A Cowboy and His Horse
What’s a cowboy without a horse?
I honestly don’t know, and I bet you don’t either, because the iconic images of the men, as well as of the American frontier, always puts them together. A man and his horse, an inseparable duo. Not everyone had one though, considering their expense. Cowboys often rode the horses owned by the ranches they worked on.
Yet, the idea of cowboys and horses is so ingrained, that few even realize how bad the shortage of horses was in the late 19th century—during and after the American Civil War.
Horse lovers beware—you’re not going to like the following facts.
Nearly five horses were killed for every man who lost a life in the American Civil War. Thousands of horses were killed at Gettysburg, alone. A large military unit would have had hundreds of horses—all subject to gunshots, saddle-sores, going lame, being ridden to death, or starving to death from a lack of food. And if that weren’t sad enough, many of the horses who needed to recuperate, for whatever reason, were shot and killed by their unit’s rear guard to prevent them from falling into enemy hands when there wasn’t enough time to convalesce.
Horses were a way of life back then. They were used primarily for transportation and work before the railroads came into their heyday. For the Civil War soldiers, not only were horses necessary for the Cavalry, but also to transport materials, food and supplies—including heavy artillery, like cannons. With so many horses and mules dying, a crisis was afoot.
Supply was low and demand was high. Prices soared. Horses found their value tripling, at the very least. Enterprising men invested their efforts in breeding, or culled mustangs from wild herds. They sold the horses to both the military in the east and the west, as well as the men traveling to the new frontier in search of gold, land and a better future.
Just to throw in a fun fact, the dusty conditions out west, in addition to the horse shortage even tempted the military into trying out camels. Just imagine if that trend had caught on…
In Outrageous Offer, the first book of the Double O Saga, Offer O’Neal has a horse. It’s about the only thing he does have, except for the ramshackle ranch he’s sunk every penny he had into. Offer’s counting on the stud fees from his horse, Zeus, to pull him through, especially because he owes his neighbor for water rights to the only available stream in the area. But Offer has a penchant for taking in strays, and that includes a rejected mail-order bride. Cue the romance… Except she adds to his money troubles, and Offer is forced to reconsider what he thinks is valuable.
What’s a cowboy without his horse? Offer O’Neal may just learn the answer, in Outrageous Offer.
“You owe me for three months, O’Neal.”
“I’ve paid some of it.” Every dime he could afford to give away, in fact. Offer wished he had more to give Raines, if for no other reason than to keep the man off his land, but the Double O was proving to be a money pit.
Without thought, Offer stroked a hand over Zeus’ neck. In two months, his Army contact would be back in town and looking for a good stallion to breed for their Cavalry. The War Between the States had taken its toll on horses, their sudden scarcity driving up prices and breeding fees. Offer just needed to hold out for a little while longer, then he’d have enough money to pay his neighbor what he owed, with a little left over to buy some much-needed supplies.
Raines snorted. “You paid some? Your measly installments of fifty dollars here and twenty dollars there don’t even begin to cover your bill. I have half a mind to dam up the whole stream until you pay me all of what you owe.”
Offer’s temper stretched beyond his ability to control. Then it snapped completely. “What’s the goddamned difference, Raines? You’ve already blocked so much of that fucking stream the town floods every time it rains up north. Soon you’ll put them all underwater. Block the whole fucking thing and see if I care.”
“Maybe I’ll take you at your word!”
Offer gritted his teeth and tried to lower his voice. “You’ll never get your money if you do.”
“I was upfront about the cost of using that stream. You knew the arrangement.” Raines shifted as his horse sidled sideways.
“And you knew I didn’t have a fucking cent to my name after buying the Double O.”
“But you picked up a woman that you now have to care for. Buy her things and feed her. You can spend your money on her, but you can’t pay your debts?”
Offer stabbed the air with a rigid, trembling finger. “You agreed to wait for the money, then you went back on your word.”
Raines’ chin shot up. “I’m a businessman.”
“No, you’re a greedy bastard,” Offer spat. “You took one look at my horse and knew how much he’s worth. You figure you can sell him to the Army for top dollar.”
“They need horses now more than ever, with the westward expansion,” Bill piped up. “A good trail horse for the Cavalry could fetch up to three thousand dollars.”
“Ten times as much as what we agreed on for water rights for a whole year,” Offer growled.
Raines’ horse shied again when the man threw out his hand. “Then sell me the damned stallion, O’Neal! Give me your horse and I’ll have papers drawn up that give you access to the stream for a decade.”
“That’s been your game this whole time, hasn’t it?” Offer’s muscles clamped down on his bones and held him still while his eyes raked the other man. “You cheating bastard, you’ll do anything to get Zeus, won’t you?”
She has a choice to make—work in the saloon or accept an outrageous offer of being one man’s unpaid mistress.
Hyacinth Woodley is a desperate woman. Officially deemed a spinster with no marriage prospects in sight, alone after the death of her parents and out of money, she answers an ad for a mail-order bride, only to be rejected by her groom upon her arrival in Creek Bend.
Offer O’Neal is the new, less-than-proud owner of the Double O Ranch. After sinking every cent he had into the property, he’s left staking his dreams of success on stud fees from his horse, the only thing of real value he’s got. He can’t afford a wife, but a willing woman in his bed is an appealing prospect, and Hyacinth’s got nowhere else to go.
Just as Offer starts thinking of Hyacinth as the one bright spot in his otherwise stressful and unlucky life, the bridegroom who rejected her returns, demanding repayment for his investment. Ernest Horsham feels he’s spent a lot of money on getting the woman to Creek Bend under false pretenses, and the judge is on his side. But it’s only when
Hyacinth is arrested as a thief and a fraud that Offer realizes how much he values her company.
Like the sound of Outrageous Offer? Buy it here.
I’ve always been a storyteller, just as I’ve always been an avid reader. I love stories that twist reality at its edges, and adore new takes on old myths and legends. I’ve travelled extensively, which has given me the opportunity to hear many legends from many cultures and I make use of these in my stories as often as possible.
You can find Lola on Goodreads and follow her on Facebook and Twitter and her website http://www.lola-white.com/
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