Sunday, January 26, 2020

The whistle has sounded.

Bob Schild’s ride is over. He left us January 20. And, no matter what criteria you use for judging, Bob made the whistle on a winning ride.
The years found Bob in a variety of arenas. He was a rodeo cowboy of the first order, successful in all the rough stock events with numerous championships to his credit. He was a businessman, establishing and operating B-Bar-B Leather for decades, building and selling saddles, rodeo gear, and providing all manner of horse equipment; a business passed down to his sons. He was a poet, long before cowboy poetry became the thing to do.
When I first thought to pen poetry, I looked to Bob’s work for inspiration and an education. Beyond mere rhyming stories, Bob’s verse showed literary technique, deep thinking, and attention to craft. I wanted to meet him.
I tracked Bob down at the National Circuit Finals Rodeo one year, where I found him sweeping up under the grandstands. That’s the way Bob was—always willing to lend a hand and do any job that needed doing. He was happy to make my acquaintance and willing to talk poetry and rodeo anytime, any place.
We became friends, and for years engaged in a one-sided admiration society. I had little to contribute to the relationship. Bob gave it his all. I wish time and distance hadn’t gotten in the way of my spending more time with him.
A few magazine articles focusing on Bob found their way into print, and it was difficult for me as a writer to maintain any semblance of objectivity when writing about him. 
I will never forget Bob Schild. Even though the whistle has sounded, his winning score is permanently inked in the record books.

Monday, January 20, 2020

One sitting each.

A “short story” has been defined as one that can be read in one sitting. That being the case, Hobnail and Other Frontier Stories, a new anthology from Five Star, is good for seventeen sittings.
Some of my favorite Western writers, including Loren D. Estleman, Johnny D. Boggs, and John D. Nesbitt are featured here. And there is a story by yours truly.
“The Times of a Sign” is about mules and jacks and horses and thievery, as it tells of a young man who takes part in a horse-stealing expedition to California, which leads to establishing a mule- and oxen-breeding operation in Missouri. As he explains to a questioner the absurdity of the sign advertising his enterprise, he relates the adventure of establishing the business.
The sign reads:
for sale
mules and oxen
breeding stock
What could possibly upset him so? One sitting with Hobnail and Other Frontier Stories will answer that question.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Really stupid words, Chapter 10.

As you know, American English is a rich language with enough words and phrases to tell about anything and everything. And yet, rather than just use words as they are meant to be used, we abuse them and misuse them. Usually, in feeble attempts to sound more important. But those efforts fool few of us, and are just plain stupid.
Then there are simple, ordinary, everyday words that get thrown into sentences where they serve no purpose whatsoever. “Different” comes to mind. It has a distinct, clear meaning to describe things that are not alike, or dissimilar, or, sometimes, unusual.
For example: “I talked to three people and got three different answers.” It is clear that each person’s account was unlike the others.
But I hear people say things like, “I talked to three different people,” or, “We visited six different states.” What purpose does “different” serve in those examples? Surely you couldn’t talk to three “same” people, or visit six “same” states.
On the other hand, considering the first example, you could talk to three people and get the same answer.
As far as I know, economy of language requires not wasting words by using them needlessly. Like “different.” You may have a different opinion.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Ding Dong.

It’s the end of the year. Time to ring out 2019 and ring in 2020. Time to look back and time to look ahead. Time to take stock of our lives—or, in my case here, the writing life.
 No new books with my name on the spine were released in 2019, save the large-print edition of my November 2018 novel Father unto Many Sons.
I am tempted to defend myself by saying I haven’t spent the year just sitting on my butt. Then it occurred to me that sitting on their butts is exactly what writers do. A lot.
During all that sitting on my butt in 2019, I worked with Five Star Publishing to get Pinebox Collins ready for April 2020 release, and working on getting a second novel, A Thousand Dead Horses, ready for November release.  
A third novel, And the River Ran Red, is awaiting publication, most likely in 2021. A fourth novel, All My Sins Remembered, is also in Five Star’s hands.
Late in 2019, Five Star released an anthology, Hobnail and Other Frontier Stories, which includes my short story, “The Times of a Sign.” And I worked with editors Nancy Plain and Rachelle “Rocky” Gibbons on a chapter for Go West: Seldom-Told Stories from History, a nonfiction anthology for young readers that Two Dot will publish in 2021. My piece is titled “Earl Bascom and His Bronc-Bustin’ Brothers: Fathers of Modern Rodeo.”
I also managed to write a magazine article for Cowboys & Indians; another for Range magazine; a feature article, a column, and a poem for Saddlebag Dispatches; and a book review for True West magazine. And, Grits McMorrow reprinted several of my essays on writing poetry in his Minnekahta eMessenger.
If I weren’t so lazy, I would get more done. Maybe in 2020….
But for now, back to sitting on my butt.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Lies they tell writers, Part 52: No more lies.

Ever since I started posting things here, I have, with some regularity, posted “lies” writers tell other writers—and themselves—about writing. The point being that writers have to find their own way. Advice, counsel, instruction, guidelines, decrees—all those things can be helpful. But, in the end, there are no commandments from on high, no hard-and-fast, dyed-in-the-wool rules about how to become a writer.
Had I posted these thoughts weekly, this entry would finish out a year’s worth. That ought to be enough. I suspect I have covered the subject as well as I know how, and then some.
So, while I will continue to write about any and all aspects of the West, literature, poetry, art, and anything else that strikes my fancy, there will be no more “Lies they tell writers.”
Enough is enough. And that’s the truth.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Playing the slots.

Southern Utah is a red rock wonderland. Soaring cliffs. Plunging gorges. Pinnacles and buttes and mesas and canyons. There are more places that can take your breath away than you can possibly see in a lifetime—let alone a couple of days.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of once again teaching at the Kanab Writers Conference. While I have been fortunate to be a part of several conferences in several places, Kanab is always a favorite.
After the conference, we made our way across the Arizona Strip, dropped off the mesa back into Utah and St. George, then drove north of town a few miles to Snow Canyon State Park. We had been there before, and it was time for another visit. An unforgettable recollection, Jenny’s Canyon, surpassed the memory.
A short, easy path off the road leads to a red rock cliff and into a small slot canyon. The photo above shows the entrance. The canyon walls, that can be spanned with both hands in places, reach skyward, limiting light to a narrow strip of sky. Much of the rock is “honeycombed” with fissures and holes and clefts and crevices that inspire wonder.
It’s a small wonder, as wonders go in this part of the West. But it is still wonderful.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Giving thanks.

Today is the day set aside to do something we should do every day—give thanks for all the blessings we enjoy just for being alive. Things that are ours through no effort of our own. Things that should remind us that while the world may not owe us a living, it provides one anyway.
I am grateful today, as always, for the alphabet.
The twenty-six letters, symbols, scribbles, given to us who use American English have provided me a long life of education, employment, and entertainment. Numbers and I do not get along. But the alphabet, and all that comes from it, is an ever-present friend and companion. Just think of a world without the ability to share thoughts, feelings, ideas, knowledge, and more through a written language. It is beyond contemplation.
Despite the occasional quirks and complications inherent in using our alphabet, and despite the hatred, lies, and cruelty some fashion from it, I am thankful today for the wonder of the alphabet and the many miracles it lavishes on my life.
I hope I remember that tomorrow.