Saturday, July 31, 2021

I’ve Been Working in the Station by Zina Abbott

I started this series on railroad employees with the “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” post. To find the link, please CLICK HERE.

Today, I will be focusing more on those who worked at the train depots in the 19th century.

Fort Edward Station


Station Master/Depot Agent
Oversees operations connected with railroad building adjacent to tracks, where passengers and freight may be located.


Baggage Handler or Clerk
The baggage handlers duties were to load and unload baggage from inbound and outbound trains. They were responsible for tagging baggage, loading, unloading and routing baggage. In small towns, the telegraph operator or station agent usually did this. In large towns, such as Omaha, it was a full time job. The baggage handler had to make sure the baggage was placed on the right train, or was transferred from an inbound train to the right outbound train.

Baggage Master
The person in charge of the baggage car. From 1840 to about 1920, passengers referred to him as the "baggage smasher." They swore he held contests with the baggage handlers to see who could stand at one end of the baggage car and hit the far wall with someone's baggage.

Passenger Director
Directs and manages passenger traffic, provides information relating to passenger travel.



One employed to carry baggage for and assist patrons at rail terminals. Although porters worked more inside as a car attendant who waits on passengers and makes up berths, they also helped passengers manage their baggage while getting on and off the train. These employees were specifically hired by the Pullman company for their Pullman Sleeper cars, also known as
palace cars, which were a luxurious car for day or night travel.. Pullman hired Black men, because he wished employees in this position to be accustomed to being accommodating and serving the needs of others.

Ticket window Millbrae Station

Ticket Clerk
Stationed at the ticket window, this person provides tickets and tour information to passengers.

Here are some positions that might not be employees of a railroad but were often found at the station (depot):

Express Agent
While not actually an employee of the railroad per se, they were employed by the "Railway Express Agency," which was a private concern, and usually had an office in the depot. Their job was to ship packages, much like United Parcel Service (UPS) or Federal Express (Fed Ex) does today. Quite often, especially in smaller communities, the Express Agent was also on the payroll of the local railroad. He might have been the telegraph operator, or the ticket agent, or even the the station agent.

U.S. Mail rail car

RPO Clerk
Railroad postal clerk. These clerks were usually employees of the U.S. Post Office, especially if they sorted and routed mail while on special railroad cars. Others, merely picked up and dropped off bags of mail at specified locations.

Wiley Pitts, mail carrier at railroad station

Telegrapher      (Telegraph operator)

The person operating an electro-magnetic telegraph using Morse code to create audible messages sent to distant receiving instruments.


In my January book, Kate’s Railroad Chef, one of main characters,  Garland McAlister, was a ticket agent. One of the secondary characters was Quentin Thompson, the telegraph operator. Please CLICK HERE for the book description and purchase link.


A Bride for Quentin, my book most recently released, is Quentin’s romance. To find the book description and purchase link, please CLICKHERE.





Photo Gallery:

San Pablo Station


Chicago, Burlington & Quincy RR Depot, Osceola, IA


Whitford Station




Wednesday, July 28, 2021

10 Things I Didn't Know About Baby Chicks

By Julia Ridgmont

Let me preface this blog post by reminding anyone who has read previous posts from me that I grew up a schoolteacher's daughter. Other than dogs and the occasional stray cat who decided to make its home with us, I didn't grow up around animals. So when my husband, who did, decided to purchase some baby chicks (pullets?) recently, little did I know I was in for a huge learning experience.

He actually bought two batches. The first looked like they would be good chickens--and then they got bigger and we realized we had five roosters and only two hens. Oh, well. They'll taste good whenever we decide to use them in our favorite dishes like pot pie or lemon chicken and rice.

The second batch is doing well, but oh my goodness, what a racket they make! They're super cute, and my kids love them, but whenever I walk past them, they panic to the point where mayhem breaks out and we have to calm them down. They're starting to look like chickens now, too. Yay! So, with that, here are ten facts I didn't know about baby chicks before I became a semi-caretaker of some. Here, my daughter holds a chick in her hands, about 3 weeks old.

1. They can fly, though not far, even at a very young age. Once in a while, we see one fly up to the top of the cardboard box we have them in and simply perch there. Never fear. The kids are always on hand to help them go back to where they need to be.

2. Roosters are instinctive creatures. I always thought roosters crowed when the sun comes up. Ha! Was I in for a surprise! Our house remained relatively dark in the corner where we were keeping them, and they still crowed at 5:30 every morning. So awesome to woken up by your roosters when you've spent most of the night writing.

3. The chicks need a heat lamp for the first 3-4 weeks until they have more feathers. Thus the infrared light.

4. Their bedding has to be changed out daily, and sometimes two or three times a day, at least until they're old enough to go outside. Thankfully, my teenage son has taken on that job.

5. As they get older, chicks establish a pecking order. Hmm. That must be where that terms comes from. Something I'd never thought of.

6. They like dust baths. Fill a shallow pie pan with clean dirt and let go at it! Ahhhh, so refreshing!

7. Supposedly, the more chicks are handled when they're young, the more "civilized" they'll be to humans as adults. Just make sure you thoroughly wash your hands and any other areas they've touched afterward to kill germs that might make you sick.

8. They provide hours of entertainment for kids. The chicks have been a nice diversion for my children as summer break from school wears on. I'm glad they're having this experience!

9. If they start picking at their feathers, they're bored or there might not be enough space for them to move around. The good news, though, is these problems are easily fixed. You can buy or build a simple obstacle course for them, which we've found they love.

10. Chicks don't do well being raised with geese or ducks. It's best to keep them with their own kind at least until they are older and well-established in their surroundings. 

As I think about the experience of raising chicks, I am reminded of how the pioneers had to practically raise their own food. If they didn't work in their fields or go hunting, they didn't eat. The women who came west with their husbands were constantly working to feed and clothe their families. Some women, I'm sure, had more difficulties in this regard to adjust to than others. My heroines in the Spinster Mail-Order Brides series, Leah and Molly, fit into this category. If you would like to read about how they grew into their new roles as wife and instant mother to some very special motherless children, here's where you can find them.

Also, you may enjoy putting this puzzle of the two book covers together. Click here to do the jigsaw puzzle: My Puzzles - Julia Ridgmont's Photos - Mail order brides (

A Home for Christmas:

A Lumberjack for Christmas:

Monday, July 26, 2021


 By Caroline Clemmons

Come take a tour with me of a setting I’ve used in numerous books. It's a real place in Texas that I sometimes give a fictitious name. Both the county and county seat are called Palo Pinto and they're reached on Highway 180 heading west from Fort Worth or Weatherford. An alternate route is headed west on Interstate 20 and taking Highway 4 heading north to Highway 180. In addition to being used by the real name in my books, it’s been the towns of Tarnation, Desperation, Radford Crossing, and others. The area has been the setting for my Stone Mountain Texas series, the Bride Brigade series, and several single titles such as CHARLOTTE'S CHALLENGE.

Longhorns in a Palo Pinto field

In addition to the fact that I think it’s a pretty (if rustic) area, it’s not that far from where I live. On several occasions, my husband and I went on the Palo Pinto County Historical Society driving tour. This included the towns of Palo Pinto, Santo, and Strawn. Also on the tour were the beautiful Belding-Gibson Ranch and Johnson’s League Ranch. I fell in love with both, especially the Belding-Gibson Ranch. I confess to having used these two ranches many times in my writing.

Belding-Gibson Ranch home side-door. This
door leads between the original cabin and the
smoke house, which have been cleverly preserved
and incorporated into rooms of the home. Even
the cold space has been preserved. Note the
use of cedar logs on either side of the door.

This area is the Palo Pinto Mountains. If (like Sweethearts member Angela Rains in Colorado) you are from a state with high mountains and you traveled through the Palo Pinto area, you would laugh at me calling them mountains. However, geologically     speaking, they are genuine mountains. To someone like me who spent most of my growing up years in fairly flat West Texas, I enjoy driving through the scenic Palo Pinto “mountains”.

Their name, according to some sources, is because the Indians called the scrub oaks “painted sticks”. In fall the foliage is colorful and I suppose the thin scrub oak trunks do resemble painted sticks.  Numerous creeks as well as the Brazos River run through the county. Some springs, like one on the Belding-Gibson Ranch, don’t dry up in summer. These constant water sources made popular camping places for Comanche and other Indian tribes.

Belding-Gibson barns

With the internet it’s possible to do research from the comfort of your home while seated at your computer. Like most authors, I also have many reference books in my office. Writers have to depend on second-hand accounts for some things. After all, I’ve never been in a coal mine (O'NEILL'S TEXAS BRIDE), never been on a sleigh ride in the snow (JAMIE and WINTER WISH), never been to Montana (but I'd love to visit), never shot a person, never been shot (I’d like for this last one to remain true!). Armed with facts and imagination, writers create settings for their stories. What’s even better, though, is having been to a place in person. I fell in love with this area and enjoy writing about it under any name.

Former blacksmith shop now part of  
Palo Pinto jail museum. Man is not part of the
display--that's just how many local men dress.

Charles Goodnight resided in Palo Pinto for a time when he and his stepbrother worked cattle. In 1857, the young partners trailed their herd up the Brazos to the Keechi valley in Palo Pinto County. At Black Springs, they built a log cabin buttressed with stone chimneys to which they brought their parents in 1858. 

You probably know Goodnight later settled in Palo Duro Canyon, but not before creating the Goodnight-Loving Trail. You probably also know that he and Oliver Loving were models for Larry McMurtry's LONESOME DOVE. The model for Deke, Bose Ikard, is buried in nearby Weatherford, Parker County, and some of his descendants still reside there. But I digressed...

Perhaps Goodnight's activity in the county is one reason Palo Pinto calls itself the "Cradle of the Cattle Industry." Located in the high desert in north-central Texas, Palo Pinto was settled by cattle ranchers in the early- to mid-1800s. Today the Old West spirit lives on in the rugged patch of hilly land. A handful of historic sites and buildings continue to draw tourists like me.

Black Springs Fort
(not affiliated with the military)

The small rock fort at Black Springs was a gathering place for area families when Comanche were raiding. The exterior appearance reminds me of a mill. Having seen the size of this building from the outside, I sympathize with those confined inside while they waited, not knowing if their homes would still be standing when they emerged. Small as it was, it provided sanctuary for families. At times the women and children waited with  only a few men to protect them while most of the men pursued the Indians.  

Front view of Belding-Gibson Ranch home

The mountains have been called a northern extension of the Texas Hill Country.
 Both are dissected plateaus featuring karst topography (Karst explained in next paragraph) with similar vegetation, including post oak, blueberry juniper, and mesquite. The smaller Carbonate Cross Timbers has a limestone substrate, as does the Hill Country, although the surrounding Western Cross Timbers area is underlain by sandstone.

I didn’t know what karst meant until I was researching for more on Palo Pinto County. If you're interested in specifics, karst is an area of land made up of limestone. Limestone, also known as chalk or calcium carbonate, is a soft rock that dissolves in water.  Karst landscapes can be worn away from the top or dissolved from a weak point inside the rock. Karst landscapes feature caves, underground streams, and sinkholes on the surface. 

This definition makes sense. There are a lot of caves in the area, some deep and some shallow, and I’ve used them in my writing. I really, really don’t like being in deep caves (shudder), but they’re great for creating stories. HIGH STAKES BRIDE, PRUDENCE, and DESPERATE IN DELAWARE use Palo Pinto County caves. I use caves in other stories, but they're not set in this part of Texas. I suppose my phobia with them makes caves pop up in my stories.

In front of the original jail are these
cages used to allow prisoners to get
sunlight and fresh air (shudder)

Palo Pinto County Jail

One of the oldest structures in the town of Palo Pinto, the county jail was built in 1880 and served Palo Pinto County until the building was abandoned in 1941. In 1968, it was converted into a museum. Today, the Old Jail Museum Complex is operated by the Palo Pinto County Historical Association ( and includes several pioneer cabins, a carriage house, the Black Springs Fort, and the actual jail and yard. The two-story, sandstone jail includes various artifacts and, topping steep iron stairs that lead to the second floor, are a hangman's noose and trapdoor (added in 1906 but never used).

One of the scarier exhibits is in front of the jail--a metal cage in which prisoners were allowed to get some fresh air (shown above).

Johnson League Ranch house

Johnson's League Ranch house from back

On a hill overlooking the ranch, this mausoleum
was built when their young son died 

Johnson's League Ranch from Mausoleum Hill

Cabins from the museum grounds

Cabin interior

Bed with ropes supporting the mattress--
that's where "sleep tight" came from. The ropes
had to be tightened periodically.

A commode chair in the Strawn museum. This
one has missing pieces: a chair seat/lid that converts
it to look like a regular chair, and a door to
conceal the chamber pot. Owning one of these
would be a luxury.

Old style storm cellar. Which is more
frightening--a possible tornado or the 
creepy-crawlies waiting in the cellar?

Palo Pinto County ranchland

As promised, I have a 99¢ sale on one of the Bride Brigade books, set in the fictitious town of Tarnation, which is modeled after Johnson's League Ranch's location. Now through July 29, JOSEPHINE is on sale. If you haven't read this series, I hope you'll take advantage of the special price and will enjoy the book.    

I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour of the Palo Pinto area of Texas. Y'all come back now, you hear?

Photos by the author  

Saturday, July 24, 2021



Imagine the woman bent, hugely pregnant, over a tub and washboard. What does she think about as she rubs the clothes across the metal ripples? Perhaps about her coming baby?

Recently, my daughter and I went through my granddaughter’s outgrown baby clothes. Stains! My stars, but the stains! We put away the clean items, and I gathered up the spotted garments.

Days later, I stood over the washer I am blessed to have. As I rubbed in a certain product recommended by many on the Internet for set-in stains, I wished for a bar of my grandmother’s lye soap. Memories of that dear woman rubbing a boar’s hair brush across my baby cousin’s clothes came back. I can still see that brush and the yellowish-white soap.

I almost reached for the glass washboard that is a family heirloom. It sits in my basement, unused. (Again, thank you God for my modern washing machine!) Could it be that this outmoded item might remove stains better than my frustrated rubbing did?

But, back to the woman bent across the scrub board? Did women pray while they spent long hours laboring to clean the garments? Maybe a mother would think of each child and send up petitions. Perhaps she solved her problems, sort of talked them out in her mind. A good substitute for a therapist as she rubbed the spots roughly to removed them?

Even when the wringer washer came into being with its handle in the side of the tub for agitating, the lady of the house or washer woman would still need to scrub those stains. That guaranteed long hours devoted to the laundry. Were these women spiritual than a lady who throws clothes in the machine and hurries on to the next thing because they had time to pray? Did they have less anger because they could work it out as they vigorously rubbed the garments?

One thing I know for sure. They were more physically fit than me! I’m exhausted after scrubbing a small batch of stained clothes. And I didn’t need to wring anything out by hand!

I said it before, but it bears saying again. Thank you, Lord, for my washer!

In my new release, Beau's Elegant Bride, Fancy Francy is learning to do laundry while she travels the Oregon Trail. She never expected to be matched with a farmer, Beau. The thought of returning to Chicago teases at her mind. 

“If I stay—”
“Then I love, honor, and protect you. And you’ll learn what you need to know.” He chuckled. “Especially if we settle near someone like Mrs. Crook. She’s already got you makin’ passably good biscuits.”
Francy tipped her head in thought. “That’s true. And she’s gonna show me how to do the laundry once we spend a few days at Fort Kearny.”
His arms unfolded. As if she were a beacon drawing him closer, 

Available NOW on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited!

A cat, an accident, and a pile of mixed-up letters send a bride to a man she otherwise would never have met. Only time will tell if she and this new marriage can survive the match.
Francine 'Francy' Dinsmore loses the security she's always known with the death of her father. Life so far has treated Francy tenderly and expected very little from her.
Beau LeFevre abandons a hopeless future to venture west. The only thing he needs before he leaves is a wife. When the elegant woman arrives from the matchmaker, he marries her wondering all the while what made the matchmaker send this bride to him.
How can he make a marriage work with this spoiled woman? Life on the trail leads him to believe someone made a mistake!
Will this turn out to be a happy accident and a sound pairing with the only woman who can win his heart?

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Remember 'Cowboy G-Men'?

 Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

Finishing up my series on some of the old TV Westerns I watched or perhaps missed growing up. Thanks to the internet some of those shows are now available for our enjoyment.

Have you seen or heard of "Cowboy G-Men" with Russell Hayden and Jackie Coogan? How about "Johnny Ringo" with Don Durant? 

Photo from the show Cowboy G-Men

If the name Russell Hayden sounds familiar,  he was in the "Hopalong Cassidy" films and was the producer of "26 Men", another old Western TV show about the Arizona Rangers. Jackie Coogan was the child actor who sued his mother and step-father over his earnings as a child actor. He is the one responsible for the 'California Child Actors Bill'. He also was in the film "The Champ" with Charlie Chaplin and later played Uncle Fester in "The Adams Family" TV show.

The show had a number of writers, some you may have heard of, Buckley Angell, Todhunter Ballard, William R. Cox, Michael Raison to name a few. The stories took place in the West during the 1870s. 

Cast of 'Johnny Ringo'
from Wikipedia

Don Durrant got his start as a singer and sings the title song to the show. The show itself was one of the first shows produced by Aaron Spelling, who later went on to fame for such shows as Charlie's Angels, The Love Boat, Dynasty, and Charmed.

The premiss of "Johnny Ringo" is that gunfighter Ringo leaving the gunfighting profession to become the sheriff of a small Arizona town. Of course, there is the love interest, played by actress Karen Sharpe. 

There are many other shows from the late 40s through the 60s that I've not covered. I'll save those for another time. I do hope this series has brought back some fond memories. I know it has for me. Below are links to an episode of each show and to the other posts in this set. Until the next time, maybe these shows will be the germ for the next great story you will read or write.

Episode 1 - Cowboy G-Men

Episode 1 - Johnny Ringo

and the other posts in this series

Post 1

Post 2

Post 3

Photo property of the Author

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

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Surgery Then and Now


This topic came to mind because I’m scheduled for some foot surgery this week. I have “hammertoes” due to a genetic neuro-muscular disease. Dubbed Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease after the three physicians who first diagnosed it in the 1880s, it causes leg muscles to atrophy (also the lower arm muscles) which, in turn, causes structural deformities such as toes that curl down and under, making them strike, or hammer, the ground with every step. Hence the funny name.

Together with extremely high arches, hammertoes are typical early signs of CMT. I was diagnosed with it at the age of nine. My right foot and hand have always been worse than my left. Several decades ago, the toes on my right foot were straightened to alleviate pain. I’ve put off fixing the problem on my left foot for years but recently decided to go ahead and have it done.

Surgery is no fun, but I have never been afraid of being “put under.” Well, I don’t enjoy having a needle inserted in my vein, but once that’s done, I’m good to go. Once inside the surgical suite, it’s quickly lights out and I don’t know anything more until I wake up in the recovery room with nice warm blankets hugging my chilled bod. (They keep it cold in surgery - to deter germs, I assume.)

There will certainly be some discomfort afterward, but my doctor has promised pain medication and a prescription for more. Oh, the blessings of modern medicine! Compare that to surgeries of yesteryear. It gives me the willies to think of being cut open back then.

William Cheselden, ca. 18th century

William Cheselden (1688-1752,) a famed English surgeon and teacher of anatomy and surgery, who could remove a bladder stone in a minute, reportedly said he bought his reputation dearly. “For no one ever endured more anxiety and sickness before an operation!” Hmm, I bet his patients might have argued the point.

Cheselden did much to establish surgery as a scientific medical profession, although surgery was carried out in ancient times. In The Early History of Surgery by W. J. Bishop, the author writes about trephining the scull by our prehistoric ancestors. He refers to laws pertaining to the practice of surgery in ancient Babylonia and Assyria; to Egyptian surgical textbooks written around 3000 B.C.; to Hua To, the father of Chinese surgery in the 2nd century A.D.; and to Hindu surgeons who excelled at creating artificial noses centuries before modern plastic surgery.

Hua To, father of Chinese surgery

What I found truly enlightening is that some of those ancient surgeons used anesthesia. Hua To had his patients drink wine laced with an “effervescing powder” which produced numbness and insensibility. He is said to have done  abdominal surgery, even removal of the spleen, an operation not performed in Europe until the 19th century.

Bust of Hippocrates

Hippocrates, the Greek ”Father of Medicine”, treated every kind of malady and his writings deal with many surgical procedures. He traveled a great deal and led to the separation of medical practice from superstition and magic. He laid down rules for the arrangement of the surgery and described many instruments.

Greek & Roman surgical tools: scalpels, hooks and bone forceps

The golden age of Greek surgery was the 1st century A.D., when advances in anatomical and physiological knowledge had led to improved surgical techniques. The Romans despised medicine as a profession but made use of Greek physicians and even their slaves. In Republican Rome there is no mention of army surgeons, but later, during the Empire, every cohort had its surgeon.

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, medicine and surgery were extensively practiced in the Arabic Empire and Byzantium (Constantinople.) But in Western Europe, little progress was made in medicine for a thousand years. With the spread of Christianity medicine became the concern of the priestly class. Disease was regarded mainly as something to be endured with patience and resignation. Priests were forbidden to practice of surgery.

What little surgical skills existed passed mostly into the hands of barbers and other uneducated men. Itinerant “operators” specialized in removing stones or cateracts or repairing hernias.

Other operations are described in surgical texts of the Middle Ages. Some contain references to anesthetic sponges prepared by soaking them in various herb concoctions. Some favorites were mandrake, opium ad henbane root. The sponge was held to the patient’s forehead and nostrils, hopefully sending him or her into a deep sleep before any cutting began.

Skipping over some of messy, obnoxious and brutal practices of this time period, let’s jump to the Renaissance, which gave birth to profound changes in medicine and surgery. In surgical practice the lack of anatomical knowledge had been a huge drawback. Dissection of the human body had been forbidden by the Church and many people were instinctively afraid of the dead. They wanted bodies buried promptly.

Presumed self-portrait of da Vinci

Then things changed. Great artists – Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci took up the scalpel to study human anatomy before beginning to paint. Leonardo produced hundreds of anatomical sketches, perhaps the first accurate diagrams of the human body. “Only the fact that the Leonardo drawings were not reproduced in book form until recent times prevents the great artist from being regarded as the true founder of modern anatomy,” says W. J. Bishop.

Ambroise Pare, detail of engraving, 1582

Renaissance surgeons also learned a great deal about wound care during the widespread wars of the period. Ambroise ParĂ©, a one-time barber’s apprentice, became a great military surgeon, developing better, more humane treatments for gunshot wounds. He began his service career in 1536 and followed the French armies in France, Flanders, Italy and Germany for most of the next forty years.

Richard Wiseman, 17th century English surgeon

The outstanding surgeon of 17th century England was Richard Wiseman, surgeon to James I and Charles II. His book Several Chirurgical Treatises, was the greatest work on surgery produced in English up to that time. (Chirurgical = surgical.)

I have gone far and wide from our Old West frontier because I wanted to offer you a wider view of how surgery grew and changed over the centuries. As you can guess, surgery was an agonizing affair until dependable anesthesia was introduced.

By 1831, three anesthetics had been discovered – ether, chloroform and nitrous oxide. During the Civil War chloroform became the anesthetic of choice. Other advances in the administering of chloroform and surgical techniques cam out of the war, as in every war. However, more time passed before western pioneers reaped the benefits of this developments.

I’m grateful for all the brave, determined doctors, nurses and scientists who brought us to where we are today. I will gladly put myself in my surgeon’s hands tomorrow.

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 three 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.

Amazon Author Page: (universal link)  

Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 

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