I came across The Cowgirl's Cookbook just over a year ago. I enjoyed it so much I e-mailed the author Jill and asked if she wouldn't mind if I posted about it on my blog. She said, “Go ahead.....not a problem and Thank you.” Judging by Jill's response I knew right away I just found someone I needed to know. Over time some great friendships have evolved. Thanks to Jill she introduced me to Bridget from Heart of a Cowgirl and you all know we have become good buddies. My admiration for Jill has grown too. Jill has just finished her new book. Since she lives in Sisters, Oregon and I'm in Berwick, Maine it's hard to just pop on over for a visit. Instead we pretend that's what we do, our e-mails are ongoing conversations as if I come barging through her door, plop down on her couch, and we share our stories. It's usually cowgirl related but cowgirls love to share their excitement about life, even if it's just little day to day stories. Grab a glass of wine, a cup of tea or some chocolate and sit back and relax while we sit down with Jill and find out more about this amazing cowgirl and what she has been up to.
Jill let's get the basics out of the way, are you a native of Sisters, Oregon? Tell us a little about yourself.
First of all, a big Cowgirl “Howdy” to everyone reading this. And a Cowgirl hug to Marjorie for asking me to do this. Don't you just love her blog? Sisters, Oregon is a small town at the foot of the Three Sisters. It's one of the last truly “Western” places. I've lived here for almost five years. I went to a girls camp nearby when I was 12 and 13 years old. (There is more about Camp Tamarack in The Cowgirl's Cookbook) I was always the one in floods of tears when it was time to go home to Seattle, Washington where there were no Cowgirls (except me) and it rained all the time. I've trailered horses through Sisters for years, on my way to SunRiver Resort, 40 miles south. I've even ridden in the Sisters Rodeo Parade. I vowed that, someday, I would live here. It's a wonderful place! Horses have been my passion since I was little. I've done just about everything you can imagine on top of a horse — cattle drives, Hunter/Jumper, gallops on the beach, trail rides, pack trips — you get the picture.
So Jill I know you have been writing off and on for many years but tell us how The Cowgirls Cookbook evolved and what it meant for you the first time you saw it in print.
The Cowgirls Cookbook was “born” on a moonlit night high in the Eagle Cap Wilderness in N.E. Oregon (called the “Alps of the West”) when Joan Triplett, Joanna Stuart and myself were on a pack trip. We were sitting in the moonlight, on a log, gazing at the Eagle Cap. We each had one of those tiny little bottles of vodka you get on the airplane, which we were sipping. We had just been to the Pendleton Roundup and Joanna mentioned that she had grown up with Bertha Kaepernik Blancett, the famous world champion lady Cowgirl. Joanna mentioned that she was quite a lady in her old age. She did needlepoint and “made quince jelly”. This interested me, especially the quince jelly part. I realized that Cowgirls, being women, cooked. I started the book right after that. It took about five years to gather everything. It is hard to describe what it's like to actually hold a book that you have poured your heart into in your hands for the first time. Sort of like when they hand you your baby after delivery. Possibly better.
Your new book, Wild Women and Tricky Ladies, when is it do to be released? Did this start to take shape while you were writing The Cowgirls Cookbook?
It did. One thing leads to another! Looking for the historic pictures for The Cowgirls Cookbook, I was especially struck by the Trick Riders. After the book came out, I happened upon a picture of a woman on the website www.americancowgirl.com/blog standing on three white horses as they jumped over a hurdle. She was not screaming in terror – she was smiling and appeared to be having a whale of a good time. I contacted her. Arlene LaMar was a member of The Flying Valkyries during the 1950's and when I heard her story, and saw the pictures she sent me, I realized that this was a segment of the Cowgirl history and lore that had not been written about. Erin Turner, my terrific editor at Two Dot Press, agreed with me and Wild Women and Tricky Ladies will be released in August, 2010. It's a history of trick riding from the early days right up to the present time.
I know you have had to do serious research with photos and interviews with some “older” cowgirls. What has that been like? Where they excited that someone was taking the time to record and document their stories?
The most gratifying thing was the reaction of the old-time trick riders. They were thrilled that someone would take the time to listen to their stories. They shared everything with me, including photographs straight from their photo albums that no one had ever seen before. I've become BFF (best friends forever) with all of them.
I'm sure everyone has amazing stories but does anyone really stand out so far?
They all do. Their daring, pluck and courage comes through in each story.
I know you have helped get the legendary all-around Cowgirl Bertha Kaepernik Blancett inducted into the Pendleton Roundup Hall of Fame. This was years in the making correct? But you and your friend Joan had the pleasure of delivering Bertha's prize belongings to the museum curator. Was this an amazing day or what?!
That same evening at the Eagle Cap, after the quince jelly discovery (and maybe we can blame the vodka and the altitude) the three of us decided to have Bertha inducted into the Pendleton Hall of Fame. We had no idea at all how difficult this was going to be. However, Cowgirls persevere and the three of us were there in 1994 for the official induction. That really was a very proud moment for the three of us.
And the adventures with Bertha continues— In early October this year Joan Triplett and I left for The Dalles, 150 miles N.E. of Bend. In the back of my Jeep were precious things that belonged to the legendary all-around Cowgirl Bertha Kaepernik Blancett, destined for her permanent display at the Pendleton Roundup Hall of Fame for the 100th Anniversary of the Roundup. A leather, fringed riding skirt with silver conchos on it and still carrying the Hamley's label in it is valued at $15,000. Her teal colored silk shirt that she wore when competing shows signs of wear and why wouldn't it??? Her leather and beaded gauntlets (gauntlets were given as a prize in the early days to women who competed at the PRU along with prize money) made by the Nez Perce Indians had one finger worn all the way through. In the hide-bound trunk with her initials in brass tacks on the top (BKB) were silk scarves -- she liked to wear a silk scarf around her head under her hat when she rode. Her Hamleys toiletry box still had a pot of rouge in it -- dried out. The several sterling silver trophies will need to be polished and so will the buckles she won. Her marriage certificate to Del Blancett (who was a bull dogger -- Bertha often rode as hazer for him) and her birth certificate were with us too. I drove carefully.
The area we drove through is known as The Inland Empire and is known for the large wheat ranches. The wheat had been cut, so we were driving through rolling hills of golden stubble, hawks overhead on the look out for the exposed mice. Every once in a while, a cloud would pass overhead and make a shadow on the buff-colored hills. Solitary trees on the horizon and once in a while, an abandoned homestead, testimony to the harsh and lonely life out there on the Plateau. We came to the Columbia River and into The Dalles -- where we were meeting Virginia, the Director of the Pendleton Hall of Fame for the transfer. Virginia was a dynamo and such a wealth of information! She had driven down the Columbia River 150 miles for the pick up. That's how we do it out here in the West -- distance is measured by how important it is and then you just do it. We talked about the Old Girls and the Hall of Fame over coffee after lunch. I am scheduled to book sign, at the Hall of Fame, during RoundUp 2010.
We all had to leave to make our way home. Virginia tenderly transferred everything into the back seat of her ROCKIN' Black Dodge Ram pick-up (Virginia is 65 years old and when she is not in charge of the Hall of Fame, she is running a cow and calf operation 20 miles from Pendleton). I was glad I had the official Pendelton "Let 'er buck!" sticker on my back window The drive home toward the Three Sisters with the clouds building up over them, with a lowering sun, was as beautiful as the morning drive. We talked about Bertha and our involvement with her -- how it was 15 years ago we three (Joan, Joanna and me) thought it would be a "good idea" to induct her into the Pendleton Hall of Fame. It was damn hard work -- no walk in the park -- but we did it! All this led to The Cowgirls Cookbook and soon, Wild Women and Tricky Ladies. I feel very close to all the Cowgirls, past and present, now. I am so honored to have brought their recipes, stories and pictures to life, so that women everywhere can learn more about these fearless and brave women.
Some of my tamer friends who live in the Willamette Valley/Portland area ask me why I live here in Central Oregon. That day, delivering Bertha's things so everyone can see them and appreciate them, was one of the reasons why.
Jill thank you. I feel honored to share your story with my friends. I hope we can all come back after the next book and find out what your next cowgirl adventure is going to be.
Well, as a matter of fact, researching Wild Women, I happened upon a picture in the archives of a museum in Canada of a girl on top of and diving a horse from a high tower into a tank of water . . . now I'm working on “Daredevil Dames”!
I hope you all enjoyed chatting with Jill. I sure did! I will be selling her book at my booth this weekend with cowgirl aprons. What a perfect Christmas gift! If you are interested you can buy her book HERE