Linda LaRoque: Riding Shotgun

 

I love research and hate to pass up an opportunity to gain insight into what life was like in the old days. While traveling in Colorado, my husband and I rode the train from Durango to Silverton, but what thrilled me the most was the opportunity to ride on a stagecoach. I opted to ride inside while Larry rode on top. The seat had a pad but when the vehicle was in motion, it provided little in the way of cushioning. I felt every little bump and rut in the road. At the time, I wondered how on earth women managed to travel long distances and their bladder remain intact.

When we reached the half-way point, we stopped and I decided I’d ride up top with my husband. We sat directly behind the driver. It was much more comfortable, not a bad ride at all. The drivers were kind enough to let me pose with the unloaded shotgun. In the picture you can see there is also an upper seat on the back of the coach.

The suspension system of the stagecoach used leather strips, called thoroughbraces, which served as shock absorbing springs. Some individuals have compared stagecoaches to a cradle because of its rocking movement.

The first Concord was built at a wagon factory in Concord, New Hampshire in 1827. They were built so well they didn’t breakdown, they just wore out. Inside, passengers were allowed fifteen inches each. Back and middle rows faced forward, and front seats faced rearward, their knees dovetailed with those in the middle row. The only back support for the middle row was a leather strap. Nine travelers fit inside and nine outside including the driver and his lookout.

Overland stagecoaches in some areas traveled for a continuous twenty-two days, stopping only for short breaks, meals, and to change horses. Passengers often had to hold their luggage in their laps and prop their feet on mail. With such close quarters it was necessary for Wells Fargo to post some rules.

 

 

Rules quoted from – Elizabeth C. MacPhail, Wells Fargo in San Diego, The Journal of San Diego History, Fall 1980, Volume 28, Number 4.

* Abstinence from liquor is requested, but if you must drink share the bottle. To do otherwise makes you appear selfish and unneighborly.
* If ladies are present, gentlemen are urged to forego smoking cigars and pipes as the odor of same is repugnant to the gentler sex. Chewing tobacco is permitted, but spit with the wind, not against it.
* Gentlemen must refrain from the use of rough language in the presence of ladies and children.
* Buffalo robes are provided for your comfort in cold weather. Hogging robes will not be tolerated and the offender will be made to ride with the driver.
* Don’t snore loudly while sleeping or use your fellow passenger’s shoulder for a pillow, he or she may not understand and friction may result.
* Firearms may be kept on your person for use in emergencies. Do not fire them for pleasure or shoot at wild animals as the sound riles the horses.
* In the event of runaway horses remain calm. Leaping from the coach in panic will leave you injured, at the mercy of the elements, hostile Indians and hungry coyotes.
* Forbidden stagecoach topics of conversation are:  stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings.
* Gents guilty of unchivalrous behavior toward lady passengers will be put off the stage. It’s a long walk back. A word to the wise is sufficient.

Traveling by stagecoach could be dangerous. They were often attacked by robbers and Indians. Stagecoach drivers were bold, strong characters. It’s interesting to note not all drives were men. Several women were successful, one such woman was Mary Fields. Born a slave in 1832, at the age of 52 she traveled out west. Almost six feet tall, Mary did physical work such as cutting wood and hauling supplies for nuns at a convent in Montana. Her employment ended after a gunfight with another worker. She owned and operated a restaurant for a few years and then began driving a stagecoach delivering the mail until in her 70s. She continued to work by opening a laundry. She died in 1914. She was a true pioneer and inspiration to women.

Many believe stagecoach use even for mail delivery died out due to railroad service.  The last American stagecoach chapter took place between 1890 and 1920. When the road to Young, Arizona was paved and the horse-drawn vehicle was replaced by a Ford motorcar.

If you ever have the chance, take a ride in a stagecoach. Feel the breeze hit your face and imagine what it’d be like in one hundred degree temperatures or freezing cold. Would you lower the window covering to keep the choking dust out or cover your mouth and nose with a scarf and keep your eyes closed? Suppose you had a baby on your lap and were traveling for days on end squeezed into fifteen inches of space with no way to stretch your legs. I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll continue to read and write about the old days, but be thankful I live in modern times.

 References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stagecoach http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-stagecoachkings.html http://americanhistory.about.com/od/americanwest/a/mary_fields.htm Elizabeth C. MacPhail, Wells Fargo in San Diego, The Journal of San Diego History, Fall 1980, Volume 28, Number 4.

My upcoming release is a time travel set in the 1930s oil fields of Texas.  It’s out now with Champagne Books. Here is a blurb and short excerpt. In the 1930s oil fields of Texas, a woman from the future finds new purpose as she helps a banker rebuild his financial empire.

Amber Mathis, a Wall Street investment banker, returns to her office after burying her mother. Distraught, tired of the rat race, she’s determined to make a career change. In the elevator she falls and rises to find herself in a vintage lift.  The date is February 25, 1930, and a man stands on the window ledge in her office ready to jump.

Wellman Hathaway, owner and CEO of Hathaway Bank in New York struggles to pay his depositors half their losses. A woman claiming to be from 2011 appears in his office and involves him in a scheme that forces them into marriage. With Amber’s knowledge of the financial history of the 1930s, they travel to the oil fields of Texas to recoup Wellman’s funds.

Two people from different centuries are thrown together to survive a difficult time. Will they find more than A Way Back to prosperity?

Excerpt:

Do it her mind screamed. In one swift move she locked her arms around his waist, pulled, and dropped to the floor. She cringed at the loud crack when his head hit the window sash as he fell back landing on top of her.

They both remained still for a moment. The air knocked out of her, she managed to gasp out, “Could you move? You’re squashing me.”

He rolled and her head bounced on the floor as she changed positions from trying to rise to flat on her back. Long arms held hers above her head and muscled legs kept her body from moving. Striking gray eyes pierced hers, examining every inch of her. Her face flushed at the intrusion and she struggled to get him off. He applied more pressure and she stilled.

A lock of blonde hair fell over his forehead, a patrician nose flared in anger, as his square jaw tightened. He ground out, “Who the hell are you and why’d you try to knock my head off?”

I’ll be giving away an e-copy of A Way Back today. Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. I’ll be checking back today and would love to chat with you. Also, please check out my other books at www.lindalaroque.com and take a peek at my new release contest on my blog at http://www.lindalaroqueauthor.blogspot.com/

Happy Reading and Writing!

Linda

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59 thoughts on “Linda LaRoque: Riding Shotgun”

  1. “Forbidden stagecoach topics of conversation are: stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings.”
    This rule isn’t that different from the unspoken one for air travel. 🙂

    “Gents guilty of unchivalrous behavior toward lady passengers will be put off the stage. It’s a long walk back.”
    And this one gives me “ideas.” Thanks for an excellent post, Linda!

  2. I’m printing this post out to read more thoroughly at home…I am completely fascinated by stagecoach travel. Can’t read enough about it!!! Thank you so much 🙂

  3. Thank you Petticoats & Pistols for having me today. This is a fun blog, a place to learn intersting info.

    So true, Tracy! I wouldn’t want people talking about their last hijacking while we’re in mid-flight.

    Glad you enjoyed the post, Melissa. If you get to Durango, don’t leave without taking a ride.

  4. Wow, thank you for all the cool informaiton, Linda. I remember going to Colorado when I was fresh out of high school and riding on an 1880s train ride they called it. I clicked off a picture of the conductor as he was walking past. He caught me doing it and stopped to have someone else take a picture of us together. Made me feel all special and important.

    I love the old rules you posted.

  5. I don’t think 15 inches would be big enough for most of us today. This was a very interesting post. Thank you.

  6. Hi Linda, thanks for the wonderful post today! I can’t even imagine how motion-sick I’d get. I kinda like the rule of avoiding rough language. It’ liek that one to happen these days LOL. Best of luck with A Wa Back. On my TBR for sure, my friend. oxoxxo

  7. Linda,

    A wonderful post. Maybe it was a good thing, people were smaller years ago than they are today. I remember a flight of 8 hours next to a 300 pounds individual…

    I too love to write about the past but am eternally grateful I live today.

  8. Hi Linda! Welcome to the Junction. We’re always happy to have guests who share a love of western romance. Love your topic. I’d truly love to ride in a stagecoach sometime. I’d love to know what it feels like. I’m sure stage travel wasn’t very comfortable. I’ve looked inside them at museums and there’s not all that much room in there. Traveler’s knees would have been touching. And I sure can’t imagine anyone sleeping.

    Your book looks and sounds really good. That excerpt sold me. Hope you have a wonderful time chatting with us.

  9. Linda,
    What an interesting post on the history of the stagecoach. One of the rules, no talking about robberies, could apply to airlines. Only the rule would be not to talk about hi-jacking. Smile.

  10. Oh I really enjoyed reading this post!!! 😀 Thanks so much for sharing it with us… also like the sound of your book A Way Back!

  11. Thank you, Linda B. I love to visit. My short trip inside wasn’t comfortable but I guess if I’d not ridden in anything else except for a wagon, carriage, or horse, I wouldn’t know the difference. I think carriages are more comfortable. Gee, that’s something I need to check out on my next adventure.

  12. Linda,
    Hi and welcome to the Junction today! Loved your post–I have ridden a stagecoach. I used to work at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum here in Oklahoma City. They have a big festival every year over Memorial Day weekend, and do stagecoach rides, etc. I didn’t know all the “rules” though—those are truly fascinating! Thanks for a wonderful post, I really did enjoy it!
    Cheryl P.

  13. In my town in Southern California, the stage ran from until the 1920’s, I believe. It started out as the Butterfield Overland Mail. What is now known as Poway Road (or County Highway S4) was then the route that would carry passengers to San Diego from Yuma, Arizona, via a “shuttle.” It must have been a grueling journey, and my imagination often takes flight as I walk my dog every evening along what is now a very busy road of strip malls and auto dealerships that, eastward, takes you steadily into the mountains (6,000 elevation) and westward leads to the Pacific Ocean. It boggles the mind to think of the livestock pulling these coaches, and the courage of those driving and riding within …

  14. Thank you, Cheryl. I’ve enjoyed being here. I bet it was fun working at the museum in Oklahoma City. My husband and I hope to visit there one day. Meant to while on our route 66 trip but needed to cut our trip short.

  15. Hi Linda, oh, the wagon train trip had rubber tires LOL. It was awesome. So glad to you could be here with us today! It’s always wonderful to host food friends. oxoxox

  16. Wanda Sue – I did notice that some ran through the 1920s. My understand is many of those were used to deliver mail though I’m sure they had travelers too. 6000 ft elevation in a car would be bad enough. I can’t imagine in a stagecoach. I bet your walkin path is beautiful.

  17. Hi Linda, Thank you for the “you are there” post on riding in a stagecoach. I could feel the bumps. It sure makes me appreciate the ease of travel we enjoy today.

  18. LINDA–this is so great! You really rode in and on a stagecoach? I always thought the stagecoach held so much potential for stories.
    Your new release,A Way Back sounds absolutely fantastic. Is this the story you were writing last year when we sort of “met?” And you asked how drillers in the 30s removed oil from their skin? I told you, LAVA soap, and that it was invented for oil workers. Did you use LAVA in your story? Nice post! Celia

  19. Got to ride in a stagecoach MANY years ago at
    Knotts Berry Farm. Was reminiscent of the hay
    rides of my teen years. Thanks for the history
    lesson on the stagecoach!

    Pat Cochran

  20. This article was great fun. I sent it to a writer buddy who’s working on an old west humorous novella.

    My “old” west book only goes back to the Depression Era, but life in West Texas then was pretty close to what it was in the 19th C.

  21. Hi Linda, nice to meet you! What a great post, very interesting. I would love to travel by stagecoach just a short distence just to see what it was like. I love reading stories about the old west.

    I have never read your work before but would love to. Your books sound really good. Throw a little time travel in there would make for a great book.

  22. Have been busy with tour and cruise planning, but I did want to respond to your blog. I enjoyed reading about the old days and stagecoaches. What a thrill it must have been to get to ride one!

  23. Hi Linda,
    I loved reading your post about stagecoaches and got a chuckle about the Wells Fargo rules!!! Mary Fields sounds like she was an amazing woman and what a hard life she must have had. I am a huge fan of time travel. Loved the excerpt of your book and I am looking forward to reading it!

  24. Hi, Linda. I enjoyed your post today as well. I teach about early transportation in Iowa to 5th graders and will give some of the info from your post to the kids. The rules are funny…to us modern-day folks. Congratulations on the release of AWB; it sounds really good.

  25. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Sharon. I can’t imagine how Mary Fields managed. Women must have been tougher back in those days. I hope you do read AWB and would love to hear what you think about it.

  26. Hi Linda, great blog post!
    Doing research on stagecoaches in Arizona, I was amazed at the different subcontractors working between Tucson and the copper/gold mines of Bisbee. There were smaller stage operators who only took passengers, and Wells Fargo did not run their won stages in the AZ Territory, they leased Butterfield’s. Mules were used more often in Southern AZ due to their stamina to go longer distances without water than horses.
    Love the Rules of Conduct! Close quarters really demanded them, didn’t they?
    Thanks for a great read!
    ~Jude

  27. You’re right, Jude. There is a lot of information out there. Thanks for sharing what you found. Yes, they were squeezed in like sardines. I can’t imagine traveling long distances that close.

  28. Great blog and entertaining information! I love the rules. What are the odds of wives being able to create an enforceable rule about no loud snoring? Have you thought of writing a story about Mary Fields? What an interesting woman. Now I do have to find and read your book.

  29. Linda, wonderful post. I rode in a smaller stagecoach, which had only two facing benches. Still a bumpy ride! A man in our county makes authentic reproduction stagecoaches for the film industry and for special attractions and donated one to our museum similar to the one in which I had ridden.

    Your book sound very intriguing. Best wishes.

  30. I once rode in a stagecoach. Horrible, jarring ride! I thought my fillings would jar loose from my teeth and boy was I sore the next day. Enjoyed your post, but I must confess I’m VERY glad to have today’s comforts. 🙂

  31. It’s interesting how much we can take for granted. For instance a car with seats. This post if full of detail, but taking the time to do the actual research, takes guts. Taking the punishment and sharing details about Mary Fields is very appreciated.

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