Family Stories and Train Robbery in Texas


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Highlighting Historical Romance with Wareeze Woodson

The beginning of Bittersweep needed no research. Yellow fever swept though Texas in epidemic proportions around 1880. Being placed in the wagon and forced out of town actually happened to my grandmother at age five. I imagined the setting and the fictitious town of Bittersweep, but something like such a place did exist. Parts of the story are very loosely based on things my grandmother told me. All of the characters are fictitious as well. Other than my grandmother, none of the story is based on another actual person alive or dead.
Gold shipments required more research. Planning to expand Fort Clark, government gold was transferred to the fort for that purpose sometimes in 1897, or around that time. More barracks were required along with pay for additional troops. With trains and gold making its way across Texas, what an opportunity for bank robbers, murder, along with related crimes, to enter the tale. Naturally the gold would pass through Bittersweep and be held in the bank safe for a short period, a perfect scenario for skullduggery.

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After fifteen years, Elizabeth was back in Bittersweep, Texas intent on discovering the reason she and her family were forced to leave without her mother in the wagon. Her memories were that of a five year-old child, but she still recalled blowing cinders and ash rising over the treetops behind the wagon. She needed to know if her memory was accurate or clouded with age.

Under the assumed name of Campbell, she had accepted a teaching position in the small township. Her first encounter with the chairman of the schoolboard was a disaster. He jerked her out of the way of a team of runaway horses dragging a heavy wagon directly towards her. Drat! She was off to a great start.

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After fifteen years, can I find my mother’s box? Can I remember exactly where she tucked the chest away? I was only five. Will her box still be there, hidden, or will it be destroyed?

Elizabeth Campbell peered out the window of the passenger car as the locomotive puffed into the station at Bittersweep, Texas belching ash from the smokestack. The train came to a screeching halt beside the station. She folded the newspaper dated August 10, 1897 and positioned it under her arm slowly rising from her seat. Drawing a deep breath, she curled her fingers around the handle of her carpetbag. Tension bunched her neck and shoulder muscles as she stepped out onto the wooden platform.

The warm mid-day sun of late summer washed the scene in heat and vivid light, but did nothing to lessen the dark apprehension or the pain in her heart. Perhaps I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life. I didn’t want to return, but I’m back. I need this teaching position, desperately.

She followed her shadow into the shade afforded by the overhang of the roof to the train station’s ticket office. At least I may have a chance to discover what really happened all those years ago.

Allowing her gaze to survey the little settlement nestled deep in the piney woods of East Texas, she found much had changed. The sleepy community had grown into a small township. The once familiar dry dust kicked up by horses’ hooves, the creak of saddle leather, the rumble of wagon wheels rolling past, and boots tramping along the boardwalk remained relatively the same, only more so—more of everything—noise, people, and shops. Faint odors of roasting meat floated out from the inn dining room across the street and pummeled her with memories. Memories she couldn’t shake. Memories were one of the reasons she’d been afraid to return to Bittersweep. Still, now that she had returned, she must find answers.

wagon-300x182 Author's Blog Highlighting History Tormenting glimpses from fifteen years ago flashed inside her head. The sounds of crackling, consuming fire and the acrid smell of smoke rising above the trees from where her home once stood roared through her mind. The noise of rattling wheels beneath the wagon carrying her away from Bittersweep ripped through her memories dragging her back into the past. Her stomach knotted and she fought down the need to heave up the few bites of apple she’d eaten on the train. She swallowed forcing herself to relax.

Conscious of her long hair flowing down her back in waves, always admired for the shiny thickness and rich dark color, she ducked her head. Elizabeth hoped nobody remembered the larkspur blue color of her eyes, a dead give-away as to her identity. After fifteen years, none would recall a five year old child. She avoided direct eye contact with the people on the walkway to cover the trepidation roaming free in her heart.

Although from here she couldn’t possibly see where her home once stood, she avoided looking to the South. An overwhelming urge to gaze in that direction finally claimed her, and she stepped off the platform coming to a dead-still stop. Lost in memories, she stared at the distant trees. For a brief moment, the noise faded, smells ceased to exist for her, and even the heat failed to penetrate. Tremors of pounding hooves vibrated through her feet coming closer and harder until the rattling of wagon wheels jerked her out of her reverie with a start, but in that confused instant she couldn’t move. The hammering of her heart obliterated all sounds again and the air swooshed from her lungs when she saw the out-of-control team bearing down on her. She tried to move out of the way, but she remained paralyzed with fright.

Gloved hands grasped her shoulders jerking her back against a hard, lean body as the crazed horses stampeded past. Weak with relief and trembling from head to toe, she gradually gained control enough to realize she rested against a muscled male chest. The pounding of his heart echoed in her ears and against her back matching the rapid beat of her own. She glanced over her shoulder and looked up—way up into his hazel eyes, grim, hard and sparking with cold anger.

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I write historical romance fiction novels set in the 1800s forward with a twist of suspense. All of my characters and stories that are portrayed in my books are fictitious. I am a native of Texas, but I have traveled through out America and beyond. As a dreamer, I love to visit new places where I can imagine a heroine meeting a hero in a special way. I’m an avid reader of (all sorts) and I love to write.

I married my high school sweat-heart and after having raised three sons plus one daughter, our love for each other remains unshaken. Now we enjoy our eight grandchildren. We can send them home, but we’re always happy for their return.

Outside of my family activities, I sing with the Silver Belles at my church and hate to miss even one practice. The local chapter of RWA is also at the top of my list of pleasures. It keeps me grounded with craft and connected with other writers.

Most of all, I enjoy going fishing with my husband. Give me a pole and leave me alone to bask in the sun, listening to water gurgle along the riverbanks while allowing my mind to float away to some distance place. Ah! Perfect.

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Caroline Warfield, Author

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