The Stagecoach Driver and a Giveaway!

 

Hi! Kit Morgan here and today I want to talk a little about the stagecoach driver!
Idolized by small boys, envied by grown men and held in awe by women, the stagecoach driver was king of his realm — or so says Cheryl Ann Stamp, who wrote a wonderful book on the stage coaches of Northern California.
But did you know that passengers lucky enough to occupy the seat next to him were there only at his personal invitation? Or that American stage drivers refused to be called coachmen? This was a term that described a servile British lackey, and what self-respecting stagecoach driver wanted to be associated with that?

They never accepted tips but would accept the “whip,” as it was the symbol of their profession. In fact, drivers were often referred to as “whips.” They were also sometimes referred to as “Jehu” from the Old Testament, Kings 9:20 which says: “… and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously.” To their faces, however, one just referred to the driver by their actual name.

Drivers loved and understood horses and the best developed incredible skills. Careful not to over-tire their teams with un-called for speed, they also never allowed the lash of a whip to touch their animals. How’s that for skill? In fact, boys who showed interest in becoming drivers started learning the art of reinmanship as young as seven or eight. They’d use a pretend wooden rig and learned their art in progressive phases until the ages of seventeen to nineteen.

Due to the nature of their business, most drivers led roving, unsettled lives, moving from one stage line to another or going from place to place on the same line.
Another interesting note, most dressed well. They could afford to. Many had the handles of their whips inlaid with rings of silver. A driver’s favorite attire was often creased pants, cravats, waistcoats, and tailored jackets. And of course, we mustn’t forget high leather boots and long gauntlet gloves made from silk. Not exactly what we’ve seen in a lot of old westerns on television or in the movies is it? To keep this finery clean, they wore long linen overcoats — dusters — to protect their wardrobe.

I’ve not written a story with a stagecoach driver as a hero, but maybe I should. After researching this topic, I myself am definitely intrigued! I do have a stagecoach driver in my town of Clear Creek. Willie is a shy man missing his two front teeth. He lost them when his stage got robbed and he took a punch to the face. But he doesn’t wear any fancy clothes and as he has a short run between fictional towns, he’s my only driver. For a chance to win a copy of my upcoming release, The Sailor and the Suffragette, tell me what’s the first image you get when you think of a stagecoach driver! I’ll pick one random winner from the comments!

 

Kit Morgan
Kit Morgan is the author of over 80 books of historical and contemporary western romance! Her stories are fun, sweet stories full of love, laughter, and just a little bit of mayhem! Kit creates her stories in her little log cabin in the woods in the Pacific Northwest. An avid reader and knitter, when not writing, she can be found with either a book or a pair of knitting needles in her hands! Oh, and the occasional smidge of chocolate!
Updated: April 24, 2019 — 12:46 am

17 Comments

  1. I think of an older man dressed in dusty clothes, with a beard and a shotgun by his side.

    1. Me too! Along with the occasional eye patch!

  2. I always think they were expendable. In the movies, they are always the ones shot first. Always felt bad for them.

    1. Hey, you’re right! Sort of like the guys that wear red on Star Trek!

  3. I always think of them as older men, it seems like they were the ones always getting shot first.

    1. That’s what someone else said. They do get shot first in the movies. But then if you’re a bandit, you’d want to take out the driver first to take control of the stage.

  4. I love this post! I learned so much from it. Thanks to the movies, I always picture the driver as the bumbling older man who has a heart attack halfway through the journey, forcing the hero to climb the runaway horses and stop the team. (I may have watching Maverick with Mel Gibson one too many times …)

    1. LOL! Or as a few others said, the driver always gets shot first in the movies!

  5. A mature and experienced driver whose skills, luck and strength are needed for your survival.

    1. As they should be, Anne!

  6. Young and capable of anything.

  7. I think of that scruffy, dusty, leather-clad guy from the movies. Your description of their real attire was an eye-opener. My husband gave me a copy of Shotguns and Stagecoaches: The Brave Men Who Rode for Wells Fargo in the Wild West for Christmas and I was surprised a how particular many of those men were. And realized that while it may have been a privilege to sit up there with the driver it was also pretty dangerous. I read that they told passengers in advance that it was likely they would be robbed at a particular spot. Can you imagine getting into that stagecoach then?

  8. Wow, sounds like a great book! I might have to look for a copy. And yeah, sitting with the driver wasn’t the safest place to be!

  9. The image that comes to mind for a stagecoach driver is one of an mature cowboy, with a rifle.

    Kit, thank you for this fascinating post.

  10. I certainly don’t think of someone as well dressed as you described. I see a man with a crushed, dusty stetson, a vest, shirt sleeves rolled up, jeans, and scuffed cowboy boots. He has a bandana around his neck. If it is cool out, he has a duster. It would all be covered in a layer of dust. I rode in an open wagon while overseas. You see the cowboys get off their horses, hit their legs with their hats, and a cloud of dust puffs out. It really does happen like that. Your hair is coated in dust and you have grit in your mouth. How else could I imagine a stage driver but dusty and a bit rough for the wear.

    1. Perfect description, Patricia. I think that’s what most of us picture!

  11. I can’t think of a well dressed driver either. My picture of him would be a young man in his late 20’s, with a leather vest & chambray shirt with a neck bandana & a battered Stetson. His shotgun under his feet. He is a strong person that is proud of his job to get his passengers & money box to there destination. This young man is trying to find his way after he was robbed & to find those who did it. I would love to win a copy of your book. Thanks, for the chance. Enjoyed your blog about the stagecoach days. I love the Western stories….

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