I grew up in a hard rock mining world, knew a lot of miners, and eventually worked underground myself. One memory I have is of a time in Alaska when one of my dad’s miners said that he wouldn’t work on Friday the 13th. The guy flat out refused. What happened? My dad didn’t make him go to work that day and didn’t dock him.
When working in a dangerous environment–one in which you only have the illusion of control, because there are so many things that can go wrong–superstitions give a person that much needed sense of control. Mining and danger go hand in hand, so miners had a lot of superstitions. As a woman working underground, I undermined one of the superstitions (undermined…get it?), with no ill results, but I understand why miners had/have their beliefs. They helped the guys get through the day.
Here are a handful of superstitions:
1)Having a woman underground, or even near a mine, was bad luck. This belief is thought to have arisen from the fact that the only time women came near a mine was when a disaster had struck and their loved ones were involved. Therefore women near a mine = potential disaster. A redheaded woman was particularly unlucky.
2) If the miner’s candle went out, he needed to think about leaving the mine. Candles went out in bad air, which is not detectable, but will kill you (thus the canary in the coal mine). If a candle went out three times, it meant there was trouble at home and, again, a miner needed to get out of the mine. Side note–I once had my headlamp fail me, and I can promise you that there is nothing darker than being underground. The darkness feels thick.
3) Do not whistle underground. Tommyknockers came to this country with the Cornish miners. These goblin-like creatures could help miners, warning them of danger by knocking, or hurt them, depending on how they were treated. Miners would leave a bit of their lunch for the tommyknockers, which in turn, caused the tommyknockers to watch out for them. However whistling at a tommyknocker was considered disrespectful and disaster would follow.
4) Whistling underground was also thought to trigger earth movements, which could cause the drift (tunnel with only one opening) to cave in. Side note–I was underground when the planets aligned in 1980. The miners were afraid that increased gravitational pull would cause earth movement. We got lucky. It didn’t.
4) Of course there were to be no black cats underground. A black cat underground meant someone would die.
5) There are a lot of personal superstitions involving clothing and not turning around backward shirts or inside out socks. Things that, again, helped a miner feel like he was in control.
Those are a few of the mining superstitions, but superstitions abound in all environments. Do you know of any interesting superstitions ? Curious minds want to know.
One of my favorite things about living in the high desert of Northern Nevada was that when I needed a break, I could go outside, walk around, and look for stuff.
I discovered that with practice I was able to spot small things that did not belong, like say buttons. While searching for buttons, I also had to keep my eye out for larger things that did belong, like rattlesnakes. But that’s another post.
There is a Civil War era fort in the area, Fort Winfield Scott, and I’ve found things dating to the Civil War, like round bullets, but my favorite finds are the illusive desert button. (I really wanted to find a cavalry coat button, but that particular find eluded me.)
This is part of my collection of desert buttons, which I have found walking the area shown in the photograph. How these buttons got to where I found them under sagebrush and along dried up streams is a mystery. They are old. Some from the 1800s and early 1900s. They were scattered over a large area (a couple of square miles) so I don’t think they were the result of clothing rotting in a single “dump”.
Mother of pearl and shell were favorite button materials of the day, and most of the buttons I’ve found are made of that material. Here are three buttons with a “fisheye” around the holes, and the fisheye is obviously hand carved.
These shell buttons are probably manufactured.
This button looks manufactured until you turn it over and see that the shank is hand carved and not very even.
Here are two wood buttons I found, with the thread still attached.
This is a rivet from a pair of Levi’s. I also found the fly buttons, but have put them in a safe place that I can’t remember. Heh.
And these are my newest buttons, age-wise. They are made of glass and didn’t fare as well as the shell buttons did.
One of the things I miss most about the desert is walking and looking and letting my mind drift. Now that I’m in Montana, I venture outside and look at my flowers and watch the cows, but it’s not the same as walking the desert, because there’s no surprises in my own backyard. I miss finding cool stuff when least expected.
Do you collect anything? What do you do when you need a quick break from the day?
A couple years ago the hubs and girls and I were driving down the mountain – a back road with hairpin turns and you can’t go very fast – when my youngest daughter said, “Hey! I just saw a bear. Or a cat. It might have been a cat, but it looked like a bear.”
We weren’t going anywhere important and we weren’t going that fast, the road was deserted and so my husband stops and backs up.
As we’re backing up my daughter says, “Maybe it was a dog. Actually, yeah, I think it was a dog.”
At this point, I’m thinking to myself, she saw a wet rock.
So, we’re kind of laughing, thinking we’re going to see a interesting rock or possibly a house cat on the side of the mountain, or maybe a lost dog, but when we get back to the culvert where she saw it, sure enough, not five feet off the road was a mama bear with two little cubs.
Of course my husband winds his window down and hangs out of it with my phone. I’m remembering all the cautions to NOT mess with a mother bear with cubs, and I’m also having a little chat with the Lord. It went something like this: if that bear attacks him, am I obligated to throw myself between them? I mean, I did voice my opinion- only once, Lord, so he wouldn’t say I was nagging – that I didn’t think it was a good idea to be so close, and, shockingly – that’s sarcasm – he didn’t listen to me, so really, Lord? Am I off the hook for this one?
Yeah, I know. You spiritual ladies would have been praying for safety and protection and probably wouldn’t even mention to the Good Lord one time about how good bear roast with mashed potatoes and gravy is.
Seriously, safety is of the Lord, and I believe that, but a person needs to show a little common sense, too, right?
Regardless, we didn’t get attacked and I actually got a picture of the bear (the real bear, not me – the hubs insisted I clarify).
I’ve told you we live way out, and seeing bears isn’t exactly a novelty. We have our dumpster about seventy-five yards below our house and we’ve had bears in it and around it and on it (that’s a real pain because they push the lids in and they – the lids not the bears – get stuck and are hard to pull out, and one of our kids – the one that’s named Not Me – will throw garbage on top of the lid without pulling it out, etc). We’ve stood on our deck with spotlights watching them. It’s always been at night, although a few times in the evening when we’re driving down our driveway we’ll see one.
Once, when I was picking blueberries I happened to look over and there was one in the field beside me. I think it saw me about the same time I saw it and conveniently we both ran in opposite directions and never did meet. Which, in my opinion, was a good thing.
Once when my oldest son was around twelve, maybe, he had a friend over. They’re tough dudes and wanted to sleep in a tent outside in the yard. I’m fine with that. I’ve told you about my oldest son, and I wasn’t worried about anything getting him.
I know none of you all ever did this, but I admit, I kind of messed with my kids some. Still do, I’m sorry. I said to my kid as he walked out with his sleeping bag, “You’ll be fine. Just make sure your tent is zipped up the whole way because bears can’t unzip it. Oh, and you did brush your teeth, correct? Because what smells like bad breath to humans smells like lunch to a black bear.”
Bears weren’t on his radar until I said that. : )
He kinda looked at his friend, then back at me trying to pretend his eyes weren’t the size of navel oranges. “Do you really think there are bears out there?”
I shook my head, hiding my evil smile with a fake worried look. “Nah. I was just messing with ya.”
Maybe some of you will be able to relate to this, but my husband is about a thirteen-year-old boy in a man’s body. I would like to say I’m more mature, but I can’t remember which of us had the idea.
About an hour after dark, the hubs and I crept through the yard, stopped about twenty feet from the boys’ tent and started to growl.
After about five seconds, our growls got increasingly loud and angry-sounding. (I’m actually pretty good at growling, and my whole family will agree with that statement. : )
There was some scrambling in the tent. Some yelling back and forth. More scrambling. The sound of the zipper yanking.
Then the boys shot out of the tent, flew down to the house, screaming like girls. Seriously. They were screaming so loud, they never heard the hubs and I rolling on the ground laughing until they were pounding on the door, which they couldn’t open because the hubs and I had locked it. : )
I know, I know. People like us should never have had kids. Our poor children. It’s pretty amazing that they seemed to have turned out almost normal and even more amazing that they still talk to us.
My son’s friend never came back, but I think that had more to do with the fact that we had beets for supper than any lingering issues over the bear noises.
But, you know, you reap what you sow and all that…
One June a few years after that – back when we just had a few chickens and not the big laying houses we have now – I had gone over to grab some eggs for breakfast before my kids got up. On my way back over to the house, when I was directly between the coop and the house – maybe sixty yards to both…you know how you just have this sensation that someone is watching you? You get that chill up your spine and the hair on the back of your neck raises? Know what I mean?
Seriously, I felt that, but knew it had to be nothing. My husband had left for work before daylight and our trucks were all on the road. The garage was behind me, beside the chicken coop, but it was locked up tight.
Still, that feeling had a hold on my neck and I couldn’t shake it. I stopped and turned around, scanning behind me.
I started to turn back around, thinking I was being silly, but still not feeling right, when my eye caught something off to the side at the edge of the woods just a dozen or so yards away.
So, yeah, I’m sure you already know it was a bear. It was sitting there – like a bear in a circus might sit, on its butt with its paws hanging down. I’m not very visual, but I can still see it, shiny black and perfectly outlined by the lush green just behind it. The round ears pricked and the nose lifted, a rectangular spot of brown on its chest.
It was staring at me.
To be fair, I was now staring right back at it, more because I was frozen and couldn’t move than to actually be rude or anything.
You know that feeling when your stomach is trying to run to the house but your heart and lungs have stopped working and your legs feel like logs caught in a pile up? It’s like the opposite of the warm fuzzies.
So, I was kinda racking my brain trying to figure out what to do. Do any of you know what to do in a situation like that? If you run, they chase you, right? I kinda felt like there must be cubs around or something, because why else would it just be staring at me?
So, I moved my eyes around (not my head, lol) but couldn’t see any little black bodies.
I thought about setting the eggs down (Do bears eat eggs?) kind of like a peace offering. But there went my kids’ breakfast. (Better to lose breakfast than to have mom get eaten? Maybe. Not sure on that one. I did have boys.)
So, I finally decide, it’s either going to eat me or it’s not. Right?
I don’t want anyone to get the mistaken idea that I was brave or anything. I seriously didn’t know what else to do – I turned around and finished walking to the house.
When I reached the door, I looked back over my shoulder and it was still sitting there, watching me. Honestly, I never even thought to go get a camera. I walked in the door, closed it and sat down on the floor. The kids found me there an hour or so later, and it was a little longer than that before my legs stopped feeling like Jello.
Ha. Okay, I love telling stories of life on the farm, but I actually do write books, too. I’ve been doing a little project with my life-time narrator, or-as-long-as-he’ll-have-me, Jay Dyess, and I wanted to share it with you.
We’ve been putting my audios up on YouTube where you can listen to the for FREE! We have around twenty of the fifty or so audios that we’ve made together up on Say with Jay – Jay’s channel. You can listen to any of them or all of them without paying a thing. I love that! I honestly can’t wait until they’re all up. I know you all work hard for your money and I love being able to give readers a bargain. : )
Here is the link to Say with Jay: https://www.youtube.com/c/SaywithJay/ Check it out. Listen to anything that catches your fancy and I’d love it if you’d hit the “Subscribe” button and leave a few comments!
Now that I’m living close to my mom, who is in her eighties, we have a lot of interesting discussions about the “good old days.” For instance, her grandfather, a Finnish immigrant, never farmed with a tractor. He used mules until he died in the 1940s. I’ve learned about pitching hay into the hay wagon while kids stamped it down, and tying the milk cow to the car bumper and pulling her to the neighbor’s field to put her in with the bull.
I’ve learned about her friends who had no running water and who bathed in the slough, my uncle tipping outhouses at Halloween, my grandmother putting water in the car radiator in the winter (no antifreeze) and then driving across the long lake bridge to go to a Roy Rogers movie, making certain to put a blanket over the hood of the car, to keep the radiator water from freezing. And of course when she got home, she had to empty the radiator. Good times.
My mother was fortunate enough to have a refrigerator while she was growing up, but her cousins had a hole dug in the back yard, covered with boards, where milk was kept. Talk of food preservation led to stories of preserving eggs in water glass. This fascinated me, so I looked into it.
Water glass is a mixture of water and pickling lime. Pickling lime is a mixture of bones, oyster shells and limestone that has been heated in a kiln, then hydrated with water. There are different kinds of lime, and a person making water glass will want hydrated lime.
The first rule to preserving eggs in water glass is to use fresh farm eggs that have NOT been washed. when a hen lays an egg, she creates a product with a protective coating that seals the pores and keep bacteria out. This is called the bloom. Only eggs that have a bloom, which store eggs do not, can be preserved in water glass. If an egg is dirty, it can’t be wiped clean, because this affects the bloom. Only the cleanest eggs can be used.
Mix the lime with a ratio of one ounce of lime to one quart of water. You’ll need to mix enough to completely cover the eggs in your food storage grade container. A three-gallon pail with a lid works well. Submerge the eggs in the solution, pointy side down. After the eggs are submerged, cover the pail to decrease evaporation and store the water-glassed eggs in a cool dark place.
Before using the eggs, wash thoroughly, because pickling lime isn’t good for the digestive system.
How long can eggs be kept this way? From 18 months to 2 years. You can keep adding eggs to the preserving pail daily, but the bottom eggs should be used first.
These eggs are not pickled. They are used just like fresh eggs. The only caveat is to watch for cracks and never use a cracked egg.
Are you familiar with water glassed eggs? Did your family use any old-timey food storage methods? Looking forward to hearing!
When I was pregnant with my daughter I did a needlepoint that said, “A daughter is a little girl that grows up to be a friend.”
At the time, I hoped that it would be true.
My oldest daughter, Julia, graduated from high school last year, and in just a few months, she’ll be turning eighteen. I know I’ll always be her mom, and I hope that she’ll always look to me for advice and guidance, but our relationship definitely feels like a friendly one as well.
I know her time in our home is finite, and I would never want her to not move on with whatever God calls her to do or go. But I want to cherish the time that she’s here – late night runs to Dunkin Donuts for salted caramel hot chocolate, getting dressing rooms across from each other as we try on clothes, walking by her at the table as she has her Bible and notebook spread out in front of her doing her devotions, shoving my writing aside as she throws herself across my bed and we talk about the right way to respond to someone who has hurt us.
Julia and I are about as opposite as two people can be. Just one of the many ways we are different is that she is amazingly talented at making things look beautiful – clothes, designs, our dinner table, entire rooms. She’s amazing. And she loves doing it.
Like most people, I love looking at pretty things.
However, I could never color in the lines – I still remember the frustration in my elementary art teacher’s voice as she looked at my hideous papers – and have zero talent in this area. None. I’m much more about function than fashion. I don’t care what the boots look like as long as they don’t leak. I’m not concerned about my hair style as long as it’s not in my face. I don’t notice the dirt on our vehicles and I don’t think about cleaning out our refrigerator until it’s full, and I realize I need to make space.
Anyway, last fall, Julia wanted to decorate our downstairs and I told her she could. Why not?
My husband and I did some remodeling after we moved in about fifteen years ago. I don’t really get picky about stuff. All I wanted was a big kitchen (because that’s where I spend all my time, right?) and big windows, because I love to look out and I also love having the sunlight stream in.
Well, our kitchen is about the size of a postage stamp, but I did get some nice windows. : )
I think I mentioned we live way out with no neighbors, so I’ve never had curtains on my windows. I wanted the windows for the function – being able to look out and also letting the sun in!
So, when Julia decorated, she got these really pretty white, flowy curtains and hung them in the windows. Ha. She put some greenery around them with lights and everything looks so pretty and amazing. But I laugh when I look at them, because it’s just Julia and I being different. I’d rather be able to look out than have pretty windows.
I would never tell her that.
So, a few weeks ago, in the middle of February, the girls and I and some friends were going on a trip to upstate New York. The day before we left, I was sitting on the floor, trying to get some words in, when Julia came in all dressed up. I guess I’ve had daughters long enough now that I realized she was picking out outfits to take with us on our trip. (Give me a few more years and I might actually think ahead and expect this rather than looking at her blankly for five minutes as she turns around in front of my full length mirror – which she doesn’t want in her room because it doesn’t match her decor, so I have it in mine, for her convenience. : )
“What do you think, mom?” she asks.
Okay, I’m speaking to the ladies here for a moment. Because we know this is a trick question, right?
So, the Bible commands us to be honest. We’re also commanded to be kind. Mutually exclusive at times, right?
Julia is standing in front of me with a flowy shirt on (I can’t remember what color…it might have had stripes, I’m not sure), a mustard yellow skirt, which was really cute and that color is trendy, I think. The skirt was knee length. Her lower legs were bare and she was wearing open-toe, strappy sandals with four inch heels.
I clear my throat. “It’s gonna be cold in Rochester.” (This is a safe statement.)
“This is a winter outfit.”
(Boy, I want to argue with that.) “It’s going to be a lot colder there and there’s always snow on the ground.” I’m eyeing her toes, all ten of them.
“These shoes are good in the snow.”
“Julia. Your toes are sticking out.” Okay, I’m pointing out the obvious here, because…come on. “You’re going to freeze to death just walking between the car and the auditorium.”
“Don’t be so dramatic.”
“Couldn’t you wear tights and boots?”
“Tights would look ridiculous with this outfit and my boots don’t match.”
Okay, ladies, we all know why she’s wearing this outfit, right? sigh This is where I am SO tempted to say to her, no one is going to look at you wearing that outfit in Rochester, NY in the middle of February and think you have a brain.
But that wouldn’t be very nice.
Also, I raised three boys. I’ve never met a teenaged boy who looked at a girl and cared whether or not she had a brain. Just saying.
So, I give up on the tights because it’s her feet that are actually going to be in the snow. “I just think boots would be a really good idea.”
“But I LOVE these shoes. And they’re so cute with this outfit.”
So, yeah. She packed the shoes. I could have made her wear the boots. Julia is the sweetest kid ever and she would have listened, and she would have had a great attitude, too, if I would have told her no way on the shoes.
But this isn’t going to kill her and she can make this decision/mistake (lol) herself, right?
So, yeah. Thursday evening we’ve arrived in Rochester, unpacked and dressed for the evening. We get into the elevator at the hotel. It’s like seven degrees outside. The wind is blowing and there’s snow on the ground.
Julia is wearing her strappy sandals, the knee-length skirt with no tights, and the flowy blouse. It’s like I said we were going to Rochester and Julia heard Hawaii.
I know she packed her boots and as we get into the elevator, I say, “Are you sure you don’t want to wear your boots? I think you’re going to be really cold.”
“My boots don’t match.”
“Everyone else there will be wearing boots.” I very seldom, if ever, use this argument on my kids. It has never been my goal to have my kids do what everyone else does. But, I’m kind of desperate.
“I don’t think so. Lots of people are going to have cute shoes that match their outfits.”
I have my doubts about that. Most of the other kids there probably have mothers that wouldn’t dream of allowing their child to dress in such a way that they’re almost guaranteed to freeze to death if the car breaks down. The elevator door starts to close as Julia and I are “discussing” this.
The doors are half-shut when a woman rushes around the corner. We stop the doors. They open and she hurries on.
She’s wearing a dress coat that covers her body from her ears to her toes, thick, furry winter boots, a corded scarf that’s wrapped around her neck and up her chin, a big, knitted hat and warm, fuzzy gloves.
The elevator goes completely silent. A big change from Julia and my slightly heated discussion.
The woman, who is standing in front of me and beside Julia, glances around the elevator. (Okay, this is where I admit that I left home and forgot my coat. I never wear it anyway. I’m standing there in a long sleeved shirt and puffer vest. Full disclosure – I did pack my flip flops, but I wasn’t wearing them Thursday evening. Honest.)
The lady leans forward, and, in a stage whisper speaks next to Julia’s ear. “You guys aren’t from around here, are you?”
Forgive me, but I snorted. Loudly.
Julia turns big eyes on the lady. “How did you know?”
The lady looks at me, then back to Julia. “You’re not really dressed for the weather.”
The lady became an instant friend. The elevator ride wasn’t that long, but we did a lot of laughing on
Okay. We made it home from Rochester. Miraculously, Julia didn’t lose any toes to frost bite, and, maybe even more miraculously, I was not imprisoned or fined by child services. (I also did not drive on any sidewalks, but that is a completely different story.)
Moving on, I actually do write books (maybe some of you are doing some deep contemplation right now – do I really want to read books written by a crazy woman who wears flip flops in Rochester, NY in February and sets herself on fire? I’m sorry, I can’t answer that for you.) and I am in a year-long promo where we are
I love carbs for breakfast and one of my favorite Sunday breakfast treats is a Dutch baby. The Dutch baby is essentially a large popover baked in a cast iron skillet and was introduced in the early 1900s in a family-owned restaurant in Seattle, called Manca’s Café.
The Dutch baby is also called a German pancake or a Dutch puff. It is rumored that “Dutch” came from one of the Manca’s Cafe owner’s daughters mispronouncing Deutsch, so instead of a Deutsch or German pancake, it became a Dutch pancake.
That’s the history. Now for the good part–how to make it!
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
a shake or two of nutmeg (or cinnamon)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter (4 tablespoons)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
Combine everything except for the butter in blender and blend until smooth. (I use a bowl and a whisk because I hate to clean the blender).
Put the butter in 9 or 10 inch cast iron skillet and put it into the oven. As soon as the butter is melted remove the hot skillet from the oven and pour the batter onto the melted butter. (So satisfying to hear that sizzle.)
Bake for 20 minutes. The batter will puff into odd shapes which is a lot of fun for kids to watch through the oven window.
We cut our Dutch baby into four pieces and serve it with berries, warm maple syrup, and sometimes whipped cream. Any syrup or jam will do, and it’s fun to experiment.
I hope you try this out. It’s super easy and super yummy.
I do love a colorful saying, especially one that makes me think, and today I wanted to share a few of my favorite bits of western wisdom:
*Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier that putting it back inside.
*When you get to where you’re going, the first thing to do is to take care of the horse you rode in on.
*If you think you’re a person of influence, try ordering someone else’s dog around.
*Wear a hat with a brim wide enough to shed sun and rain, fan a campfire, dip water, and whip a fighting cow in the face.
*Going to bed mad is no fun, but it’s better than fighting all night.
*Two can live as cheaply as one, if one doesn’t eat.
*The shallower the stream, the louder the babble.
*Life is simpler when you plow around the stumps.
*An ounce of doing is worth a pound of talk.
*Don’t lick a frozen pump handle.
And now it’s your turn. To qualify for the drawing for a $15 Amazon gift card, pass along one of your favorite sayings. If you don’t have a saying to share, then comment on which of sayings I’ve shared speaks to you. I’m looking forward to reading your comments.
Earlier this month I went away for a bit to write. Now, the place that I stayed at was in the middle of a cow pasture. Not kidding. You had to go through two gates and drive through the cow pasture – being careful not to hit any cows – to get there.
So, yeah, I felt right at home, but I’m also lazy. I did take some groceries with me, but I’m one of those shoppers who only gets what’s on the list. I do not deviate. I guess some people call it a disability, but I get easily overwhelmed when presented with too much “stuff” and shopping is just one of those areas where my brain overloads really fast. I can do it, I just need a list, and honestly I don’t notice anything beyond focusing on getting the next thing on my list and getting out of the store.
Well, I decided to be healthy (why? I can’t really answer that) and I got the ingredients to make pumpkin mushroom soup (thanks for the recipe, Patrice!), blueberries and sweet potatoes. I also got a bag of peas and some cheese and a few filets of fish.
That’s what I had on my list.
I forgot to put ice cream on my list.
So, I left the store, drove to the place where I was staying, got out of the car, opened the gate, got back in the car, drove through the gate, got out of the car, shut the gate, careful to jump over the six inch deep mud puddle that was right where the gate closed on the other side, walked back to the car and drove through the pasture to the next gate, got out of the car, opened the gate, got back in the car, drove through the gate, got out of the car, shut the gate, got back in the car and drove to the house. (Also, the lock on the house was a little tricky and I didn’t lock it while I was there, but I did lock it when I left and it usually took me about ten minutes to get it unlocked when I got back to the house.)
So, anyway, it was quite a procedure to get in.
It was the next day before I realized I didn’t have any ice cream.
So, like I said, I’m lazy and it was a LOT easier for me to walk around the house lamenting the fact that there was NO ICE CREAM IN THE HOUSE than it was to leave, spend ten minutes locking the door, driving to the gate, stopping and getting out of the car, etc etc.
So, I’m stuck at this house with all this health food I thought it would be a good idea and NO ICE CREAM.
So, yeah. I ended up losing eight pounds. I guess I got better gas mileage on the way home than I did on the way down, but it took me longer because I stopped at Taco Bell like five times.
Alright, so my weight loss tip is put a fence and two gates around your house and you’ll make junk food runs less often. : )
So, the day after I got home Watson asked me to go with him to get a load of silage for our cows. I thought that was sweet – he missed me! But after I said, “Sure, I’ll go,” he said, “Dress warm. The heater in that old truck doesn’t work.”
He didn’t miss me. He just wanted me along in case he got stranded along the road he’d have someone to push him.
Anyway, I put a bunch of layers on and got in the old dump truck. It’s the truck I drove last spring when I was hauling rocks – the one that didn’t have any brakes. I think the copperheads were all hibernating.
Watson said we had to hurry because there were no lights in the truck. Like, no headlights. No tail lights. No brake lights. No turn signals. No lights. At all. Also, not only does it not have a heater, but part of the floor is missing to the point where you can see the road flying by beneath you. That didn’t concern me too much, neither did the rattles and shakes until Watson said, “Is your door shut?”
Well, I’m an old hand at this, so, as we’re driving down the highway (not too fast because it has a top speed of like 40 mph), I grab the handle, shove it open and slam it shut. It still kinda rattles, like it’s thinking about falling off, but wants to wait until we’re going around a turn until it does so.
I check – because you all are thinking it too – no seatbelts. This does not shock anyone, right?
So, we’re going on these backroads and it’s wide enough for two cows to pass side-by-side as long as one of them isn’t pregnant and we’re going down this steep hill into a gully and the road kind of turns in the middle of the hill and right on the turn we meet a school bus.
(There were maybe two houses along that whole ten mile road and we passed, like, three busses. Maybe there was a field trip back there somewhere. idk)
So, Watson has just told me how he bypassed the air dryer because it was keeping the truck from airing up, and he mentioned that the truck was too far gone for him to want to put any money into maintenance and I grab ahold of the door handle – because when it evacuates, I’m going with it – and just pray the end is painless, because I drove the truck and the brakes didn’t work.
Watson slams on the brakes – the truck actually slows down – and he moves the truck as far off the road as possible and I’m pretty sure I see my guardian angle picking the bus up and moving it overtop of us and once we’ve made it down to the bottom of the gully and start up the other side I say, “I guess you fixed the brakes.”
Watson looks at me like I’m the stupidest person in the world and he says, “Well, yeah. You can’t drive a truck on the road with no brakes.”
Humph. That’s not what he said last spring when I was driving the truck. But hey, whatever. By the time we got home, I was too cold to be upset about it. Plus, I think that was our Valentine’s Day date and I didn’t want to ruin it.
Okay, that was yesterday and I’m still wearing my beanie hat and five layers of clothes. I think I might have mentioned that the hot water in our shower wasn’t working and I was terrified of taking all my clothes off and getting in the shower only to find that it STILL wasn’t working. I’m a big believer in better safe than sorry.
Whenever I write a blog to introduce a new book, I like to talk about some of the things I learned through my research for that story. Carrianne’s research centered mostly on the Union Pacific Railway and, in particular, the Pullman cars that Carrianne and her husband enjoyed in my story for their trip from Denver to San Francisco, where they fought to bring down the worst criminal on the Barbary Coast at the time.
The Barbary Coast also required fascinating research, but that deserves its own blog.
I think all of us would have enjoyed a train ride in an elegant, plush Pullman car. I was shocked to learn just how fabulous they were.
According to legend, a highly uncomfortable overnight train ride from Buffalo to Westfield, New York, prompted George Pullman to find a better way to provide comfortable, clean, efficient passenger service.
Traveling over early, hastily constructed rail beds, trains inevitably swayed, rattled, and clacked. Most passenger cars ran on two four-wheel trucks. Pullman used eight-wheel trucks supplied with an improved suspension for a smoother ride. He even added lighter wheels with pressed-paper cores to minimize jolts. He installed double-glazed windows and doors for quiet. The ventilators in a Pullman car brought in fresh air but filtered out dust and cinders.
The true glory of the Pullman car was in the decor. Victorian taste ran toward the baroque, and Pullman offered the utmost in ornamentation: carved walnut paneling, polished brass fittings, beveled French mirrors, Brussels carpets, brocade, tassels, and fringe. At night, porters made up the berths with pristine white sheets.
Thanks to the low $2 extra fee a passenger paid to ride in a Pullman car, such luxury was affordable even for the upper-middle class.
Before George Pullman introduced his first diner, the Delmonico, trains stopped briefly at stations to allow passengers a hurried meal, and I mean hurried. Dining cars ended this inconvenience. There were also parlor cars, where a passenger could relax in an upholstered armchair, which swiveled to allow a view of the scenery. Wide windows and elegant furnishings added to the sense of privilege. An organ provided entertainment.
An important Pullman innovation was the vestibule train. Early cars had platforms front and back so that passengers had to step outside to move from one car to another. The vestibule was a spring-driven accordion covering that allowed cars to be joined seamlessly. It made moving from car to car more easily and helped to stabilize the train at high speeds.
The ultimate in Pullman extravagance was the private car, known in the business as a “private varnish.” These cars allowed the ultra-wealthy to travel comfortably without rubbing elbows with fellow passengers. A typical car might have an open fireplace and a marble bath. Italian artists supplied paintings of fuchsias and hummingbirds for the ceiling. Lamps and fitting were gold plated. The car contained several bedrooms, a central parlor/dining room, and a kitchen. Such cars sold for $50,000, equal to 1.3 million today.
I’d love to provide more details on how everything worked, but I believe I’d better quit before I wear out my welcome. I’ll provide photographs instead to show you what you missed by not having been born much, much sooner.
What would you pay today to enjoy such luxury as the Pullman cars offered?
Please comment to enter the give away. One winner will receive a copy of my current book, Carrianne’s Debacle, and a second winner will receive a book of their choice from my backlist.
Charlene Raddon is a multi-published, award-winning author of Victorian/Western romance. Originally published by Kensington Books in the 1990s, she now self-publishes. She also creates book covers, specializing in western historical designs.
Hello, Petticoats & Pistols readers! I’m Caryl McAdoo, hybrid (traditional and independently published) author of several Christian genres, and I am so glad to be here with you today!
I grew up in Dallas, Texas and only remember going to Fort Worth one time as a child when my parents took me to their zoo.
I always thought of it as a wild town and not nearly as cultured and refined as Big D! “Where the West begins!” they say of Cowtown, and I believed them!
It wasn’t until my early forties that I visited the city again on an invitation from a writer friend and his wife for dinner and an evening at the Stockyards. I had a wonderful time and was quite amazed with the Fort Worth I never knew! I’ve been back many times since.
The photo is me and a friend on her birthday outing with Bass Hall, our destination, in the background.
So, when I started writing book three in my historical Cross Timbers Mystery series, COERCION at The Cow Palace, I decided to set the story in a notorious half acre in 1870’s Fort Worth history! I loved the research!
The famous Chisholm Trail went right through ”Cowtown”! Its dust and beef weary cowboys would gallop into town shooting their pistols and even riding their horses right into the saloons! A red-light, gambling district sprang up that indulged the cowpokes’ vices.
The area became quite famous for its lawlessness, giving Hell’s Half Acre its memorable name and less-than-angelic reputation. That’s right where I set The Cow Palace, COERCION’s setting for the murder that needed to be solved.
In researching, I also discovered two things that kept the town from flourishing as Dallas had. The first was a faraway bank failure!
In 1872, the Texas & Pacific Railroad had laid track through Dallas—bringing prosperity and growth—and about six miles west of the city to Eagle’s Ford. The company stopped only twenty-four miles from Fort Worth before disaster struck.
Bankers to the U.S. government, Jay Cooke & Company, failed up in New York causing an international panic. Cooke was also major financial backers for the railroads. The bank’s collapse devasted Fort Worth’s future! Almost overnight, the population dwindled from four thousand to less than a thousand.
One former resident reported to a Dallas paper that Fort Worth was so deserted, he witnessed a black panther sleeping in the street. This gave Fort Worth a new nickname, Panther City or Pantherville.
The other factor was a terrible winter in the same year.
So, the city “Where the West Begins” got set back and became known as a wilder, less cultural place than its nearby sister-city Dallas
Excerpt from COERCION:
The youngest woman definitely knew Fort Worth better than either Charity or Vivian, from Dallas County. She filled in a lot of Cow Town’s history she’d learned along the way. Arriving at the new dress shop, the boardwalks were practically empty.
Where were all its customers?
“Well, my goodness, it’s like a ghost town or something.” Vivian stepped out of the carriage first. Virgil offered his hand to help her down. “Where are all the people?”
“There used to be a lot more, but so many left last winter.”
“I know it was a bad one, but why would so many leave?” Charity was last out of the carriage. “Thank you, Virgil. I’m certain you do not want to come into the shop with us, so you may either wait at the door or sit with Gilbert.”
“Yes, Miss Charity.” He hurried ahead and held the shop door for the ladies.
“The weather was only a part of it. You know they just had an orgy of building once everyone heard the railroad was coming.”
Charity glanced at Vivian. The young woman had an odd way of saying things.
“Then in August—or was it September?—anyway, some bank up in the Northeast went under. Supposedly, they’d invested in railroads pretty heavily. In no time, a lot more banks and railroads failed.”
“What a shame.”
“You know the tracks stopped in Eagle Ford and never made it here. Businesses all over town were closing right and left.”
“That’s too bad. Now that you mention it, a lot of new folks came to Delaware Creek last fall.” Vivian turned to face Charity. “The Banks and the Gregorys are from Fort Worth. Oh, and the Winslows, too. They had a gun repair shop here that closed.”
“I’ve met them and the Banks, but don’t think I know the Gregorys yet. You’ll have to introduce me. Do they come to the barn dances?”
“I think they have.”
“Well, that’s a shame some bank up in the North would have such a terrible impact on the city. Morgan has mentioned how the train not coming on into Fort Worth hurt its growth.”
“Oh, it was truly devasting. So many lost their homes, too.”
“How is it you’re aware of all that, Yolanda?”
“Oh, you know, Miss Viv. I hear things from some of the city’s big men of finance who frequent the Palace.”
COERCION at The Cow Palace debuted January 12th, so is now available at Amazon and subscribers to Kindle Unlimited may read it for free—all of my titles (except a few published by New York houses) are in that great readers’ program! I hope you’ll enjoy it and the Texas history I’ve included in the story!
I pray all the great authors and readers at Petticoats & Pistols have a BLESSED and wonderful New Year! May God shower you all in His high favor!
GIVEWAWAY: I would love to offer an eBook of DUPLICITY at The Lowell House, book one in the Cross Timbers Mystery series! Just answer this question to be entered! Have you ever visited Fort Worth, Texas or had an inkling to?
BIO: Award-winning, Christian author Caryl McAdoo prays her story brings God glory. Of her best-selling novels, readers love her historical Christian romance family sagas most, but she also writes Christian contemporary romance, mysteries, Biblical fiction, and also for young adults and mid-grade booklovers. The large majority of reviewers award her stories five-stars and praise Caryl’s characters, counting them family or very close friends. The prolific writer loves singing the new songs God gives her almost as much as penning tales—hear a few at YouTube! Married to Ron over fifty years, she shares four children and twenty-one grandsugars. The McAdoos live in the woods south of Clarksville, seat of Red River County in far Northeast Texas, waiting expectantly for God to open the next door.