It’s a fact that communication on a large ranch was one of the biggest problems. At times it was crucial to get some way to relay information to the cowboys on the range as quickly as possible. Or for them to notify headquarters in the event of a medical emergency or wildfire. Before the late 1800s, it was done by sending a fast rider out.
I found an interesting article in my Texas Electric Co-op magazine about this and have to share.
One of the largest ranches in the world was the massive XIT in the Texas Panhandle at over three million acres, all fenced. That’s hard to fathom. The powers that be there heard about a way of attaching a very basic form of telephone onto the barbed wire fences and letting the wire carry the transmission. Though the quality was horrible, it sure proved to be a blessing. And all at no charge. They didn’t have to pay the phone service anything and they could even connect neighboring ranches with each other.
Later, when the phone company began to provide rural service, they took that idea and used existing power lines instead of stringing new.
I have a new release on March 29th—A Man of Legend. It takes place in 1908 in the middle of an industrialization boom and although the patriarch Stoker Legend wouldn’t allow telephones or automobiles on the Lone Star Ranch, they were widely available.
There’s a crucial scene near the end of the book where Crockett Legend needs to get word quickly to his grandfather of the trouble and bemoans the lack of telephone access. It all works out and Crockett had to hitch a ride in an acquaintance’s new automobile to arrive in time to help save the day.
Here’s a short excerpt from that scene:
Crockett glanced up into John’s laughing eyes. The only person the man would do a favor like this for was Farrel Mahone. His gut twisted, and he broke out in a cold sweat. Suddenly, it all made sense. John was supposed to get Crockett off the ranch. He froze.
Farrel was going to make good on his promise to kill either Paisley or Hilda or both.
Or maybe he intended to abduct Tye. Maybe all three.
Crockett stood so fast, he knocked his chair over. He had to get to a telegraph. He hurried out and collided with a woman in the hall. “Pardon me, ma’am. This is life and death.”
Cursing the fact that Stoker had yet to install a telephone at headquarters, Crockett rushed down the street and sent a message to the Lone Star.
“I’ll wait for a reply,” he told the operator. Ten minutes passed. Crockett paced, praying for a miracle. Then the machine began to tap while the man scribbled it down.
“Here you go.” The operator handed the paper to him.
Too late. Boy has disappeared, and women riding to get him back.
A moment later, Crockett fired off another, asking about his dad. The return message said he and Stoker had gone to Medicine Springs to pick up a shipment.
He sagged. Too late. He read the first message again. What women? Paisley and Hilda? Where were the men? Had they all left the ranch? He thrust a hand through his hair. He had to get home.
“Isn’t there a noon train to Medicine Springs?” he asked the operator.
“Thank you.” Crockett‘s thoughts whirled. He couldn’t wait that long. He was eighty miles away. If he bought a horse and rode it hard, he still wouldn’t make it by dark. He’d have to wait on the train. That would get him to Medicine Springs by eight, then forty-five minutes to the ranch.
That was it. All the air went out of him. Whatever was going on, the women were on their own. He dropped into the nearest seat and put his head in his hands.
* * * *
I put a talking parrot named Casanova in this book that provides a lot of comical relief. He is quite taken with Paisley Mahone and fancies himself her boyfriend. And since Paisley becomes a nurse on the ranch, there are heartwarming scenes with her patients. Crockett watches all with love in his heart for this special woman.
This is the first series I’ve written set in the 1900s. What is your favorite time period to read? Do modern conveniences bother you? I’m giving away a copy of A Man of Legend (print or ebook) to three people who comment.
This book concludes the Lone Star Legends. I have another exciting project that’s completely different that I’ll talk more about in the coming days so stay tuned.