Ever wanted to travel back in time to the 1880s? If you love history, you’ve probably indulged in the notion. What would it really be like to live back then?
Which is what got me thinking about writing a time travel novel, set in Carson Valley in 1885.
Here’s a short excerpt from my novella-in-progress, as the heroine tries to wrap her head around the mysteries of cooking on a real, live woodstove!
My stomach gave a small, uneasy flip. I’d need to stoke up the woodstove to cook breakfast. Unfortunately, I was still vague on the details. But here was wood; inside were a few coals; and I had matches if I needed them. How hard could it be?!
Kneeling on the floor, I swung open the heavy metal door, grabbed the poker and shovel from the waiting pail, and gingerly jabbed at the mountain of ash. Sure enough, a glowing red coal peeked out. I shoveled some of the dry, flaky ash into the pail, leaving a heap of bright burning coals exposed. Then, stick by stick, I built a miniature teepee of kindling atop the live coals.
I was definitely no Girl Scout. There’d been no campfires or marshmallow roasts for this city girl. But I’d watched an old movie or three about the West. This was how it was done, wasn’t it? Now I wished I had paid more attention.
I blew on the kindling and was rewarded as a lick of a yellow flame rose and started to climb the slivers of dry wood. But once I started to close the oven door, that flicker of fire promptly died away.
Sitting back on my haunches, I contemplated the problem. Fire needed oxygen, right? Maybe not enough air was getting into the firebox. Margaret had fiddled with a screw-like contraption at the side of the stovepipe about halfway to the ceiling. I wasn’t quite sure what the thing did. But maybe that was something I should fiddle with, too.
Standing, I examined the metal thing on the stovepipe. I could see that it rotated. But which direction? I could only guess. I cranked the tab all the way to the left and heard something click inside the pipe. That was encouraging.
Kneeling again by the open door, I discovered my kindling pile had finally caught. Yellow flames were dancing above the heap of twigs. Pleased, I topped the kindling pile with a larger chunk of firewood from the wood box, then heaped on a second log. The wood was light and dry and before I knew it, the firebox was cracking as the flames licked higher.
Sitting back on my heels I started to swing the heavy oven door closed. I had solved the mystery! I could do this thing!
Just then a loud pop rang out from inside the stove and a cloud of black smoke belched from the open door. Startled, I fell backward on my hands. A swirling mass of dark smoke poured from the door, its feathery edges blending with a secondary set of plumes from the cook rings on top. Another loud bang assaulted my eardrums as the stove expanded from the heat.
I scrambled to my feet and rummaged frantically for something to help douse the fire. A tub? A pitcher? Anything that would hold water!
Suddenly a firm, warm hand descended on my shoulder.
“My dear Miss Carpenter.” That low, growly voice was unmistakable. “It seems you are doing your best to burn the house down.”
Want to see how the time travel story turns out? Just drop your email in the colored box below and I’ll keep in touch!