|Dusty with an Indian friend in|
Nevada several years ago.
Somewhere in the before life I wanted to be a writer. Lots of folks do the wanna be thing, but few follow through and even less of them end up published. I laugh about it now, but in the typewriter days we didn’t have spell checker or any real correction method. I wrote a column for three rural weekly magazines and each was about two pages double-spaced. Writing a column teaches you to be ready and write on a deadline. One week, a particular job hung over my head. The story line was about the spit tobacco in the box gang of farmers who hung around a general store’s stove and told yarns, commented on events, and settled the world’s problems.
People would comment and laugh about their tall tales often called current news. I recall one about calves to big for their cows to have, a problem that often resulted in the death of the cow.
This one old farmer in front of the stove said. “Yeah my neighbor has one of those bulls gets small calves, but he has to keep the calves in the barn for weeks to grow up enough so the hawks don’t get them.”
So even after several years of writing a successful local column, I couldn’t get a spot in a big magazine that paid nor get my column syndicated. So skip the newspaper business. Meanwhile if I couldn’t find a western book to read, I wrote them in long hand on a loose leaf note book like Zane Grey did. Only I didn’t have his wife Dolly to later type and to edit them. But my girls found them as teens and read them—then cornered me up. Dad why don’t you sell your westerns—they’re good?
“Girls, they have Louie and lots more good writers. I figure selling western books would be like writing songs in Nashville. Do you know how to get a songwriter off your porch?”
“Pay him for the pizza.”
But I’d written imaginary book reports in high school—English teachers never read western. Texas Ranger Sam Brown comes to Low Gap, he captures the rustlers, marries Mary Ann and cleans up the whole place. Lots of fist fighting and shooting—great book to read. I charged a dollar for each book report when teenage wages were still fifty cents an hour. I sold some every week for spending money. Boys were dumb about not reading books.
I then got into chicken doctoring for Tyson, I was over about thirty large farms. One day I met a farmer’s wife who could type. Her neighbor had a registered Angus operation and an expensive big electric typewriter for typing registrations papers. She borrowed it in turn agreeing to type in his small needs. I had found my Dolly. Linda was such a busy woman even without my books to do, and I felt guilty, but I wrote and she typed and soon I sold some books. I still give her my books each year in payment and each time she says, “I told you you’d be famous.”
Famous or not she and my wife Pat pushed me along on this road to publication. Next the computer age came on the scene and I bought two huge Commodores. I had written most of my books in legible long hand, but I knew to get the books written that I had in my head, I’d have to learn to create on that monster machine. It wasn’t an easy switch but I did it. You had to type a header on a page along with the page number, then reprint the page. Oh it was draggy compared to today.
But to show how much my wife Pat supported me, quite a few years ago we went on a Saturday and shopped around for a computer. I wasn’t going to spend the money for real computer until I sold a major book, but we were looking.
We ended up at Mac and a guy had me sit down to type. He said they had a half dozen sales people there every day and I could call even on weekends if I had a problem. The price was high for a typewriter and I started to walk away when Pat caught my arm. “Aren’t you going to buy it?”
“I want to think on it.”
She shook her head. “If it had been a dang tractor, you’d already had it loaded on the trailer. Buy it.” I did of course.
Thanks, I’ll tell you more about my start in this business in the future. Check out my website www.dustyrichards.com I answer email too firstname.lastname@example.org