I can remember reading a Sunfire romance when I was 14 years old called Caroline. Caroline was trying to get to California to find her brothers and ended up cutting her long golden hair and masquerading as a boy to get there. At that time, I thought that was one of the best stories I had ever read. As I've gotten older, I often wonder how accurate these stories are. Could a woman masquerade as a man successfully? Could she, as a man, travel clear across the country and maintain the facade?
Evidently, she could. Case in point. Charlie Parkhurst.
Charlie Parkhurst was a stagecoach driver, evidently a very successful one. He drove stage in some of the wildest towns during the Gold Rush, and after his death was eulogized in papers as, "one of the most dexterous and celebrated of California stage drivers", according to the San Francisco Morning Call. It is believed that Charlie even gut shot a bandit that was trying to rob his stage, the man eventually died from the wounds. Charlie had been kicked by a horse he was shoeing and lost his eye, thereafter wearing a black leather patch on his scarred face. Charlie lived up into his sixties smoking, chewing, swearing, drinking, and gambling. At his death, when friends came to lay him out, they were shocked to find that Cock-eyed Charlie was a woman. His business partner and long-time friend, Frank Woodward, evidently was so shocked that he went into a cussing fit over it, even going so far as to ask another friend if he was, indeed, still a man. And, it seems, that Charlie Parkhurst was also the first woman in the United States to vote in a presidental election, decades before women got the vote in Wyoming!
So here is proof that a woman can successfully maintain a disguise, and did. Oh, the possibilities this brings to my mind. The what-if's start rumbling around my brain and scenes start forming. This is why I write western romances. The story I could make from this scenario.