The Thermos that Saved the Day

First, this is my inaugural post. I’m so glad to be here. I’ve posted as a guest a few times, but to be included as a Filly has been humbling and I’m grateful and thankful.

In case we’ve never met, I write a whole host of things including historical Christian westerns, contemporary romance and romantic suspense, and women’s fiction under the name Teri Blake. I look forward to getting to know you all better.

Great Lakes Light book cover

On Friday, my new book Great Lakes Light will release in the same series as 2 other Fillies, Kit Morgan and Shanna Hatfield. I don’t want to give away too much of this story, but this is a fictionalized account of how the Split Rock Lighthouse came to be. Some aspects of the story are complete fiction, others are drawn from resources (and I offer a complete source list in the back of the book). You’ll want to preorder it before Friday, as the preorder price will go away when it publishes. I just LOVE that my designer was able to use a real image of the lighthouse.

Have you ever read a bit of history and been completely blown away? Such was the case for me. I love my insulated water and coffee tumblers, those metal mugs used to keep drinks warm or cold for hours. Did you know that the first one was created in 1892!! I didn’t either! Even though this is the period I write most often, I’m always blown away by their inventiveness and ingenuity.

Because I was so amazed, I absolutely had to include a Thermos (though it went by various names before settling on that one, as things often do) in this story. And it was perfect because at the time of my story, there was only one store that sold the illustrious thermos and it was in New York. Since the entire middle of the book actually takes place in Washington D.C… a congressman would certainly have access to one…and it just might save him. But you’ll have to read the story to find out how.

Image of original thermos

Interestingly, these containers didn’t come into existence to keep coffee warm for the men working on the huge skyscrapers being built at the time in New York. They were originally created by a mortician who realized he needed to keep chemicals at a stable temperature. The original (used for embalming) thermos, was glass with a vacuum between the two layers. It was his glassblower who realized the commercial prospects, created a patent, and sold it to three US companies.

Do you use a thermos? I have two different one, one for the water I drink all day and one I bought on my last trip to Deadwood, SD that keeps my morning coffee hot. Drop your answer below and I’ll ship out a print copy of Great Lakes Light to one lucky commenter.

Going, going, GONE!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think you should know that the classic candy that has been a constant since 1847, is about to go the way of phone booths.   Yes, that’s right.  The company that makes Necco Wafers has announced that, unless it finds a buyer, it will close its doors forever in May.

Do you know what that means?  Future generations will never know what drywall tastes like. 

Originally called hub wafers, the coin-shaped candies were carried by soldiers during the Civil War and World War II.  Since the candy traveled well and never melted or spoiled, soldiers and yes, even cowboys, could carry them with confidence.

These candies traveled as far as the North Pole, and that’s not all. Admiral Byrd took two tons of the things with him to the Antarctica.  Even more impressive; Necco Wafers was the first candy to multi-task.  They served as wafers during communion and were tossed in baskets for payment at toll booths.

Sad to say, Necco isn’t the only old company at risk. In recent years, we’ve seen the demise of the Sears Wish book and five and dime stores. Who knows what will be next? 

I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but I shudder to think that Baker’s chocolate—a friend to cooks since 1780—might someday be declared unfit for human consumption.  Don’t laugh. It happened to wheat, eggs and red meat. Who’s to say the same thing won’t happen to chocolate?

Never mind that cowboys and civil war soldiers enjoyed morning cups of Baker’s hot chocolate with no known problems.  Cast-iron stomachs of the past have no place in today’s world. 

It’s not just food and drink that’s in danger. The next company that could bite the dust could very well be Remington, established in 1818. It’s hard to believe that the company that produced the “rifle that won the west” might one day close its doors. But firearms aren’t all that popular these days.  Nor for that matter are typewriters. So who knows? 

And what about Brooks Brothers, another formidable company founded in 1818? The company made the first ready-to-wear suits in 1849.  Those flocking to California that year for the gold rush couldn’t wait for tailors to outfit them. For that reason, forty-niners depended on Brooks Brothers for their clothing needs. So did Abe Lincoln, Eisenhower and J.F. Kennedy.

Anything made of paper is about to become obsolete, including maps, shopping bags and checks.  Here in California, the war on drinking straws is heating up.  If that’s not enough, many of the nation’s newspapers have vanished in recent years. That means that old standbys like The New York Times (founded in 1851 as the New York Daily Times) could one day shut down their presses forever. 

I also worry about Merriam-Webster, founded in 1831. If it goes the way of encyclopedia salesmen, I will have to share the blame. I can’t remember the last time I actually looked something up in an honest-to-goodness, print dictionary, can you? 

Nothing is safe in today’s fast-paced world as proven by Kodak. Who would have thought that a company that we all knew and loved would close its dark-room doors forever and stop making cameras?

Founded in 1889, Kodak was the absolute leader in photography. It’s still in business making mobile devices, but its past glory is gone. Phone cameras have taken its place, but it’s not the same. An iPhone second just doesn’t have the same ring as a Kodak moment.

So, what old-time product do you or would you miss? What were you glad to see go?



Where’s the Beef?

It’s a scary world and about to become a lot scarier.

Not only are we faced with the prospect of driverless cars and mirrors designed to voice unabashed opinions of our wardrobes, I recently realized that my “smart” doorbell has a higher IQ than I do.

Cowboys and cowgirls of the future?

Now scientists are closing in on giving us animal-free meat.  What that means is that our steaks will soon be grown in labs, not on cattle ranches.  Cowboys of the future will wear white coats instead of denims and Stetsons—and they sure won’t be riding horses.

It’s not hard to understand what’s driving this new technology.  Some believe that cattle and the methane gas they produce is the number one cause of global warming.  There are also financial considerations; It’s estimated that the cells from a single live cow will produce 175 million quarter pounders!  That’s about what McDonald’s sells in nine months.

I’m currently working on a book set on a Texas cattle ranch in 1800s and I can’t help but wonder what my hero would think about all of this.  No doubt he would be appalled and regard the so-called “clean meat” as a threat to his very existence. But he also knows what it’s like to fight a losing battle. In the book, his ever-ready Colt stops rustlers, horse thieves and “belled snakes,” but is useless in the face of progress.

Only time will tell if the National Cattleman’s Association will be successful in convincing consumers to demand the “real thing” in their hamburgers.  Or if it, too, will go the way of cattle drives.

Of course, not everyone agrees on what the “real thing” is. Some aficionados insist that none other than grass-fed cattle fit the bill, but that can be a hard sell.

Grass-fed cattle taste different than cattle fed on corn and soy. It has less fat, which means it’s healthier, but the taste doesn’t always suit modern palates and can take some getting used to.

Then there’s the difference in texture. Grass-fed cattle move around more than cattle in feedlots and therefore have more muscle.  This makes the meat “chewier.”  Those rugged cowboys of yesteryear might have relished a chewy steak while sitting around a campfire, but today most people prefer the tender, melt-in-your mouth taste of prime grain-fed beef.

Feed, muscle and fat aren’t the only things that affect taste. The way meat is handled during shipping, aging and preparation makes a difference, too. Barbecued steak doesn’t have the same flavor as meat cooked on an open campfire.  So even if you purchase grass-fed beef today, it still won’t taste the same as it did during those old chuck-wagon days.

Who knows?  Maybe future generations will prefer the taste of lab-grown meat, which some describe as “crunchy.”  There’s no stopping progress, but neither can we stop changing tastes.

So what changes or new tech do you like or dislike?


Amazon author page



Elevators – History and Trivia

Hi all, Winnie Griggs here. In December, my book Once Upon A Texas Christmas will release. The story features a hero and heroine who have been asked to team up (much to the hero’s chagrin) to renovate an old hotel building. One of the things I wanted them to include as part of the renovation was an elevator. And this, of course, led me down a rabbit hole of research into what elevators were like during this period of time. So today I thought I’d share a little bit of what I learned.

First some history:

  • While the concept of lifting heavy objects is older than the pyramids themselves, it was in 236 BC that Archimedes, a Greek mathematician, invented the first elevator that was based on ropes, wrenches and weights. His concepts became the foundation for all elevators going forward.
  • One of my favorite and unexpected bits of elevator trivia – In 1203 the Abby of Mont St Michel installed a treadmill powered hoisting elevator. Most sources say prisoners were employed to man the treadmill. But at least one source noted that monkeys were employed as well. Whether true or not, isn’t it fun to imagine what that would have looked like?
  • It was in 1743 that one of the first elevators designed specifically for human passengers, a counterweight lift, was installed in King Louis XV’s villa at Versailles, France.
  • In 1852, while working in a New York bedstead factory, Elisha Otis saw a problem he needed to fix. Workers there were reluctant to use the hoists that were required to lift the heavy equipment to the upper floors. They were afraid the cable would break and crash to the ground causing serious injury or worse. Elisha rose to the challenge and he designed and created the first elevator safety braking device. It was this invention that revolutionized elevator design and paved the way for commercial passenger elevators.

    Elisha Otis
  • In 1854 Elisha Otis introduced another safety device, an elevator cabin that featured a self-locking door gear, designed to protect occupants from falling out of the elevator. 32 years later inventor Alexander Miles patented an automatic door system for the elevator.
  • Elisha Otis died from diphtheria in 1861, he was only 49. But his two sons took over the company, turning it into an international giant. Over the next several years they installed elevators in such prestigious buildings as the Eiffel Tower, the Washington Monument and the 60 story Woolworth Building which was the world’s tallest building at the time. The Otis Elevator Company is still the world’s largest vertical transportation manufacturer today (it includes escalators as well as elevators).

Trivia and fun facts:

  • There are currently over 700,000 elevators in the US. But as of 2008, Italy holds the record for the country with the most elevators installed – approximately 850,000.
  • Statistically, elevators are the safest way to travel. And they are 20 times safer than escalators.
  • The reason most elevators have mirrors is to make them seem larger in order to help people who suffer from claustrophobia.
  • Music was first introduced in elevators in the 1920s. It was hoped that this would calm folks who might be anxious about riding in elevators for the first time.
  • Betty Oliver was an elevator operator in the Empire State Building who was on duty on July 28, 1945 when a plane crashed into the building. She was injured and when rescuers subsequently tried to lower her the elevator cable broke, plummeting her 75 stories down. Miraculously she survived the fall. She still holds the record for being the longest elevator fall survivor.
  • Over the course of three days, elevators carry the equivalent of the world’s total population.

So there’s a quick overview of some of the info I gathered in my research.  What do you think? Did any of the info surprise you? Do you have any fun stories of your own to share related to elevators?

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for an advanced copy of my December release, Once Upon A Texas Christmas.


Partners for the Holidays 

Abigail Fulton is determined to find independence in Turnabout, Texas—and becoming manager of the local hotel could be the solution. But first, she must work with Seth Reynolds to renovate the property by Christmas—and convince him she’s perfect for the job. If only he hadn’t already promised the position to someone else…

Ever since his troubled childhood, Seth yearns to prove himself. And this hotel is his best chance. But what does someone like Abigail know about decor and furnishings? Yet the closer the holiday deadline gets, the more he appreciates her abilities and her kindness. His business ambitions require denying Abigail’s dearest wish, but can they put old dreams aside for a greater gift—love and family?

Preorder Link


The Pelton Wheel…Tanya Hanson

MarryingMinda Crop to Use

With Pelton being a family name, I’m always intrigued to see the giant “Pelton Wheel” on display at California Adventure/Disneyland whenever I go.USE

I thought it might be an intriguing subject for a post here, but the whole engineering mechanism has defeated my feeble brain. So here’s a link if you absolutely need more explanation on how the wheel works.

But the history behind it…that I can do. Inventor Lester Allan (Allen?) Pelton, (1829-1908) significantly changed hydro-power in the Old West by inventing the Pelton Water Wheel in the late 1870’s. His mechanism proved to be the most efficient design of the “impulse water turbine” so critical to mining.

Lester was born on September 5, 1829, in rural Ohio to a local pioneer family. His grandfather, a sea captain, had lost most of the family’s fortune in the War of 1812. After family-farming it for a while, Lester and a bunch of pals hurried to California in 1850 for the Gold Rush. LesterAllanPelton

He never struck gold, but made it as a fisherman on the Sacramento River, then worked as a millwright and carpenter in the Mother Lode country, observing everything he could about mining technology.

He saw that steam-powered heat was required for most mining activities, but the process required tons of wood for fuel, thereby decimating nearby forests. “Turbine wheels” were starting to come into the picture, particularly from the Knight Foundry of Sutter Creek, California, but Lester noticed that most wheels did not efficiently convert to horse-power the kinetic energy of  water rushing in mountain streams.

Lester experimented upon the designs of existing wheels and came up with  the “Pelton Runner” (the term later came to be used just for the “double-cup” blades of the wheel) and installed his first operational wheel in 1878 at the Mayflower Mine in Nevada City.

In an intense competition in 1883 with wheels from the the industry favorite Knight Foundry,  the Pelton Wheel was declared to perform with 90% efficiency in converting stream-flow kinetic energy to horsepower; the nearest competitor at 77%. (Most existing water wheels at that time rated less than 40%) In 1888, Lester Pelton founded a company in San Francisco to satisfy the growing need for hydro-electric power in the West.

He died on March 14, 1908, and his designs are still used today around the world.  In 2006, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

For more info:

How about you? Any inventors in your circle of friends and kinfolk?


A beautiful city slicker and a rugged cowboy…The perfect Wild West adventure.

Cowboy Kenn Martin bears the guilt for allowing a coach to ruin his younger brother’s bright athletic future. Feeling unworthy of any happiness, he’s lost his faith in relationships and in God. When he meets Christy Forrest, he begins to hope for redemption but soon learns his past mistakes aren’t something she’ll easily forgive.

On the Colorado wagon train adventure planned by her late father, landscape designer Christy Forrest seeks to find peace in the nature she loves. However, she can’t let go of her anger at the drunk driver who killed her dad—or the woman who did nothing to stop the man from driving.  Falling for Kenn Martin begins to lighten her heart…until she realizes the handsome cowboy carries heavy a burden all his own—a burden she’s not sure she can share.


Go Fly A Kite!

Photo WG2 smallHi, Winnie Griggs here. According to my ‘National Day Of…” calendar, yesterday was National Kite Flying Day (wonder why this falls in February rather than March?). And, since I was already looking into kites for a book I’m working on, I thought the timing was great for me to share a little of what I found out.

Exact dates are not available but the first written account found of kite flying occurred around 200 B.C. And it’s safe to say they were actually around much earlier. But would it surprise you to know that the first kites were not originally created for recreational purposes? Though most scholars believe kites originated in China there is some evidence that suggest that it might have actually originated in the South Pacific Island region—these were used as a fishing implements. The Chinese, on the other hand, developed theirs for military purposes.

In the 7th century Buddhist monks introduced kites to Japan. They were originally used there to ward off evil spirits and insure abundant harvests. But kite flying soon became popular there for recreational pleasure.

At the end of the 13th century, Marco Polo brought stories of kites to Europe. And in the 16th and 17th centuries, sailors brought kites back to Europe from a number of Asian countries. At first Europeans considered kites little more than curiosities. Then in the 18th and 19th century scientists began using them as vehicles for research – probably the most well known of these experimenters was Benjamin Franklin. But there were many others – Alexander Wilson, Sir George Caley, Lawrence Hargrave Alexander Graham Bell and the Wright brothers among them.

As flight became more commonplace, using kites for military or scientific purposes faded from popularity and recreational and competitive enthusiasts took over. Over the years, larger and more powerful kites were designed and several out-of-the-box uses were developed, such as pulling sleds and buggies over not only land but water and ice as well.

boy and kite


Now for some FUN FACTS

  • The smallest kite in the world that will actually fly is 5mm high (for those of us not up on the metric system, that’s approx .2 inches)
  • The longest kite in the world to fly is 1,034 meters (or 3,394 feet)
  • The greatest quantity of kites to fly on one line is 11,284
  • The record for how long a kite stayed up in one flight is 180 hours
  • The fastest recorded speed of a kite is over 120 mph
  • When building the suspension bridge over the turbulent Niagra River in 1848, the problem of establishing the first line across it was solved by a young boy who flew a kite across the chasm.
  • Kite flying is one of the fastest growing sports in the world
  • There is at least one Kite Festival every weekend year round in some part of the world.
  • Over 50 million kites are sold in the US annually
  • Kites are flown by more adults than children

So now it’s your turn.  Did any of these tidbits surprise you?  Have you ever flown a kite?  Do you have any special memories or fun stories involving kites?

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Notes on another ‘famous’ Winnie Mae

Photo WG2 smallHi, Winnie Griggs here.  Today I’m going to forgo my usual western historical themed post to share a historical tidbit of a different kind.

The other day I was researching something for an upcoming book when I came across a very brief reference to a plane named the Winnie Mae.  Now Winnie is not a very common name so when I see it it of course catches my eye.  But the fact that my middle name is also Mae made this doubly relatable to me.  So of course I immediately (if temporarily) abandoned my other research endeavor to go down this intriguing rabbit trail.  And here is some of what I found out about my namesake.

The Winnie Mae is a Vega six passenger monoplane built by the Lockheed company.  Vega aircraft were used by several record-breaking pilots, including Amelia Earhart and Wiley Post.  These planes were high-wing aircraft that were beautifully streamlined, unlike the more ‘draggy’ biplanes or planes with exposed wing struts.

In 1928 Florence Hall, a Chickasha, Oklahoma oilman, purchased one of these Vega aircraft so he could fly to important meetings that were some distance away.  Hall named the plane after his daughter, Winnie Mae.  When the market crashed a year later, Hall was forced to sell the plane back to Lockheed, and he requested they remove the name from it.  But one year later, 1930, Hall was ready to purchase another Vega, and he decided to name this new plane Winnie Mae once more.

Hall’s pilot was the one-eyed aviator Wiley Post.  Hall had a keen interest in finding ways to further aviation developments and so it was easy for him to agree to let Wiley prepare the Winnie Mae for the LA to Chicago race that was part of the 1930 National Air Races.  Several modifications were made to the plane and despite a delayed start, Wiley and the Winnie Mae won the race.  In an interesting side note, Art Goebel, who was flying what had been the first Winnie Mae, came in second.


In 1931, Post wanted to make a go at flying around the world.  Hall again allowed him to use the Winnie Mae.  Additional modifications and improvements were made to the plane and Post recruited navigation expert Harold Gatty to accompany him.  Post and Gatty’s route took them from New York, to Newfoundland, England, Germany, Russia, Siberia, Alaska, Canada, Cleveland and finally back to New York.  Their official flight time was 8 days, 15 hours and 51 minutes, a new world record.  Through it all, the Winnie Mae performed flawlessly, a testament to both Post’s preparedness and the Vega’s aerodynamic efficiency.

But Wiley Post had even greater ambitions.  He decided that, by taking advantage of new and emerging advances in flight and radio technology, he could make a solo around the world flight and maybe even beat the record time he and Gatty had set.  He purchased the Winnie Mae from Hall and took off  for this second round the world trip on July 15, 1933.  He followed basically the same route as he had the first time, but made fewer stops along the way.   Post and the Winnie Mae managed to break the previous record by an impressive 21 hours and in doing so, Wiley Post became the first man to fly around the world twice, and the first man to do it solo.

But Wiley Post and the Winnie Mae, were not through with setting records.  Looking to push further advances in round-the-world flight capabilities, Post looked for ways to achieve stratospheric flight.  Post created a number of aircraft innovations to achieve his dream, including a completely enclosed pressure suit to wear that would still allow him to manuever well enough to pilot the plane.  As of late 1954 Post unofficially reached an altitude of an estimated 50,000 feet, which allowed him to confirm the existence of the jet stream.

Post subsequently attempted four transcontinental flights through the stratosphere all of which were unsuccessful.  In 1935 the Winnie Mae was retired and sold to the Smithsonian Intuition for $25000.

So what about you?  Had you hear of the Winnie Mae before?   And are there other famous ‘namesakes’ of yourself you’ve run across?

The Franklin Institute

newsletter_headerjpg - 2

In my latest novel, Full Steam Ahead, my hero, Darius Thornton is determined to discover the possible causes of steamboat boiler explosions by conducting various experiments. In his quest for greater scientific understanding and to keep abreast of the latest scientific discoveries in the area, he subscribes to the Journal of the Franklin Institute, an actual publication that is still in print today.

The Franklin Institute Today
The Franklin Institute Today

The Franklin Institute was founded in 1824 for the promotion of the mechanic arts and the exploration of science. It is housed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and yes, it was named for the great Benjamin Franklin. It maintained a museum, and in 1826, started publishing a scientific journal which focused on the field of engineering and mechanics.

Darius turned to this journal to read up on the latest scientific theories regarding boiler construction and safety protocols. However, this journal also contained accounts of many of the explosions themselves, steamboats destroyed by an exploding boiler.

In my research, I found some wonderful old scans of the Journal from back in the same period in which my story takes place. In fact, articles in these old journals inspired many of the ideas I had for ways in which Darius could run his own experiments.

In the January 1850 edition of the Journal, I ran across an article describing the explosion of the Louisiana, the very tragedy that Darius experienced firsthand. Here’s the opening paragraphs:

FullSteamAhead Cover FinalI love that the Franklin Institute is still alive and well today and that it is still centered on scientific education and investigation. Maybe someday I’ll get to see it in person. If they had old journals on display, I’d probably find myself looking for the article that Darius and Nicole submitted somewhere among their 1852 collection.

  • Do you have a museum close to your home that you enjoy visiting?
  • What scientific invention are you most grateful for?

The Umbrella – History and Fun Facts

Photo WG2 smallHi!  Winnie Griggs  here.

Today is National Umbrella Day (who knew, right?).  It even has its own FACEBOOK PAGE.  And in honor of this little-known holiday, I thought I do a little research on the device and share it with you.


The umbrella itself has been around for about four thousand years.  Evidence of its existance has been found in drawings found in Egypt, Greece, China and Assyria.  But these early umbrellas were created not to protect bearers from the rain but from the sun.  In fact, the word umbrella comes from the Latin ‘umbra’ meaning shade or shadow.  The word parasol – which is the type of umbrella that appears in my stories – comes from the Latin word ‘papare’ (to prepare) and ‘sol’ (sun).

It was the Chinese who eventually waterproofed the umbrellas to protect the holder from rain.  They did this by waxing and lacquering the paper used to craft them.

It was early in the sixteenth century before umbrellas became widely accepted in Europe.  And even then it was considered a ‘woman’s accessory’.  Then along came Jonas Hanway, writer, philanthropist and founder of the Magdalen Hospital.  Born in 1712, he spent his young adult years travelling widely in Russia and Persia.  When he returned to London for good, around 1750, he carried an umbrella with him regularly.  Though he was often mocked for its use, before long it became a trend to have an umbrella handy.  In fact, for a while, umbrellas were known as Hanways.

1786 – The first patent for the umbrella with the circular coned canopy shape was registered by John Beale

Between 1808 and 1851 over 103 patents were issued for improvements and inventions related to umbrellas


Parasols became a popular feminine accessory in the early nineteenth century among aristocratic English women.  Some of the more enterprising of these women had the handles fitted to carry perfume, writing materials or even a dagger.

1830 – The first dedicated umbrella shop, James Smith & Sons, opens its doors in London.  It is still open today, in the exact same location.

1852 – Samuel Fox invents the steel ribbed design.  Before this time whalebone was used predominantly.  He claimed to have implemented the use of steel as a way to use up excess stocks of steel stays intended for women’s corsets.

1928 – Hans Hupt’s pocket umbrella arrives

1930s – the ladies parasol finally fell from popular fashion

In the U.S., the annual market for umbrellas hovers at around $350 million


The word Bumbershoot, a synonym for umbrella, is an Americanism that came into use in the 1890s (I always thought this originated in England)

During the Napoleonic Wars, some British soldiers took umbrellas with them into battle.  Some Americans also took umbrellas with them into battle during the Indian Wars.
The study of umbrellas actually has its own name – brolliology

More replacement umbrella purchases are made due to lost than broken umbrellas.  In London alone nearly 75,000 umbrellas are forgotten on buses and subways each year.

The superstition about it being bad luck to open an umbrella indoors came from an ancient African belief.  The umbrellas at that time and placed were used a sunscreens.  They believed it was an insult to the sun god to open an umbrella in the shade and that doing so would bring his wrath down upon them.

So what do you think?  Did any of these facts surprise you?

Horse Power to Horsepower


“When a man opens a car door for his wife,

 it’s either a new car or a new wife.” 

                                                                                      Prince Phillip

Ah, the automobile. What would we do without it?  The car I most remember is a battered old ’61 white Valiant with a stick shift.  The clunker almost caused me to gave birth and file for a divorce on the same night.  That’s because my husband steadfastly refuses to drive over the speed limit.  No thanks to him, I missed giving birth in that auto by mere seconds.


 The reason I have cars on my mind this month is because  of my new book, Waiting for Morning, a historical romance set in Arizona Territory in 1896. The hero, Dr. Caleb Fairbanks introduces the Last Chance Ranch cowhands to his beloved gas-powered “horseless carriage,” Bertha. When Caleb and backfiring Bertha incite gunfire from former dance hall girl, Molly Hatfield, the handsome doctor barely escapes with his life.  Little does he know that his troubles have only just begun.


Today, cars are blamed for everything from global warming to funding terrorism through oil dependency.  It might surprise you to learn that it wasn’t that long ago that the old gray mare was held responsible for the social and economic ills of the world.


In 1908, it was estimated that New York City alone would save more than a million dollars a year by banning horses from its streets. That’s how much it cost back then to clean up the tons of manure clogging the roadways each year. 


 A tree never hits an automobile except in self defense. 

American Proverb

Horses were also blamed for traffic congestion, accidents, diseases and, of all things, noise pollution.  Hooves clattering on cobblestones were said to aggravate nervous systems.  Even Benjamin Franklin complained about the “thundering of coaches, chariots, chaises, waggons, drays and the whole fraternity of noise” that assailed the ears of Philadelphia residents.


The first automobiles to drive west were driven by insurance salesmen and land agents.  When an attorney in a small Texas town rose to leave during an important trial, he practically emptied the courtroom. Jurors,  witnesses and spectators all wanted to see his two-cylinder Maxwell.  An irate judge pounded his gavel and ordered the autorist to “Drive the contraption a mile out of town where there are no horses and permit everyone to look it over so the court can resume its regular business.”


As with all technology, outlaws were quick to see the advantage of automobiles. The auto allowed for a quick get-away and would keep going long after a horse gave out. This left local sheriffs at a disadvantage. 


Youths hopped on the auto band-wagon long before their elders and many ceased driving the family springboards entirely. Frontier lawmen suddenly found themselves issuing stern warnings, not to outlaws, but to racing youths.


Remember: When everything’s coming your way,

you’re in the wrong lane.


The automobile was supposed to make the world a safer, saner, quieter and healthier place.  That’s something to think about the next time you’re stuck in traffic.  But take heart: the safer, quieter, more economical Robot Car is here. 

To celebrate the publication of my book, my publisher is running a fun contest. To enter all you have to do is write a paragraph or two about the car that played a part in your life’s story and send to:

That’s it!  The winner will receive a $100 gas card. 

 So what car played a part in your life story?


To order print or eBook click on cover

Better yet, order from your local bookstore.