Friday, November 9, 2012

Charlene Raddon: Tender Touch

Western historical romance writer Charlene Raddon returns to The Plain today with a fascinating look at the Oregon Trail, the setting for her latest release, the Golden Heart Finalist, Tender Touch. Charlene will be giving away a copy of Tender Touch and an antique ox/cow bell, so be sure to leave your contact info!

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Contrary to myths created by old-time movie makers, and sensationalist books and stories, the main cause of death on the Oregon Trail was not Indian attacks. Accidents, exhaustion, and disease killed more pioneers than hostile Indians.

Among the more dangerous activities on the trail was crossing rivers. Swollen rivers could tip over and drown both people and oxen. Such accidents could cause the loss of life and most or all of valuable supplies. Animals sometimes panicked while wading deep, swift water, causing wagons to overturn. Fractious animals caused their share of serious injuries. Simply being stepped on by heavy oxen could be dangerous, especially to a child.

Being run over by wagon wheels was actually the most frequent cause of injury or death. People, children in particular, tended to tire and decide to take a rest by riding on the wagon tongue while the wagon was moving. Too often they fell off and were crushed under the wheels. Firearms were the second leading cause of emigrant injury and death. A surprisingly large number of pioneers were injured and killed by accidental firearm discharges. Keeping firearms unloaded proved the safest practice, but not all followed this rule. The third cause was stampeding livestock. Attacks by emigrants on other emigrants, lightning, hailstorms, grassfires, gunpowder explosions, snakebite and suicide took their toll as well.

Disease caused the deaths of nine out of ten pioneers. Cholera, small pox, flu, measles, mumps, tuberculosis could wipe out an entire wagon camp, especially cholera. A perfectly healthy person could be fine in the morning and dead by noon when cholera was present. Unfortunately many lingered in misery for weeks jounced about in wagons. If it appeared a victim wouldn’t last the day, the train often stopped moving to wait for the end. Burials often took place in the middle of the trail, with the hope that being run over by wagons and trampled by animals would erase the scent and wolves wouldn’t pick up the scent and dig up the corpse.

The number of deaths experienced by wagon train companies traveling to California is conservatively figured as 20,000 for the entire 2,000 miles of the Oregon/California Trail, or an average of ten graves per mile.

Most Indians tolerated the pioneer wagon trains passing through their lands. Some traded and swapped buffalo robes and moccasins with the pioneers for knives, clothes, food and other items. Some tribes were notorious for stealing, and violent altercations between Indians and pioneers did occur, but these were few compared with the total number of settlers who traveled in safety through Indian lands. In the early years, Indians never attacked a large wagon train; stragglers, on the other hand, were considered fair game.

Between 1840-1860 Indians killed 362 emigrants, according to historical studies, but emigrants killed 426 Indians. Of the emigrants killed, about 90% died west of South Pass, mostly along the Snake and Humboldt Rivers or on the Applegate Trail to the southern end of the Willamette Valley.

There was one memorable war with Indians, started innocently enough by a pioneer's cow that wandered into a Sioux camp. If the emigrants had gone after the cow, the Sioux might have simply returned it. Instead, the emigrants went to Ft. Laramie and complained. An overzealous Lt. Grattan and 29 soldiers set out to punish the tribe. Meanwhile, the hungry Sioux ate the cow.

To make amends, the chief offered a horse in exchange for the cow—more than a fair trade—but Grattan refused and ordered his men to fire at the Sioux. Sadly, thinking Grattan now had his revenge and would leave, the chief ordered his warriors not to shoot at the soldiers. Grattan responded to this by killing the chief. Naturally, the Sioux fought back, killing 21 soldiers.

After that, a number of tribes carried on guerrilla attacks, while the military plotted a major retaliation. Years of hostility ensued and many innocent people died.

All because of a wandering cow.
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Blurb for Tender Touch:
Three nightmarish years of marriage had shattered Brianna Wight’s sheltered world. Faking her own murder, she fled St. Louis…harboring terrible secrets that could mean her death.

The tragic loss of his Indian wife left Columbus Nigh a wanderer; necessity made him a wilderness guide. But now he found himself drawn to the enigmatic woman who’d hired him to lead her westward. Her gentle strength stirred his lonely heart…her tender beauty aroused his deepest passions.

But the perils of the Oregon Trail paled beside the murderous wrath of the man who tracked them across the harsh frontier. Brianna knew the only way to save herself and Columbus was to risk their tender love. Only then could she free herself from the horrors of the past—and embrace a rapturous future.

St. Louis, Missouri, April 1849
Brianna Wight’s heart pounded as she reluctantly followed her housekeeper’s son inside the dingy, cavernous livery stable. She felt as though she were entering the very bowels of hell.

Heat from the blacksmith’s shop blasted her delicate skin through her clothes and fluttered the veil covering her face as she waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. The flames leaping from the forge and the murky silhouettes of men, dancing about the fire like so many devils, were all she could make out.

Harsh, angry voices flew at her out of the blackness, like hurtled knives. Instant terror stiffened her body and she threw up an arm to shield her face.

"Wait your turn, stinkin’ squawman. Whaddya need yer horse shod for anyways? It’s only one o’ them Injun ponies. Get back to yer slut squaw an’ have her pick the lice from yer hair, why doncha?"

The voice that answered was soft, deep and—Brianna thought—deceptively calm, but the words were unclear.

"Why, you bastard!" the first voice yelled.

The sound of flesh and bone striking flesh and bone froze Brianna. Her heart stuttered. That sound was entirely too familiar, as was the pain that always followed. She tensed, waiting to feel the expected blow.

Instead, a man sailed toward her out of the smithy. Brianna screamed in the instant before he slammed into her. Together, they tumbled to the straw-littered floor in a tangle of arms, legs and skirts.

"You blasted squawman!" someone bellowed. "Look what ya done now. Get up, damn you! That’s a lady you’re laying on."

Brianna fought for air and shoved frantically at the heavy man weighing down her already bruised and battered body. Pain from a hundred places threatened to rend her unconscious. Inside her head, a voice shouted,"It’s not Barret! Not Barret!" But the fear had her in its grip. She could not stop batting for her life, as she had been forced to do, so many times before.
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About Charlene Raddon:
Charlene's writing career began with a dream. Not the dream of becoming a writer—she didn’t seriously consider becoming an actual writer for some time after she began her first novel. No, it was a dream that started her writing. So vivid, so compelling, this dream was, that she got up from bed, dragged out an old portable typewriter (pre-computer days) and began to type. The result was an unsold time travel which she is now reworking. Five of Charlene's western historical romance novels were published by Kensington Books. She is now in the process of having them published as e-books. Tender Touch was a Golden Heart Finalist in 1990 and published in 1994. When she isn't writing, Charlene loves to travel, do needlepoint, scrapbook, research genealogy, collect antique china, and spoil her grandchildren. She lives in Utah with her retired husband and a very neurotic cat.
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Tender Touch / Available on
Tirgearr Publishing


  1. Thanks, Pat, for hosting Charlene today. And good luck to all of the commenters. Tender Touch is an emotionally moving story we're sure you'll love. And the ox bell is very . . . very . . . VERY . . . cool!

  2. Wow, this sounds like a goodie. I love westerns mixed with romance and chills.

    An interesting article also, thanks for sharing.

    On my TBB list.

    May your sales skyrocket, how could anyone who loves westerns pass this one up?

    1. Thanks, Lorrie. Did you leave your contact info in case you win the giveaway?

  3. Pat, thank you for having me today. I love blogging for you.

    1. My pleasure, Charlene. I love having you! I've started reading Tender Touch. Can't wait to get back to it!

  4. This was a fascinating post for me as my great-great grandfather came out on the Oregon Trail--twice. The first time he stopped at the base of the Rockies because his 19-year-old wife was giving birth to their first child. The wagon train went on without them and by the time his wife gave birth and both she and his son died it was too late for him to catch the train and too late to attempt to cross the Rockies alone. So 10 years later--he did it again and settled in Star, Idaho.
    Tender Touch sounds fascinating and I love the cow bell too!

  5. Thanks, Conda. May I say what a pretty and unusual name you have? Names fascinate me. That's a sad story about your great-grandfather. But Star, Idaho is a lovey place. I bet he was happy there. I have a great-grandfather who traveled west with a wagon train also. One of the men with the train killed an Indian woman. Her tribe came and demanded they give him the killer or they'd attack the train, so they turned the man over. Later someone found the man scaled and dead. It was a very dangerous era.

    1. You're welcome, Charlene and that's wonderful that you know Star! And thanks for the compliment on my beloved name. I'm named after my mom, who was named after the town of Conda, Idaho! I'm definitely an Idahoan.

      And many people don't know that 30,000 people died on the Oregon Trail, dangerous times indeed. A few years ago they recreated an Oregon Trail walk only through Idaho and there was a death, even then (heart attack).

    2. Living in Utah I'm not that far from Star, Conda, so I do know it a bit. Yes, the death toll on the trail was terrible. I would have loved to have participated in a walk or covered wagon trek on the Oregon Trail. Always wanted to do that, even as a child. Growing up near LA, I was positive I was born at the wrong time in the wrong place.

  6. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to visit Charlene and read her fascinating history of the Oregon Trail. Her winner is Conda Douglas. Congratulations, Conda!

  7. Thanks for the history, Charlene. Excellent excerpt too! I grew up in Scottsbluff, Nebraska just north of one of the major trails through that area. It wasn't unusual to be driving along a lonesome stretch of highway and see historical markers for a pioneer grave. Some are commemorated, others are, sadly, forgotten. Amazing women and men crossed the plains. It surely wasn't for the faint of heart.