. . . 428 pages of mystery, adventure, and romance at a thrilling roller-coaster ride pace.

Set against the backdrop of territorial days in New Mexico, a Gibson Girl heroine and an unforgettable cast of characters sift through clues on two continents in their search for truth, justice, and love.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tierra Red Historical Point: White Sands Desert

The largest pure gypsum dune field in the world is located at White Sands National Monument in south-central New Mexico. The dunes cover an area of 275 square miles, 115 square miles of which are located within the White Sands National Monument. President Herbert Hoover proclaimed and established the monument in January, 1933.

Lily's harrowing escape from the catastrophic events that occur in Part One of Tierra Red culminates in her being stranded in these dunes. It is here that she discovers the treachery behind her arrival in the Territory of New Mexico.

I found a wonderful old legend concerning the White Sands Desert on the National Park Service website -- a ghost story!

The Legend of Pavla Blanca

To the Indians of central New Mexico, one of the most enduring legends is that of Pavla Blanca, the ghost of the Great White Sands. Hidden behind the swirling eddies of the spectral white dunes, her tragic story provides one of the most fascinating tales of the Southwest.

In early 1540, a valiant, young Spanish conquistador, Hernando de Luna, left his lovely betrothed, Manuela, in Mexico City to accompany the famed explorer, Francisco Coronado. Searching the uncharted lands in present day Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, and Texas, Coronado followed every Indian clue, every tale, looking for the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola and Gran Quivira, where the houses were said to be studded with gold and the streets were afire with jewels.

Ambushed by the fierce, proud warrior Apaches on the edge of the Great White Sands, the Spanish battled for their life. Exhausted and beaten, the survivors fled southwest to Mexico City. It is said that Hernando de Luna was mortally wounded and perished somewhere in the ever-shifting white sands. Setting out to seek her betrothed somewhere north of what is now El Paso, Texas, the lovely Manuela was never seen again. It is said that the ghost of this beautiful Spanish maiden haunts the dunes of the Great White Sands. She comes nightly in her flowing, white wedding gown to seek her lover, lost and buried beneath the eternal dunes. Some say the ghostly figure usually appears as the evening breezes sweep and dip over the stark white dunes, just after sunset.

The moderns have it that Pavla Blanca is caused by a prevailing wind sweeping over the hushed and lonely desert in the evening, whipping wraith-like eddies of dust. But the Indians say it is the ghost of Manuela, still eternally seeking her lover.

Fact or fiction, those with imagination, strolling in the silent shimmering dunes after a fiery sunset may be fortunate enough to witness for themselves the unusual sight. Thus, this legend persists for some, even to this day. This is Pavla Blanca.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Tierra Red Historical Point: Stagecoach Travel

Although much romanticized by Hollywood, actual stagecoach travel was far from glamorous. These snippets from the archives of the San Diego Historical Society depict the true story:

The inconveniences of our modern modes of travel are nothing compared to what passengers in the 1800's endured when traveling on bad roads in harsh weather which often made the stage coach run an exciting experience. The San Diego Union reported a typical incident in February, 1883:

"Frank Frary, who drove the Julian stage in last evening, says that when he started yesterday morning the wind was blowing a perfect hurricane from the east and northeast. The stage swayed so violently in the gale, that fearful that it would capsize, he and the two passengers piled two or three hundred pounds of rocks into the vehicle as ballast, which they carried until the grade had been passed."

Katie Leng offered insight to our modern world about stagecoach travel in a 1972 interview for the San Diego Historical Society. Leng, whose uncle ran Foster's Station, recalled the stages were:

" . . . miserable things to ride in. Let me say that the stage coaches galloping along in the Western movies always upset me, because it wasn't that way at all. The horses were trotted, with frequent breathers. Also, there was only one man on the box, and I never knew of any of them being armed. They wore any sort of clothing they wanted to, nothing flamboyant. We never had a hold-up. The only real tragedy I ever heard of was once, before my time, a driver was leading his team across a usually dry wash and was caught by a flash flood and drowned."

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Tierra Red Historical Point: Las Cruces

Tierra Red takes place during the years 1898-1900 in the Territory of New Mexico, featuring the Las Cruces, Las Vegas, and White Oaks areas.

Las Cruces has two historic districts: the Alameda-Depot District and the Mesquite District. Both districts are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The major streets of town were those running north-south, perhaps because the route of travel and commerce (Camino Real or Chihuahua Trail) ran in that direction. These streets were wider than the cross streets and were named Water (it fronted the irrigation ditch), Main (the business street), Church (location of the Catholic church and its plaza), Campo (for the camposanto or cemetary, Mesquite (for the desert shrub that covers the hills), and Tornillo (at the back of town, not named in the original platting.

Las Cruces was platted in 1849 on the hills south of several graves that served as a landmark for travelers, marking a crossroad and a place to cross the Rio Grande. The area became known as El Pueblo del Jardin de Las Cruces (City of the Garden of Crosses).

History tells us that a U. S. Army Lt. laid out the town in 1849 using nothing more than a rawhide rope with which he marked off the city's new streets. The heads of families took turns drawing a chance from a hat to determine which property they would own.

Lily's story begins in 1898 in this community, nearly fifty years later.