Tag Archive | courage

Settling the West

Visiting Durango Colorado was a wonderful walk into the past for me. It also reinforced my thoughts that there were many reasons for people to come west. There were beautiful ranches there, and farms, and a very famous train to visit. There were also a couple of amazing museums I visited, and yes, I bought books for more research 😊

I had lunch at one of the ranches near Durango, the James Ranch, (http://www.jamesranch.net/market), they prepare food that is completely organic and have items in their market that visitors can purchase and bring home to enjoy later… I still have some of their cheeses in my fridge.  

The Animas Museum was full of history, there was a classroom to walk through that was set up like they had them long ago, before Durango was Durango, (http://www.animasmuseum.org/exhibits.html). The area was first settled and called Animas Valley, after the nearby river before Durango was ever thought of. The Waterfall Ranch was one of the first ranches in the area, the waterfall is sometimes, not falling, due to lack of water but I saw pictures of it in full flow and it looked beautiful. The Waterfall Ranch changed hands a few times but maintained the name throughout, it also contributed to the history of the Animas Valley and Durango. There was a real west battle over water rights, which included the attempt to divert water, claim water, and someone getting killed in the process. The Lamberts owned the ranch at the time of the water war, and J.P. Lamb who was a sheep rancher, (no pun intended at this time), wanted to divert the water. So, there was a sort of, “I’m gonna!” and an, “Oh no you’re not!” situation that evolved. A few years later, the ranch was sold to a railroad man named Thomas Wigglesworth (I had to use this name! How often do you hear a name like that?) took over, the gun fights ended, and according to my research the ice-cream socials began. His wife was a southern lady and liked to socialize in nice polite ways – no guns. The ranch only changed families one more time, the present day owner’s (the Zinks), ancestors were the next to step into this piece of history.   

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad was built in 1881-1882. The train is an integral part of the history of the Durango area, it was built to connect the silver mines in Silverton to the surrounding areas. The train is based in Durango, and now takes visitors back and forth from Durango to Silverton. The route is quite an adventure through the glorious countryside, and along some dodgy looking narrow tracks that skirt around the edges of cliffs. I went to the D&SNGRR Museum and explored the wonderful history that was preserved there, they had old engines, old motor cars, miniatures, stuffed wild animals, and so much more. They even had old movie posters featuring movies that were made in the area. I’m sure I spent over an hour there, and it’s only a two room museum.   

This cowboy history is what builds the history of my characters, or at least the western characters. I love bringing them to life with real historical backgrounds.

Excerpt from New Parish:

““Well, I was riding a horse when I was four,” Max admitted. “Uncle Alex said it was a necessity for every boy to do.” He chuckled then went on, “We were going out to round up some stray horses that had escaped the corral overnight.” He paused in thought then went on, “They made it all the way to the ridge, Uncle Alex used some colorful language when we found them,” he smiled at her and winked again.

            Sarah wished he wouldn’t do that, it was very discombobulating, she tried to smile back but wasn’t sure it had worked. She looked out at the expanse of prairie with the dead looking sage brush and short pine trees, there were tufts of straw colored grasses in some places and some small prickly pear cacti, which Mary had told her about. She could imagine Mary getting a good case of the giggles if she could see her now.

            “Didn’t you ever get scared as a little boy riding such a big animal?” Sarah asked. The question came out in spite of her efforts to not engage him in conversation.

            “Uncle Alex taught me when I was little that if you have a fear, well then, you face it. He told me about when he was doing the rodeo, and they would have a real bad bull to ride, some guys wouldn’t get on that bull, they’d refuse. He said one time there was a bull that he was about to refuse to ride then he heard the announcer say ‘cowboy up’ for another fella that was coming out of the gate. He said that hit him hard, he rode that bull, and from then on throughout his life when there was something difficult or something he maybe was scared of, he could hear the Spirit telling him to cowboy up. So, he taught me that when you’re afraid first you pray then you cowboy up,” he smiled and winked at Sarah, “you get the job done, no matter what it is.”

            Sarah couldn’t help herself, she had to smile back…”

Horse Apples…

We’ve all had to navigate the challenges of life. Sometimes that navigation can get a little complicated, or interesting, or even dicey. Most of us have a starting point that determines where we are and an ending point of where we want to go, life’s challenges are the things that get in the way of us making progress from where we start and where we want to go. I often ponder these things as I go out into nature. I like to go on long walks, this activity helps me with finding solutions to the challenges that get in the way of my end goals.

One morning while out for one of those walks, I happened upon a trail of what’s known out here as horse apples. That’s cowboy lingo for what a horse drops behind them, just in case anyone didn’t know. As this was a particularly long trail of horse apples I had to work out how to maneuver around them without having any of the stuff joining me on my way. After I had a good laugh and got through the obstacle the horse apples presented, I started pondering that situation. Some of the challenges we face in life can be just like those horse apples, a long trail of stuff you have to get around and not have it come along with you afterwards.

I guess our biggest problem is the surprise horse apples, you know those that you don’t see in time… In New Parish there’s a time when Sarah finds herself in that sort of trouble.

Excerpt from New Parish:

““Sarah and I came to visit with you,” Brother Michael greeted the cowboy.

            “Welcome, welcome,” Max smiled and walked over to shake hands with Brother Michael. Then turned toward Sarah and smiled, “I’m glad you’re here.”

            Sarah nodded and looked away, his presence created an inner turmoil she didn’t like. She awkwardly, for some reason didn’t know what to do with her hands, she tried folding her arms then placing her hands on her hips then decided to just put them in her pockets.

            “Myra said you have a mare close to time,” Brother Michael said obviously trying to smooth the situation.

            “Yeah, she’s over here. Want to see?” Max pointed toward the stall he’d emerged from. “She’s about a week out.”

            “Yes,” Brother Michael replied motioning for Sarah to go ahead of him.

            Sarah gathered herself together as best she could and began walking toward the stall which looked like it would be too close of quarters for her and the cowboy. With her focus on the stall she didn’t see what was on the barn floor just ahead of her. The second step she took, her foot stepped into something soft and slimy. Her foot slid forward and upward the rest of her went backward and downward… hard. As she lay there on the floor of the barn with the aroma of what she’d stepped in wafted strongly around her she thought, “It just figures!”

          

 

History, Research, and Technology

As I’ve said many times before, I love history! I’ve been doing more research, and loving it! Did you know, that the first telegraph in Arizona was put in place back in 1871? Did you also know, that it was manned by a sixteen year old girl? Back in 1871, the telegraph was real cutting edge technology, so, I’m not surprised that a teenager was proficient at it, the surprising part was that the teenager, was a girl. Back then women didn’t have many opportunities for careers, and girls had even less. This girl taught herself the language of Morse Code and did a few other tricky things to get the job, (she didn’t let them know her gender until she got the job), but she got it, and, she did a good job.

History is full of fun surprises, I love to find them, you never know what treasure you’re going to come across. You might find a funny story about a brother pulling a prank on another brother by daring him to shoot a hole in a silk handkerchief… or you might find a story about an Indian woman giving her young son to a white man she’d just met because she’d had a vision that that was what she was supposed to do. You might even find a story about a man who was married to more than one woman, having to jump out his second story bedroom window, in his nightshirt, when the federal marshals came looking to arrest him for “co-habbing”.

There’s so many treasures to find, they play into the work I’m doing. They inspire my writing, give an incredible foundation to my characters, and bridge the gap from the past to the present. In New Parish, all my characters have a close link to their past that helps define their lives and relationships. Yeah, I’m still working on getting it published but, I do love sharing bits of it with you each week.

Excerpt from New Parish:

“Breakfast consisted of yeast rolls, rolled out flat, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, then rolled up, baked then fresh sugar/cinnamon glaze was poured generously over them. It was a tradition in Sarah’s family that had started when her grandmother was a child. Eating her cinnamon roll that morning while stirring sage into the dressing Sarah thought of her grandmother and wondered what she would think of her predicament. She remembered her grandmother telling her about her and her grandfather’s engagement and marriage, their marriage had been arranged by their parents, it was sort of the tradition in their families for many generations. Her grandmother had told Sarah that she felt safe with that because she trusted her parents and knew they would never put her into a situation that would be bad for her. Sarah remembered thinking that she wouldn’t have liked it at the time but now she was actually considering the same sort of scenario, not with her parents making the arrangements but with Brother Michael helping out with them. She smiled at that thought…

            “Whatcha smiling about,” asked Hannah.

            “Just thinking of Grandma,” Sarah replied wistfully.

            “Yeah, but her cinnamon rolls were a lot more work, doing them from scratch took way long,” laughed Hannah.”

A Day in Pine Valley

Yesterday I spent the day in an amazing place called Pine Valley. It could really have been called Hidden Valley, it’s really a hidden gem in the middle of the desert. Pine Valley was originally founded back in the mid 1800’s, beginning as a sawmill settlement. In 1868, they built a chapel which in that time served as church, school, theater, dance hall, and I guess whatever else they needed it to be. It’s still in service as a church today and has the distinct uniqueness of being the oldest, still in use chapel, in the LDS church.

The place was discovered by accident when a cowboy, (William Hamblin) was rounding up some strays. He must have thought he’d wandered into paradise, seeing this garden like valley for the first time. Even today after the sawmill did its work, there’s still loads of tall trees all around. There’s grass growing, not just the scruff you see in this area, but real green grass. The very small Santa Clara River flows through the valley, creating the wonderful abundance that’s all around and giving life to the area. The reservoir, which is really a lake, is one of the most beautiful places you can experience. There are picnic tables around it, and a deck with railings that looks like the porch to an old farm house. You can sit there and watch fish jumping up and splashing back down in the water. It felt like drinking in nectar to my soul… I will be attaching pictures… you have to see this place!

My day there was spent having a picnic, strolling along the nature trails, and soaking in the nature and beauty all around me. I saw a chipmunk, some wild turkey, and a couple of does and a Bambi. It’s places like this that inspire some of the scenes in my book, New Parish, I wish I could bring everyone along with me to these glorious places and introduce you all to the people I’ve met out here… I guess the only way to do that is to get my books published. Can’t wait till that happens!

Excerpts from New Parish:

“The small pinion pines turned into the tall ponderosas as they drove further up the mountain, the cacti that covered the hills and rocky mountainsides diminished and ferns took their place. As they neared the clearing where the cabin was Sarah noticed that the ground was mostly covered with pine straw with a few small trees growing between the giant ponderosas. There were lots of large rocks and boulders lying around with some protruding from the ground as if they were making an escape from somewhere deep beneath, giving the place a very rustic and ancient look. Every now and then there would be a small grey squirrel run across the road in front of them. Sarah delighted in these occurrences each time with childlike happiness….

Then her mind turned to the other paths they walked, one led to a small waterfall stream that they had splashed each other in, Sarah smiled warmly at that memory. Another path led them through the tall ponderosas that seemed to be reaching for the distant sky, she remembered seeing little snippets of the surrounding mountains through the trees which gave them even more grandeur.”

Community Fair Part 2

The fair was blazing hot. The temperatures were in the high nineties so literally it was blazing hot. They kicked off the fair with a fun cowboy parade, then opened the flood gates for everyone to attend.

The parade had horses, wagons, cows, clowns, floats of many different varieties, and even the emergency responders joined in. At the fair, small children chased small animals, kids of all ages rode the pony rides, and there were games and food galore. Most of the community showed up for the fun, some of us merely watched, (and took pictures), as others participated in all the activities.

Watching is part of writing, I watch people, what they do, and how they react to what’s going on around them. This is part of the creative process for me, it helps create scenes, characters, and setting in my books. It’s events like the fair that inspire the scenes and stories in New Parish. The people working together, the happy children playing, and the general feel of the community coming together as one big family, all contribute to what I write.

 

Excerpt from New Parish:

            “It was a short trip in Brother Michael’s SUV to the edge of the community where Sarah saw a rustic archway made of rough cedar that said, Lucky A Ranch, with two horses on either side of the words. Sarah thought, “It looked like those ranches she used to see on the old westerns,” an automatic smile came across her lips. When the SUV was parked in what looked like a hayfield across from a huge pasture they walked toward the festivities that were already under way.

            “I feel like I’ve stepped into a Louis L’Amour novel,” Sarah said looking around at all the cowboys and horses.

            The cowboy band was playing and there was a square dance going, Mary said, “Come on let’s go!”

            Sarah said, “No way, I’ve never dosey doed in my life. I don’t know how,” trying to excuse herself from this activity.

            Mary grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the dance area in front of the wooden stage the band was on, “I’ll show you, it’s fun!” she said laughing.

            Sarah had an inner dread that she was not only going to dosey doe for the first time, but that Mary had much more confidence in her abilities than she did.

            Mary had her twirling around the grassy dance area in no time. They were both laughing at her many mistakes, and having so much fun. Then Sarah saw one of cowboys on the stage… it was Max, he was playing the guitar, and smiling at her. He was wearing a black cowboy hat with a silver and turquoise band around it, a white shirt with a bolo tie, and a black leather jacket. Her mind had inventoried him quickly and then lost all cohesiveness. After that she lost her footing, causing her right foot to trip over her left foot, she landed on the ground with a thud. “Oh, I hate him,” she thought picking herself up from the ground quickly. Mary tried to help her up while trying to hide the fact that she was almost doubling over laughing at her.

            “Seems you’re in a habit of falling for him,” Mary teased.

            Sarah was even more embarrassed to know that Mary had seen the cause of her fall, “Thanks, that helps,” she replied half way laughing too.”

Community Fair

Each year here, in this place where I live, this small community puts on a country fair. It’s like stepping back in time to live in Pollyanna’s town, or that place where Tom Sawyer lived. Only this community fair has a western flare to it, with trail rides, and lots of cowboy hats. There’s a catch the critter event, where kids try to catch a chicken, a rabbit, and a greased pig. There’s also a petting zoo, lots of play areas, and loads of food! Each year they have food booths with amazing food, with just about whatever you’d want to eat. I plan on skipping the cotton candy this year, as I’m trying to be a good girl.

The variety show is always a treat, and usually has some really funny skits, I remember a couple of years ago when the missionaries did a song where some of them rode on stick horse, and another group of cowboys sang Cool Water, they out did the Sons of the Pioneers.

This weekend is fair weekend, so instead of spending my Saturday writing this post I’ll be at the fair… I promise to tell you all about it on next week’s post, pictures and all.

New Parish

A short (partial) synopsis of New Parish:

Sarah, a 27-year-old feisty southern girl, living in Atlanta, has had too many bad dates. She thinks her new friend Mary, might have the answer to her problem, plural marriage. Mary comes from a place where they do that. Sarah wants to find a nice guy, get married and have some kids. That’s all she really wants, she thought that would be a simple, just the old fashioned dream of home and family…

She agonizes over this option, investigates the community for herself by spending Christmas with Mary and her very large family. While there she asks for the whole story, warts and all. She gets an open honest conversation about plural marriage the good and the bad. Then she retreats to her southern comfort zone to try and figure out what she really wants to do.  While in said comfort zone, on Tybee Island, Sarah meets a super cute guy and decides to give dating one more shot. The date ends when the guy tries to grab her inappropriately and she knees him in the nards. She leaves the restaurant with her dignity intact, but, slowly begins to spiral into a deep despair creating an inner storm to match the terrible one that is beginning on the island. That night alone in the family condo she finally makes her choice, she’s going West….

Sarah asks a lot of questions and gets some straight forward honest answers…

Excerpt from New Parish:

“Sarah was checking messages on her phone when Mary joined her on a bench underneath a big tree. “Hi, what’s up?” asked Mary.

            “Well I don’t know if I’m really desperate, stupid, or what, but I wanted to ask you about that whole plural marriage thing that goes on where you’re from,” said Sarah with some apprehension.

            “Oh?” was all that Mary said as she sat down beside Sarah and waited for her to continue.

            “Yeah, well, how does it work?”

            “Very well, I think,” Mary said, looking quizzically at Sarah.

            “Oh come on! What do they do? What’s the process? Are they miserable? Are the women conditioned to be in these relationships, like “Stepford Wives”? Do men abuse the women? How do the women get along? Are they mean to each other?” Sarah bombed Mary with all the serious questions she could think of, in a way, trying to talk herself out of further inquiry.

            “Whoa!” said Mary holding her hands up, “I need a paper and pen to write all those questions down.”

            “Okay start with the conditioning and how the women get along,” Sarah pointed the questions she thought were the most important aspects of her inquiry.

            “Well, as in the rest of the world, everyone is different and very individual, so they’re not conditioned. They are taught the value of living in the life style, but everyone chooses for themselves, it’s not for everyone, some people can’t deal with it at all while others thrive in that environment. As for getting along, well, that depends on the women involved, as I said everyone is individual so some personalities clash and some people get along really great.” Mary was still looking quizzically at Sarah.”

Out West:

Small Town Life

The stark contrasts that exist between living in a big city and living in a small town have been written about throughout the ages. Sarah, the main character in my book, New Parish, grew up in Savannah a somewhat small town, then moved to Atlanta, a very big city, after college, then moved out to New Parish a very, very, small town in the western desert.

Living in New Parish is great, there’s a wonderful family environment, everyone waves at you when you’re out and about, and the scenery is fabulous. Sometimes for me the lines grey a bit, between the New Parish I write about and the “New Parish” I live in. It’s easily done, because I write about the things I love from real life, the people, the scenery, and the loveliness of life in a small town. I asked a young person here, what are his favorite things about living here. He had a long list, but one of his favorite things was that it was a small town, and far away from the city. It’s one of my favorites too…   

Sarah’s New Parish and mine have many similarities and I can’t wait to share them with everyone… when my book New Parish is published.

An excerpt from New Parish:
“As they emerged from the park, Sarah saw something that made her blush with excitement and a weird frustrated awkwardness that she didn’t know quite how to deal with. She didn’t want to see him, not him…

            “Howdy,” Max drawled, “How’re you?” he asked as his beautiful blue eyes pierced into the depths of her soul.

            Sarah found herself without the capacity to speak, it was like when she’d seen him the first time… then the rush of memory of what had happened that time came to her mind. She felt sick…

            Mary came to her rescue, “Hi, Max. We’re all doing good. These are Sarah’s parents, David and Samantha Nichols.”

            “Howdy,” Max smiled at them and tipped his somewhat dingy cowboy hat.

            “That’s a beautiful animal!” exclaimed David admiringly.

            “Thank you,” replied Max, “I raised him from a foal.”

            “How wonderful! Was it difficult to train him?” David asked, curiosity showing in his face.

            “No, not really,” Max answered, “he was pretty clever from the start.”

            “What are some of the things you’ve trained him to do?” David asked, reaching up to touch the horse’s nose.

            “Aw, well,” Max scratched his chin where a few days of whisker growth was shadowing his ruggedly handsome face. “He can cut and rope and ground tie, he’s not too fancy really, but I like him alright.”

            Max ended with a big smile which totally threw Sarah’s exertions to control her emotions into a whirlwind of things she didn’t want to deal with. She wished her dad would stop asking the cowboy questions and this random visit would end… she was having to rein in her thoughts continually but things like, “he’s so awesomely handsome,” and “those eyes” kept breaking through the barriers she was trying very hard to build.”

Western Skies

I never get tired of taking in the skies out here. Day or night, they seem bigger than life, or at least very different from what I grew seeing. I’ve always been a sky watcher, I guess that goes along with being a dreamer, a writer, or an explorer.

Sky watching in the east is much different than sky watching in the west. During a storm in Georgia, you know that the skies get dark, you can hear the thunder, and see the lightning. It’s a very different experience out here. You can see a storm coming from miles away. You can literally watch it form and progress toward you. In my mind, I think of it like going to a regular theater and going to one of those 3D IMAX theaters… very different experience.

Most days the skies out here are clear, some days there are a few clouds, and on rare occasions you get storms. If the skies are full of activity or empty, they are always amazing. Because they are so huge!

At night, I have many times stared in amazement at the sky, the stars are so vivid, and seem so very close, that it’s just wonderful to sit and look up. If I had a really cool camera I’d take some pictures of the night sky, but alas… I will attach plenty of the day sky though.

Sitting quietly and watching the skies often brings inspiration, and helps me to expand my stories… just like the incredible difference in the skies from east to west, Sarah, chooses something very different to make her dreams come true. I can’t wait to share her decisions with everyone in my book New Parish!

Excerpt from New Parish:

“Sarah looked at the time it was almost an hour since she’d left the house, she hadn’t realized she’d been out that long. She’d been so immersed in the environment and scenery that she’d completely lost track of time. This was something she never did in Atlanta, she had to always be aware of the time and how long it took to get to her destination, for safety reasons. But here she felt safe, and could very easily get lost in the beautiful surroundings that were everywhere she looked. From the vast expanse of the sky either in the daytime with the blue blanket spotted with clouds you could see from far away, or the infinite night sky filled with stars that seemed so close she could almost touch them, to the mountains which towered over the community in noble splendor and grandeur, striped with the colors of the earth that people don’t usually get to see because they are deep underneath their feet.”

New Parish…

I can’t wait to share my books with everyone! This is what a college professor wrote about New Parish:

Review of New Parish

“I did two reads of the book.  The first time in January and then I just read it again and made comments. Honestly, most of my comments were simply wanting more information. It sounds like a second book is in the works that it covers more culture which will be fantastic. Julie is a captivating author. After the first six chapters I spent more late nights reading than I should have. I found that I made comments in the first few chapters and then as I got caught up in the story I had less to say because I was just truly enjoying the story line. This story captured the magic of your community, it’s the kind of hometown we wish we all had, and the kind of community where we wish all of our children could be raised. I’ll be first in line to buy anything she publishes.

Jaclyn Knapp, M.S., ED.S – Weber State University, Ogden, UT