Sunday, June 16, 2019

Timber Rafting

Have you ever heard of timber rafting? It is fascinating! I knew from the first time I stumbled on this type of transporting logs that I wanted to use it somehow in my writing.

Unlike driving loose logs down a river, timber rafting consists of tying the logs together in massive raft-like structures and floating them down wide, quiet rivers like the Mississippi. There is evidence of this practice dating back to the sixteenth century and up into the 20th century, possibly even today.

How does timber rafting work? Think of the way boxcars are coupled together to form a train. This is kind of like the long, snaking timber sections coupled together to keep the whole shebang traveling together, but allowing each section to break with the bends in the river. Each section was linked together with flexible coupling poles so the raft could maneuver around bends. Sometimes hardwood or sycamore was used at intervals to make the raft more buoyant.

The size of timber rafts depended on the width and swiftness of the river to be navigated, how serpentine the river was and how many men the logging operation had to work the raft. 

According to one Wikipedia article, “Timber rafts could be of enormous proportions, sometimes up to 600 metres (2000 ft) long, 50 meters (165 ft) wide, and stacked 2 metres (6.5 ft) high.” It could take up to 500 men to drive such a huge raft. And since these raftsmen were living on the raft and the river for weeks at a time, they build cabins and galleys on top of the rafts.

Raftsmen had their own lingo and terminology for the tools they used. “Chain dogs” or “raft shackles” were two iron spikes on either end of a short chain to hold the poles in place. “Steering oars” and “steering sweeps” were used more like rudders to guide the timber raft down the river and to keep it from running aground more than they were used to paddle.

TIMBER RAFT By Frances Anne Hopkins, Public Domain
The “sweep man” was at the mercy of the raft’s speed in the current. Massive sweeps were mounted at the front of the raft on a special bolster. It had a hole in it to accommodate a large peg that was the pivot for the sweep. Think of the rudder on the back of a boat, but instead mounted not the front and much larger. The sheer weight of such a beast would have made controlling it almost impossible. But the raftsmen did have a few tricks up their sleeves. “Pike poles” or “jampikes” were used by men stationed at points along the rafts to keep it shoved off rocks, sandbars, and snags. “Snub poles” were often made of hickory and used near the rear to slow the raft down. Depending on the depth of the water, longer poles were inserted between the logs to drag the river bottom and slow the raft down.

There were ways to tie off on shore on slower moving rivers, but it was risky and the crew had to work together to accomplish such a feat. Long ropes were kept at the ready and men had to either swim for shore and tie up to trees along the way.  Each section of the raft would need to be secured at exactly the right time or it could be disastrous for the crew. 

Check out this video from an almost a century old German documentary 16mm silent film. This may be the Hozu river near Kyoto.

In my research, I developed a healthy respect for the tough men who became raftsmen on these larger than life timber rafts. Just from watching the videos, it’s obvious they had to be quite skilled at their jobs.

Timber rafting makes an appearance in The Crossing at Cypress Creekthe third installment in Pam Hillman's Natchez Trace Novel series, the O’Shea brothers cut a path through the wilderness between the lawless Natchez Trace and the Mississippi River. Their plan is to drive logs down the river to feed the booming construction in the city of Natchez.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Lesser known D-Day Facts

In honor of this month being the 75th anniversary of D-Day, I thought I'd post some interesting and some less known facts about that day.

The name ~ what in the world does D-Day stand for? Actually it means nothing. D stands for day which was a code for an important military operation.

There were over six million people involved on the Allied side of D-Day. The vast majority of them were Americans and British, but they were joined by other countries fighting for freedom such as the French, Hungarians, Polish, and Dutch. Nearly 160,000 of the troops landed on Normandy.

Once the troops landed they knew they would need supplies and support. In order to fill that tall order, 423 ships and tugs were sent out. Some of that support came through laid pipes and cables across the entire width of the English Channel. This vital job would supply much needed fuel to tanks and vehicles now on land to keep them moving, and the cables would allow the troops to communicate beyond where they were dropped off. 

Just a few hours before the Allied forces planned to attack, British Meteorologist, James Stagg, persuaded Eisenhower to delay the attack. A storm had been brewing as Allied meteorologists watched the weather. The troops needed good weather to land safely. Stagg predicted a break was coming in the weather and after talking to Eisenhower the decision was made to delay the attack by 24 hours. Many meteorologists disagreed with Staggs but Staggs advice ended up being crucial to the success of the mission. The Axis Powers also monitored the weather and because of the stormy weather and rough seas, many left their posts believing that it would be impossible for an Allied attack.


Meteorologist, James Stagg

There were a number of famous people who were part of the D-Day invasion. Here are just a few you might know, the famous author who penned "Catcher in the Rye" J.D. Salinger, the handsome movie star Henry Ford,  and baseball great Yogi Berra. Star Wars superstar Obi-Wan Kenobi played by Alex Guiness. The Force sure was with him and his comrades that day. And James Doohan, you might remember him as Scotty on Star Trek. Those famous Star Trek words, "Beam me up, Scotty."  I'm sure he'd have liked to have beamed himself up on that day.

It was more than just ships that contributed to the success of the mission. There were 10,000 aircraft that participated. The most important rolls these planes and pilots filled were dropping paratroopers behind the enemy lines, keeping the airspace clear from enemy planes, and lastly to weaken German resistance to the invasion. They did this through bombing key fortifications and troops.

I admire Prime Minister Winston Churchill, for what he told his wife the night before the invasion. It shows that he held all life as valuable. He told his wife, "Do you realize by the time you wake up in the morning 20,000 men may have been killed?" There were actually fewer casualties than expected on the Allied side.

And the last tidbit I'd like to share is that in the summer of 1943 a man passing by the Norfolk House in London picked up an early copy of the invasion plans that had blown out the window. He turned them in stating his sight was too poor to read them.

Norfolk House is on the far right of this mid-18 century engraving

I hope you enjoyed this brief bit of interesting history. Every man and woman that fought on D-day is a hero that needs to be remembered. As are all of our military!

Amnesia can numb your pain…  

…. unless it gets you killed.

A freak earthquake upends Olivia’s world, while two men claim her love. When her memory begins to return in bits and pieces, Olivia discovers embezzlement. With danger lurking all around her, she must continue the charade of amnesia. But will time run out on her before she uncovers the truth? Buy Shattered Memories

Debbie Lynne Costello is the author of Sword of Forgiveness, Amazon's #1 seller for Historical Christian Romance. She has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina with their 5 horses, 3 dogs, cat and miniature donkey.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The First War on Terrorism, 1801?

Some years ago, while doing research on pirates, I came across some interesting information about a group of Islamic pirates who sailed from the North African Berber states of Algiers, Tunis, Morocco, and Tripoli (the Barbary Coast).  These pirates were the scourge of the Mediterranean for years, capturing merchant ships and enslaving or ransoming their crews for wealth that made the Muslim rulers of these nations rich and powerful.

Though the Mediterranean was across the sea, America was not immune to these attacks. The Barbary pirates captured and held the crews of several of our merchant ships. Before the United States won it's independence from Britain, the Royal Navy protected our ships, as well as France under the Treaty of Alliance.  But after we became a nation, all bets were off!  On October 11, 1784, Moroccan pirates seized the American brigantine, Betsey, and Thomas Jefferson, the then US minister to France, sent  envoys to Morocco and Algeria to try to purchase treaties and the freedoms of the captured sailors held by Algeria. He was successful in part for Morocco  did sign a treaty with the U.S. on June 23, 1786 that formally ended all Moroccan piracy against American shipping interests.

But Algeria was another matter.  On July 25, 1785 they captured the schooner Maria and the Dauphin a week later. All four Barbary Coast states demanded a
sum of $660,000 as ransom for the captured sailors.   Diplomatic talks ensued but no agreement was reached, leaving the crews of the Maria and Dauphin in captivity for over a decade, as well as other soon-to-be captured ships and their crews. In 1795, Algeria came to an agreement with the U.S. that resulted in the release of 115 sailors they held, at the cost of over $1 million. This was nearly 1⁄6 of the entire U.S. budget, and  was demanded as tribute by the Barbary States to prevent further piracy.

In March 1785, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went to London to negotiate with Tripoli's envoy, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja. Upon inquiring "concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury", the ambassador replied:

It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy's ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.

After returning to Washington, Jefferson argued that paying tribute would encourage more attacks. Although John Adams agreed with Jefferson, he believed that circumstances forced the U.S. to pay tribute until an adequate navy could be built. The U.S. paid Algiers the ransom, and continued to pay up to $1 million per year over the next 15 years for the safe passage of American ships or the return of American hostages. Payments in ransom and tribute to the privateering states amounted to 20% of the U.S. government's annual revenues in 1800!!  Can you believe we ever negotiated with terrorists?

Jefferson continued to argue for cessation of the tribute, with rising support from George Washington and others. With the recommissioning of the American navy in 1794 and the resulting increased firepower on the seas, it became increasingly possible for America to refuse paying tribute, although by now the long-standing habit was hard to overturn.

On Jefferson's inauguration as president in 1801, Yusuf Karamanli, the Pasha (or Bashaw) of Tripoli, demanded $225,000 from the new administration.  In response, "Jefferson sent a small force to the area to protect American ships and citizens against potential

And thus we entered the first Barbary War. On June 10th 1805, a peace treaty was signed which halted hostilities and returned American prisoners for a price.  But by 1807, Algiers had gone back to taking American ships and seamen hostage. The War of 1812 kept America too busy to respond until 1815 when we sent two naval squadrons to deal with the problem.  The United States Defeated the Algerian pirates once again and on July 3, 1815, aboard the Guerriere in the Bay of Algiers, a treaty was signed that guaranteed no further tributes and granted the United States full shipping rights!!

Award-winning author MaryLu Tyndall dreamt of sea-faring adventures during her childhood days on Florida's Coast. With now more than twenty-five books published, she makes no excuses for the spiritual themes embedded within her romantic adventures. Her hope is that readers will not only be entertained but will be brought closer to the Creator who loves them beyond measure. For more information, visit her website at


Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Craftsman Home Series: Exteriors

Many of you will be familiar with Craftsman architectural style due to its revival in the last fifteen years. Some of you might even live in a Craftsman home. Lucky you! But even if you could write a book on bungalows, a peek at all this architectural cuteness would never hurt anyone.

According to Architectural Styles of America and Europe: Craftsman Bungalow, “‘craftsman’ refers generally to the Arts and Crafts movement and is considered an architectural or interior style, whereas ‘bungalow’ is a particular form of house or building.” The term “bungalow” derived from India’s bangla, or low house with porches around it.

During the early 1900s, the architectural firm of Greene and Greene in California responded to the Arts & Crafts movement in America by launching Craftsman-style architecture. The popularity of the style endured until roughly 1929.

Some common features of Craftsman style include:

  • Low, spreading style (one or one-and-a-half stories), with porches, pergolas, and patios tying in the outdoors. Wooden pergolas were common with vines or climbing flowers.
  • Use of indigenous building materials like rock, stone, shingles, and stucco.
  • Square or chunky porch columns that widen at the bottom (battered).
  • Exaggerated eaves, lintels, and rafters. Decorative brackets.
  • Wide, paneled doors.
  • Double-hung windows with multiple lights in the upper window and a single pane in the lower (6-over-1 sash).
  • Large front dormer common.
  • Natural wood. Stained cedar shingles. Clapboard painted earthy brown, green, red-brown, gray, blue. Contrast between wood and brick. Trim that adds a third color. Brick can be plain or painted.
  • Native landscaping, although there was some interest in exotic plants during the period.

Do you live in a Craftsman? Share some of your home’s unique exterior features below.

In my upcoming novel, Fall Flip, releasing in September with Candlelight Romance, interior designer Shelby Dodson and contractor Scott Matthews renovate a Craftsman bungalow for a retired couple in the quaint river town of Augusta, Georgia. Their disagreements about the house flip reveal the baggage they’ve accumulated since high school—back when Shelby was an honor student cheerleader and Scott was, well … “shop boy.” Will recent widow Shelby open her heart to someone so different from her late husband?

Represented by Hartline Literary Agency, Denise Weimer holds a journalism degree with a minor in history from Asbury University. She’s a managing editor for Smitten Historical Romance, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, and the author of The Georgia Gold Series, The Restoration Trilogy, and a number of novellas, including Across Three Autumns of Barbour’s Colonial Backcountry Brides Collection. Her historical romance, The Witness Tree, is also releasing in September with Smitten. A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses! Connect with Denise here:

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For more info: Craftsman Perspective, Arts and Crafts Questions, Interior Decorating. Old House Online, “Bungalows of the Arts & Crafts Movement,” Patricia Poore, November 24, 2010. Antique Home, “Craftsman-style Bungalows.” The Elsmore Sears Home:

The Argyle Sears Home:

Craftsman house: {{Wikipedia|}} 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Singing Cowboy

By Kathleen E. Kovach

Americans love their cowboys. They've romanticized them in books, movies, and music. From Zane Grey's book Riders of the Purple Sage to the most recent cinematic offerings, cowboys have earned their place in American folklore. 

The cowboy began in Mexico after the
Spanish arrived in 1519. The vaquero ruled the range and was a master roper and rider. By the 1800s, (particularly after the Mexican/American war,) the American cowboy began to replace the Hispanic and Native American vaqueros. Thus, was born a lifestyle that our nation would obsess about for centuries.

However, these rugged men of the saddle, able to withstand pounding rain, angry rattlers, and ugly rustlers are not this article's focus.

Nope! I wish to talk about the Singing Cowboy. The 1930s version with their squeaky-clean snap up shirts and their oversize guitars.

Movie magnate Herbert John Yates first saw the potential of cowpokes with guitars and bought up several small independent production companies to form Republic Pictures. This studio went on to make 956 feature films and 849 serial chapters from 1935 to 1959.

Ken Maynard established himself as the first singing cowboy in 1930 when he sang two songs in Sons of the Saddle. Bob Steele then began a series for a different studio in that same year. John Wayne followed with a grittier version as Singin' Sandy Saunders in Riders of Destiny. However, his voice had to be dubbed and it is said that this role was a continu
ous embarrassment to him when he would have requests to sing in public. Thankfully for us, the Duke went on to mold his career into the one we most love today.

Gene Autry, an already established singer, took over the reins from John Wayne and galloped his way into Singing Cowboy history, appearing in 93 films from 1934 to 1953. He made a near fatal (to his career) mistake, however, when he walked away from the studio demanding to make more of the profits. This left a gaping hole in the industry that a young newcomer, Roy Rogers, was quick to fill. The best part about Rogers was that he could sing as well as ride a horse, the latter being a skill for which Autrey had to take lessons. Rogers notched 100 film credits to his belt and earned himself the moniker, "King of the Cowboys."

A few more actors hopped on the bandwagon, Tex Ritter the most notable after his debut in 1936. He went on to record "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darlin'" which was the title-track song for High Noon (1952) that won an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song for 1953.

In all, there were nearly two dozen singing cowboys in cinematic history from 1930 through the mid-1950s. These included James Newill, who portrayed a Canadian Mountie, and a woman, Dorothy Page. 

The Singing Cowboy of the silver screen eventually faded and the two rivals, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers took their horses and guitars to the small screen, singing their way into America's heart via television.

I think it's worthy to note what is going on in U.S. history during the Singing Cowboy heyday. The stock market had just crashed in 1929, the dust bowl ravaged a large portion of the country, and prohibition ruled the land. I believe America needed the optimistic fringe-wearing cowboy to escape from reality, just as she would later need the swinging sounds of Glenn Miller and his contemporaries to soothe their pain during WWII.

I hope to have given a proper tribute to the Singing Cowboy, here and in my novella, "Riders of the Painted Star." My own experience of this genre of movies comes from my father who watched westerns every Saturday when he was home (he was a long-haul truck driver) and later from my husband who wore cowboy boots when we met. I hope you, also, had fun reliving the Singing Cowboy era with me, and leave whistling "Don't Fence Me In."

MISSAdventure Brides Romance Collection

Seven daring damsels don’t let the norms of their eras hold them back. Along the way these women attract the attention of men who admire their bravery and determination, but will they let love grow out of the adventures?

--Includes RIDERS OF THE PAINTED STAR by Kathleen E. Kovach.
1936 Arizona. Zadie Fitzpatrick, an artist from New York, is commissioned to go on location in Arizona to paint illustrations for an author of western novels and falls for the male model.

I'm very pleased to be included in the lineup on the Heroes, Heroines, and History blog. I replace the prolific Stephanie Grace Whitson and wish her well in her future endeavors. -Kathy

Kathleen E. Kovach is a Christian romance author published traditionally through Barbour Publishing, Inc. as well as indie. Kathleen and her husband Jim raised two sons while living the nomadic lifestyle for over twenty years in the Air Force. Now planted in northeast Colorado she's a grandmother, though much too young for that. Kathleen is a longstanding member of American Christian Fiction Writers. An award-winning author, she presents spiritual truths with a giggle, proving herself as one of God's peculiar people.

Blog With A Giggle