GUEST POST Where the Road Bends By Rachel Fordham

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Where the Road Bends By Rachel Fordham

Where the Road Bends is my fifth book that takes place in the 1800’s, which means I have spent a lot of time reading about bonnets, wagon trains, railroad towns, wars, new inventions, religious groups, and politics. I find the 1800’s a fascinating era full of change, advancement and struggle.

One thing that has also been fascinating is realizing what readers expectations of the era are. This book features a couple scenes at a community baseball game. When early readers got their hands on this book several of them reached out to me and asked if there really was baseball in the 1800’s. The idea of people playing baseball didn’t fit with the image they had in their  minds of this time period.

In one of my works in progress (also a book set in the late 1800’s) there are several roller skating scenes. Early readers question if that is accurate too. If the book were set in 1901 they would believe it, because baseball and skates fit into how they view the 1900’s but they seems out of place in the 1800’s. It’s funny how a couple years can change our expectations!

The truth is, both baseball and roller skating were a part of the late 1800’s. In fact, I spent a lot of time pouring over a newspaper from a small Iowa town. The newspaper (which was a fascinating read) was full of stories about rollers skating. The town of just over three thousand had three roller skating rinks, no shortage of patrons and even converted the church into a rink at times. There were lots of injuries reported, stories about exhibitionist that passed through town and even articles about the best music to skate too.

When I ask people to describe the 1800’s most readers describe wagons, bonnets and farming (all of which are a part of this century, but not all of it). What is often forgotten is that the 1800’s is a one-hundred-year period! Multiple generations lived during this time, wars were fought, people were migrating and settling. Some people were farmers (a high percentage), but others owned factories, logged or fished.

There were immigrant communities that brought their own culture and traditions with them, families with high income and those in poverty, and those living in big cities. The vast and varied countryside led to remote communities that had their own rules and way of life, and of course the Victorian decadence thrived in the East coast cities.

Studying this beautiful, messy century, has reminded me that though we conjure up only one image for this time period, there are in fact a million different images that could come to mind, because each persons experience was so unique.

So yes, some were playing baseball while others may not have heard of the sport before. Some were gliding gracefully across a polished floor on a pair of band new skates while others were still walking across the planes bound for Oregon.

When you hear something that seems out of context for a certain era, consider that perhaps somewhere it fits! It only requires one person to have experienced something for it to be authentic. (Of course, there may truly be things in novels that did not happen, but that is a subject for another day).

Remembering that the 1800’s was a culturally rich time in history, full of change and progress, and different ways of viewing the world, makes it easier to accept that there were people playing baseball!