Thursday, February 7, 2019

My life as a child was, in itself, a bit exciting. I was raised on a working cattle ranch in the foothills of southeastern Tulare County. My vacations and Saturdays were not for sleeping late, going to the beach, or hanging out with friends. I was expected to help on our ranch. Whether it was feeding hay, building fence, branding, gathering cattle, or any of the hundreds of other jobs, I was involved.

As a result of many hours of helping on the ranch, I was an excellent horseman.  Many of my hours of working on the ranch were spent in the seat of my saddle. Therefore when Dad came to my door in the middle of the night, he wanted my help as a horseman.

Before I was born, my father had a U.S. Forest Service permit to run a few head of cattle on the top of nearby Black Mountain. He had given up the permit about the time I was born, probably because it required him to be away from home many days and nights as he cared for the cattle.

The stories of his trips up the mountain, staying at his camp at a location called Indian Knolls, then caring for the cows, all seemed very romantic to me. I tried to convince him to get the permit again, assuring him I was more than willing to climb the mountain and care for the cattle. He never did, but the idea of having cattle running on top of Black Mountain fueled my imagination.

Before my father opened my door that August morning, he'd received a phone call from the head of the Forest Service in Springville. He needed to get three firefighters up to a smoldering tree before sunrise.  He knew Dad had made many trips up the trail to Indian Knolls, and if anybody could find his way in the dark, my father could.

So, early that August morning Dad woke me. As I remember, the conversation was cryptic.

"Brent. Wake up. There's a fire on Black Mountain. I need your help."

More to the tale on Saturday. See you then.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Going through the process of publishing a book has been ... and I pause to pick the right word ... amazing... awesome ... exciting .. cool ... spooky.  You pick one.  They all fit.

It all started with my critique group.  I'd been accepted into an invitation-only group and was getting acquainted with everyone.  I'd read whatever piece I brought for the week, sometimes my column, but often something else. My work seemed insignificant, small, maybe even petty. Several other writers were working on their books.

I'd never given much thought to being a book author. Author was a very pretentious word, and I wasn't sure I deserved to call myself by that title. I was busy trying to be a column writer and learning from their critique of my work.

One fine day, and I really don't remember specifically when, I made the decision to try to write a book.  A real, many thousands of words, book.  Once the decision was made, the choice of what to write was already made. In fact, I don't remember ever giving the subject a second thought. I knew what I would write about.

I'd celebrated my 12th birthday earlier in the summer of 1956. It was now late August, and almost time for me to start my Sixth Grade year at Springville School.

When my father opened my bedroom door at 1:30 AM that morning, I could not imagine what he wanted. I also had no way of knowing the events occurring over the next few hours would motivate me to retell the story 57 years later.

What story?  What events?  What happened?  See you all on Thursday.