10 Things You Might Not Know About Blake's Folly Romance Trilogy
By J. Arlene Culiner
Blake’s Folly, Nevada, once a silver boomtown, is now a backwoods community of clapboard
shacks and scraggly vegetation. The local saloon is a leftover from another century and, inside
country music whines, while eccentrics dish up tall tales, and suspicion.
But living in an unusual setting does have advantages. It makes us sit up and take notice of our
environment, and gives us a good knowledge of unusual local history. For example…
1) Nevada was once covered by a warm shallow sea filled with reefs, mollusks, and ammonites. There were also ichthyosaurs — large marine lizards — and they appeared around 250 million years ago, evolving from a group of unidentified land reptiles that returned to the sea, like the ancestors of modern-day dolphins and whales.
2) In the first half of the 1800s, women were scarce in the West, and husband-hunters, whether ugly or good-looking, mean-tempered, sharp-tongued, or sugar sweet easily found partners. By the 1880s, things had changed. Women fleeing domestic service, poor farms, millwork, or factory toil, were arriving in abundance and men could take their pick.
3) Like all Western boomtowns where the male population outnumbered the female, there were many brothels. Being out in the wasteland, panning for gold, trudging over empty space hoping to find silver, working hard in the mines, or ranching on poor soil and barely surviving, all made for a pretty lonely life, so brothels and saloons were oases. What could be more appealing than an oasis where scantily clad women served alcohol and pleasure?
4) Although their silks, gaudy jewels, and perfumes set them apart from “decent” town women, brothel madams made certain their “girls” were well behaved and lady-like in public. In reality, they had no reason to be otherwise: although a few were tough, gritty women, most were those who, through bad luck, circumstance, betrayal, or personal choice, had come to work in the sex trade. They were as sentimental and vital as any woman, crying each Christmas over the memory of faraway homes, inaccessible families, and a way of life no longer open to them.
5) Local wives detested the ladies of pleasure, and their disapproval condemned them to the last row at social events, theatrical performances in the local community hall, and church services. But these less respectable “ladies” were welcomed by local shopkeepers, for they spent their hard-earned cash on fans, furs, clothes, all manner of fluffy and shining gewgaws.
6) Despite all the lovely stories we hear about western romances, the reality was less romantic. Men looking for wives in the Far West usually went for young, fresh, strong women who would raise children, attend to harvests, garden work, laundry, scrounge for firewood, and cook. Many of the men were looking for women to replace their previous wives who had died during childbirth or from sheer exhaustion.
7) Without experience in the working world, older women who were widows, or who had been
abandoned, or divorced hoped their grown children would take them in. However, not every couple wanted a mother, or mother-in-law in residence unless she was still strong enough to help out with the drudgery. The very many who found no home with their children were often reduced to begging in the towns.
8) Although prohibition effectively cut off Nevada’s much-needed tax revenue, it didn’t reduce social drinking. In one year alone, the 90,000 Nevada residents managed to wangle 10,000 prescriptions for medicinal alcohol.
9) The names of the old railway companies still sound familiar to us — the Philadelphia and
Reading, the Erie, the Northern Pacific, the Union Pacific, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe.
However all those companies failed during the depression of 1893. Even back then the politicians lied, claiming the economy was prospering as 500 banks closed and 16,000 businesses declared bankruptcy.
10) And for those who want to know about me, the author J. Arlene Culiner, I’ve spent my life
shifting from one country to the other, and I’ve often done it in an original way: on foot. I also
travel on slow trains, get off in out-of-the-way places where I can’t speak the language and where I don’t know a soul. I now live in a small, sleepy village in France where there’s nothing going on. There are no shops. Occasionally a tractor passes through. There is a main square with a 13 th century church and houses that date from the 16 th and 18 th centuries. There are many wonderful bats, quirky pigeons, and other lovely birds that I delight in. That about wraps it up, though.
Writer, photographer, social critical
artist, and storyteller, J. Arlene Culiner, was born in New York and
raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe on foot, has lived in a
Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave dwelling, on a
Dutch canal, and in a haunted house on the English moors. She now
resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest
and, much to local dismay, protects all creatures, especially spiders
and snakes. She particularly enjoys incorporating into short stories,
mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in
out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with strange
All sites: https://linktr.ee/j.arleneculiner
Storytelling Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/j-arlene-culiner