Monday, June 27, 2016

“Goodbye, Old Paint…

…I’m leavin’ Cheyenne.”
Truth be told, unlike that classic cowboy song lyric, I’ve already left Cheyenne. We were there last week for the annual Western Writers of America convention.
As usual, the WWA convention was a good time. I saw lots of fellow writers who’ve become friends over the years, and I met some who likely will become friends. I sat in some interesting panel discussions and presentations and visited some interesting historic sites in the area. And, to repeat myself, my novel Rawhide Robinson Rides the Tabby Trail: TheTrue Tale of a Wild West CATastrophe received a handsome certificate as a Finalist for the Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile Fiction, a book suitable for readers from junior high age to geriatric.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the convention was the acceptance of a Spur Award for Best Western Storyteller by young author JoJo Thoreau, author of the illustrated children’s book Buckaroo Bobbie Sue. Calling her young is not an exaggeration—JoJo is nine years old.
Which is certainly a novelty.
But her book and her Spur Award are no novelty. She’s an honest-to-goodness writer and Buckaroo Bobbie Sue is an honest–to-goodness book. It‘s the colorfully illustrated rhyming story of a young girl’s wish to, as we say in the cowboy trade, “make a hand,” and her rise to heroics at the right minute.
I played a small role in the making of the book and am pleased as punch that JoJo (who’s too young to know better) trusted me help out.
Leaving Cheyenne wasn’t easy, but at least as we rode out of town “leading Old Dan” we left with saddlebags full of fine memories—including meeting in person the budding—but already accomplished—author JoJo Thoreau.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Another campfire tale from Rawhide Robinson.

Rawhide Robinson, the ordinary cowboy who often finds himself in extraordinary situations, has news. This time—unlike his usual campfire anecdotes—it’s true from beginning to end.
Western Fictioneers, an international organization of professional authors who write about the Old West, recently announced the winners of their 2016 Peacemaker Awards. You may recall that earlier, I wrote that Rawhide Robinson Rides the Tabby Trail: The True Tale of a Wild West CATastrophe—was named a Finalist for Best Western Novel for Young Adults, and I promised an update if there were any developments.  
Well, it won.
That sentence probably deserves an exclamation point, but I try to follow Elmore Leonard’s advice and limit myself to two or three for every 100,000 words of prose. But don’t let the lack of a punctuation mark fool you—I am surprised and stunned and happy and honored to have a book I created win an award named after Samuel Colt’s most famous creation. Rawhide Robinson Rides the Tabby Trail: The True Tale of a Wild West CATastrophe is available in hardcover and e-book and will make enjoyable reading for book lovers from junior high school to geriatric age.
Finally, since cat videos are so popular on the Internet, I’ve posted the little promotional video for the book. Click on it and take a look. (Spoiler alert: it does, in fact, include cats.)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

New news (sort of) about the Bear River Massacre.

According to recent news reports, archeologists from the state of Idaho and Utah State University have pinpointed the site of the 1863 massacre at Bear River. Which is not really big news, as the site has always been known, if not down to the square inch, by Shoshoni descendants and historians.
But farming, floods, railroad and road building, and a shifting river course have altered the terrain beyond recognition of its appearance in 1863. A map by a soldier—whose account also cemented the fact that it was a massacre rather than a battle as official army accounts claimed—helped in locating the Shoshoni village site, along with “modern technology.”
The massacre at Bear River was the first massacre of Indians by the military in the Old West, as well as the worst, with a body count surpassing Wounded Knee and Sand Creek and other better-known tragedies. While 400 to 500 Shoshoni deaths are often reported nowadays, those numbers are inflated and based on accounts with little credibility. Still, the more realistic number of 250 to 350 Shoshoni deaths at soldiers’ hands remains unsurpassed in Old West history.
Still, it is largely forgotten. Few people—even historians—know much, if anything, about the massacre. And that’s unfortunate. You can learn more about it in a chapter of my book The Lost Frontier: Momentous Moments in the Old West You May Have Missed, and in greater detail in my book Massacre at Bear River: First, Worst, Forgotten.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Brenn Hill makes more music.

Anyone who’s been paying attention knows I am a fan of Brenn Hill. As songwriters go, he’s one of the best in the West. And he’s a talented singer and skilled musician.
I first heard Brenn’s music back in the late ’90s at a festival in Cache Valley. I don’t think he was shaving with any regularity back then, but his lyrics already surpassed the standard cowboy clichés to reveal facets of our Western world we all recognize but see with fresh eyes through his songs.
His debut Rangefire album has been in my collection since way back then, and it has spent more than its share of time in a succession of CD players over the years. Several years and a dozen or so outstanding albums later comes How You Heal. Sixteen songs, all Brenn Hill compositions, range from celebrations of cowboy work and Western places to songs that seem inspired by the writer’s maturity into his middle years.
“Middle Age Cowboy,” a story of a cowboy who clings to the life despite pressures to relent, will be familiar to all who reluctantly moved on to other pursuits. “Twenty and Cowboy” is a wistful reflection of years gone by. My favorite track just might be “Fair Weather Cowboy,” a rollicking revelation of a reality many experience but few will admit. The other songs on the album are remarkable for reasons of their own.
If you’re a Brenn Hill fan, you’ll like adding How You Heal to your collection. If you’re not, you ought to be.