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  Ferless, a novel of Sarah Bowman header graphic

Sarah Bowman, aka The Great Western, was so tall you had to hug her in installments.  People said she had enough sand for a lakefront.  In 1845 she came to Corpus Christi, Texas, to work as a laundress for the army that Zachary Taylor had assembled to invade Mexico.  

"Sarah Bowman, a frontier character of much color and notoriety, is as appealing in fictions as she must have been in life... a vivid epoch and a winning woman."  -- Larry McMurtry, author of LONESOME DOVE

"Highly realistic historical fiction, filled with strongly focused characters and glowing with phosphorescent detail... more richly detailed historical fiction from an author who writes only what she absolutely wants to - and has a good time doing it."  -- Kirkus Reviews

And here's an introduction to Jake the mule:  "Sarah waved her cudgel at Captain Lincoln as she led the mule in his direction.  The mule was a knife-hipped individual with ears that operated like semaphores, signaling his thoughts with their twitches and angles.  He wore an expression that was part mad alchemist, part snake oil salesman, and part Christian martyr."

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Excerpt from

Fearless: A Novel of Sarah Bowman

     (This is the Texans’ introduction to The Great Western.  I figure Sarah understood the importance of first impressions).

     The population of Colonel Kinney’s trading post had multiplied tenfold from the original hundred or so inhabitants.  The palisade was barely visible beyond the sprawl of tents and leantos and hastily-erected shacks, most of which advertised themselves as saloons.  It seemed as though everyone who wasn’t hammering was playing cards.  Sarah steered the mare into the smell of manure and newly-sawn wood. Others abandoned their tasks to watch. 

     “Looky at this sorrel-top.”  The man approached spraddle-legged and ripe with menace.  

     “She’s a frockful, ain’t she?”

     “I reckon I’ll be your first customer, Ma’m.”

     “I’m not in that business, sir.” 

     “Then I’ll surely be your first customer.”  His laugh sounded like a dry axle churning through deep sand.

     Sarah regarded him fondly.  He would do just fine. He was a great hairy brute, almost as tall as she was.  He wore a chimney-pot hat, a mangy wool vest, and Indian leggings.  He liked attention and he was attracting an audience.  Yes, he would do just fine.

     He made a grab for the mare’s bridle and Sarah unhooked the iron skillet.  It weighed twenty pounds, but she regularly hefted sodden wool uniforms that weighed more.  She swung the skillet with one hand.  It clanged when it hit the side of his head, unseating the chimney-pot hat.  Sarah thought of it as a school bell for the uneducated.  He fell as abruptly as a sack of nails dropped from a height.

     She balanced the frying pan on her knee.  “Do any of you gallants know where Mister Delfinius Burch has pitched camp?”

Sarah's bones were the largest ones disinterred from the military cemetery at Fort Yuma, Arizona.  She is now buried at the Presidio at San Francisco with a view of the Golden gate Bridge.

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Thanks to Linda Hermes for sharing this information on Laundresses at Ft. Concho.

Laundresses, like most women of that era, wore about four layers of clothing everyday, summer or winter. These layers included:
This stuff isn't easy!Chemise:
a lightweight cotton, short sleeved shirt, worn closest to the skin, pullover style.
Corset: made of heavy cotton or canvas, strengthened by whalebone or steel, with laces in the back and hooks and eyes in the front.
Corset cover: a short sleeved cotton shirt worn over the corset, with button or other closure down the front.
Stockings: black cotton or wool hose held up by elastic garters.
Drawers: split drawers, attached only at the waist, button, hook and eye, or drawstring closure.
Petticoats: at least two petticoats were worn under the skirt or dress.
Dress or Skirt/Blouse: Usually made of cotton. Laundresses could wear their skirt length at three inches above the ground without loss of dignity because they were working, but they still could not show their ankles. The officers' wives wore their skirts touching the ground.
Apron: used to protect clothing, dry your hands, carry items (food, wood, etc.)
Bonnet: to protect skin from the sun.
Boots: sturdy, usually black, lace up work boots.                                               Photo by Rachel Sasseen

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or in German:
Westwärts ohne Furcht. Roman.


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