Thank you, Mary, and the P&P team, for having me here today. It surely is my pleasure.
If I could travel back in time, would I?
You bet! I’d make a terrible pioneer, I know, since my idea of roughing it is to play all day at the lake, then head to the Holiday Inn for the night. I barely cook with the convenience of a microwave. I know buffalo chips and an open flame would be a disaster.
And yet, part of me longs to travel back in time to get a feel for what pioneers felt, see what they saw, wear the clothes of the time and really immerse myself in the time period, so I can accurately portray those times in my novels. All while being back at the Holiday Inn by supper time, of course!
Since I can’t go back in time for real, I do the next best thing. Museums!
In September, I began the research for a new historical series set at a US Cavalry Fort. I had the germ of an idea, loved the setting, and was eager to see what I could find by way of information.
Over a two week span while on family vacation, we visited the following forts:
Ft. Riley, Kansas (home of the US Cavalry Museum.) A house once thought to be General Custer’s has been preserved and is open for viewing, though they’ve later discovered that he actually lived up the street a bit on Officer’s Row.
Fort Harker in Kanopolis, Kansas. Only a few buildings survive, but the tour guide made our stop worth while. I love the copper-colored sandstone buildings and the amazing green lichen that grows on it.
Fort Larned, near Larned, Kansas. Oh, my, what a treat. The picture above is of two of the barracks at Ft. Larned, which is a National Historic Site and beautifully preserved and run. The buildings are in excellent shape, and the Santa Fe Trail runs only about thirty yards behind the commissary building. Also, as a bonus, just up the road from the Fort is the Santa Fe Trail Museum and Library where we also stopped. I got to go inside a real soddy. Ugh. I am so not pioneer material.
Fort Hays, Kansas. Not many of the buildings survive, but the blockhouse is unusual, and the place has a lively history.
Fort Laramie, Wyoming. A terrific tour with enthusiastic tour-guides. One of the great frontier forts with a rich history and interesting inhabitants.
My second favorite way of researching is reading books. While on this “Fort Loop” vacation, (No, not fruit loop!) I bought lots of books about the US Cavalry and each fort’s history. By the time I got home, I had twenty-one different books about forts and fort life in my possession. Of course, one of the books I was looking for eluded me on the trip, so I had to go on eBay when I got home and bid on a copy. J
As you can see, I have an amazing and generous husband who pretty much lets me get what I think I need to do research (and a lot of just what I flat out want) and I kept my receipts so I could hand them over to my accountant at the end of the year.
I also got the name and address of the Fort Historian at Fort Laramie, and was encouraged to call any time with questions that cropped up during the writing. Very excited about this prospect. I love talking American West history with someone as passionate about it as I am.
Another way I researched—and I do realize I should take this one with a big, old bucket of salt—is I watched John Wayne in his Cavalry pictures, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Rio Grande, The Horse Soldiers, and Fort Apache. I realize the US Cavalry story is ‘Hollywood-ed Up’ for the big screen, but I love the movies, and they are inspirational. Since my Cavalry novels deal with honor, duty, and sacrifice, (and love J) I thought it fitting to revisit The Duke in all his blue and gold glory.
Of course, US Forts weren’t the only research topic on my agenda. I also visited a Colorado Gold Mine, a Pioneer History Museum, the Wyoming State Historical Society, and 1880’s Town of Murdo, SD. And I bought lots of books from those places, too.
I have found there’s nothing like actually seeing and experiencing the places you want to write about. Especially since the Holiday Inn isn’t too far away. J
Thank you, Mary, for inviting me to visit Petticoats & Pistols.
Erica’s debut novel, The Bartered Bride, is now available. Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for a free copy.
You can order a copy by clicking HERE. Or by phoning (740) 922-7280.
Jonathan Kennebrae is furious when his grandfather informs him that his future has been decided. He will marry Melissa Brooke or be disinherited. Jonathan has invested years of his life in Kennabrae Shipping, but heaven help him if Grandfather decides to take it all away for this.
Melissa, too, is devastated when her parents make their announcement. As little more than a bargaining chip in her father’s business maneuvers, she feels her secure world slipping away. Engaged to marry a man she has never met—someone “considerably older” than herself? What have her parents done?
Can Jonathan and Melissa find a way out of this loveless marriage, or must they find a way forward together?
ERICA VETSCH is married to Peter and keeps the company books for the family lumber business. A home-school mom to Heather and James, Erica loves history, romance, and storytelling. Her ideal vacation is taking her family to out-of-the-way history museums and chatting to curators about local history. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Calvary Bible College in Secondary Education: Social Studies. You can find her on the web at www.onthewritepath.blogspot.com
To the left a picture of officer’s and enlisted barracks at Fort Larned, Kansas.