Sunday, January 31, 2021

I've Been Working on the Railroad by Zina Abbott

 I’m so good at doing things backwards. I recently published a book about train travel in which I highlighted some of the employees on the train due to arrive in 1881. I thought I researched the railroad fairly well. I got it mostly right, but not quite. In my story, I have about three conductors. In reality, there is only one conductor on a train, although he might have assistants.  All is not lost, though. I have a couple of book plots coming up that involve train travel. My new-found knowledge will come in handy.

Here are a few jobs that helped a nineteenth century train run smoothly.


The engineer was responsible for operating the locomotive. He was also in charge of the mechanical operation of the train, train speed, and all train handling. If the locomotive needed to be repaired in a remote area, he was the one who fixed it. He is responsible for preparing equipment for service, checking paperwork and the condition of his locomotive. He is also in charge of the mechanical operation of the train including controlling steam pressure, boiler water level, fire box temperature, acceleration, braking, and handling of the train underway. He needs to know the physical characteristics of the railroad, including passenger stations, the incline and decline of the right-of-way and speed limits. As the train is moving he watches for obstructions on the rails ahead.

Since he was able to make the steam engine come to life and pull the train, the locomotive Engineer was the most heroic and glamorous train figure during the nineteenth century. He enjoyed certain privileges of the position. He was allowed to have his engine painted whatever colors he chose. He was allowed to alter the sound of the whistle by placing wooden stops in it, to create a unique and distinct sound. Rail employees and family members often knew who was operating a particular locomotive by the distinct sound of the whistle. The engineer was paid $4.00 a day.

To become an engineer he had to work his way up. Quite often he started out years before as a Wiper in a yard house. Next, he worked his way up to Engine Watchman, then to Switch-engine Fireman, then Road Fireman, then Hostler, then to Engineer.

Working his way up:


The Wiper's job was to work a 12 hour shift in the roundhouse, where he packed the internal moving parts of the engine with wads of greasy waste. The pay was $1.75 a day. This was the starting job that lead to the engineer's seat.

Engine Watchman

This man's job was to keep water in the boiler and keep enough fire going in the firebox to move the locomotive within the railroad yard.

Switch-Engine Fireman

The one learning the trade, called the Switch-engine Fireman, who worked in yard and never left on a traveling or "road" engines.

Locomotive Fireman

The fireman and engineer operated a steam locomotive as a team. The fireman managed the output of steam. His boiler had to respond to frequent changes in demand for power, as the train sped up, climbed hills, changed speeds, and stopped at stations. A skilled fireman anticipated changing demand as he fed coal to the firebox and water to the boiler. At the same time, the fireman was the “copilot” of the train who knew the signals, curves, and grade changes as well as the engineer.


The Hostler went into the yard and picked up an engine from where the journeyman engineer left it running. He moved it into the roundhouse.

Switch-engine Engineer

This position was held by apprentice engineers learning the trade. Their job was to move railroad cars (also known as "rolling stock") around the railroad yard. Getting loaded boxcars on the right tracks and getting them hooked up for the road engines to pick up just before leaving the station. Once the apprentice engineer proved his ability with handling the switch-engines, the next opening for a Road Engineer would be his.


Since the 1840's, to the average nineteenth century passenger, the conductor was the most visible railroad worker they encountered. Conductors wore distinctive uniforms and hats. As train crews went, especially passenger trains, the conductor held the legal authority over the train. (They still do.)

His job required diplomatic skill when dealing with passengers. Among their duties, the conductor collected the tickets from passengers, sold passage to those who boarded the train without purchasing a ticket where there was no ticket agent, supervised the other trainmen, settled arguments, and admonished misbehaving children or inebriated passengers. A conductor often dealt with crooks and swindlers. Like first responders of today, they were required to deal with all manner of emergencies such as delivering babies or doctoring the smashed or severed fingers of one of the train's crew. He has presided over the cars in the train with a fatherly dignity. The conductor filled the public relations function for the railroad by answering passengers’ questions and helping them to resolve difficulties.

In charge of train in its entirety, there was only one conductor per train. On large trains, he might have an assistant conductor or two to handle some of the duties.

Where the engineer and fireman remained in the locomotive, Along with one or two brakemen, the conductor stayed in the caboose when he was not required elsewhere in the train. The caboose provided shelter along with a stove for heating and cooking, seats, and make-shift beds. It also included a desk and chair for the conductor. The caboose car was also a place to store shovels, brooms, wrenches, chains, couplers, lanterns, and other miscellaneous equipment.

The conductor was (and still is) the railroad employee charged with the management of either a freight or passenger train. He was the direct supervisor of the train's crew. He was required to carry an accurate watch, which was regularly inspected. He was to ensure that the train was running according to the timetable. It was the conductor who had the responsible to signal the engineer when to start moving and when and where to stop. On a freight train, the conductor was also responsible for keeping the record of the consignment notes and waybills. He directed any switching that needed to be performed in order to drop off and pick up cars along the line.

Working his way up to Conductor

A conductor typically worked his way up from Flagman.


Prior to about 1900, flagmen were called Freight Conductors. The flagman is the senior brakeman. He had worked his way up the ladder by being competent, which in many cases, meant he must avoid being killed. Since he picked new orders for the train at various stops along the way, he had to be able to read. He might also have been given the responsibility for collecting fares from passengers that rode in the inexpensive boxcars on the freight trains.

When, a train wreck occurred, or when a train was required to stop for some unusual reason, and it blocked the main set of tracks, the flagman's job was to set up warning devices along the track in the direction of any expected train. In the early days this meant they positioned themselves at a visible point as far down the tracks as possible to be able to wave a flag and warn any oncoming train of the dangers ahead.


During the early days of railroading, one of the most deadly jobs in America was that of Brakeman. The brakeman Inspected the train, assisted the conductor when he wanted the train to slow down or stop, operated the brakes, and assisted in switching tracks to determine the direction the train would travel. He also inspected and repaired brakes.

A brakeman's duties also included ensuring that the couplings between cars were properly set, lining  up the tracks for switches, and signaling to the train operators while performing switching operations.  The brakemen often rode in the caboose, the last car in the train. This allowed one brakeman to apply the brakes of the caboose quickly and easily, which helped to slow the train.

Prior to 1888 when Westinghouse developed a reliable air brake, stopping a train or a rolling car was very primitive. Iron wheels, located on top of the cars, were connected to a manual braking system by a long metal rod. Particularly in cases, such as descending a long, steep grade, the brakemen, usually two to a train, rode on top of the car. On a whistle signal from the engineer, the brakemen, one at the front of the train and one at the rear of the train, began turning the iron wheels to engage the brakes. When one car was completed, a brakeman jumped the thirty inches or so to the next car and repeated the operation. The brakemen worked toward each other until all cars had their brakes applied. On some lines, it was common practice for the brakemen to stay on top of the cars the entire time the train was in motion.

Tightening down too much could cause the rolling wheel to skid, grinding a flat spot on the wheel. When this happened, the railroad usually charged the brakeman for a new wheel. New wheels cost $45, which was exactly what a brakeman earned a month. In good weather, the brakemen enjoyed riding on top of the cars and viewing the scenery. However, they also were required to ride up there in all kinds of weather. Jumping from one car to the next at night or in freezing weather could be very dangerous, not to mention the fact that the cars usually rocked from side to side.

I do know this continued to be a dangerous job even in later years. My uncle worked as a brakeman. During a flash flood where there was hydroplaning on the tracks, he moved from car to car to apply the brakes. He was not on the roof—they had pull cords in each car to activate electric brakes by then (mid-1950s). However, as he moved through the cars, he got caught between two of them just as they jackknifed.

Keeping things coordinated

The engineer and the conductor had the responsibility to compare watches. It was necessary that both their watches were set to railroad standard time. Since they shared responsibility for the safe operation of the train and application of the rules and procedures of the railway company they also reviewed train orders they received. To see a website showing an engineer and conductor coordinating the time on their watches, please CLICK HERE.

Along with the conductor, the engineer monitors time so the train doesn't fall behind schedule, nor leave stations early. The train's speed must be reduced when following other trains, approaching route diversions, or when regulating time over road to avoid arriving too early.


Porters made their appearance on the railroad with the Pullman cars. The first Pullman porter began working aboard the sleeper cars around 1867, and they quickly became a fixture of the company’s sought-after traveling experience. Just as all of his specially trained conductors were white, Pullman recruited only black men, many of them from the former slave states in the South, to work as porters. Mr. Pullman’s objective was to hire men who knew how to behave like the perfect servant. Their job was to carry baggage, shine shoes, set up and clean the sleeping berths, and serve passengers in the Pullman cars and at rail terminals.


My most recently published book is Kate’s Railroad Chef. The position my hero, Garland McAllister holds with the railroad at the start of the story will be covered in next month’s blog post. For the book description and link, please CLICK HERE.









Thursday, January 28, 2021


 Growing up, I discovered a love of pen and paper early. It was a really strange love for it in which I exulted in the actual smell of a new ream of paper or a box of pencil erasers just after it had been opened. At that time, I knew I enjoyed making up little stories for characters I liked to draw on paper, but I didn't quite understand my fascination with paper and other school supplies itself until I became a serious writer later in life. But back to those early days . . . My father was a 5th-grade teacher. Every summer I enjoyed going down to his classroom with him and setting up desks, getting school supplies ready (those were the days when the schools supplied everything), and putting up some nice bulletin boards. Everything had to be done just so, which was a little tedious, but it also showed me how much my dad cared about his students and wanted them to have the best year possible.

At that time, I also thought that I wanted to become a teacher when I grew up. I carried an ideal in my head of teaching writing and literature, mathematics, some art and music, and having a perfectly running classroom much like having a well-oiled machine. Little did I know how difficult it was to actually teach. Students could become unruly at times, and teachers often find themselves in the middle of their students' parents and their administrators' desires. It's a difficult profession made even more difficult by these outside factors as well as increasingly stringent expectations that come from state legislators as well. Even though my desire to teach school didn't last beyond earning my teaching degree (which I did in 1999), I still have a profound respect for teachers and all the pressures they have to deal with. I often think that I may have enjoyed being a teacher in the 1800s more.

But would I have, really? Teachers back then didn't have it any easier, though life was much different. Every morning the classroom had to be swept and a fire lit before the children arrived. Other janitorial duties were to be performed weekly. In rural communities, school often took place in one room, which sometimes was a church building or other building that was designated for multiple purposes. The teacher was expected to teach a range of age groups as well as a range of subjects that I'm not sure I would have done well at. There were no cars to drive up to the school building in. Everyone either walked or rode a horse to school, often in freezing temperatures. Since parents had to pay for their children's education, arrangements were made for the teacher to live with each family for a short time and rotate around in that fashion. Not every home provided decent accommodations.

Female teachers couldn't be married, and there were even strict guidelines for her social outings. She was expected to be a moral compass not only for her students, but for the entire community. Here is an example of the kind of conduct that was expected of a teacher.




Here is a puzzle that you might enjoy putting together which I created from a picture I took of what I believe is an older schoolhouse (or probably a rebuilt one) in a small town in Illinois when I visited the state in 2015.


Also, the picture below depicts the inside of a replica of a one-room schoolhouse that exists at an environmental learning center in my area. This is a place that several students from various schools visited before COVID-19 on field trips to learn about animal habits, fossils, and more. I went with my youngest son on his field trip and we enjoyed learning about the footprints that various animals in our area leave on the ground. The children were able to use these rubber stamps to make animal prints on paper. What a terrific activity!





I really do appreciate all the hard work that teachers put into their profession. It is clearly not for the pay that they do it, but for the love of learning and love of the children.


In my current work in progress, Ariana Stover is a teacher in rural Oregon. She has been through some harrowing events in her younger years, but has overcome them admirably, and those events have shaped her character. When an unruly twelve-year-old boy's father abandons him, and motivated by those events from her younger years, Ariana volunteers to take the boy into her care and help him become a better contributing member of society. The sheriff of Hope Hollow, Ben Tolleson, isn't one to tolerate nonsense, however, and is keeping a close eye on the situation. He and Ariana butt heads for a while, but eventually they'll come to an agreement on the best way to handle Billy. One complication that neither of them foresees, however, is when Billy's much older half-brother steps into the picture. Will their uneasy truce disintegrate, or will Ben and Ariana's fledgling relationship come out stronger in the end?




On the Wings of Hope is scheduled to release on February 12, 2021. Don't miss this exciting continuation in the Brides of Hope Hollow series! And if you didn't get a chance to read the previous books yet, they will be temporarily marked down during that week, so keep an eye out for some great deals!


Here's the preorder link for On the Wings of Hope

Reserve your copy today!

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


 By Caroline Clemmons

Although we share it with the South, one of the Southwest’s common sights is the cotton gin. Eli Whitney patented the first cotton gin in 1793. His invention increased the speed and quality of harvesting cotton. In the over two hundred years, the cotton gin has changed immensely. There is slight controversy over whether the idea of the modern cotton gin and its constituent elements are correctly attributed to Eli Whitney. 

Eli Whitney

The popular image of Whitney inventing the cotton gin is attributed to an article on the subject written in the early 1870s and later reprinted in 1910 in The Library of Southern Literature. In this article, the author claimed Catharine Littlefield Greene suggested to Whitney the use of a brush-like component instrumental in separating out the seeds and cotton. To date, Greene's role in the invention of the gin has not been verified independently.

Before Eli Whitney's Gin

Ancient Production

The worm gear roller gin, which was invented in the Indian subcontinent during the early Delhi Sultanate era of the 13th to 14th centuries, came into use in the Mughal Empire sometime around the 16th century, and is still used in the Indian subcontinent through to the present day. Another innovation, the incorporation of the crank handle in the cotton gin, first appeared sometime during the late Delhi Sultanate or the early Mughal Empire. The incorporation of the worm gear and crank handle into the roller cotton gin led to greatly expanded Indian cotton textile production during the Mughal era.

It was reported that, with an Indian cotton gin, which is half machine and half tool, one man and one woman could clean 28 pounds of cotton per day. With a modified Forbes version, one man and a boy could produce 250 pounds per day. If oxen were used to power 16 of these machines, and a few people's labor was used to feed them, they could produce as much work as 750 people did formerly.

The Indian roller cotton gin, known as the churka or charkha, was introduced to the United States in the mid-18th century, when it was adopted in the Southern United States. The device was adopted for cleaning long-staple cotton, but was not suitable for the short-staple cotton that was more common in certain Southern states. Several modifications were made to the Indian roller gin by Mr. Krebs in 1772 and Joseph Eve in 1788, but their uses remained limited to the long-staple variety, up until Eli Whitney's development of a short-staple cotton gin in 1793.

Whitney's Version

Whitney's Model

Whitney's cotton gin model was capable of cleaning 50 pounds (23 kg) of lint per day. The model consisted of a wooden cylinder surrounded by rows of slender spikes, which pulled the lint through the bars of a comb-like grid. The grids were closely spaced, preventing the seeds from passing through. Loose cotton was brushed off, preventing the mechanism from jamming. The invention of the cotton gin caused massive growth in the production of cotton in the United States, concentrated mostly in the South.

Cotton production expanded from 750,000 bales in 1830 to 2.85 million bales in 1850. As a result, the region became even more dependent on plantations that used slave labor, with plantation agriculture becoming the largest sector of its economy. While it took a single slave about ten hours to separate a single pound of fiber from the seeds, a team of two or three slaves using a cotton gin could produce around fifty pounds of cotton in just one day. The number of slaves rose in concert with the increase in cotton production, increasing from around 700,000 in 1790 to around 3.2 million in 1850. 

The invention of the cotton gin led to an increased demands for slaves in the American South, reversing the economic decline that had occurred in the region during the late 18th-century. The cotton gin thus "transformed cotton as a crop and the American South into the globe's first agricultural powerhouse". Because of its inadvertent effect on American slavery, and on its ensuring that the South's economy developed in the direction of plantation-based agriculture (while encouraging the growth of the textile industry elsewhere, such as in the North), the invention of the cotton gin is frequently cited as one of the indirect causes of the American Civil War.

Nation's oldest continuously operating cotton gin

Burton, Texas

Modern Cotton Gins

In modern cotton production, cotton arrives at industrial cotton gins either in trailers, in compressed rectangular "modules" weighing up to 10 metric tons each or in polyethylene wrapped round modules similar to a bale of hay produced during the picking process by the most recent generation of cotton pickers. Cotton arriving at the gin is sucked in via a pipe, approximately 16 inches (41 cm) in diameter, that is swung over the cotton. This pipe is usually manually operated, but is increasingly automated in modern cotton plants.

The need for trailers to haul the product to the gin has been drastically reduced since the introduction of modules. If the cotton is shipped in modules, the module feeder breaks the modules apart using spiked rollers and extracts the largest pieces of foreign material from the cotton. The module feeder's loose cotton is then sucked into the same starting point as the trailer cotton.

The cotton then enters a dryer, which removes excess moisture. The cylinder cleaner uses six or seven rotating, spiked cylinders to break up large clumps of cotton. Finer foreign material, such as soil and leaves, passes through rods or screens for removal. The stick machine uses centrifugal force to remove larger foreign matter, such as sticks and burrs, while the cotton is held by rapidly rotating saw cylinders.

The gin stand uses the teeth of rotating saws to pull the cotton through a series of "ginning ribs", which pull the fibers from the seeds which are too large to pass through the ribs. The cleaned seed is then removed from the gin via an auger conveyor system. The seed is reused for planting or is sent to an oil mill to be further processed into cottonseed oil and cottonseed meal pellets for animal food. The lint cleaners again use saws and grid bars, this time to separate immature seeds and any remaining foreign matter from the fibers. The bale press then compresses the cotton into bales for storage and shipping. Modern gins can process up to 15 tons (33,000 lb) of cotton per hour.

Modern cotton gins create a substantial amount of cotton gin residue (CGR) consisting of sticks, leaves, dirt, immature bolls, and cottonseed. Research is currently under way to investigate the use of this waste in producing ethanol. Due to fluctuations in the chemical composition in processing, there is difficulty in creating a consistent ethanol process, but there is potential to further maximize the utilization of waste in the cotton production.

Cotton is still a big crop in many areas. The boll weevil is still feared for the destruction it can create. The boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) is a beetle that feeds on cotton buds and flowers. Thought to be native to Central Mexico, it migrated into the United States in the late 19th century and had infested all U.S. cotton-growing areas by the 1920s, devastating the industry and the people working in the American South. During the late 20th century, it became a serious pest in South America as well. Since 1978, the Boll Weevil Eradication Program in the U.S. allowed full-scale cultivation to resume in many regions. Close surveillance continues to make certain that none of the little critters invade again.

Davis Gin, Dodson, Texas
Where my dad worked for decades

Cotton and My Life

For two decades before I was born and again for four years when I was a child, my father managed a cotton gin. He had worked at one most of his adult life. Our family had no idea this business was related to the Civil War or slavery, nor did our many relatives who farmed cotton.

After teaching two years, my father quit that job at the urging of two of his brothers because he could make more money working at the gin. This is a disgraceful, sad testimony to the plight of education and teachers! I have to stress Daddy always regretted not sticking with teaching.

If you’ve not been around a working gin, you’re in luck. These large plants belched pollution in aid of processing raw cotton into bales. Modern restrictions have decreed that they cannot burn burrs or pollute the landscape as in ages past. Trust me, they’re still not a business you’d want as a neighbor!

My late brother used to joke that at any crossroads where there was a cotton gin, there was also a café. While this is generally true, we lived at two places where there was only the gin, the gin office and scales, and a couple of houses—one for the gin manager and one for the lead ginner. Sometimes there were a few dwellings amounting to little more than the most basic housing (shacks) for other workers.



Sunday, January 24, 2021


 Chicago? New York? San Francisco? No, in 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes declared a small, single street in a New Mexico town to be the most dangerous street in America.

How could a short length of road down the middle of a New Mexico town be considered so dangerous? Greed and prejudice created the danger in Lincoln County, New Mexico, the name of that town.

Anyone who looks up the Lincoln County War on the Internet can discover the basic facts. Billy the Kid and the Regulators, even John Tunstall, are familiar names to many people. What is less known, I believe, is the prejudice that fueled the bloody years in the small town.

In the British Isles, Irish and English had a centuries old feud. This Old War conflict reignited in the new world that the West represented to Americans and immigrants alike. A man named Murphy ran a store and a rancher named Tunstall started another one in direct competition to the Irish US army veteran's business. Tunstall had immigrated from England. His accent alone would have been enough probably to set off Murphy who hated the English.

The prejudice involved more than Irish versus English. The hatred was rooted in religion. This was a conflict between Catholics and Protestants. That conflict also raged in Europe and raised its ugly head in New Mexico. 

Murphy's store became the site of the Lincoln Co. jail.
I include this 
store in my own novel.

After I researched the events surrounding those bloody years in New Mexico, I realized the importance of religion and ethnicity as causes. This inspired me to create my own small New Mexican town set in 1881. I named my mythical town Harmony since it lacked that and desperately needed it. This town is also separated by racial and religious tensions, the same ones that caused murder and revenge in Lincoln County.

Renie Hunter gladly accepts Harland McGregor's proposal before he leaves to join the Army of the West. Two years pass before he finally sends for her. Her uncle, the man who raised her, insists the young couple marry by proxy before she leaves. He argues New Mexico is far from the world they know.

The proxy marriage might prove to be a bad idea after all. When Renie arrives in the small western town of Harmony, the husband who meets her train seems different from the sweetheart who slipped the small ring on her finger years earlier. Will she still be able to reach the tenderness buried deep inside Harland?

The novel is loosely based on the Lincoln County War.

Friday, January 22, 2021


Post by Doris McCraw writing as Angela Raines

The author as Helen (Hunt) Jackson

Each January I visit the final gravesite of Helen (Hunt) Jackson. In many ways, it helps me set my course for the coming year. Now, lest you think this is a huge journey, it's not. In fact, I visit her site throughout the year. It is about six miles from my home. However, in January I think about how her life and work have had an influence on my writing career.

View from Helen's Gravesite
Photo property of the Author

To illustrate I thought I'd share some of the events from her life that have an impact on me.

1.  She didn't start writing until later in life. (After the death of her first husband, and two children over a period of  twelve years from the death of her first son in 1854 to her second son in 1865)

2.  She began writing poetry, then moved to essays, and then novels. She added non-fiction books with the publication of "Century of Dishonor"

3.  It is said she wrote from around 5am to Noon every day unless ill.

4.  When she took up a 'hobby' as she called it, she devoted herself to see it through. 

5.  Although known for her work on behalf of the Indians in her later life, many of her early essays dealt with the way children were treated.

6.  She loved nature and wrote about her various journeys and observations.

7.  Although intensely private herself, she was a keen observer of human nature

Alternate view from the gravesite
Photo property of the author

There is much more about this amazing and complex woman that continues to draw me into reading her works and studying her life. When I stand by her gravesite I feel the pull to try to follow in her footsteps.

In honor of Helen and her poetry I humbly share one of my own.

Recapture the Past

Recapture the past
You lose what you have become
Days come to an end

Time and Circumstance

A tree is a tree
Beauty, strength and survival
Time and circumstance

Yes, I'm still writing. Hope to have a couple of novels out in 2021, (Yes, I do write slow.) But I did have a short story included in a Western Anthology this past year. Check out ' Gilbert Hopkins is going to Die' in the "Under Western Stars" anthology by the Western Fictioneers.

Amazon ebook

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Humor to heal what ails us!

 In this time of political unrest and the Covid pandemic, I’d like to lighten the mood by sharing some dashes of wisdom and humor from a charming little book titled Quotable Texas Women. Compiled by Susie Kelly Flatau and Lou Halsell Rodenberger, the quotes touch on many subjects. I’ve chosen a few to make you smile. And think.

The first rule of holes: when you’re in one, stop digging.  ~Molly Ivins, (1944– 2007) newspaper columnist, author, political commentator, and humorist

Older? It’s who you’ve always been, only later.  ~Jan Epton Seale, 2012 Texas Poet Laureate

I confess a great fondness for librarians. They are the quiet custodians of our most valuable treasure.  ~Evelyn Oppenheimer (1907-1998) book reviewer, writer, literary agent, editor

Cowgirls are ordinary women who have done extraordinary things. It’s a spirit they have.  ~Pat Riley, Miss Rodeo Texas

Laughing at yourself is the shampoo of the soul.  ~Artie Stockton, author

Cook things so you can tell what they are. Good plain food ain’t committed no crime and don’t need no disguise.  ~Mary Lasswell, (1905-1994) author

When in doubt—don’t.  ~Joan R. Neubauer, author

If you can’t make up your mind, “What the hell” is usually the right answer.  ~Ellen Reid Smith, author

My husband says he can read me like an open book. The only problem is he doesn’t know what page I’m on.  ~Sydney Newman Dotson, producer, screenwriter, author

At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent.  ~Barbara Bush, (1925–2018) former first lady of the United States

It’s not just enough to swing at the ball. You’ve got to loosen your girdle and let ’er fly.  ~Babe Didrikson Zaharias, (1911–1956) champion golfer, winner of 2 gold medals in track and field at 1932 Olympics

I am woman—hear me roar . . . or is that my vacuum cleaner?  ~Liz Carpenter, (1920–2010) feminist, reporter, media advisor, speech writer, political humorist

Now, here’s a bit of dry humor from My Voyager. Raphael, a 17th century buccaneer, has been transported to Galveston, Texas. It’s winter – 200 years in the future, which he has yet to realize. He pretends to have amnesia to explain his disorientation.

With his aching head full of questions, he decided to see what lay beyond the hotel. Striding to the entrance, he pushed open the heavy door and stepped outside. He was greeted by a cold wind that whipped his hair around and cut through his thin shirt. The sight of a wide thoroughfare bustling with activity startled him. Horse-drawn carriages of all shapes and sizes competed for space with pedestrians and an occasional horseman. Hearing a strange clacking sound, he turned his head to look up the street. He gasped, eyes nearly bugging out at what he saw. Charging toward him was a monster!

Painted in bright colors, the vehicle – or creature – moved along some sort of tracks in the middle of the street, with no horses pulling it. Raphael closed his eyes and rubbed his aching head, certain he must be seeing things, but when he opened his eyes the monster was still coming. The clack of metal wheels on metal tracks closed in on him.

Heart thumping in his chest, he stumbled backward, accidentally treading on a dainty foot. A woman’s shriek rang in his ears. Lurching away, he spun to face his victim.

“Mrs. Reynolds!” he blurted in surprise, dismayed by her pained expression and the way she bit her bottom lip. “I apologize for my clumsiness. Are you badly hurt?”

She expelled a shaky breath. “My toes are bruised, but I’ll survive. What are you doing out here without a coat in the middle of winter, sir? And why did you suddenly jump back like that?”

He turned halfway around and pointed at the ugly contraption that had clattered to a halt in front of the hotel, allowing people to climb into it. “That thing frightened me, I am ashamed to say. What is it? How does it move by itself without any horses to pull it?”

His lovely companion laughed. “Haven’t you ever seen a trolley, um, otherwise known as a streetcar? Oh dear!” She pressed gloved hands to her cheeks, her beautiful blue eyes filled with compassion. “Even if you did see one before, you don’t remember it, do you?”

Forced to continue the subterfuge he had begun, he shook his head. “No, I do not. Can you tell me what makes it move?”

“It runs on electricity. Do you know, I mean remember, what that is?”

“Regretfully, I do not. Please explain.”

“I’ll try, but I’m no expert on these modern conveniences.” She pointed skyward above the trolley, which was beginning to move again. “See that cable stretching along the street up there, and the pole connecting it to the trolley?”

“Yes, I see them.” He had not paid attention to these things before, too shocked by the strange conveyance to notice anything else.

“Well, the cable and pole carry electricity which runs the motor that turns the trolley wheels on the tracks.” Smiling, she gazed at him expectantly. “Understand?”

He started to nod but stopped, frowning. “Sí, but what is this electricity?”

Mrs. Reynolds blinked twice then stared at him blankly. “It-it’s like lightning, sort of, and very powerful. If you were to touch the cable . . .” She pointed upward again to the mysterious metal line. “. . . it would electrocute you, that is it would kill you instantly.”

Raphael gaped at her, then at the cable, completely astounded. He knew the power of lightning, of course, but learning it had somehow been captured in such a way left him speechless. Chills raced up and down his spine. Who had come up with this strange way of traveling and why had he never heard of it before?

“Now answer my first question,” Mrs. Reynolds said, breaking into his uneasy thoughts. “What are you doing out here in just that flimsy shirt? You must be freezing in this wind.”

He had forgotten the cold. Glancing down at his thin shirt, he realized he was shivering. “El portero, I mean the concierge told me this is an island. I wanted to see what it looks like.”

His interrogator sighed. “Well, you aren’t going to see much of it dressed as you are now. You’ll freeze to death. Come on, we’ll find you a coat to wear for the time being. Then we’ll see about getting you properly clothed.”

Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and paranormal romantic suspense novels, all spiced with sensual romance. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and two very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged babies.

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Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 

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