Mae Clair: Rats, Worm Castles and Gettysburg

IMG_0099I’ve had some fun stuff going on this week, including a new 5-Star review of WEATHERING ROCK by Dii of Tome Tender. These always get me seriously jazzed and this one was no different. Dii had some lovely things to say about the story and my characters that left me floating on cloud 9 (yeah, that cloud). You can find the complete review here.

I also finished the final round of content edits on TWELFTH SUN, my contemporary mystery/romance releasing in August. It was great to visit with Elijah and Reagan from Twelfth again. I forgot how much fun they were. Wait until you see what those two get up to! 😀

I also managed a new chapter on my current WIP, THE MYSTERY OF ECLIPSE LAKE starring Dane Carlisle and Ellie Sullivan. With all of these characters vying for attention in my head, I ended up with a virtual party. Mixed together, I entertained a Civil War Colonel, photojournalist, marine archeologist, interior decorator, an ex-con and a history teacher. Quite a potpourri of imaginative friends. And then there’s Jesse, Dane’s highly opinionated seventeen-year-old kid who would probably give even the colonel a thing or two to digest. Actually, there’s no ‘probably’ about it. 😀

But we won’t go there. For this post, I want to talk about Gettysburg and Caleb, my hunky werewolfy colonel from WEATHERING ROCK.

Caleb is originally from the 1800s and fought in the battle of Gettysburg on the side of the Union Army.  I’m fortunate that Gettysburg is only about a forty-five minute trek from where I live. As a child, I visited the battlefield several times during field trips, then pretty much forgot about it until many years later when I rediscovered history as an adult. Since then, my husband and I have been there many times.


The Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg. Notice the person standing on the upper level to the right of the dome.

In WEATHERING ROCK, I mention the Pennsylvania Monument. For those of you who have never been to Gettysburg, it really is the largest and most impressive monument on the battlefield. During one of the visits my husband and I made, we happened to hit the monument at the same time as a busload of junior high school kids. I remember walking up the steps (it’s raised and has two stories) as a young girl came racing down. She must have been the tattler in the group because she immediately rushed up to a woman (who I guessed was the teacher) and breathlessly informed her two of the boys were spitting off the upper level, betting on who could hit someone below.Hubby and I had a good laugh over the whole thing (although not in front of the woman). When I wrote about Caleb and Arianna visiting the Pennsylvania Monument—along with several of Arianna’s schoolchildren—I used the ‘spitting scenario’ at the Pennsylvania Monument. It was too good to resist. But I also had some fun with the kids earlier in the story. Here’s a snippet from their bus trip with Caleb and Arianna:

“Ms. Hart, when are we going to stop for lunch?” Beth Regal asked, joined in a chorus of whiney fidgeting by Lisa and Trudy.

“Soon,” Arianna promised. There was a picnic area a short distance down the road. After that, she could let everyone burn off excess energy by hiking up Little Round Top. “I hope everyone packed a good lunch. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m hungry.”

“I brought a sandwich, soda and chips,” Beth piped up. “And I have oatmeal cookies for desert.”

“What about Slim Jims?” Danny wanted to know. “Lunch ain’t squat without a Slim Jim.”

“Don’t say ain’t, Danny,” Arianna corrected. “And I think you need more than a Slim Jim for lunch.”         `

Caleb looked puzzled. “It’s got to be better than hardtack.”

“What’s that?” Scott Albright asked.

“A type of food soldiers ate during the Civil War. It was made of flour, water and salt. Sort of like a hard cracker. Not very appetizing, especially when weevils laid their larvae inside. Most of the men took to calling them ‘worm castles.’”

“Ewww!” Trudy proclaimed.

Caleb chuckled. “If you think that’s bad…” And he went on to relay how as the war progressed and times grew worse–especially in the South where hardships were more severe–people were sometimes reduced to eating things like snakes, rats, locusts, cats and dogs. The girls shrilled their revulsion while the boys found this new information worthy of intense examination.

“You mean like real rats?” Danny was incredulous.

“You could buy a dressed one in a butcher shop in some cities for about two dollars and fifty cents,” Caleb confirmed.

Arianna shook her head. “Caleb. You could have picked a better topic before lunch.” But she couldn’t stop smiling at how animated the group had become, the boys exuberantly discussing rats hanging in shop windows, the girls indignant that anyone would consider eating a cat or a dog. Somehow, despite the subject matter, everyone managed to down a sandwich when they stopped at a shaded picnic area.


As someone who’s hiked Little Round Top numerous times and stopped for a sandwich at some of Gettysburg’s shaded picnic areas, I can tell you it takes more than a few hours to observe. You can take it in by horseback if you prefer and there are plenty of bike trails. Because the park is so large we usually drive it, stopping here and there for short hikes. I haven’t been back since they redid the visitor’s center, but will probably make a trip this summer. If I’m lucky, I might even run into a blond-haired colonel from the 1800s, a harried school teacher, and a group of kids discussing rats and Slim Jims (although I’d be more than happy to settle for the colonel).

I’ve lost track of the historical sites I’ve visited over the years. How about you? Have you ever been to Gettysburg? If not, where else have you been that the ghosts of history still linger?

13 thoughts on “Mae Clair: Rats, Worm Castles and Gettysburg

  1. Mae we moved to MD a year ago and one of the first things we did is drive up to see Gettysburg,I am a HUGE history geek so it was wonderful. You will love the visitor center it is very cool. Carin


    • I’m always happy to meet another history geek 🙂 Isn’t Gettysburg great? And you have me jazzed to see the new Visitor’s Center! A trip is definitely on my list for the spring or summer. Thanks for dropping by and checking out my post!


  2. Congrats on the awesome 5 star! So deserved, of course. And thanks for letting me revisit with Caleb! I love him 🙂 you have tons going on right now and it’s all so exciting! Can’t wait to read your new book! Yay!

    As far as history, I haven’t been to many historical sites, but we have a place here called Old World Wisconsin that we always used to visit as kids with school. It’s basically a little “town” set back in history, with the old schoolhouse and everything. I haven’t been there in so long though its hard to remember everything they have. I must visit again someday though.


    • Old World Wisconsin sounds very cool. I’m always attracted to things like that. I love soaking up the ‘feel’ of another era and time. Definitely sounds like fun.

      Thanks for the congrats too. It’s been crazy the last few weeks but somehow I’m still managing to tread water, LOL!


  3. yep – that was a good scene. Have to find time to finish the book Interesting how we can take from real life and incorporate into our writing and we never know when we will see or hear something that we can use.


    • I collect tidbits in my head all of the time, Sue. Sometimes I’ll jot them down if they’re really special, but mostly they’re just sitting around, collecting dust and taking up space until I find a way to use them. The ‘spitting kids’ were perfect for the two…ahem,…exhuberant boys on Arianna’s bus trip. 😀


  4. I visited Gettysburg when i was a child and still remember how interesting it was! (which is a miracle for a fidgety, mouthy kid who would have likely loved slim jim’s for lunch;) loved your snippet and congrats on getting through content edits!


  5. It was good to learn more about the Civil War from you.
    The Old Gaol (jail) in Cork City where I live is said to be haunted. I visited it on the culture night last winter and took a guided tour. It’s a really creepy place full of wax figures of prisoners. There’s a lot of dark history in that place.


    • I think I would be totally creeped out by The Old Gaol! I take that back. I KNOW I’d be creepd out, LOL. As often as I’ve visited Gettysburg, I’ve never done the ghost tours. Visiting during the day makes me focus on the history but if I went at night for a ghost tour I’d be thinking about all the dark history. Too spooky!


      • I did a ghost tour in Edinburgh – it was more fun than frightening, but we were taken into the vaults underground and it was all very atmospheric. Next time you go to Gettysburg, opt for a spooky tour, even if it’s in daylight 🙂


  6. Mae – You’re doing a great job of pulling me into your next novel and thus becoming invested. And for historic sites – the list goes on and on. I have far to many favorites. With my career moving me so often, it provided every opportunity for exploring over 40 states as well as 12 countries. The foreign site that really got to me the most is the Coliseum and the Catacombs. But – then there are so many – how can I possibly select just one. Of course just today I was talking with someone about the sites they absolutely must take in while visiting DC and I mentioned The Holocaust Museum as a must. Of all the Smithsonian museums, that one got to me the most and made the most lasting impression. The bridge at the top of my blog is a historical site and because of all that happened there, it’s said the entire area is haunted.


    • I remember the bridge, Sheri, on your blog and some of the history you shared about that. As for your travels, what sites you must have seen! I’m not sure I coud stomach the Holocaust Museum, but I know it would make a life-time impression if I ever went. I tend to be too empathic about things so dark history really effects me.

      40 States and 12 countries? All I have to say is – – WOW!!!


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