by Linda Carroll-Bradd
In the mid-1800s, people needed determination and patience to travel from one side of the country to the other. Stagecoaches ran on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. A trip from St Louis to San Francisco involved about 25 days of travel. The coaches were drawn by six horses and stops were made every 12 miles for fresh teams. Depending on the terrain, coaches covered between 5 and 12 miles per day—running day and night. Passengers were grateful to get hot coffee, biscuits and jerky at these stops; on rare occasions, hot meals were available.
True, the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in the summer of 1869 but that line served a route of the most-populous cities and only in the northern part of America. How was someone, like my character Vevina Bernhard raised in Ohio, to travel to a small town like Comfort, Texas? Trips on different railroad lines (Ohio to St. Louis on Pennsylvania RR and from St. Louis, a smaller spur line) would have transported her to Dallas where she would have boarded a stagecoach—most likely a Concord coach (built with sturdy braces for a more comfortable ride), that ran a north/south route between the two east/west lines that bisected Texas.
The suggested items to travel with would have filled a large satchel or three. In addition to their clothing, passengers were admonished to pack 6 pair of thick socks, woolen underdrawers, blankets—one in summer and two in winter, 3-4 towels, heavy overcoat, light coat, hat and their choice of pistol or knife for personal protection. Imagine being a lady raised on a dairy farm near a city with creature comforts reading that list.
Once she got inside the stagecoach, she would have had her choice of window or middle position (approximately 15” in width) on either a forward or backward-facing bench seat. As she set out on her journey, she could read the rules about men forgoing swearing and smoking in a lady’s presence, but tobacco chewing was allowed, as long as the chewer spat downwind. I would hope so. Or if the person (presumed to be a male) couldn’t refrain from drinking alcohol, then he must pass the bottle around. Yum. Snoring loudly or using another passenger’s shoulder as a pillow were frowned upon. Improper advances toward a woman could get the male kicked off the stagecoach in the middle of nowhere. Forbidden topics of conversation were stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings. Sounds like a smart rule. Shooting at wildlife (Texas had a huge population of deer) was prohibited. Passengers were encouraged not to jump from the stage in case of runaway horses so as not to be left victim to the weather, hostile Indians or hungry coyotes. Yikes.
Like I mentioned, Vevina had a purpose and she looked at all these strictures as part of her great adventure. To lessen her impact on her family’s limited resources, she’d answered an advertisement for a mail-order bride from a rancher in central Texas. Although the match wasn’t all she’d hoped for, she made the best of the situation. Five years later, she’s a widow with a young son but her ranch is being haunted by mysterious lights. She’s in town, making a plea to the sheriff about investigating what’s happening and that’s the first time ex-Texas Ranger/bounty hunter Kell Hawksen sees her and their story begins.
Wanderer, Come Home is part of the Cowboys, Creatures and Calico, Vol 1. Halloween anthology. http://amzn.com/B00NVX5Y2C
One copy of the anthology will be awarded to a person who leaves a comment (be sure to include your email address in the comment). Winner to be contacted Monday, November 17.
As a young girl, Linda was often found lying on her bed reading about fascinating characters having exciting adventures in places far away and in other time periods. In later years, she read and then started writing romances and achieved her first publication--a confession story. Married with 4 adult children and 2 granddaughters, Linda writes heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor from her home in the southern California mountains.