Gettin’ It On, Back in the Day

My novel is set in 1886, on a Big Bend ranch, south of the town of Marathon.
As best I can tell from my fairly diligent research, Marathon at that time had roughly 50 inhabitants, and the local watering hole was a saloon called The McKinney.
I know the McKinney only from a grainy photocopy of an old photo, and a bit of oral history I got from the folks at the library at Sul Ross State University.
I had to invent the two whores myself—Prudence and Anna Mae.  These hussies do their entertaining out of a couple of back rooms at The McKinney.
They can often be found sitting on the narrow front porch, engaging in perfectly innocent conversation with the local passersby.
To the best of my knowledge, it’s not known whether any real whores were in Marathon at the time.  I didn’t find any account mentioning whores…but then again, I didn’t find any account stating that there weren’t any whores, either.
In case two soiled doves sounds like two many for a town of only 50 souls, consider that a western novel can generally benefit from at least one whore…and two is so much more interesting. Also consider the poor cowboys, out in the pasture for months at a time, and just hoping for a little female company on those occasional trips to town.
As the protagonist, John discovers, the problem with taking a shine to Prudence is that his brother’s already been with her.

“How was Prudence?” He grinned and raised an eyebrow.

“Fine.” I scratched the back of my neck, not sure what to say.

“Good woman.” He pulled out his papers and rolled a smoke.

As I watched him lick the edge of that paper, it dawned on me, the awful truth. “How many times you been with her?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Jealousy flooded my heart that he’d plucked the bloom on my sweet desert rose. “Godamnit, Tin, you didn’t tell me.”

“Tell you…what? That I let her grind my corn? For Jesus sakes, John, it was only a few times. She can be your girl all you want, but it’s not like she belongs to nobody else. If she was all yours, she’d be a mighty poorly paid whore.” 

To write up John’s adventures with Prudence, I had to learn the sexual lingo of the day.  My favorite old-time phrase for doing the nasty is “shaking the sheets.”  But there are several good ones, including, “grind the corn” (as in the above excerpt).
It’s amazing what you can find on the Internet!  And who knew, but the F-word dates all the way back to the 1500’s.
Anne
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