Native Coloradoan Kaye Spencer writes historical, paranormal-lite, and contemporary romances from her basement utopia in a small, rural town located in the heart of the infamous Dust Bowl area of the 1930s. Kaye grew up on a cattle ranch in northeastern Colorado, where she spent hours reading Louis L’Amour’s westerns, listening to Marty Robbins’ gunfighter ballads, and watching the old (now classic) television westerns and western movies. Kaye is retired from a career in education, which included teaching, administration, and psychology. She enjoys spending time with her grandchildren. She and her husband share their home with a menagerie of pets.
I’m delighted to have her visit here.
Fifty miles from where I live is a statue of a woman. She is called the Madonna of the Trail. She is one of twelve identical statues along the National Old Trails Road, which is, generally speaking, U.S. Hwy 40. These statues have historical inscriptions specific to each statue’s location. The National Old Trails Road was the route pioneers of the covered wagons era often traversed in their journey toward the promise of a new life in an untamed land—The West.
The Madonna of the Trail project began in 1911 when the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) established the National Old Roads Committee. The goal of this committee was to memorialize the Old Roads Trail and have it renamed the National Memorial Highway. By 1912, plans were underway to further commemorate another important aspect of this road, which was to acknowledge the role that women played in westward expansion. The concept of these statues evolved with the plan to erect one statue in each of the twelve states connected by the National Old Roads Trail.
World War I put a temporary hold on the “Pioneer Mother Movement”, but the committee chairwoman, Arlene B. Nichols Moss of St. Louis, persevered. Her vision of the madonna was inspired by the Sacagawea statue in Oregon. Standing firmly alongside Mrs. Moss in her determination to see her statue project to fruition was the president of the National Old Trails Road Association—a not-so-well-known Missouri justice of the peace named Harry Truman. He believed strongly in this project, and he helped get it through Congress at a cost of $1,000 for each statue.
1927 arrived with an approved design by the artist and sculptor August Leimbach. The statues were made using poured algonite stone, which is a mixture of substances. The primary ingredient is Missouri granite.
Originally, all the statues faced generally west, but many years later, a few were
repositioned to accommodate specific site’s situations. The west and east sides of each statue’s base carry the same inscriptions, and the north and south sides bear local information.
Each statue is eighteen feet tall and weighs about five tons. The base is ten feet high and the madonna is eight feet tall. The stone is a warm pinkish-brown. The mother wears the ubiquitous pioneer woman’s long dress, bonnet, and sturdy lace-up boots. She holds a rifle in one hand, an infant in her other arm, and her little boy clutches her skirts.
The mother’s face is set in a determined and focused expression as if she can see her future and that of her children’s somewhere ahead in that far and distant land upon which she has set her hopes and dreams. There is a look in her eyes that says nothing will keep her from reaching her new home—wherever that home may be.
Truman personally dedicated each statue (1928-1929). At the Ohio dedication
ceremony, he acknowledged* ‘the intrepid women’, which included his grandmothers ‘who endured the bone-wrenching weariness and difficult travel’. He went on to say, “They [the women] were just as brave, or braver, than their men because, in many cases, they went with sad hearts and trembling bodies. They went, however, and endured every hardship that befalls a pioneer.”
Wishing you Happy Trails,
Writing through history one romance upon a time
For further reading:
The website, Pioneer Monuments in the American West, Madonna of the Trail, has detailed information about each statue: http://pioneermonuments.net/highlighted-monuments/madonna-of-the-trail/
-Roadside America. Madonnas of the Trail. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/28991. May 2017.
-*Santa Fe Trails Scenic and Historic Byway. Madonna of the Trail. http://www.santafetrailscenicandhistoricbyway.org/madona.html. May 2017.
-Map. Madonna of the Trail. http://www.routefast.com/#. May 2017.
-Lamar Ledger. Discover Southeast Colorado. 2018 Travel and Tourism Guide for Southeast Colorado. Historic international trade route. Brochure/Magazine. Pg. 22. May 2018.
-August Leimbach, sculptor. Madonna of the Trail Monument. https://web.archive.org/web/20120415122741/http://www.kevinkarlstudio.com/AL/Madonna_of_the_Trail.html. May 2018.
The Comanchero’s Bride by Kaye Spencer
Beautiful heiress Elizabeth White is exiled to Texas until she agrees to marry the prominent politico her parents have chosen for her—Grayson Beal. When Elizabeth is approached at a fiesta by dark-eyed, handsome Mingo Valderas, her heart will never be her own again. But Mingo has a reputation as a Comanchero—a man who is as fast with his knives as he is with his gun. Still, Elizabeth gives her trust to him, and their whirlwind courtship begins. Beal will stop at nothing to claim Elizabeth—and only one man can protect her. Elizabeth and Mingo stay one step ahead of Beal…but will that be enough?
At the livery, Mingo remained in the shadows where he could see both ways along the street. Opening the wagon doors just wide enough to allow him to pass through, he eased his way inside. Speaking in a low soothing tone to his horses, he packed and saddled them under the moonlight coming in from two windows. Opening half the double doors, he led the two riding horses out the back, tied them to a corral rail, and returned for the packhorse.
He no more than reached the packhorse when a cold voice in the shadows stopped him in his tracks.
“Don’t turn around, Valderas.”
Mingo froze. A few more steps and he would have been on the off side of the packhorse, but where he was, he had no protection.
“I’ve got a good bead right between your shoulders. I know about your fast draw and the price on your head. I’ve also heard stories about your throwing knives, so keep your hands where I can see them.”
“You know me. But who are you? What do you want?” Mingo didn’t care. He knew the challenge from the shadows was a bounty hunter. He needed the man to talk so he could pinpoint his location.
“I came out of El Paso. A man named Jack added to the price on your head—dead or alive—and some politician is offering a pretty penny on top of that to bring in the woman you have with you. He wants her alive.”
From the sound of the man’s voice, he hadn’t moved and was off to his right. Mingo fought the urge to whirl and fire, but shooting blindly was not his way. He wouldn’t risk wild shot that could injure a horse, and gunfire would bring others into the fray. Shadows were both his enemy and ally, depending upon how he used it.
“The way’s clear behind you, so back towards the open wagon door, and keep your hands away from your body. When I heard the talk of a Mexican man traveling with a white woman, and they were staying at the hotel, I fig-ured I’d hit pay dirt. I was just supposed to worry you into making a wrong move. Never thought I’d be the one to catch you.
“I’m taking the woman to El Paso. You, I’m locking up in the back room of the saloon for safe keeping…unless you give me an excuse to kill you right now, which I’ve a yearning to do. I can’t miss at this range. It wouldn’t do my reputation any damage to be the man who took down Mingo Valderas.”
Now, he knew who he was up against. Earl Johns was vicious and a killer, a back-shooting coward. Mingo inched backward, buying thinking time.
“Where’s the woman, Valderas?” “There is no wom—”
“She’s too close for your comfort.” Elizabeth’s voice cut through the night. The sound of a shotgun hammer pulling back was an angry, lethal sound that made the hairs on Mingo’s arms prickle.
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