Friday, December 28, 2012

“This is Charles-Town”

Black and white all mix’d together
Inconstant, strange, unhealthful weather
Burning heat and chilling cold
Dangerous both to young and old
Boisterous winds and heavy rains
Fevers and rheumatic pains
Agues plenty without doubt
Sores, boils, the prickling heat and gout
Water bad, past all drinking
Men and women without thinking
Every thing at a high price
But rum, hominy and rice
Many a widow not unwilling
Many a beau not worth a shilling
Many a bargain, if you strike it
This is Charles-town, how do you like it?

Captain Martin, 1769

Friday, November 30, 2012

And ready to roll

 Our intrepid crew members did not use the front entrance however but instead entered the building via a side entrance that was, if anything, even more nondescript than the main entrance. Everyone blinked as they passed from the bright Charleston sunlight into a dimly lit corridor. The main source of illumination came from a barred window (such as one might see in a Post Office or Bank) beside a metal clad door. This was the crew’s destination.

“Hey there” called the woman behind the bars. “Y’all are back little early, ain’t ya? That’s good! Ole Lady Jackson will wanna see ya right away, Captain! Hope yer ship didn’t get all shot-up like last time, did it?”
“Now, now, Janine” answered Captain Willie. “You know we said that we wouldn’t talk about that. Ever again.” He tried to frown sternly but didn’t quite succeed.
Janine chuckled, not a bit abashed. “Here now, let me just unlock this big ole door for you and the rest of you can just sign in here at the window, same as usual. Any receipts or requisitions, just hand them over to me and I’ll take care of everything just like I always do.” Janine prattled on without even pausing for breath. “Then y’all can head home and have a nice rest cuz its att least 2 or 3 weeks before you ship out again.”

Janine, although chatty, was also a very effective secretary and was rapidly putting in order the diverse papers as the various crew members signed and returned time-sheets and receipts for their respective work-related expenses. Janine then opened the heavy, metal-clad door and waved-in the Captain.
“Just let me check on the Ole Lady and see if she can get with you now. I don’t reckon you’ll have to wait very long in any case.


Harry, Kennia and Tira each pocket their pay and left the way they came in.
“Catch y’all later!” laughed Kennia. “I’ve got some partying to do!”
“Oh I bet.” muttered Harry.
Tira glared at him but did not speak.
“You are most wholeheartedly welcome to come by and join us,” said Kennia to Tira while pointedly ignoring Harry.
“That’s alright. I may pop in later but for now I want to take a warm bath, read my technical journals, and sleep for a week. In that order preferably!”
“I hear ya!”

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

CFS Sandflea

A rendering of the Sandflea by my friend and fellow Steampunk artist Nils Härgestam. Nils also has done artwork for the Steampunk band Abney Park.

If anyone is interested in sending me fanart of the airship or its crew, I will gladly upload it with a link to your website!

Friday, November 2, 2012

And now for something completely different

If you scroll down to the bottom of the page you will find a new feature: a button allowing you to use Paypal to gift this blog with money. This is entirely voluntary!!! All content on CFS is free of charge and always shall be.

However, since I have incurred certain costs in bringing you this blog, I would appreciate anyone who wants to chip-in! I have already commissioned (and paid for) 4 pieces of original Steampunk artwork from friend and fellow-artist Nils Härgestam for example.

Note! The button reads "pay now" rather than "donate" because Paypal requires that groups using the "donate" button be registered non-profits (which this blog is not).



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Home again

The airship docks weren’t located in Charleston proper of course, due to the risk of tropical storms and hurricanes. High winds could easily tear the airships from their moorings and toss them willy-nilly into nearby buildings. In addition the thunderstorms so common in the afternoons meant that there was a risk of lightning strikes. The docking towers were mostly made of wood with metal fittings and were the tallest structures in their area. The hydrogen pumping station was a potential danger as well since the gas was highly flammable.  Therefore the Sandflea would be docked several miles inland from Charleston and its crew would take a horse-drawn tram in to town.

There wasn’t much to see at the docks anyway, just storage sheds and mechanic’s workshops. The only sign of comfortable quarters was a little café that was most noted for the strength of its coffee rather than the quality of its food.  The café owners had posted a chalkboard with a schedule of the estimated arrival and departure times of individual vessels. There were also a few warehouses for the goods that needed to be shipped by air rather than rail.

After exiting the Sandflea with their personal belongings, the crew stopped at the café to purchase tickets for the tram. The café owner was an untidy man whose work apron was askew. “You’re early.” he sniffed. “By a couple of days in fact.”
“Well glad to see you, too” answered the Captain. “Ain’t like we’ve got a deadline or nothin’.”
“Or that it’s any of his business” muttered Tira.
“True that,” answered the café owner.
“When is the next tram in to town?”
“Oh, forty minutes or so. Have some coffee and set a spell while you wait for it.”
The Captain paid for everyone’s tickets and then waved them to a table.
“Well y’all, I gotta go and debrief but I reckon the rest of y’all can just check-in at the office and then head home.

The office as it was called was in a nondescript building on a nondescript street behind a nondescript door. The whole point was to avoid calling attention to the business of the people working there. The discreet sign on the door said only “Distribution Office" with no indication of what was being distributed or by whom.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Life and Times of Congressman Robert Smalls

Robert Smalls:  Robert Smalls was born an enslaved person on April 5, 1839, in a small cottage in Beaufort, SC. By the time he died in 1915, Smalls had served five terms in the United States Congress. Click on his name to go to the "The Life and Times of Congressman Robert Smalls" web site.

This man's real life was an action and adventure tale! 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Friends and Lovers

“Now y’all know better than to be gettin’ all into my business!” snapped Tira but she had a slight smile as she spoke.
Kennia turned to Captain Willie, “Shouldn’t you be in the cockpit helpin’ fly this thing?”
“Now y’all need to understand that I need my nourishment. I don’t want to be feeling faint or nothin’”
“Yeah, what if Harry nods off and crashes this thing?” asked Kennia.
“Naw, he stays awake when he needs to. He just nods off between times when we ain’t movin’,” replied the Captain.
“Now you’ve eaten and you’ve surely got something more important to do than to get in our hair.”
“Certainly, I’ll leave you two to discuss Tira’s Secret Loverman,” the Captain smirked as he sauntered away. “Laaaaaadies.”
Neither Kennia nor Tira could help laughing at that.
“So,” asked Kennia, “Is there something to tell me? What have you been holding secret from your best friend?”
“There’s nothin’ to tell. Just because I think the man is fine doesn’t mean that I’m after him. Besides, think about all the time he spends in the hospital recovering from his adventures. I’d be a nervous wreck worryin’ about him all the time.”
“He is pretty handsome, if you are into fellas at least.”
“Well I am” answered Tira. “Into fellas I mean, not necessarily into this particular one. Besides I don’t exactly live a settled life now do I?”
“What’s that got to do with it? It’s better that way; they aren’t underfoot when you don’t want ‘em around!”
“And that was the problem with my husband! He wasn’t ever around even when I wanted him to be!”

As the airship headed almost due south on the last leg of its return trip, they flew over more and more rice fields. The entire coastal region was divided into plots with their attendant tech.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Charleston, South Carolina 1869

This is this month's non-story post so here you can see some Charleston & Low Country history and culture.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Almost home

Captain Willie came back from the tiny galley with a large mug of stew in hand just a few moments later. “Yep, y’all were right, that bread ain’t fit to eat. But the stew’s right good with black-eyed peas and carrots and all in it.”
“Yeah but they’re cooked to mush.”
“That’s good. Saves on the chewin’. Besides, ya pour enough hot pepper sauce over it and that’s all you taste anyway.”
"True that!" The two women nodded in agreement.

Tira remarked, “When we get to Charleston we’ll need to top-off at the hydrogen fuelling station, ya know?”
Said the Captain after he finished up. “How’s she doing otherwise?”
“Not too bad,” answered Tira. “Some things need replacing but then, don’t they always? We’re not fallin’ outa the sky anytime soon, though. I hope.”

“I heard that Crazy Man Mike is gonna be out of the hospital and back in the air by the time we get to Charleston.”
“How come he’s called Crazy Man Mike?” asked Kennia.
“Cuz,” answered Captain Willie, “He heads off in the direction he needs to go and doesn’t stop until he gets there. No matter what. Doesn’t matter what might happen to be in the way, he just goes right through it. Or tries to anyway. Doesn’t work so good with things like brick buildings and such.”
“He’s a courier and he gets things gone to where they need to be!” snapped Tira. “Don’t be talkin’ trash about him now.”
 "You sound a little bit sweet on him, Tira!" laughed Kennia. "I thought you said that you'd sworn off men for good."
"Ahhhh, I see you have a secret lover man now!" said the Captain.

Pictures courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

August's non-story post

is about a little known (outside of SC at least) era of Southern history: South Carolina under Radical Reconstruction.

During this time South Carolina had African-American men (women were not eligible to vote or hold political office at this time) in the state legislature as well as sending one to represent South Carolina in the US Congress. Reconstruction was the systematic recreation of US society, especially the areas that formerly had allowed slavery.

According to the Wikipedia entry on the subject: "The laws and constitutional amendments that laid the foundation for the most radical phase of Reconstruction were adopted from 1866 to 1871. By the 1870s, Reconstruction had officially provided freedmen with equal rights under the constitution, and blacks were voting and taking political office. Republican legislatures, coalitions of whites and blacks, established the first public school systems and numerous charitable institutions in the South." 

Who knows how far South Carolina could have progressed if not for the end of Reconstruction in 1877?

**************EDITED 2012-08-31*************

I didn't want to upload the following photo because of the racist commentary written under the picture. But this is also part of the history of South Carolina and should be known rather than hidden.

Why didn't I learn about these people in school? Because that knowledge (that someone other than rich, white men could accomplish social reforms) is STILL, even in 2012, too dangerous to the powers that be?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Way Down on the Pee Dee River

As the Sandflea followed the course of the Greater Pee Dee river southward, they passed over a series of water-driven mills. This of course prompted the  two mechanically inclined crew members to discuss the subject!

“Yeah, I hear they’ve got some sorta new kind of water turbine. Supposed to be way more efficient. It was invented by a fella by the name of Pelton,” said Tira.
“Well, I’ve heard that there are some folks who want to dam-up entire rivers. That sure would be plenty of water power.”
Tira snorted, “What kind of idiot thinks that would be a good idea? I mean what happens to all the fish? And the folks downstream who need the water? And to folks who live in the river valleys? Sounds completely insane to me!”
“I agree, it’s a Tom Fool idea. But you know how some people think. Bigger has always got to be better.”

“When we reach Charleston you can get some more of those science magazines What is the name of the one that you like so much, Science in America or something like that?”
“Scientific American,” corrected Tira. “And yeah, the latest issues should have arrived on the mailboat by the time we reach Charleston. But you know how that goes. Maybe it will be there and maybe not.”

“What are y’all goin’ on about?” asked Captain Willie as he wandered back into the engineer room.
“Aren’t you supposed to be flying this ship?” retorted Tira.
“We’re just drifting now. Not so much to do so I thought I’d get me somethin’ to eat. You ladies want anything?”
Tira glared while Kennia laughed. “What did we tell you about calling us ladies? We are hard-workin’ women! No one here is droppin’ lace hankies and sighing for her prince to come and rescue her!”
“Fine, fine! Can I get you hard-workin’ women something from the galley?”
“Naw. Bread’s gone mouldy and I’m tired of stew.” answered Kennia. "Can't say that I'm all that hungry anyhow."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Saturday, June 30, 2012

I See the Sea Shore

Francis Marion National Forest

After slowly journeying eastwards from the Catawba Nation's lands for several days the airship and its crew followed the Greater Pee Dee River southeast until they were almost to the coast. Pine and Fir trees gave way to Hickory and Oak while forest thinned out to become wetlands and estuaries.

Carya illinoinensis commonly known as Pecan Tree

Smells changed entirely as the airship journeyed from the Carolina Piedmont to the coastal region. And the humidity, a constant throughout South Carolina, became soul-crushing. Some of the coastal scent was the salt tang from the Atlantic and some was from the spring flowers. By now the calender showed March and March at the coast was as warm as May further inland. Shrubs, both native and naturalized, bloomed unceasingly.

Hibiscus grandiflorus commonly known as Swamp Rose Mallow

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Angel Oak

This is what an oak tree should look like! NOT all chopped, maimed, and mutilated (as they so often are here in Sweden).

"On Johns Island stands the majestic Angel Oak. Estimated to be between 300-400 years old; the tree towers 65 feet high and has a circumference of 25.5 feet. Its area of shade is 17,000 square feet and its largest limb has a circumference of 11.5 feet, and a length of 89 feet. Live oaks are not particularly tall trees, but have wide-spreading canopies. Only in the very old specimens do you find massive limbs resting on the ground, as you do the limbs of the Angel Oak. The City of Charleston acquired the Angel Oak Park in 1991." - From the City of Charleston's website.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Carolina Foodways: Dirty Rice

2 cups     long grain rice
4 cups     chicken stock
12 oz       chicken livers
1              large onion, chopped
1              bellpepper, chopped
2              stalks celery
3-4          cloves garlic, minced
1             cup mushrooms, chopped
1             bunch parsley, chopped
1             tablespoon salt
3             tablespoons corn oil
               salt, pepper & Tabasco to taste

Saute the livers and chopped veggies in corn oil. Add the rice and saute, then add the stock. Cook with a lid on the pot for 30 - 35 minutes. I use a rice cooker for making this dish.

There area  million variations on this dish so feel free to experiment and adapt to your own tastes!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Nuthin' says lovin' like something from the oven

Captain Willie and his First Mate Harry sat in the tiny cockpit, each man having just barely enough space to fit his legs under his respective instrument panel.
“So what do you have planned for when we get to Charleston? That’s your hometown isn’t it?” asked Harry.
“Gonna visit my mama first off, ‘course! You got somethin’ special planned?”
“Food, food and more food! I came by this stomach honestly you know.” Harry chuckled.
The captain chuckled as well.
“I’m gonna start by going to my favorite restaurant and ordering the biggest helping of Jambalaya they’ve ever served up! And I’m gonna follow it with Gumbo with okra and freshly caught shrimp, squash and ham soup, any kind of fritters. And don’t forget orange-glazed sweet potatoes!”
Captain Willie nodded agreement, “Yeah, I go for anything fried, especially fritters. Can’t be frying up stuff on this crate; one spark and the damn thing would catch afire and we’d all be done for.”
“This is just about the time of the year for fried green tomatoes.” said Harry.
You know what I miss most of all? Eggs.  And I mean just about anything to do with eggs. Fry ‘em, devil ‘em, but best of all is coconut custard pie! Yeah, my mama feeds me plenty! And after I catch-up with her news I’m goin’ out dancing and see what kind of trouble I can stir-up. Be awful nice to have some lovely perfumed ladies for company instead of sweating, stinking crewmates.”
“Not our fault there isn’t a tub on this airship! We could stop more often I suppose. Besides Kennia and Tira are ladies.”
“No,” answered the Captain. “They are co-workers. Not at all the same thing. And do not ever let Tira hear you call her a lady! Not unless you’d like a smack upside your head..”

Meanwhile Tira and Kennia were back in the airship’s interior doing routine maintenance.
“I’m looking forward to seeing my sweetheart. And some new clothes wouldn’t hurt either.”
Tira laughed, “You and your wardrobe! You already own enough clothing for three women and a drag queen! My boy isn’t expecting me back so soon. Don’t know if he’ll even be in town at all. He’s 19 now and pretty much comes and goes as he pleases just like his da.”
“You expecting to see h him while we’re in town?”
Tira snorted. “Not likely! Besides, he’s probably on the road again. You know how musicians are. Got a new lady singer friend all gussied up in lace and jewelry  no doubt, just waitin’ to be the next music hall sensation.”
“That last one was a pretty little thing and she had a really lovely voice. Whatever happened to her? Did she find a bigger and better honeypie?”
“Lord only knows what happened with her. I don’t bother keepin’ up with them now so it don’t make me no never mind.”
“You might not say that if he came a knockin’ on your door again, gal!”
“You’re dreaming! Or crazy! I had enough of that man and his conniptions years ago. I like my life nice and peaceful. And believe you me, this airship is a haven compared to what my life was like back when I was married.”

Sunday, March 4, 2012


(aka March's non-story post)

Tira is the airship crew's mechanical genius - she can fix anything or sabotage it! She has her hair pulled back and pinned since she doesn't want it getting in her eyes while she is working. In one hand she has her wrench and in the other a leather bag containing more tools. Her belt also holds various gadgets as do the pockets on her trousers. Should she need to blend-in, she can add a full skirt over her trousers with no one being the wiser! 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Homesick for Charleston

“Captain,” said Harry, for once totally awake despite not being in the pilot’s seat, “I think the entire crew needs some time-off for respite and recuperation. None of us, including you, have had any holiday since I don’t know when.”
Captain Willie grunted assent. He was not surprised that the crew was becoming restless from lack of recreation. Even before the strange events in the mountains they had been on a stressful schedule of courier assignations. He was taken unawares though when Tira, the silent member of the crew, spoke up.
“Captain, you know we need to return to homebase for maintenance! I’ve been on you about that for a while now.”
Willie James grimaced. “Yep, you have at that.”
“And you did say that the events up in the mountains were making you nervous even if you aren’t quite sure why.” Kennia looked pointedly at the Captain as she spoke.
“Yeah, I was thinkin’ that way myself. Sooner we get home to Charleston, the sooner we can breathe out. Kennia, you got any dispatches to give to the Tuscarora?”
“No sir, not today. All messages and packages have been delivered. Got nothin’ to relay either.”
“Well then. I guess we head southeast from now on. ‘Bout time I got some of my mama’s homecookin’ and all.”
Harry perked up at that thought. “Fresh food instead of tinned! Jambalaya made with chicken and shrimp! I can hardly wait!"

Indeed just the prospect of being homeward bound enlivened the entire crew. Months of travel, spying and covert missions had taken their toll on everyone’s nerves. Some time spent enjoying the sun’s warmth and the fresh sea breeze would be good for them all!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


She has her canteen in one hand and dynamite in the other! Yes, I know that in our timeline dynamite was invented by Alfred Nobel in 1867 but wouldn't a professional spy/saboteur have good reason to have invented it or something similar a few years earlier? Kennia has her grappling hook at her side and various items attached to her belt, including a gun. She is fearless and ready for action!

January's non-story post (wow! only 3 weeks late!)

Captain Willie James as created on

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Good-bye to Ole Toby

While counting out the coin to pay for her purchases Kennia leaned towards Lurleen and whispered, “While I’m here, do you think that you could find a use for that man over there? He’s an unwanted passenger and I would like to be off with him.”
“How on earth did even someone that skinny manage to stowaway on your ship? I thought it was packed plumb full to bustin’” asked Lurleen.
“His name is Ole Toby and he isn’t exactly a stowaway. More like a bit of extra cargo. And he’s makin’ the captain cranky.”
“Well, now, we can’t have that now!” smiled Lurleen. “But what am I goin’ to do with him?”
“Find some chores for him to do. He can run errands or something. He’s real good at sneakin’ about.”
“Humph!” Guess I just can’t resist that now can I? You take care, love, and take care of that captain of yours and your other crew mates. Don’t be a stranger now!”
Lurleen hugged Kennia tightly. “Jus’ send that Toby fella back for more supplies after he takes these to the ship. I’ll set him straight for ya!”

 When she returned to the airship Kennia put away the supplies, humming to herself all the while. She thought to herself how glad she was to have even a small bit of additional space in the crowded storage bay. The interior of the Sandflea contained just enough space but no extra. Indeed every item that could do double duty did so and the space was used to its maximum capacity. “Nice to create a bit of order,” she reflected as she shifted about the dry goods. “What a shame that Josie wasn’t about. That lad was already a good hunter at fourteen years of age and would no doubt be even better by the time he became an adult.”

“I hear someone singin’ now.” chuckled Captain Willie. “Got our supplies and such stashed away yet?”
“Everything but one,” Kennia grinned.
“Which one?”
“Our extra passenger. You know, the man who ate up more than his own weight in food. I sent him back to Lurleen and she’s gonna put him to work.”
 “He’s gone?” Captain Willie brightened considerably. “Well, that just makes my day! Any juicy gossip in town?”
“Lots,” laughed Kennia, “but not the sort you would be interested in. Been pretty quiet ‘round here from what I hear. Miss Lurleen’s man sits on the local tribal council so he would know if something was in the works.”
 “Or the Catawbas are just keeping a lid on it?” asked the captain.
“No, sir, Lurleen and I go back a long ways and she couldn’t hide something from me even if she was to try.”
“If you say so then.”
“Well I do. And while I was shopping, I made sure to buy some of those salt pickles we all like so much!”

 Meanwhile, back at the Catawba Trading Post: “Whadda I do now? And I don’t know no one who lives ‘round here,” groused Toby.
Miss Lurleen smiled. “Oh, I got a whole big ole load of wood just waitin’ to be chopped. And with my man and boy out hunting, there’s been a shortage of hands here to do chores.” Her smile widened to a grin.