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.
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:
The following is a short except from Dawn Comes Early. Eleanor owns the Last Chance Ranch. Robert proposes to her yearly, but has never mentioned the word love. This is a good thing—a very good thing. Because even an old hand like Eleanor can’t protect her heart forever.
Miss Margaret is giving away a copy of her book,
so speak up or forever hold your peace!
(Your choice: print or eBook!)
Excerpt 1 — Dawn Comes Early
Robert picked out a clear sandy spot and knelt on one knee. He pulled off his hat and held it to his chest. Most men his age would be at least half bald but not him. His silver hair was just as full and lush as that of a much younger man.
Eleanor gazed down at Robert. “Must you be so dramatic?”
“It’s my proposal. I can be as dramatic as I please.”
“Very well. If you insist.”
He cleared his throat and his pale blue eyes held hers. “Will you, Eleanor Walker, do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
Each year on her birthday he proposed marriage and each year she turned him down—and for good reason. Arizona Territory community property laws would make Robert half owner of her ranch. Her painful divorce taught her the folly of shared ownership and she had no intention of making the same mistake twice.
“How long have we been doing this, Robert?”
“Fourteen, fifteen years,” he said. “But like I’ve told you many times, I’m a patient man.”
“I’m not sure that patient is the right word,” she said. “In any case, the answer is no.” No surprises, there.
Her answer hung between them for several moments before he rose and brushed the sand off his trouser leg. “Same time, same place next year.”
Miss Phyliss is giving away a copy of Give Me a Texas Ranger, so be sure to leave a comment!
In my story, One Woman, One Ranger for our anthology,Give Me a Texas Ranger, I used factual events of Mickey and Frenchy McCormick and how they were forced into marriage. I took that tidbit of history and turned it around where my Texas Ranger, Hayden McGraw, is faced with a similar situation. As a matter of fact, McGraw’s character was developed from a real life crusty ol’ Texas Ranger in the Texas Panhandle in the late 1800’s.
Please note that I am using some quotes from the book, but also leaving parts out, so you won’t find every single word of these excerpts in the story.
Excerpt 2 –– “One Woman, One Ranger” in Give Me A Texas Ranger
Not only was he tired, hungry, and dirty, but technically, Hayden McGraw guessed he was still on suspension with the Texas Rangers. The last thing he needed was to become involved in the quarrel that seemed to be brewing in Buffalo Springs, Texas. It wasn’t any of his concern … yet.
First Lieutenant McGraw finds a place to quench his thirst where he walks right into the middle of a room full of grumpy towns folks, including an old toad named Baldy, waiting on the Justice of the Peace to commence a meeting …
“Where’s that dern justice of the peace anyways?” A boisterous voice boomed. “He called this meeting.”
“Probably at Molly Lou’s showing off his new book of marriage licenses, trying to make the gamblers and dancehall girls see the error of their ways,” Mr. Baldy answered. “He says you’ve gotta get hitched if you’re livin’ without benefit of clergy–“
“What in the heck is that supposed to mean?” A woman, not so lady like, spouted.
“Means everybody in Newman County has gotta get legit. No marriage license, no beddin’.” Baldy’s eyes narrowed, brows knitted together. “I’m jest quotin’ the JP.”
It doesn’t take long for McGraw to encounter the feisty, beautiful Patience Eleanor Stevenson, who has come to town to fight for the rights of the ladies who work in Molly Lou’s, her drinking establishment across the creek. She enters the saloon mad as a peeled rattler ….
“Women have rights, and we’re nobody’s have to! We don’t have to do anything, just because a man tells us to do so.”
The bully of a sheriff takes umbrage at her attitude and threatens to arrest her if she doesn’t leave. Unfortunately, Hayden can see how things are unraveling. The sheriff attempts to physically remove her, but comes up on the losing end of the stick … she punches him accidentally.
Before Hayden can blink the sheriff tries to arrest her, but the towns folks would just as soon see her hanged. Suddenly, the Texas Ranger is faced with … A beautiful woman with a noose around her neck, no proof he is a Texas Ranger, and a pompous-ass of a sheriff with hangin’ on his mind. Ranger McGraw, being the senior law enforcer, tries to take custody of her….
Sheriff Oldham smirked in a gottcha way. “And, I reckon you don’t even know her name.”
Having a knack for remembering details to a flaw, McGraw says, “Patience Eleanor Stevenson.” He pushed his Stetson back with his thumb. “But, I call her Puddin’ Cake.” He turned to Ella, and said, “Don’t I, wife?”
If looks could kill, Ella’s face would be on every Wanted Poster between the Canadian and the Rio Grande….
“Miss Stevenson, uh Mrs. McGraw.” … “Uh, I’m Wilson Scott, Newman County JP. This won’t take long. Reckon we gotta get the formalities out of the way.” He opened a black ledger. “If you’ll both sign here, then all I’ll need is the fee and your union will be duly recorded as required by law.”
“Can’t this wait? The misses and I are tired and hungry. And, I want to clear up the matter of the Warrant.”
“No, sir.“ The JP stood his ground.
“Nope, Ranger. This needs tending to … now!” Sheriff Oldham interjected.
“Gotcha fee right here.” Dixie (one of Ella’s employees) pulled a stringed bag from between her breasts and began counting out coins.
Reluctantly, Hayden signs his name to the ledger.
Ella folded her arms across her chest and tapped her foot, resisting the JP’s demands. As if it were Hayden’s fault, she furrowed her brow and sent him a go to blue blazes look which scathed all the way to his toes and back again.
“It’s them or me.” Hayden nodded toward the Sheriff and Baldy, who now held the noose.
Almost knocking the JP off the porch, she seized the ledger. In an exquisite script, Ella scrolled her name across the paper. She shared her frown with Dixie, as she handed over the fee.
Dixie raised an eyebrow and shrugged her shoulders. “Should I let them hang you?”