Thursday, July 14, 2016

Runabout, Phaeton, Brougham, Rockaway?

Edith, here. I had the great fortune to go riding in a carriage a couple of weeks ago with a woman

who really knows her stuff.  I'm always looking to improve the details in my Quaker Midwife Mysteries, and Susan Koso is one way to do it.

She owns a mare named Hope. She owns a number of horse-drawn vehicles that my midwife Rose Carroll might very well have ridden in. She knows what kind of bridles and tack were used in 1888. And she's written academic published papers on the roads, the carriage industry, and the economics of the late 1800s. How could I go wrong?

I first met Susan at a couple of years ago at an Amesbury Carriage Museum event, where this not-young woman showed herself to be more agile and flexible than me, crawling around helping to secure carriages the museum was moving down from a second-floor loft.

In late June when the flies and mosquitoes were all hatched and bothersome, I drove to our riding appointment a few town's south of here, and I met her horse, Hope. Hope's
crocheted ear guard is similar to those horses would have worn to keep the bugs out of their ears and eyes. Susan hitched Hope to a beautiful restored runabout (an open two-seater conveyance with four wheels pulled by one horse), handed me a helmet, and off we went.


We wandered around Essex County Greenbelt Association trails, rode all through Appleton Farm (which used to be my walking route when I lived in Ipswich), and moseyed back, talking all the way. I got to experience Hope trotting, I hung on for dear life on bumpy trails and around corners, and I generally soaked up the atmosphere.

On a couple of trails, Susan said, "This would have looked exactly the same in Rose Carrols's day." I had to
agree!


As when I went riding the year before, I wore my long linen skirt and low boots to get a small feel for the clothing of the day.

I never stopped picking Susan's considerable brain. I learned more about all the different kinds of vehicles: phaetons, broughams, traps, and Rockaways, among others. She said the dash board in front of our knees - named to prevent hooves from dashing mud up onto passengers and drivers - might have been covered in patent leather. She told me a horse pushes a carriage rather than pulls it (which I still don't quite get). I even heard about the "fifth
wheel" - but that one's going to need further study before I use it in a book.

She suggested a couple of convenient ways for a malicious villain (oh, I guess that's redundant) to do away with someone by cutting almost through an important strap or to cause a horse to be a runaway. This is a woman after my own heart. Susan had also finished reading Delivering the Truth, and kindly pointed out a couple of small errors in horse-and-carriage procedure. I thanked her, of course. And then she read the manuscript for book two, Called to Justice, within a couple of days' time and corrected me on several points in that book, too.


I'm so delighted and grateful to have found a subject matter expert willing to share her extensive knowledge with me. Guess who's getting a complimentary copy of each book in the series as long as it runs?

Readers: Who is your favorite subject matter expert? Have you ever gone riding in an old carriage?

6 comments:

mary b. schaefer said...

This is a fabulous description of exploring and getting a present-moment taste of the past. And also for doing research. Thanks so much for sharing this Edith!

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Mary! I love sharing this kind of experience.

Kirsten Weiss said...

It's those details that make the story world "real."

storytellermary said...

How lovely and generous to share special knowledge! (and way more useful pre-pub ;-)
I took a brief ride in a covered wagon once, and immediately understood why many preferred to walk alongside.
Waiting with bated breath for the next midwife book.

Dianne Casey said...

Great article. How lucky you are to have made a friend that is able to help with your research on the Quaker series. I haven't been able to take a ride in an antique carriage, but I bet it would be a great experience. I haven't read the Quaker series yet, but they are definitely on my TBR list.

Dianne Casey said...

Great article. How lucky you are to have made a friend that is able to help with your research on the Quaker series. I haven't been able to take a ride in an antique carriage, but I bet it would be a great experience. I haven't read the Quaker series yet, but they are definitely on my TBR list.