Research for my next book, THE TIN MAN’S WIFE has transported me to the harsh yet generous shores of Nova Scotia, where the story begins with a dream of a better life. From DSt. John’s we take a ship along the eastern seaboard to Nicaragua, where we find ourselves atop mules trudging through an equatorial summer across the Isthmus of Panama. When we arrive at the Pacific coast, we wait long hot days for the next ship to San Francisco.
By happenstance (or Providence), our characters narrowly miss the Brother Jonathan, their intended ship which sinks off the coast of Crescent City, California. Against the captain’s wishes and in favor of the ship owner’s greed, it turns out the good ship Brother Jonathan had been overloaded with too much cargo–camels, barrels of preserved food, and passengers. m=Misfortune results. En route to Victoria, B.C. the unfortunate ship sinks, losing several souls and camels to a raging sea.
The title of the book, Tin Man’s Wife, references oilcloth clothing worn by nineteenth century loggers, seafaring men, and bull-punchers of the Olympic Peninsula and other northern territories. The arduous practice of coating heavy canvas with linseed oil, beeswax or tar made the cotton so stiff, tough and waterproof that the clothing earned the name “tin cloth.” It was said loggers literally stood their “tin” pants up in the corners of the bunkhouses before retiring to their cedar and fur bough-lined bunks each night.
Because the business of being a lumberjack required that a man possess superior strength, tenacity, fearlessness, and that he work long hours in awful conditions, “tin men” became known as the most manly of all men.