My fascination with the West goes back to my childhood. A combination of stories shared by my family of the "good old days" and tales of hair-raising adventure my oldest brother brought home when he wasn't off working on some secluded ranch next door to nowhere created a life-long interest in the West.
The summer I was nine, my parents and grandparents decided to go for a picnic one sunny Saturday. After driving what seemed like half of forever (but was closer to two hours), we arrived at a hot springs where we played and swam then feasted on Grandma's crispy fried chicken and slices of candy-sweet watermelon grown by my uncle.
As we packed up to leave, the owner at the hot springs wandered over and mentioned a museum we might like just a few miles down the road.
The museum provided a plethora of unique and intriguing items, especially for a girl who loved all things western.
One of those special off-the-road places that you don't find in guidebooks, the museum's massive collection of every day items filled a huge building and spilled out into the area surrounding it.
I was in heaven!
It was the first time I saw a pair of "open" bloomers. Thoroughly scandalized by the design, I think my mouth hung open when Grandma said she could remember her grandmother owning some just like them.
The museum had everything from old kitchen tins and scales to a bar from a saloon in a town that no longer existed.
Mining equipment, arrowheads, saddles and tack kept company with old cook stoves, a set of fine china, and an impressive collection of vintage cameras.
My head swirled with all the wondrous treasures.
Near the door, I noticed a stand with postcards for sale and quickly began begging for one.
Fast forward many years... the other day I unearthed the postcard. Memories of that trip flooded over me as I held it in my hand.
Of all the postcards I could have chosen that day, I picked the one labeled "Stagecoach Etiquette." The back of the postcard states: "An authentic set of rules posted in many stages in the old west. These rules may sound very humorous to us today but were taken very seriously by the passengers of that day."
Here's what you needed to know if you were planning a stagecoach excursion.
Adherence to the Following Rules Will Insure a Pleasant Trip for All
1. Abstinence from liquor is requested, but if you must drink, share the bottle. To do otherwise makes you appear selfish and un-neighborly.
2. If ladies are present, gentlemen are urged to forego smoking cigars and pipes as the odor of same is repugnant to the Gentle Sex. Chewing tobacco is permitted but spit WITH the wind, not against it.
3. Gentlemen must refrain from the use of rough language in the presence of ladies and children.
4. Buffalo robes are provided for your comfort during cold weather. Hogging robes will not be tolerated and the offender will be made to ride with the driver.
5. Don’t snore loudly while sleeping or use your fellow passenger’s shoulder for a pillow; he (or she) may not understand and friction may result.
6. Firearms may be kept on your person for use in emergencies. Do not fire them for pleasure or shoot at wild animals, as the sound riles the horses.
7. In the event of runaway horses, remain calm. Leaping from the coach in panic will leave you injured, at the mercy of the elements, hostile Indians and hungry coyotes.
8. Forbidden topics of discussion are stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings.
9. Gents guilty of unchivalrous behavior toward lady passengers will be put off the stage. It’s a long walk back. A word to the wise is sufficient.
Now that my love of the West has turned into writing sweet western romances, I enjoy incorporating details like these into my stories.
The opening scene of my book The Christmas Token takes place on a stagecoach with the very prim and proper Ginny Granger setting the male occupants of the stage on their ears when they try and get too friendly. Here's a little snippet from Ginny's story...
The cowboy sitting next to her rubbed his arm against her side and blew his breath across her neck. She glowered at him as she picked up her reticule and smacked him across the chest with it.
“Sir, I do not know what sort of lady you think I am, but I assure you I will not put up with your shenanigans!”
“No shenanigans, ma’am.” The cowboy grinned broadly as he winked and placed his hand on her knee, squeezing it with an intimacy he had no right to pursue.
“You brute! I’ve given you ample warning,” Ginny exclaimed, reaching up and pulling the pin from her hat before stabbing it into the hand of the cowboy.
Yelping in pain, he jerked his hand back and sucked on the spot of skin between his thumb and forefinger where she’d buried the pin.
“Please keep your extremities, looks, vile thoughts, and smile to yourself for the remainder of our expedition.” Ginny poked the pin back in her hat and leveled the man with a cold glare as he slid over, giving her a few inches of space. “If you should fail to do so, I’ll find a spot guaranteed to be more painful than your hand to jab my pin next time.”
A hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure, Shanna Hatfield is a best-selling author of clean romantic fiction written with a healthy dose of humor. In addition to blogging and eating too much chocolate, she is completely smitten with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.
Shanna creates character-driven romances with realistic heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America.
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