Friday, November 5, 2010

Guest Blogger: The Romance of Lawlessness

From Bobbie:

As a teenager, I became a fan of Oklahoma history after I discovered author Glenn Shirley's Law West of Fort Smith. Few lawmen-lots of territory for them to cover. It made the Indian Nation a haven for outlaws like Belle Starr and Bill Doolin's Wild Bunch.

Maybe because I spend my days thinking about fictional murder, I remembered Shirley's book and began to wonder how other societies in earlier ages dealt with outlaws and lawmen. And I knew just the person to ask, my friend Jeri Westerson, (that's her picture) author of the one and only medieval noir series featuring disgraced (but noble, in his own way) knight, Crispin Guest. Jeri graciously agreed to do a blog post for us. She's a terrific writer and a whiz at the history of the Middle Ages. By the way--you'll find copies of her books in your room at the Dancing Bean.

And now, my guest blogger, the clever and creative, Jeri Westerson.

Lawlessness in the Oklahoma Territory and the Middle Ages
by Jeri Westerson

It's a romantic period in American history. The old west, the wild west, with its own cowboy justice meted out in the lawless territories. Lynchings, barroom brawls, gunfights on the streets. Everyone getting medieval on each other.

Whoa, hold on there partner. Are we saying that the wild and woolly west had a counterpart in Europe's Middle Ages, where torture was common, subversion of the law was the norm, and the Big Bad Church oppressed one and all?

Well, not so much, really.

I'm certain there is just as much exaggeration about the wildness of the west as there might be about the Middle Ages. For one, there was very little in what you might call lawlessness in the medieval period. In fact, there were a slew of laws, from imprisoning those who slandered others, to rampant lawsuits filed by rich against poor, poor against rich, and everyone in between. And there were rules to follow, hearings, lawyers, and a jury. In fact, we get much of our legal terminology and proceedings from medieval English law. It was pursued practically and, for the most part, as fairly as was culturally possible for the time. For instance, in those days, a jury was chosen not because they didn't know the defendant but because they specifically did, a true jury of their peers. Who better to judge you than people who already knew you?

And what about torture as a judicial device? Again, just a bit of exaggeration brought down to us from our Victorian ancestors who liked a bit of gothic ghoulishness to tickle their corsets. In fact, one of the more notorious torture devices, the iron maiden, wasn't medieval at all, and in fact, never really existed except in the minds of prurient Victorians. These iron maidens were wooden cabinets with iron spikes inside. They were shaped rather like large bowling pins with the image of the Virgin's face on the head part. Closing the hapless victim inside would pierce him in inuumerable holes all over the body. Blood loss, possible asphyxiation, and the horror of it, could cause death.

Except that it didn't. It doesn't appear to have been invented until the late 18th century, and even then it was all in the mind. The earliest account of this device can be found in 1793, but even that was a hoax! It was possibly confused with a "cloak of shame," something that was used in the Middle Ages. But this was more of a portable stocks, a barrel that one was forced to wear, humiliating oneself by walking around town, letting everyone know that you had been naughty, where citizens could hurl ridicule as well as rotten vegetables at you (where were folks keeping all those rotten vegetables they are always throwing at people?). The Victorians read an account of this and then the account of the hoax and sort of glommed them together because medieval people, they thought, were uncivilized barbarians just waiting around to be enlightened by the Renaissance...where there was a lot more use of those torture devices.

And believe it or not, even the Big Bad Church wasn't as big and as bad as one might think. Oh there was the Spanish Inquisition, and according to Monty Python, no one expects that! But there wasn't the resistance to science as there was later in the Renaissance. In fact, in the Middle Ages, seeking the Truth was a much beloved trope, because Truth brings you closer to holiness. Even homosexuality, though little understood, did not result in the Church "getting medieval" on sodomites. More often than not, punishments came in the form of ecclesiastical penance rather than jail time. According to historian John Boswell in his book, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, the penalty for homosexual behavior "is given no greater attention than other sins and, viewed comparatively, appears to have been thought less grave than such common activities as hunting." Still, between the law courts and the Church, it was best to keep a low profile.

So is it possible that the Middle Ages was more civilized than the wild west? A startling thought. Makes you want to reread some history, doesn't it?

Jeri does nothing else but reread lots of history for her medieval noir series. Her tough guy ex-knight turned detctive, Crispin Guest, is back in the third installment, THE DEMON'S PARCHMENT. You can read an excerpt on her website

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Don't Blame the Goldenrod

I've been in the house all day, hiding from the wind and the ragweed pollen. Whenever I see fluffy golden flowers, I know what's coming--hay fever. Imagine my surprise when Sue, a fellow NEOBA (Northeastern Oklahoma Beekeepers Association) member, told me that those golden plumes aren't ragweed. It's goldenrod, not a serious allergen. Among it, however, grow ragweed plants with their inconspicuous blooms producing nuclear weapons grade pollen. Foraging bees love it. I don't.

A common theory about seasonal allergy treatment is that local honey, created from neighborhood pollen, helps the immune system fight hay fever. I'm not sure it works, but I'm willing to try anything right now. My recipe is a big dollop of honey in nice cup of tea doctored with the juice of half a lemon. Effective or not, this medicine is deeply comforting.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

White Peaches and Possums

I picked most of the white peaches remaining on the tree with my five year old granddaughter, Emma. We picked as many as we could using the three step ladder (and took a small tumble together and lived to tell the tale). Then I moved the land defenses and left several at the top of the tree. This morning, only two were left.

The possums love them, so why not share a few? Here on the Dancing Bean, we try to co-exist with nature.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Possums and Peaches

The China Pearl peaches, a white variety, are the biggest, sweetest and the last to ripen of the stone fruits in the orchard. It's August 31, and the Game is On, as Sherlock Holmes would say. Who'll get the white peaches this year?

To date, the score is: Late Freeze: 4, Possums: 3 Green June Beetles: 1 and Me: 0.

This is my year. I can feel it. I've kept a daily watch for the beetles, designed and constructed my own cruelty free, chemical-free ground defense against the possums, and monitored the fruit daily for degree of ripeness. (A test that has required a bit of eating, I will confess).

At a half pound apiece, these beauties are worth the work. If you're in the neighborhood, come share.

Friday, July 16, 2010

News Flash--DBR is Closed For These Dates

Sorry, but the Bunkhouse is unavailable the following dates:

July 30-August 9 and the weekends of October 8 and October 15. I expect to be closed on days on either side of the 15th.

Otherwise, the the calendar is wide open. Come and enjoy The Dancing Bean Ranch, just not on the above dates.

What Is That Lady Doing With That Troll?

What AM I doing with that troll? Or what's it doing with me? Nothing, really, except helping me enjoy a vacation to Disney World with my daughters.

Disney World isn't in my budget this year, and maybe not in yours, either. Plus, I'm in the grasp of summer doldrums. Maybe you are, as well.

The writing is going slowly (and I'm still debating why someone killed the victim in the next story) and maybe your work is, too.

So to make your escape easier, I'm lowering my summer weekend single night price to $65, double occupancy and reducing Friday, Saturday stays to $120. And just for fun, I'll leave a special welcoming gift for you--a slice of pie so homemade that even the peaches came from the Dancing Bean's orchard.

I can't offer trolls, by the way, nor pixies nor elves nor even gnomes. But husband Bill (sadly, dead in the first book but happily alive in real life) is an expert on all things Norwegian. Or you can just enjoy our 20x30 foot in ground swimming pool. Personally, my advice is to take the latter.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Miss Marple, Meet John Le Carre´

So far, my favorite tidbit about the Russian spy ring is the following, as reported on NPR, "The Guardian" and several other sources:

Upon learning the truth about the nice couple next door, a neighbor said, "They couldn't have been spies. Look what she did with the hydrangeas."

My favorite line from Agatha Christie is very similar. Miss Marple is a guest at a country house where, as luck would have it, there's a murder. After a few days' careful observation, she reveals the name of the murderer to the hostess, who replies, But she has the best herbaceous border in the county!

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of murder mysteries and, indeed, am writing one of my own. No, I'm not published (I hope I'm justified in adding yet), but some of my best friends are.

When you settle into your room, you're likely to notice a couple of books, for loan or resale. One is a true crime story by Laura James. Besides the quality of the writing, what's truly fun about The Love Pirate and the Bandit's Son is that much of the real life action happened in and around Sapulpa, Oklahoma, just east of the DBR.

The other books are from the new Medieval Noir series by Jeri Westerson. A devotee of medieval history, Jeri set out to bend the rules about what a historical novel set in the period could be. And her sleuth, a disgraced knight named Crispin Guest, bends them, indeed. As one reviewer put it, Crispin is "more Sam Spade than Brother Cadfael."

I hope to have Jeri on soon as a guest blogger, comparing the lawlessness of Oklahoma Territory and the Middle Ages. Trust me, there are comparisons. Besides, here at the 'Bean, we've been known to bend a few rules of our own.

Fresh Peach pie

Fresh peach pie.

Pastry for double crust pie.

Mix 4-5 cups sliced peaches, 3/4 c. sugar (less, if your peaches are as sweet as mine), 3 T tapioca. Dot with 2 T butter. Vent upper crust. The tapioca keeps the juice nice and clear, rather than clouded as flour would
Bake 40-50 minutes in upper third of 425 oven. Before baking, I like to embellish with a few sprinkles of sugar and a little freshly grated nutmeg.

BTW--The DBR provides seasonal treats for guests, such as the above, in addition to breakfast items. I picked peaches this morning and tonight the pie is cooling in the kitchen. Doesn't it make you wish you were here to enjoy it?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Sweet Summer Begins

Can you name anything sweeter than the first peach of the year, eaten right there in the orchard fresh off the tree, with warm, sticky juice dripping down your chin? I didn't think so--I can't, either.

Peach harvest has begun on the Dancing Bean Ranch. Though our orchard is small, our peaches ripen in succession so for the next few weeks expect fresh peaches on your breakfast tray.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Even More Amazing Offer

Here on the Dancing Bean Ranch, we have World Cup Fever. In honor of the best ever American team, we're offering a 5% discount to anyone who can name the player who scored the goal that put the USA into the second round. Add 5% more if you identify the minute of play in which it was scored.

What's this got to do with the pictured rose? Nothing, really. But I didn't have a photo of Landon Donovan (NOOO!!! I've given away the first answer) or a soccer ball. It's the first rose of the season, and I thought it was nice. Except, I just noticed it's upside down and staring at it is making me dizzy. You've been warned.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June is for Rainbows

Recently, Bill and I were treated to the sight of the finest rainbow either of us had ever witnessed, arcing horizon to horizon over the Dancing Bean Ranch. A fainter rainbow haloed it.

Wild West Show!

The Pawnee Bill Wild West Show begins this Saturday and continues for the next two Saturdays: June 12 19, 26. With an afternoon parade from downtown to the historic Pawnee Bill Ranch (just like they did it in the old days), re-enactors (including gun fights right out of an old western movie), historic displays at the Pawnee Bill Ranch and tours of the mansion and museum, it's all day entertainment that's almost as educational as it is fun.

The 'Bean is fully booked for the first weekend, June 12, but still has vacancies for the next two weekends. The sooner we know, the better, since showtime is a busy season.

And if you need a break from the excitement (or the heat, depending on the weather) the swimming pool is open.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Help! I'm sore.

I'm home after three days at the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (Oklahoma Conference) and all that sitting and insomnia have my old joints aching

Happily, I know just what to do: hie me down to Emma Ellis at The Healing Touch. With thirty years experience as a massage therapist, Emma knows exactly what needs kneading. And the accoutrements--oils, massage bed, towels and so forth-- are strictly top rate.

Or--Listen up!--she will bring her portable massage table to the 'Bean and do massage in your room. Okay, I know what you're thinking: Massage? In my room? Hasn't anyone told you we're in a recession, crazy Dancing Bean lady? Who can afford a luxury like that? You! That's who.

For just $45.00 an hour, Emma will do massage therapy right in your room. If you choose to go downtown and get the full treatment--low lights, meditative music and warmed massage bed-- the cost is just $35.00 an hour.

The Healing Touch opened for business just a few weeks ago, and these are introductory rates. They won't last forever, so book your appointment soon.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

There's No Off-Position on the Genius Switch (D. Letterman)

Lilac Hill Farm? Nah, we decided. We don't have any lilacs and we're not on a hill. How about Rose Valley? No valleys, no roses. From there, we went through a series of uninspired ideas. Then our respective genius switches (which evidently do have an off position) flashed to red at the same moment. Dancing Bean Ranch! A graphic artist had already done camera-ready artwork from the drawings on Chris' letter of years before. The logo was obvious.

So there it is, the saga of the Dancing Bean Ranch. My most recent guests asked how we happened upon our name. "It relates to a college nickname," I told her. "It's all on my blog."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Seriously. The Dancing Bean Ranch.

I finished graduate school and moved to Seattle so many years ago that we still wrote letters to each other. I came home one rainy Seattle night to find a delightful surprise in my mailbox: a letter from Chris Knop (Kallenberger), now beginning her career at Philbrook Art Museum in Tulsa. Looking forward to one of her always witty letters, instead I read two pages of complaints. Mostly, she hated winter. Belying her gloomy tone, however, she'd drawn beans, complete with jazz arms and legs, boogying across the page.

That letter was a keeper. I always had the feeling that someday I was going to do something with those dancing beans.

(That's a current photo of Chris, by the way, with her sock monkey scarecrow.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dancing Bean Ranch? Seriously? Part I

Where did that name come from? people ask. And what about that logo? Generally I answer, "It has to do with my college nickname."

With the caveat that what happens in college stays in college, here's (some of) the story:

Back in the early 70s I was Bobbie Baker, a student at the University of Oklahoma. A friend and fellow history major named Michael Masterson, (who has grown up to become an LA-based creative consultant) invited me to a party. He told me to bring food to share. He failed, however, to mention it was to have been finger food.

I showed up with a pot of baked beans. With no forks, spoons or plates in sight (this was a college party, after all) people ate my beans with taco chips. I even received compliments on my "dip."

Michael, never one to resist the opportunity for alliteration, began calling me Baked Beans or Bobbie Baked Beans Baker. The name caught on, especially among our circle of friends. They included an organ major named Gary Johnson, now an LA based editor/writer and musician ( Elementary education major Nancy K. Dillon, now a Seattle based musician ( ).And finally, art history major Chris Knop, now Chris Kallenberger, Director of Exhibition and Collections, Philbrook Art Museum.

Chris is responsible for our logo. But that's part II.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Most Unique Special Offer Ever!

Basking in the glow of the evening I spent at the University of Tulsa's President's Lecture series, listening to a conversation between Frank Rich and Stephen Sondheim has inspired me to make a special, one-time offer: Dancing Bean guests who love to talk about musicals get 5% off their room rate. If you're familiar with the history of the musical theater and Sondheim, make that 10%. (Sorry, offer does not apply to Jerry Herman fans.)

And if Stephen Sondheim himself is reading this: No charge for you, Mr. Sondheim.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Apple Blossom Time on the 'Bean

Don't you wish you had scratch and sniff? Nothing smells more sweetly sublime than apple blossoms. These are the Arkansas Blacks, an old-fashioned keeping apple. If Mother Nature cooperates for once, our guests and we can enjoy some home-grown fruit this year.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Moment of Truth

Here it is: the moment when Oklahoma gardeners survey what plants died, thrived, or hung on during our extraordinary winter.

I stepped out this morning to take a peek at the patch of old fashioned garden I've created in a tiny oasis of afternoon shade. Happy surprise! After years of planting violets supposedly hardy in zone 5, Oasis plants in Stillwater promised me this one would be different. And there it is, the tiny green deck-of-cards club shaped leaves, breaking dormancy.

White violets. Emily Dickinson would be so pleased. Continuing the theme, the gooseberries, elderberries and currants survived, as well.

The garden's bordered by small patio covered by a porch and ceiling fan. (To stay cool and, though it's sadly prosaic, to blow bugs away. This is Oklahoma.) Though it's in a semi-private area outside the residence, guests who have a yen to read Jane Austen in an appropriate setting are welcome to use it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Freckles, The Wonder Dog

She may look like an old hound dog, throwing her head back and baying, but Freckles is much more than that.

Last summer, we hosted a family with a four year old son who, for no reason the family knew, was terrified of dogs. We arranged to let our canines outdoors only during the part of the day that would inconvenience the family the least.

The next morning, I let the dogs out for a run. When I went to call them in for the day, I saw the mom and her son outside. The two of them were laughing as together they rubbed a delighted Freckles' tummy. "I petted her while he watched from the window," the mom explained, "and he got to courage to pet her himself. We're so grateful to Freckles. She's a therapy dog!"

We adopted Freckles when she was about a year old. She was hungry, scared, sick, and showed clear signs of abuse. But it's amazing what basic vet care, three squares-a-day and love can do for an animal.

They might not be the prettiest or trendiest of pets, but you never know: that bedraggled cat or dog you rescue might just turn out to be a Wonder Animal.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Torvald, "Son of Thunder"

Anyone who has stayed with us has enjoyed (?) a big welcome from our greeters, dumped dogs we've rescued over the years.

Torvald, Norwegian for "Son of Thunder," is the newest addition to our family. He wandered out of the woods one morning, half-frozen, muddy, terrified and starving. In other words, about the same shape as all our other cats and dogs were when they found us.

In this photograph, Torvald is "helping me" prune the trees in the Dancing Bean's small orchard.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Real Bill

The nice man pictured above is my husband Bill, to whom I refer in my posts.

My (unfinished, unpublished) cozy murder mystery is set on the Dancing Bee Farm, a place much like The Dancing Bean Ranch. The protagonist is an amateur sleuth who, as luck would have it, is a lot like me.

Originally, she was to have a husband, much like mine. I was still outlining the story, however, when I realized the perils in that decision. Would he be a second protagonist? An antagonist? Relegated to a walk on? More troublesome was how to write about a real person--a person I live with--in a way that wouldn't raise, well, let's just say issues.

I finally decided to plunk him into backstory and made my beekeeping sleuth a widow. When the real Bill came home that night, I broke the news that I'd had to kill him.

Being a good natured sort of man, his only response was to ask: "Did I suffer?"

"No," I told him. "But it's just as well you not cross me. After all, as long as I'm still working on this bad boy, I can go back and change that."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Too Much Winter

Pretty to look at, yes--But I have my limits. I've had enough of winter!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Three kids and One Hearty Mom

She was booked for four nights with her three kids (aged 3-10).

Several hours after her expected arrival, I assumed she was a no-show. "Why don't I take VISA and require a deposit," I asked myself. Finally, she called. Halfway here, she'd had to go back home because she'd forgotten her youngest's snuggie bed.

By nine o'clock that night she was finally turning off the Cimarron Turnpike and headed to Pawnee. By then, a threatened storm had broken into a torrential rain with thunder and lightning. We'd even lost our electricity. Bill said, "She'll never find her way out here through this," so I called (thank heaven for cell phones) to tell her that he would meet them at Snak n' Pak, the convenience store downtown. With a big a generator, they still had lights.

Finally, they all arrived safely. Then came the unpacking, with three small children, in the middle of a storm, by flashlight. Throughout it all, she kept declaring, "It's an adventure!"

Bill, who'd helped them unpack, told me the kids were excited when they saw I'd left donuts for part of their breakfast. "Oops. Those are bagels," I said.

By morning, the electricity was up and running again. Bill hurried down to Main Street Donuts on Harrison Street (H. 64) in Pawnee, and the breakfast fairy left a donut-filled chest for them. They had all earned a treat.

To B and B?

To B and B, or not to B and B? Bill and I talked the subject nearly to death. Last year, I finally did it. I hung up my shingle. Or in modern parlance, put the Dancing Bean Ranch into cyberspace. (Thanks, Jennie for doing the web site for me.)

Today, a twenty by thirty foot sheet of ice outlines the swimming pool. Beyond, the woods are deep in snow. I'm glad I took advantage of the lull in freezing temperatures to get the bee candy onto the brood box. Now, my fingers are crossed that the girls won't starve to death before the spring honey flow starts.

Personally, I've had enough winter. So I intend at least to warm my memories. I'll be sharing (names omitted) stories about some of my favorite guests. Better to think about that than what this weather has done to the tulips I planted in the raised beds.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Winter rates

Take advantage of the quiet winter months for discounts off the summer prices. $50 weeknights, weekends nights $60 for one or $100 for both Friday and Saturay night.


Because we call ourselves a bunkhouse, I hear from people asking if they need to bring their own linens, if there is heat, or air conditioning.

A stay at the Dancing Bean Ranch is camping my style: Comfortable room, comfortable bed, high thread count linens, maid service.

So rest assured, you'll be relaxing comfortably unless you truly want to rough it--and for that, we have 90 acres of nature for you to enjoy!