|A stagecoach outside the Twin Falls News|
office in Twin Falls, Idaho.
She finally had the stagecoach to herself on the last leg, which was a vast improvement over the fourteen passengers crowded inside and on top of the stage that left from the train station in Winnemucca, Nevada. Unfortunately, this coach also carried luggage and several bags of mail, one of which she had to hold on her lap, along with her own valise. Her trunks had been loaded onto a freight wagon and wouldn’t arrive in Silver City for a week.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
The coach lurched, hurtling down the rutted road, and Celia could barely keep herself upright. Gunshots! She dropped in a heap onto the floorboards, praying the driver and messenger fared well.
The coach clattered and rumbled as it lurched about. Bags of mail thudded on her back and mashed her face into the buckle on her valise. She grasped the leg of the center bench, the only thing that was stable, and hung on for dear life. The coach veered side to side, bouncing violently over ruts and washouts.
More gunshots, the horses’ neighs sounding like screams. She gripped the bench leg even tighter as the coach veered around, and heard the loud crack of wood splintering as it tipped, flinging her onto the window, which was now scraping the ground. With another crash just beside her head, boards poked through the coach wall. Piglets squealed and as their box broke, they scrambled into the coach on top of her.
Celia heard more shots, this time much louder and closer. Her heart raced and she felt hot, like she wanted to run, but she was trapped under mail pouches and squealing pigs. They stepped on her head and one of them caught its leg in her bonnet.
Reverend Cheasbro’s mine better be rich. If she lived to see it.
The piglets belong to an incorrigible farmer named Ross Flaherty, who puts an even bigger crimp in Celia’s plans.
|A stagecoach in front of the Idaho Hotel in Silver City, Idaho.|
A few stagecoach facts:
- The first Concord stagecoach was built in 1827 by the Abbot Downing Company, which improved earlier coach designs by using leather strap braces instead of a spring suspension. The coaches were so sturdy, they usually wore out before they broke down. The company built more than 700 Concord coaches in the twenty years of its existence, selling its products not only to lines in the U.S., but also in Australia, South America, and Africa.
- In 1827, Boston served as a hub for 77 stagecoach lines. By 1832, the number had grown to 106.
- The U.S. government authorized the first transcontinental overland mail route in 1857. By federal law, the stagecoaches that ran the route were required to transport supplies, mail, and passengers from the Mississippi River to San Francisco, safely, in twenty-five or fewer days.
- The Butterfield Overland Express won the first federal contract for transcontinental stagecoach delivery: a six-year, $600,000 job. In 1858, John Butterfield established two starting points: Tipton, Missouri (near St. Louis) and Memphis, Tennessee. The trails converged at Fort Smith, Arkansas, and then proceeded through Arkansas, Texas, and the New Mexico Territory to California. Covering approximately 2,812 miles, the Butterfield Trail was the longest stagecoach line in history. The service ran only until the Civil War began in 1861.
- Charley Parkhurst may have been the most famous stagecoach driver in history. So tough that bandits would not attack his stages, he became a legend in his own lifetime. But Charley had a secret: He was born a woman. After living as a man for 55 years (from the age of 12), he died of cancer in December 1879. Only when friends laid out his body after his death was his genetic identity discovered.
|Concord stage with military guard riding on top, ca. 1869.|
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Piglets, outlaws, and a farmer who’s much more than he seems beset poor Celia all the way through “A Flare of the Heart.” She gives as good as she gets. Read her story and eight other western historical romances in Hearts and Spurs, available in print and ebook at your favorite online bookstore.