Beam Me Up, Scottie!

linda-sig.jpgThis past weekend I had a writer friend fly into town to speak to our local writing group and she had heck getting here because of the FAA grounding of thousands of planes. It left travelers stranded and scurrying to get alternate flights. Her experience made me think of travel back through the years. None of it has been easy or fun – with the exception of the Star Trek method of beaming people from one airplane.jpglocation to another. Now that would be my idea of travel! If only it were possible. But as irritating as today’s travel is, it was far worse in the past. None was easy or fun, but that didn’t keep people from packing what they could carry and starting out. Seems we’ve always been a determined lot.

Travel in the west was especially uncomfortable, dirty, and sometimes required considerable strength and fortitude to get to destinations. Imagine conditions when bathing was hard to come by. But the pioneers and settlers had little choice if they needed to get somewhere.

Stagecoaches: Normally they traveled a trotting pace of 6-7 mph if the roads weren’t washed out or blocked by fallen trees or boulders. If the stage got stuck, the passengers were required to get out and help push. Some coaches had two bench seats and others had three. There was very little room inside. stagecoach.jpgThe passenger’s knees touched the other person sitting across from them. And I pity the man who had long legs! Also, some coaches had seats up on top with the luggage in the fresh air. Stage stops were about every 30-40 miles apart. There, the horses (or mules) were changed for fresh ones. It was dusty and hot. Passengers were sometimes, but not always, furnished linen dusters to wear over their clothing to keep off some of the dust or rain. Not ideal by any means.

cowboyandhorse.jpgHorses: Averaged 7 mph going at a trot if they weren’t loaded down too much. They could ideally carry a 140-190 pound man, his 30-40 pound saddle, a bedroll, canteen, and a rifle. That was a full load. Horse and rider could usually make 50 miles a day without too much exertion and that included stopping to let the horse rest several times. If the cowboy was going to be too long on the trail, he brought a pack mule to tote his food, cooking utensils, extra clothing and such. A horse wasn’t built to carry all that plus the rider. Too much weight caused sores on the horse’s back or bruised its kidneys. The caring cowboy took excellent care of his mount, for without the animal, he was walking. And a cowboy never walked anyplace where he could ride.

covered-wagon.jpgWagon: A wagon could make ten to twelve miles a day if the animal pulling it was rested and in good health and the road in fairly good shape. Of course, that didn’t include mountainous regions. Ten to twelve miles a day translated to around 4 mph with plenty of rest stops. Most wagons were generally pulled by mules because they were heartier and they saved a man’s horse.

Trains: The normal speed for steam engine locomotives was about 25-30 mph in 1864. Early on, the best they could get was 15 mph. Trains had to stop approx. every 30 miles to take on water and coal so it took forever and a day to get anywhere. In summertime when the windows were down, the traveler steam-engine.jpggot covered from head to foot with thick soot and smoke. Sometimes cinders flew in and caused burns. Again, long dusters kept their clothing in fairly good shape but they were hot. I guess it depended on how desperate you were to try to keep clean. Sometimes women wrapped their hair with a kind of close-fitting cap. In wintertime, passengers near the potbellied stove roasted while those at the other end of the car froze. Toilets, if they had them, were no more than a curtained off chamber pot. Imagine how embarrassing that would be! The only good thing was the train stations. Passengers could get off, use the facilities, and eat a meal. I’m sure they took full advantage of those depots!

The next time you’re grumbling about having to stand in a long check-in line at the airport, have your flight canceled, or riding in your air-conditioned car with its soft upholstery and get stuck in traffic, don’t complain. We have it so much better than our ancestors it’s not even funny. Just take a minute to appreciate what you have and remember that nothing will ever be perfect – except if we learn how Scottie beamed people from one place to another!

Are you the adventurous kind who would like to go back in time and take a journey? If so, which method of travel would you prefer? Or do you mind the endless airport screenings and cancellations? How about getting stuck in traffic, do you gripe and fume or just accept and make the most of it? I’m curious.

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

23 thoughts on “Beam Me Up, Scottie!”

  1. Well looks like all the veiwers took a vacation yesterday, glad it was still up here this morning my daughters B.D. was yesterday so i had much to do. I use to be a very impatient person and i believe what i was taught patience is a virtue and is learned over time. I gave in to it because being impatient only hurt myself. I would preferr to ride a horse if given choices just because i loved my horse so much growing up. It would be easier to ride in a wagon or coach but would feel bad for the horses pulling the load. I love the idea of a slower paced life with out the distractions our times offer that ofter times takes away from family time but i think people valued each other more then and had more of appreciation of life I know this threw my parents. I remember my mom taking me outside to the outhouse when i was at my grandparents house because i couldn’t find a bathroom I thought my mom was playing a bad trick on me but for sure that was the bathroom and i enjoyed showing my grandmother i could use their phone when they got one. I was proud of them when they got a in-door bathroom added in their home. They would’ve been amazed at life today probably saddened by it as well. If i could’ve lived back then with a bathroom as we have now and a phone i think i could’ve dealt with the other things. But like they say you don’t know any different if you’ve never had it. I did enjoy the natural spring they had in the woods she use to have a long handle silver scoop that hung on a tree by a nail we use to get water from and it was always clean and cold. I feel like i’m blessed to have been old enough to see the later changes my grandparents way of life and the way we live now to be to remember the things that mattered to them and it wasn’t ipods, cellphone and comp. It was people and their home.

  2. Sorry about that comment about eveyone being on vacation yesterday i was the one off lol!! I thought this was yesterday’s post maybe i need to drink another cup of coffee!!

  3. Hi, Lori. You’re fine. Coffee’s a good idea from where I’m sitting too, though. 🙂

    I seriously try and be patient. I live in a very rural place though, we do NOT have to wait in long lines, fight traffic, take turns. So when I do have to, when I get into city traffic or a long line at a mall it’s a bit hard to accept.

    I used to have a standard complaint at check-out lines. They not only want my money, they want me to wait a long time to give it to them.

    I wouldn’t have lasted long in the wild west I’ll bet. Maybe I’d have found a solid pioneer spirit and risen to the occasion, but I’m pretty sure I’d have fallen off the wagon on the first creek crossing, and drowned.

    That seems like my style.

  4. I’m going to keep track of this post, Linda. I my books I’m always looking for details and these are good ones. How far does a stage go in a day and per hour. A horse, a train. I have a train trip across Texas in an upcoming book and finding information like this was really … burdensome research.

    I also have a cattle drive in one and had a hard time with that, how far does a herd of 1000 cattle go in a day. I finally settled on 10 miles and ‘it depends’.

    I read a book once where a wagon train had to cross a river and each wagon had to be taken across individually. The story said it was so slow and so tedious the wagon train went about 100 yards that day. They could see their campsite from the day before from the current campsite because is was on the bluff just across the river.

  5. hmmm.If I could go back and travel a certain way..I think I would enjoy a wagon trip…not a long one….3 days at the most

    I would enjoy eating and sleeping out side..

    of course..all of this also depends on the weather and if we had any Indian attacks to worry about…

  6. What great information, Linda. This is the kind of stuff I scramble to look up, and you have it all together.
    Some of my ancestors walked across the plains pushing handcarts with all their belongings. I can’t even imagine how hard that must have been, especially for the women. I have this wonderful photo somewhere of a pioneer woman out gathering buffalo chips for fuel. The expression on her face says it all!

  7. Hi Lori! I agree that the slower pace is much better on us physically and mentally. We’re in too much of a hurry and I’m sad to say we’ve become an instantaneous society. We want things now and we don’t like to wait. I think it’s the result of “too” much technology.

    I envy you and your visits to your grandparents. That formed strong, pleasant memories that you won’t soon forget. Wish I could’ve seen your face though when your mother took you to the outhouse. Talk about shock. I sure hated that smell. Yuck.

    Yes, I think I probably would pick the horse too if I had to choose. Except if it was raining. I don’t like being exposed to the elements.

    Have a great day and don’t feel bad that you got mixed up. Another cup of coffee or two will cure you. 🙂

  8. Mary, you’re always such a fun, positive person that I can’t believe you’d have given in and given up so easily if you were transported back to the pioneer days. You don’t fool me, lady. I think you’d definitely have risen to the occasion. You live on a farm. If that doesn’t teach you to survive, I don’t know what will.

    Glad you enjoyed my bit of research facts. I ran across them in bits and pieces over the years and stored them away for reference. Knew they’d come in handy one day. Hope you have a wonderful, inspirational kind of day! 🙂

  9. Hi Melissa D! So you chose the wagon. How interesting. If I traveled that way I’d sure want some shocks and springs on it to absorb the jolts. Otherwise, you’d feel every rock and gopher hole. Wonder if the kids back then used to ask, “How far is it to the next town?” and “How many more miles do we have to go?”?? Ha!

    Thanks for making me laugh at your three day stipulation that included no bad weather and no Indian attacks. 🙂

  10. Hi Elizabeth! I’m so glad you got some information you can use. As I told Mary, I gathered it up over the years as I ran across it. Never know when you need the facts. Some are really hard to find, especially when you’re in a hurry.

    How neat about that photo of the pioneer woman gathering buffalo chips to use as firewood. I’m sure that wasn’t the most pleasant task. But that pioneer spirit really gets me every time. Those women were tough. They did whatever it took to get things done and survive just one more day. We have things so easy now and we still complain that we have to load and unload the dishwasher or stand in line at the airport. We’re a spoiled bunch of people.

    Have a great day, Filly sister! 🙂

  11. of course Linda..if I were traveling in an old stiff wagon across the wild….I would also have “the sexy cowboy companion” stipulation..I mean..hey,why not? LOL

    that way…each night when my body was so very sore and achy..I’d have a nice hunk to give me a massage! 😉

  12. Melissa D, of course it goes without saying that you’d not be traveling all by your lonesome. lol Every cowgirl needs a cowboy. Especially when those muscles get sore and achy! You’re too funny. And you’d need him around to take care of the horses too. Cowboys come in real handy sometimes. 🙂

  13. I’m not much of a traveler. I have learned to just be patient and wait for a traffic jam to clear.
    Have flown very few times and did not like the security lines after 9/11.

  14. Hi Linda,
    I traveled in a stagecoach at Knotts Berry Farm – an old west amusement park just a few miles from Disneyland. Of course, it was exciting when I was younger, the coach clean inside and a bumpy ride it was. Probably nothing as hot or umcomfortable as it might have been in real old west. I also traveled on their train and both times we got robbed by “bandits”.
    If I had my druthers, I’d chose a horse if my backside could stand hours in the saddle!
    Fun post!

  15. We don’t travel much now, so if it were back in the day, we wouldn’t be traveling and I wouldn’t have to make a choice!
    Folks in our area get a taste of early traveling
    each year prior to the Houston Fat Stock Show and
    Rodeo. During the week before the Rodeo begins,
    a number of trail rides start towards Houston.
    Most begin here in the state, but one starts in
    Louisiana and one travels here from Mexico. Riders
    travel on horseback and in wagons. Some sleep
    outdoors, others do not. It was always a wish of
    mine to join a trail ride, but at 71 y/o, I don’t
    imagine that will ever happen now!!

    Pat Cochran

  16. Estella, how nice for you to drop by and comment. I was just missing some of the regulars that are usually here. Well, to be truthful, I’m not much of a traveler either. And that’s okay. I love being at home and I hate to leave when I have to go somewhere. I like having my own things around me and knowing where everything is. Maybe you’re like that too. In the pioneer days I would’ve been the one standing in the doorway, waving goodbye to the ones who were heading west and telling them to write. Ha!

  17. Charlene, I loved Knotts Berry Farm! I went there once when I was pretty young and really had a ball. I felt like I’d stepped back in time, straight into a rustic wild west town. It was neat. Thanks for bringing back pleasant memories.

    Yeah, the stagecoaches of Knotts Berry Farm are clean and comfortable. I’m sure the frontier people would’ve given their eyeteeth for some that nice. Hey, I’m positive my rear couldn’t have taken all those hours in the saddle. I’m way too soft and spoiled. lol

    Glad you enjoyed the post!

  18. Hi Patricia! Thank you for your comment. Seems you and me both are home bodies. Like I told Estella I have to have my own things close at hand. Last year a group of riders and wagons on a trail drive came by here (North Texas) on their way up north somewhere. Seems like they were going to Wyoming or Montana. They sure attracted a lot of attention. It would be a nice slow life and I might take it for a day or two but I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it. lol

  19. Great subject, Linda. I thought I’d add a excerpt about “Stagecoach Etiquette” written about 1877 from the Omaha Herald: “When the driver asks you to get off and walk, do it without grumbling. He will not request it unless absolutely necessary. If a team runs away, sit still and take your chances; if you jump, nine times out of ten you will be hurt. In very cold weather abstain entirely from liquor while on the road; a man will freeze twice as quick while under its influence. Don’t growl at food at stations; stage companies generally provide the best they can get. Don’t keep the stage waiting; many a virtuous man has lost his character by so doing. Don’t smoke a strong pipe inside especially in the morning; spit on the leeward side of the coach. If you have anything to take in a bottle, pass it around; a man who drinks by himself in such a case is lost to all human feeling. Don’t swear nor lop over on your neighbor when sleeping. Don’t ask how far it is to the next station until you get there. Don’t discuss politics or religion, nor point out places on the road where horrible murders have been committed, if delicate women are among the passengers. Don’t grease your hair before starting or dusty will stick there in sufficient quantities to make a respectable “tater” patch. Don’t imagine for a moment you are going on a picnic; expect annoyance, discomfort and some hardships. If you are disappointed, thank heaven.” And, finally, “Never attempt to fire a gun or pistol while on the road; it may frighten the team and the careless handling and cocking of a weapon makes nervous people nervous.”

  20. If I was back in time I would like to travel by train I think that was the fastest way to travel. Yes I hate getting stuck in trafic in this day, so I avoid it if I can.

  21. I think I’d enjoy a wagon trip, but like most, not a long one, unless my horse was along to ride on occasion. Not sure which would be the most uncomfortable–wagon seat (which is usually a rough old board) or the saddle, so being able to switch out would be nice.

    I LOVE train rides!

    Great post!

  22. Phyliss, thanks for posting those funny stagecoach etiquette rules! There are several good ones in there. I loved the advice to pass around anything you take in a bottle and also the one about not greasing your hair when you ride or else you’ll end up with a tater patch. Too funny. Thanks so much for sharing that with us. 🙂 I can think of several of those that would make a story very hilarious. I might print out those rules and save ’em. Have a great evening!

  23. Virginia H and Pam T, thank you for stopping by P&P and leaving a comment. Strange that you both lean toward the train rather than the other modes of transportation. As for me, I think I’ll stick to the transporter on Star Trek. That would be the ideal way to get yourself hither and yon. No screenings, no cancellations, no uncomfortable seats. Aaahhh! Yes, “Beam me up, Scottie!”

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