Friday, October 13, 2023

The Colorado Eclipse of 1878

                 Will the total eclipse unite more 
                   than the sun and moon? 


   A total eclipse is quite the memorable experience and I'm excited to see our partial view of the one coming on 10-14-23.   
   While researching my book, Break Heart Canyon, I discovered such a happening took place in July, 1878. I just had to include the event as a special moment for my characters Una and Ryker to share. 
  Known as The Great Eclipse of 1878, this cosmic occurrence drew a huge amount of attention to Colorado, especially Denver, Pike's Peak, and Colorado Springs. The state soon became known as a sophisticated scientific community rather than just a place out West famous for  mining gold and silver.  
    That year, the eclipse traveled through British Columbia, along the spine of the Rocky Mountains and directly over Pike's Peak. 
  The cover of Harper's Weekly featured the event in Colorado. 

     When newspapers across the country made the eclipse
headline news, the phenomenon began to spark interest in science for everyday people. Asaph Hall, who had recently discovered the Martian moons, was in Colorado, as was Maria Mitchell, leading an all-female expedition to show the world what women astronomers could do. 
                       Maria Mitchell, first female astronomer 

One scientist, Samuel Pierpont Langley, battled a terrible case of altitude sickness and 10 inches of snow at over 14,000 feet on Pike's Peak. But he captured one of the best images to date. 
    Thomas Edison even made the trip, but opted to go to Wyoming. The majority of scientists and astronomers watched in Colorado. There was even an observatory set up on the roof of the Teller House in Central City. and one posh hotel in Colorado Springs hired a band to entertain guests as they watch the solar display. 

   In the following excerpt from Break Heart Canyon, the hero, Ryker Landry, and the heroine, Una MacLaren, are together in the back of a small straw filled cart, cozy and awaiting for this exciting phenomenon to begin. Their friend, Mr. Jim has joined them.  


   A second piece of honey cake in one hand, Mr. Jim rolled a stump closer with his other, and took a seat beside the wagon. “The best part is starting,” he announced, his excitement managing to make it out around his mouth full of cake.

   This was it. Una’s heartbeat quickened. The donkeys huffed and whined and the goats pressed closer. With one eye turned skyward, the chickens, ducks, and goose hurried awkwardly toward their nighttime roosting quarters.

   Little by little the sun disappeared. Shadows turned to mist, and as the light slipped away, a softness layered their surroundings. When the last ray of sun winked out, darkness fell—complete and startling. Stars shone in the sky, the air grew noticeably cooler as an eerie stillness settled over them.

   Unsteady at the sudden shift, she reached out with her free hand and found Ryker’s waiting. Fingers interlaced they held fast as the sun was totally obliterated and a blaze of gold ringed the eye of darkness.

  “It’s magical,” she exhaled the words in awe.

     “Glad I lived to see such a sight,” Mr. Jim agreed, wonderment coloring his words too.
     Ryker remained silent, but his grip tightened ever so slightly indicating the display was not lost on him either. One hundred and ninety-one seconds later, the first ray of sunlight escaped the blackness and speared down to Earth reversing the phenomenon,
     The rooster crowed as if morning had come again in the afternoon. The donkeys joined in with hardy heehaws. In a discord of maahs and baahs, and as if late for an important appointment, the goats rushed back out to pasture.
     Following months of anticipation, the culmination of the event left Una woozy, and she flopped back onto the hay, continuing to stare through her glass as the fire ball grew larger and larger.      
      “Praise the Saints, what a grandiose sight.”
      Elbow bent, his head propped up in his hand, Ryker stretched out at her side, the length of his body mere inches from hers. He no longer seemed fascinated with the moon and sun. She shifted her viewing glass and met his gaze. He wanted to kiss her. The wonton
idea appealed to her as well—quite deeply.
     They drew closer, their lips separated by the width of a butterfly wing. Then the creak and groan of splintering wood filled the air. The left wheel fell off and the tumbril tipped sharply sideways. Ryker gathered her close, and with a flurry of hay and
matching yelps of surprise, they toppled to the ground. 
     Careening to a halt, wrapped in one another’s arms, Una couldn’t stop laughing. Rolling onto her back she pressed her hands to her stomach, but the belly laughs kept coming. Giving up, she rejoiced in the moment, not remembering the last time such gaiety had seized control of her body and robbed her of her good senses.
     Upsetting the stump, Mr. Jim clattered to his feet. Hands on his thighs, he bent forward and peered down at them. “You two all right?” Still chuckling, they both nodded, and he laughed too. “Nothing like dinner and a show.”
     Mr. Jim’s mirth stopped as he straightened and glanced toward the trail leading from the main road to her property. “Company’s coming.”
     Una went on the alert. Mr. Jim held out a hand to help her up, and she grabbed the offered assistance and scrambled upright. Ryker gave her backside a gentle boost. Then he was at her side, one hand at the small of her back, the other on the revolver at his hip.


Grab a copy of my award winning western here! 


  Unearthing artifacts in Colorado sounded like easy money to Ryker Landry. Then he met the woman who owned the land. 
     Una MacLaren vows no fortune hunter will desecrate the ancient relics of BreakHeart Canyon—even if the man is a handsome scoundrel. Fighting to keep her goat farm afloat as local cattlemen hatch deadly schemes to make sure she fails, Una has enough to worry about. 
    Captivated by the courageous redhead, Ryker joins forces with Una and her deerhound, MacTavish. But what does he desire most—the woman or the artifacts? 
   When the mythical white cougar again prowls the rocky cliffs, the legend of BreakHeart Canyon draws them into a web of danger. Now only daring and blind trust can save them. 

Even the secondary characters are fun!

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