Lake County History, Chapter 98: A Hard Road

“I am sure the ladies appear as disturbed over the dangers of the road as Aunt Hester and me. One of the gentlemen passengers explains, ‘Ladies, you must not be concerned. This stage is being driven by one of the best drivers on the route. He is driving one of the most experienced teams of horses.’ I noticed the two rear animals were chosen for their size, being larger than the horses in the front. On the sharp turns, our driver allows the horses to deal with the situation on their own. The leaders pick up speed, swinging out, which allows the Wheelers to hold back just enough to keep the stage under control. Be that as it may, Aunt Hester has become ill with motion sickness and must take a sip from the medicine bottle she carries in her handbag.”

“I estimate we are going six miles an hour and making excellent time. Occasionally, the driver pulls up. We have been in the coach for a long time. Our driver tells the passengers, ‘We are stopping so the ladies may pick wildflowers,’ and the gentlemen may ‘go shoot rabbits.’ The ladies retire to one side of the road, and the gentlemen go a greater distance toward the left.”

“Upon our return, there is a water bag on the coach. We all take a drink. As we jostle along, the coach picks up additional passengers. By the time we reach Seigler Springs, they are standing on the sideboards and clinging to whatever they can find to hold on to. One of the fellows is a common sort, who smokes terrible cigars and takes little nips from the flask he carries in his pocket. He talks a lot. The biggest event in his life seems to be the visit of Ulysses S. Grant in San Francisco in 1879. That and a recent visit he made to a Chinese opium den. He describes that visit over and over and in detail. It is as though he wants someone to beg him to continue.”

“Aunt Hester has all but finished her bottle of medicine. She is becoming quite jolly. The rest of us are drooping with weariness. If the women are slightly more protected from the bumps and bruises by their numerous petticoats and heavy skirts, they are also much hotter. As we bounce about in the coach, the stays of my corset make me miserable.”

“It has grown dark. The oil lights on either side of the stage have been lit. Fortunately, the horse knows the road. Such a dim light could scarcely serve to guide them. We cannot see the horses at all, for the air is cold, and the canvas has been fastened over the windows. But now, at last, we are at Seigler Springs. In the darkness, we can see little but an outline of evergreen trees against the sky and a wide veranda lit by hanging lanterns.”

“The proprietor comes out to greet us. We leave the coach and enter a spacious lobby. There is a stone fireplace on one side with a small fire burning. We register at the desk and follow a maid, who carries an oil lamp up the stairs. There is a long narrow hall with many doors leading off into all directions.”

“Our room is nicely furnished with heavy velvet drapes, solid wood furniture that is beautifully carved, and thick rugs. The maid puts our dusty garments on a dust sheet and carries them away to the back of the building, where they will be shaken. She returns with pitchers of warm water. Each room has its own commode, so it is possible to wash up in privacy. Some of the gentlemen have gone downstairs for a night-cap, but the ladies find it enough to remove their high-button shoes and corsets and get into bed.”

“After the night air, the rooms seem rather warm and close. Of course, no one opens the windows. It is a well-established fact that the night air is harmful to the lungs. I turn over and go to sleep.”

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Visit Gene’s website: http://genepaleno.com/

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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