good enough for former President James Buchanan then it is good enough for Tabby.”

Abraham Lincoln’s love for cats extended beyond Tabby and Dixie as he was known to take in strays. I would say Tabby and Dixie had indeed found a loving home.

What about you? Have you ever had a favorite pet? And if you've never had a pet, what kind would you like to have?

Kathleen Rouser is the multi-published author of the 2017 Bookvana Award winner, Rumors and Promises, her first novel about the people of fictional Stone Creek, Michigan, and its sequel, Secrets and Wishes. She is a longtime member in good standing of American Christian Fiction Writers. Kathleen wanted to be a writer before she could even read. She longs to create characters who resonate with readers and realize the need for a transforming Savior in their everyday lives. She lives in Michigan with her hero and husband of thirty-some years, and continues on the elusive quest to brew the perfect cup of coffee to enjoy while she is writing. Connect with Kathleen on her website at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter @KathleenRouser.

The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides CollectionAlong the Great Lakes, America’s inland seas, lighthouses played a vital role in the growth of the nation. They shepherded settlers traveling by water to places that had no roads. These beacons of light required constant tending even in remote and often dangerous places. Brave men and women battled the elements and loneliness to keep the lights shining. Their sacrifice kept goods and immigrants moving. Seven romances set between 1883 and 1911 bring hope to these lonely keepers and love to weary hearts.

The Last Memory by Kathleen Rouser
1899—Mackinac Point Lighthouse
Natalie Brooks loses her past to amnesia, and Cal Waterson, the lighthouse keeper who rescues her, didn’t bargain on risking his heart—when her past might change everything.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Wild West Sayings We Use Today, Part 3

In this article, we’ll delve into the meaning of more words that traveled to us through the Wild West era. It’s fun to connect with people of bygone days through language. I can recall using all of today’s featured words in childhood except the first. I discovered ‘brown study’ in the pages of vintage British books, which I was fond of reading. This is what future authors do, by the way—geek out over words and read antiquated books. At least that’s what I did. (Don’t ask me about reading dictionaries for fun.) 

This article is brought to you by Janalyn Voigt.

This is the third article in a monthly blog series. You don’t need to read the earlier posts to enjoy this one, but if you want to begin at the beginning, start here: Wild West Sayings We Use Today, Part 1.

Wild West Sayings We Use Today, Part 3

Brown Study

This expression is on the decline, but since it’s still in the dictionary, I can get away with including it. I should clarify for the unfamiliar that this idiom is not a room in a building. ‘Study’ in this case has more to do with homework than houses. It’s all about concentration. ‘Being in a brown study’ describes someone who is so lost in thought as to be unaware of immediate surroundings. The thoughts are either memories and most often morose. The ‘brown’ part of this saying comes from the Middle Ages, when ‘brown’ was used much as like the modern ‘blue,’ to mean sunk in gloom.

Historical Reference: The first record of this saying was in a book entitled Dice-Play which harkens to 1532. The phrase peaked in popularity in the nineteenth century. Various authors included it in books they wrote. Dickens used it In David Copperfield: “I fell into a brown study as I walked on, and a voice at my side made me start.”

Example: She was lost in a brown study.

Buffalo, Buffaloed

When we speak of being buffaloed, we employ an expression that originated in the Wild West. The term means to be confused, intimidated, and cheated.

The link to the American bison seems obvious. These beasts, which I have seen up close, are quite muscular. They are also capable of stampeding. I was thankful for the barbed wire fence that separated me from the herd. Another idea presented is that ‘buffaloed’ refers to a buffalo herd’s milling about in confusion after its leader was shot.

True West magazine suggests a second meaning for buffaloed: bashing someone over the head without intent to kill. This was apparently a Wild West practice for allowing a drunk to sleep off an excess of liquor without recourse to jail.

Historical Reference: The 1904 version of the Oxford English Dictionary lists buffalo as an American verb and denotes it a slang term.

Example: Don’t try to buffalo me!

Bully for You

Once upon a time, ‘bully’ meant an exemplary person rather than a pariah, as it does today. This phrase contains a fading whisper of that 16th-century definition. ‘Bully for you’ began as a way of saying ‘well done’ or ‘good job,’ but in modern times, it is often given sarcastically.

Historical Reference: The earliest reference I can find for this slang term is from the June, 1861 Atlantic Monthly, p. 745. Other sources peg this phrase to the Civil War era.

Example: Bully for you, turning in your term paper on time!

Note from Janalyn

Thanks for enjoying the history of words with me. We’ll continue our jaunt down memory lane in future months.  

About Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt's unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and whimsy creates breathtaking fictional worlds for readers. Known for her vivid writing, this multi-faceted author writes in the western historical romance, medieval epic fantasy, and romantic suspense genres.

Janalyn is represented by Wordserve Literary Agency. Her memberships include ACFW and NCWA. When she's not writing, she loves to garden and explore the great outdoors with her family.

Learn more about Janalyn Voigt and her books.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Guthrie, OK History: Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum

Inside Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore from Mezzanine
Picture by Alanna 
By Alanna Radle Rodriguez and Judge Rodriguez

Hello Friends!

Thank you for joining us once again as we delve into the history of this great state, we call home. Oklahoma.

If in old westerns, you’ve always marveled at the modern techniques of 19th century medicine, the Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum is for you. It’s a pharmacy student’s dreams, or a patient’s nightmare, depending on how you look at it.

Since 1992, the Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum, located in the Gaffney Building in Guthrie, has provided visitors with a unique view of the evolution of the Drugstore and doctoring. This museum covers both the 19th and 20th centuries and allows a distinctive view of the drugstore’s evolution in the providing of the needed services we have come to value today.
Inside the Drugstore Museum
Picture by Alanna
But the history of the Drugstore museum didn’t just start in 1992. One of the people who made the April 22, 1889 land run was Forress B. Lillie. He established one of the first drug stores in the territory. His license from the territorial board of pharmacy before statehood, was the first license issued by the state board of pharmacy. In 1890, the Gaffney building was built and housed his drugstore. At some point, the building was owned by a Mrs. Ruby Tryon, a follow lover of history, who wanted to see another museum open in Guthrie and sold it to the Pharmacy Heritage foundation. One of the Museum’s treasure artifact is the first license issued, Mr. Lillie’s.

Included in this museum, there are numerous different examples that contributors have been gathering since the 1970’s. This includes numerous medical books, tools / devices (medicines, boxes, tins, one-fix-all elixirs) that will leave you asking how we survived to the modern age of medicine we live in today.

You got somethin' that ails ya,
We got somethin' to cure ya!
Picture by Alanna
The Museum has several examples of the original soda “pop” bottles where the bottles were capped with a marble set in the opening with a string in wax, so when a person pulls the string and breaks the wax, they can hit the marble and “pop” the seal. 
Original "Pop" Bottles
Picture by Alanna
They even have an original soda fountain / Ice Cream Parlor display set up to show the visitors how Drug-Stores would have children of all ages, visit for their sweets as well. Quite often, the museum will have sarsaparillas and or cream soda you can buy and drink. 

Ice Cream! Parlor
Picture by Alanna

It even has a dentist’s office that looks more a like a medieval torture chamber somehow.
Enter, the Dentist Office
Picture by Alanna

In the late fall of 2006, the museum added an apothecary garden in honor of their 25th anniversary of operation.

The Drugstore Museum also takes part in the yearly Victorian Walk that Guthrie holds for Christmas.

If you get the chance to tour the Historic Downtown of Guthrie, Oklahoma, we recommend you make a stop along the path to visit this wonderful site, and revel in its historic treasures they present. If you wish to find out more about this museum, you can visit them at

Born and raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, Alanna Radle Rodriguez is the great-great granddaughter of one of the first pioneers to settle in Indian Territory. Judge was born and raised in Little Axe, Oklahoma, the son of A.F. Veterans. Judge and Alanna love the history of the state and relish in volunteering at the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond. Her second published story, part of a collaborative novella titled 18 Redbud Lane, is now available. Alanna and Judge live with her parents in the Edmond area. They are currently collaborating on a historical fiction series that takes place in pre-statehood Oklahoma.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Oliver Heaviside

By Nancy J. Farrier

It’s the time of year when kids are back to school and learning is in full swing. They’ve missed their friends and grown bored with summer. Even the tedium of the school day can be interesting. I hope. 

But school often has challenges for children. I find it fascinating to read about people who have persevered despite a handicap. Today, I’m blogging about a man who overcame odds to excel in the field of electronics and math.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Oliver Heaviside was born in London in 1850. As a young child he contracted scarlet fever, resulting in a hearing impairment. He struggled with interacting with other children and with school. I can only imagine the difficulty of life in the 1800’s when you had trouble hearing what people said to you. 

At 16, Oliver left school. He didn’t like the classes but continued to study on his own. He enjoyed languages, math and electricity. He learned Morse code and became a telegrapher, a field his uncle encouraged. He moved to Denmark at that time.

He continued to study electricity and eventually gave up his work to study electricity full time, especially Maxwell’s equations. Heaviside admitted he hadn’t had much math in school and had forgotten a lot of what he learned. For several
Photo by FF-UK, Wikimedia Commons
years he focused on the higher mathematics so he could understand Maxwell’s equations and his work. 

In the 1880’s through the turn of the century, Heaviside regularly published his work in trade papers such as The Electrician. Later, he put the papers together and published his works, Electromagnetic Theoryand Electrical Papers.

As his hearing continued to decline, Heaviside became more of a recluse. He still continued to publish his works but would deliver the paper to a grocery store where the publisher would go to pick it up for publication. Much of what Oliver Heaviside did and accomplished is over my head, but I can appreciate his importance in the world of math.

Photo by welcomeimages
Wikimedia Commons
In 1891 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Mathematicians of reknown stated that his operational calculus was one of the most important discoveries of the 1800’s. Heaviside also took Maxwell’s twenty equations and reduced them to four. Although Maxwell is still credited with the equations, most mathematicians recognize Heaviside’s input as being a crucial part of the work.

Another major discovery credited to Heaviside is the layer of the ionosphere that reflects radio waves. The ionosphere was not confirmed until 1923, but in 1902, Heaviside proposed the layer that is now called the Heaviside layer. Most people have not heard of this, but in the musical, Cats, there is a song taken from a T.S. Elliot poem that uses the line,  Up up up past the Russell hotel, Up up up to the Heaviside layer.

Cats Musical by Effie
Wikimedia Commons
In his later years, Oliver Heaviside became rather eccentric. He withdrew into himself and became even more reclusive. He used granite blocks for furniture in his home and didn’t bathe much at all. His slovenly state continued to deteriorate except for his fingernails which he kept clean and painted bright pink.

Heaviside died in 1925 when he fell from a ladder. Most of his acclaim came posthumously. In 1947, the Nobel prize winner won for proving the Heaviside layer truly existed. Many of the terms used today in electromagnetic theory were first coined by Heaviside. He was a brilliant mathematician who did not receive the recognition he deserved at the time. Yet, he continued to do the work that he loved.

Have you heard of Oliver Heaviside, or the Heaviside layer? Later it was called the Kennelly-Heaviside Layer. I was fascinated with this man who dropped out of school and found a way to pursue his calling despite a severe impairment. It is hard for me to imagine what he went through, but his contributions to society are amazing.

Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website:

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Gold in Them Thar Hills - and a Giveaway!

 by Davalynn Spencer

The Gold Rush isn’t over in Colorado. It resurfaces every year in late September through mid-October as high-country aspen and lower country cottonwoods exchange their summer greens for glimmering gold and fiery reds.

Colorado's aspen groves line highways and mingle
with evergreen forests. - Author's photo
“There’s gold in them thar hills,” people have been known to say, and they flock to the Rocky Mountains like migrating geese for a gander at the scenery.

This coming weekend officially introduces fall to our calendars. Even so, it’s often hard to predict exactly when peak foliage viewing times will be. According to arborists, scientists, and others in the know, catching the colors in their prime is all about chlorophyll and temperatures. And elevation.

Author's photo of Rocky Mountain color in an early fall snowstorm.
The higher the elevation, the earlier autumn swishes her lovely skirts along the Rocky Mountains. A general rule of thumb for viewing fall foliage in colorful Colorado calls for higher-elevation stands and those located farther north to flash sooner than lower, southerly sites.

Colorado’s famous aspen trees and their poorer cousin, the cottonwood (both are in the poplar family), change colors for the same reason other deciduous trees do: photosynthesis decreases as daylight hours lessen in the fall.

Have you noticed in early September that daylight seems to have cut loose and run? That’s because we lose an hour of daylight during the month of August as the earth tilts toward autumn. And we are not the only living beings that feel it.

Technically, the leaves of these trees don’t change from greens to golds – the color range is there all along, like stars in the sky that we can’t see during the day. Yellows, oranges, and reds are merely masked by the green hues until chlorophyll production fades.

Author's photo
The United States National Arboretum says a wet growing season followed by a drier, clear-sky autumn and cool nights generate the brightest colors. In addition, unhealthy trees are less vibrant than healthy trees, much like other growing things, including humans.

Colorado is not the only state to harbor aspen trees, and they thrive in higher, colder regions with cool summers. The trees are often called quaking aspens due to the longer, flatter petiole, or leaf stem, that allows the leaves to flutter in the slightest breeze.

Aspen leaves "quake" due to their longer leaf stem. -Author's photo.
Aspens grow in colonies connected via underground root systems. The oldest known colony is found in the Fishlake National Forest of Utah, where it covers roughly 106 acres.

Comment to be entered in a drawing: I’d love to hear about a trip you took to see the colors – even if it was just around the block. Those who comment below will be entered in a random drawing for an e-copy of my latest release, Mail-order Misfire, Book 2 of the Thanksgiving Books & Blessings Collection.

Wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters, Davalynn Spencer writes cowboy romance. She is an ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author and winner of the Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Inspirational Western Fiction. And she’s fairly certain that her previous career as a rodeo journalist and crime-beat reporter prepared her for life in Colorado wrangling Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. Connect with her via her website at