Thursday, March 28, 2019

How the West Was Won - Not Necessarily As You Think

From time to time, my sister sends me bits of interesting information. This past weekend was one of those times. You don't need to be a Western enthusiast to enjoy this story.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Western stagecoach companies were big business in the latter half of the 19th century. In addition to passengers and freight, stages hauled gold and silver bullion as well as mining company payrolls.

Stage robbery was a constant danger and bandits employed many strategies to ambush a stagecoach. Thieves rarely met with much resistance from stage drivers, since they had passenger safety foremost in mind. The gang was usually after the Wells Fargo money box with its valuable contents. Passengers were seldom hurt, but they were certainly relieved of their cash, watches and jewelry.  Before the completion of the transcontinental railroad over Donner Pass in 1868, the only transportation through the Sierra was by stage.  Rugged teamsters held rein over six wild-eyed horses as they tore along the precipitous mountain trails. The stagecoaches were driven by skilled and fearless men who pushed themselves and their spirited horses to the limit.

One of the most famous drivers was Charles Darkey Parkhurst, who had come west from New England in 1852 seeking his fortune in the Gold Rush. He spent 15 years running stages, sometimes partnering with Hank Monk, the celebrated driver from Carson City. Over the years, Pankhurst's reputation as an expert whip grew, while doing it with a patch over one eye which was lost when kicked by a horse.

From 20 feet away he could slice open the end of an envelope or cut a cigar out of a man's mouth. Parkhurst smoked cigars, chewed wads of tobacco, drank with the best of them, and exuded supreme confidence behind the reins. His judgment was sound and pleasant manners won him many friends.

One afternoon as Charley drove down from Carson Pass the lead horses veered off the road and a wrenching jolt threw him from the rig. He hung on to the reins as the horses dragged him along on his stomach. Amazingly, Parkhurst managed to steer the frightened horses back onto the road and save all his grateful passengers.

During the 1850s, bands of surly highwaymen stalked the roads.  These outlaws would level their shotguns at stage drivers and shout, "Throw down the gold box!" Charley Parkhurst had no patience for the crooks despite their demands and threatening gestures.

The most notorious road agent was nicknamed "Sugarfoot."  When he and his gang accosted Charley's stage, it was the last robbery the thief ever attempted.

Charley cracked his whip defiantly, and when his horses bolted, he turned around and fired his revolver at the crooks. Sugarfoot was later found dead with a fatal bullet wound in his stomach.

In appreciation of his bravery, Wells Fargo presented Parkhurst with a large watch and chain made of solid gold. In 1865, Parkhurst grew tired of the demanding job of driving and he opened his own stage station. He later sold the business and retired to a ranch near Soquel, Calif. The years slipped by and Charley died on Dec. 29, 1879, at the age of 67.

A few days later, the Sacramento Daily Bee published his obituary.  It read;

"On Sunday last, there died a person known as Charley Parkhurst, aged 67, who was well-known to old residents as a stage driver. He was, in early days, accounted one of the most expert manipulators of the reins who ever sat on the box of a coach. It was discovered when friendly hands were preparing him for his final rest, that Charley Parkhurst was unmistakably a well-developed woman!"

Once it was discovered that Charley was a woman, there were plenty of people to say they had always thought he wasn't like other men.  Even though he wore leather gloves summer and winter, many noticed that his hands were small and smooth. He slept in the stables with his beloved horses and was never known to have had a girlfriend.

Charley never volunteered clues to her past. Loose fitting clothing hid her femininity and after a horse kicked her, an eye patch over one eye helped conceal her face. She weighed 175 pounds, could handle herself in a fistfight and drank whiskey like one of the boys.

It turns out that Charley's real name was Charlotte Parkhurst.  Abandoned as a child, she was raised in a New Hampshire orphanage unloved and surrounded by poverty. Charlotte ran away when she was 15 years old and soon discovered that life in the working world was easier for men. So, she decided to masquerade as one for the rest of her life.

Now for the rest is history.

Well, almost. There is one last thing. On November 3, 1868, Charlotte Parkhurst cast her vote in the national election, dressed as a man. She became the first woman to vote in the United States, 52 years before Congress passed the 19th amendment giving American women the right to vote.

References are below:

Monday, March 25, 2019

Medieval Monday with Ashley York - Excerpt #8

After the death of Brian Boru in 1014, a legend arose of a healer so great she could raise a man from the dead, with a power so strong it could make any warrior the next high king of √Čire...and to steal it away from her, he need only possess her.

Fated to be a healer…

Aednat has spent her entire life training to be the great healer, knowing she must remain alone. When she meets Diarmuid, the intense attraction she feels toward him shakes her resolve to believe in such a legend. If she gives in to the passion he ignites in her, can she settle for being less?

Destined to be his…

Diarmuid of Clonascra is renowned for his bravery in battle. Only one thing daunts him: the prospect of taking a wife. The safest course would be to keep his distance from Aednat, the bold, headstrong healer who's far too tempting for his peace of mind. But his overking orders him to protect her from a group of craven warriors intent on kidnapping her to steal her power.

What starts as duty for Diarmuid quickly transforms into something more. Aednat's power might be at risk, but so is his closed-off heart.

Excerpt #8
She glanced down at herself, expecting to see a mark from where his gaze had caressed her so intimately. Seeing none, she struggled to remember what he had said.
“I was gathering them earlier, then…”
The touch of his calloused hand gliding up her arm set her skin aflame, and she took a deep breath, holding it in.
“Ye were interrupted,” he said.
His voice was so close, and his touch, excruciatingly gentle. And pleasant. So very pleasant. She brought her gaze back to his handsome face. Tightness spread across her bosom. An uncomfortable tightness she wanted him to ease.
“And now it must be done by the light of the moon?”
“Aye, it must.”
His head moved toward her and she closed her eyes, anticipating with great eagerness her first kiss.

Ashley will be visiting Lane McFarland's blog next week with another snippet.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Medieval Monday with Barbara Bettis - Excerpt #7

The Lady of the Forest

When her elderly husband dies, Lady Katherine fakes her own death and disappears into the forest with others escaping the brutish new lord. Determined to protect her people, she knocks the wrong man senseless. But Lord Henry isn’t an enemy, he’s the brother of her childhood friend. Although his tender confidence tempts her, she’s bound by duty.

Henry of Chauvere has found the one lady he wants for his own, never mind she’s tied him hand and foot. When he learns the king has ordered her to wed Stonehill’s ruthless new master, he insists Kate seek haven with his sister. But she won’t desert her friends. Henry vows to solve her problem, provided he catches a traitor before the threat from Kate's past catches her. When a daring rescue compels Henry and Kate to join forces, their attraction grows into love. If only duty didn’t drive them apart.


“You walloped him good, Cade.” Jamie sidled over to stare at the unmoving figure. “A shame he’s an enemy. He’s a fierce one. And strong, by God. He took you for a good ride ’afore you clobbered him. I watched from the other tree. Wish it’d been me that done it. Look at that knot on his head.”

“He hit a rock when he fell.” Luckily the impact stunned him enough to allow the men to subdue him. She’d been foolish to think a blow to the head with her knife hilt would do the job. Still, he’d been brought down. That’s what mattered.

Come visit me next week for the next installment:   And leave a comment for a book drawing at the end of the tour. To review last week’s installment:   

Monday, March 11, 2019

Medieval Monday with Cathy McRae - Excerpt #6

The Highlander’s Welsh Bride

It was over. Prince Llywelyn was dead, his soldiers fleeing before King Edward’s army. Carys, a distant cousin to the prince, herself a princess of Wales, had picked up arms alongside her husband more than a year ago. Now homeless, her husband buried beneath the good Welsh soil, she seeks shelter in the north, far from the reach of Longshanks’s men. Carys and Wales would never be the same again.

It was time. Birk MacLean has been ordered to take a bride and produce an heir. He grows weary of the lasses paraded before him, women of delicate nature and selfish motives. He desires a wife strong enough to help lead one of the most powerful clans in Western Scotland.

One like the Welsh woman sitting in his dungeon, arrested for poaching MacLean deer.

Can Birk convince Carys marriage to him is preferable to a hangman’s noose? And will the heard-headed Scot be worthy of a Princess of Wales?

From the towering Welsh mountains to the storm-swept Scottish coast comes a tale of betrayal and loss, deceit and passion. An epic tale of honor and the redeeming power of love.

BUY LINK: Amazon

“I wish to be released.” Every muscle thrummed with the urge to flee. For more than two years, she’d remained a step ahead of an English prison, aware a princess of Cymru would not simply be discarded as unimportant. She’d spent every waking moment—and many that should have been spent in much-needed rest—avoiding capture. Being a woman in the hands of an enemy held its own special peril. Fear roiled like an angry snake in her belly, sending the acrid taste of bile to her mouth.

Catch last week’s excerpt on Sherry Ewing’s blog:
Follow me to next week’s excerpt on Lane McFarland’s blog:

Monday, March 4, 2019

Medieval Monday with Judith Sterling - Excerpt #5

Shadow of the Swan (The Novels of Ravenwood, Book Three)

Lady Constance de Bret was determined to be a nun, until shadows from the past eclipsed her present. Marriage is the safest option, but she insists on a spiritual union, in which physical intimacy is forbidden. Not so easy with a bridegroom who wields unparalleled charm! But a long-buried secret could taint his affection and cloak her in shadow forever.

Back from the Crusades, Sir Robert le Donjon craves a home of his own and children to inherit it. From the moment he meets Constance, he feels a mysterious bond between them. When she’s threatened, he vows to protect her and agrees to the spiritual marriage, with the hope of one day persuading her to enjoy a “real” one. She captivates him but opens old wounds and challenges everything he thought he believed.

Two souls in need of healing. Two hearts destined to beat as one.

Buy Links:

Excerpt #5
            Robert gazed into amber eyes that stole his breath.  They plunged the depths of his memory and beseeched him to recall another time and place.  But when?  Where?
            Guy cleared his throat with gusto.  “Sir, will you not answer?”
            Wrenched out of his reverie, Robert glanced at his squire.  “What?”  He returned his focus to the young woman.  “You asked me a question?”

Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed print copy of Shadow of the Swan, and follow along next week on Lane McFarland’s blog: