Thursday, November 29, 2007

Some Interesting Tidbits

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.


Gillian Layne said...

No way!

Can you even IMAGINE how hard that must have been? And for heaven's sake, what about his (her!) "monthly friend"??

You're right, this bit of history alone would spawn a dozen stories. Long live the Western! :)

doglady said...

Wow, Terry Jo! I have never heard of this story. What a great story and a terrific place for you to jump into a story. You HAVE to do a book on this. I really think this is your gift, finding way out true stories of the Old West and turning them into great historical romance novels!! Charlie was one tough woman!

Terry Stone said...

Gillian, I have to admit, I couldn't imagine pulling it off. Especially when the 'friend' comes calling. I never thought of that, hmm, I wonder how she managed to keep that hidden? It makes my head spin with possibilites.

And, of course, I agree with Long Live the Westerns!

Terry Stone said...

Louisa, I do seem to have a talent for finding odd, but true, stories. I am thinking that since they inspire me more than anything I will probably keep up with it.

I watched the documentary that inspired SIT again last night, and it helped me firm up where I want to take it.

I just happened upon a mention of Charlie and it intrigued me so much, I had to do further research. I do sense a story developing ;0),

India Carolina said...

Terry, I love this story. Especially, that she voted! And I love western historicals. I have wanted to write one set in the Rocky Mountains, but have been discouraged by the lack of publishers who consider such fare.
Good luck to you. I'll be right there waiting to purchase your book!

Terry Stone said...

India, I have come to the realization that I am in the minority with my writing. About the only publisher I know of in print that would even consider publishing my story would be Harlequin Historicals. And that is fine with me. I have a game plan, I would like to write for HH for several years and then move on to HQN, where they publish longer novels.

You should write your western, if for no other reason than for yourself. I was really discouraged at the lack of publishers who took them, but I am forging ahead anyway. I figure I have nothing to lose, I would be doing it anyway.