Friday, August 22, 2014

Getting Places

"I call shotgun!"
By  Alison Bruce

As a single mother of two, I hear this phrase every time we head for the car. Now that they are both old enough to sit up front, I have the job of Solomon making sure that each gets they're turn in the choice spot. Since I'm also a history buff and author, I also know that drivers for centuries have had the same task.

The best seat on the coach is beside the driver. That and other useful advice was attributed to the Omaha Herald, 1877. Other advice includes:
  • Never ride in cold weather with tight boots or shoes, nor close-fitting gloves.
  • When the driver asks you to get off and walk, do it without grumbling. He will not request it unless absolutely necessary. If a team runs away, sit still and take your chances; if you jump, nine times out of ten you will be hurt.
  • In very cold weather, abstain entirely from liquor while on the road; a man will freeze twice as quick while under its influence.
 Further down the list...
  • If you have anything to take in a bottle, pass it around; a man who drinks by himself in such a case is lost to all human feeling. Provide stimulants before starting; ranch whisky is not always nectar.
Mark Twain described his overland journey from St. Jo to Carson City in Roughing It. Today the journey would take twenty-two hours by car.  Mark Twain's journey took just under nine days... and that was unusually fast for the times.
"We changed horses every ten miles, all day long, and fairly flew over the hard, level road. We jumped out and stretched our legs every time the coach stopped, and so the night found us still vivacious and unfatigued."
This wouldn't last. There were only three people on the coach, two of which were Samuel Clemons and his brother. All other available space was taken up by mail bags. Usually passengers were cheek and jowl with other passengers.
 "We began to get into country, now, threaded here and there with little streams. These had high, steep banks on each side, and every time we flew down one bank and scrambled up the other, our party inside got mixed somewhat. First we would all lie down in a pile at the forward end of the stage, nearly in a sitting posture, and in a second we would shoot to the other end and stand on our heads."
Having, as a child, been packed into a car with three adults, two children, luggage and Christmas gifts for a ten hour drive to visit family, I can sympathize.

Highways are smoother. Distances seem shorter. Regardless, when hitting the road, the concluding words of the Omaha Herald article still hold true:
 "...expect annoyance, discomfort and some hardships. If you are disappointed, thank heaven"


Caroline Clemmons said...

Enjoyable post, Alison.

Lynda McCoy said...

Great post Allison. I too had to call shotgun as a youngster or fight my sister. Thanks for letting us know another reason "not to drink and drive" LOL