Saturday, August 1, 2009


I found this picture while looking for something else today, so thought I’d share it with you. It’s a picture of my mother and my grandmother, on their way to Hot Springs, New Mexico from Seligman, Arizona in about 1934. The saddle and bedroll belonged to my Uncle Curtis, who was traveling with them on this trip.

Uncle Curtis is the cowboy whose life I shadowed in my most recent book, Counting the Cost. If you check out the book cover on the left hand side of this blog, his picture is on the front, along with a picture of the woman he married.

I remembered this picture of my mother and grandmother when I wrote the passage below:

Shadow rode in just as Heck was tying up his bedroll. He dismounted and stood holding his horse’s reins as Heck carried the bedroll out to the car and tossed it atop the things in the rumble seat. It stuck up above the roof of the car, even when Heck cinched it down as tight as he could.

Ruth called to him from the car, where she still sat with her head resting against the doorpost. He leaned in closely, since her voice was so faint. “What’s in the rumble seat?” she asked.

“That’s my bedroll,” he said.

“Tom Mix just uses one blanket. I’ve seen him in the movies.”

Heck smiled tenderly, glad that she was feeling well enough to tease him. “The ground’s a lot softer in the movies."

Heck stuck his saddle blanket, bridle, and spurs behind the seat and stood looking at his saddle. There was no room, but without his own saddle, he was unemployed. So, he threw it across the hood of the car and tied it down with a short piece of rope. He took the quirt that was hanging on his saddle horn and approached his young friend. “Evening, Shadow. I’m pulling out now.” He nodded toward the car. “Miz Reynolds is going with me. I think she’s feeling too bad to say goodbye.” He offered the quirt to Shadow. “I made this the other week. I’d like you to have it. I sure enjoyed working with you. I know you’re going to be a mighty fine cowboy.”

Shadow’s eyes went from Heck to the car, where the battered face showed through the windshield. He swallowed. “Thanks, Heck.” He had to make a second try, because the words didn’t come out right the first time.

“I’d be obliged if you’d take Spook to Mike. Tell him I want him to have ‘im.”

“All right, Heck.”

Heck reached in his pocket for the sugar and walked to the corral. Spook trotted up and took the sweet morsel from his hand. Heck said softly, “You treat Mike right, you hear? I’m sure gonna miss you. Never been a pony like Ol’ Spook. Goodbye, old fella.” He patted Spook on the neck and turned away, feeling all of a sudden very weary.

Shadow watched as Heck got in the car and swung it around, waving to him as he went past. But, he couldn’t wave back. He just stood there, holding the quirt in both hands as he watched his hero drive away with someone else’s wife.


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