In my June release, Doctor in Petticoats, the hero is sent to a blind school to learn how to navigate in the world as a blind person. While there he meets a young man who is the instructor for the broom making class. In order to understand how the blind were taught to make brooms, I had to learn the process as it would have been done in the 1800’s.
Broomcorn is actually a species of sorghum. The broom bristles are the stiff tasseled branches of the plant. The plants grow 2-8 feet tall and grows best in hot arid climates. The plane is harvested, dried and the seeds removed. The seed are edible, starchy and high in carbohydrates. They are used in cereals and animal feed.
When humans first started using broomcorn as a broom, they just harvested the plant, dried it, and started sweeping. By the 1800’s they started lashing the broomcorn together to make a better sweeping surface and even using just the branches lashed to wooden handles.
The Shakers evolved the broom making process and were the first to use wire to secure the broomcorn to the handle rather than tying or weaving it with string. They also developed a treadle machine to wind the broomcorn around the handle and secure it tightly.
For my story, I have blind students learning to make brooms by hand. I used Foxfire #3 book to learn the process that was passed down for generations in North Carolina.
The seeds are combed out of the tassel. The tassels are placed in water to soak and make them pliable. Two nails or wooden pegs are placed in one end of the handle to prevent the stalks from slipping off after they are tied in place. A rope is tossed over a rafter. It needs to be long enough for a loop at the bottom for the broom maker’s foot and that is 4-6 inches from the ground. The rope is wrapped once around the broom near the point where it will be tied. When the person steps down with their foot, it tightens the string on the broomcorn. When it seems tight, they take a five to six foot length of heavy-duty cotton string threaded through a carpet needle and weave it through and around the broomcorn, securing it to the handle.
I enjoyed learning about this process for my book, and I hope you enjoy this excerpt from Doctor in Petticoats.
Blurb for Doctor in Petticoats
After a life-altering accident and a failed relationship, Dr. Rachel Tarkiel gave up on love and settled for a life healing others as the physician at a School for the Blind. She’s happy in her vocation–until handsome Clay Halsey shows up and inspires her to want more.
Blinded by a person he considered a friend, Clay curses his circumstances and his limitations. Intriguing Dr. Tarkiel shows him no pity, though. To her, he’s as much a man as he ever was.
Can these two wounded souls conquer outside obstacles, as well as their own internal fears, and find love?
“I’m going to look in your other eye now.” She, again, placed a hand on his face and opened the eyelids, stilling her fluttering heart as she pressed close. His clean-shaven face had a couple small nicks on the edges of his angular cheeks. The spice of his shave soap lingered on his skin.
She resisted the urge to run her cheek against his. The heat of his face under her palm and his breath moving wisps of wayward hair caused her to close her eyes and pretend for a few seconds he could be her husband. A man who loved her and wouldn’t be threatened by her occupation or sickened by her hideous scar.
His breathing quickened. A hand settled on her waist, slid around to her back, and drew her forward. Her hand, holding the lens, dropped to his shoulder, and she opened her eyes. This behavior on both their parts was unconscionable, but her constricted throat wouldn’t allow her to utter the rebuke.
Clay sensed the moment the doctor slid from professional to aroused woman. The hand on his cheek caressed rather than held, her breathing quickened, and her scent invaded his senses like a warm summer rain.
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