To The Duke

To The Duke

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Wanna Be a Cowgirl

  • Girl Riding A Horse Clipart
    Okay. So maybe I wasn’t born in a western state. I wasn’t born on horseback. And I wasn’t born with a branding iron or lasso in my hand. But why can’t a country gal who grew up on the lapping shores of the Illinois River in a little town called Havana, call herself a cowgirl?
          Recently I attended a book signing for Brett Cogburn in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Wanting to enjoy the occasion and do my part, I purchased a pair of cowboy boots. Ankle height, flat heel, very pretty with contrasting stitching. Now mind you, I already own three pair of cowboy boots. Two that kill my aged feet, and one red pair that has a long history, including being admired by the widow of John Wayne, but I wanted to celebrate with a pair of new boots.  
         The night before the signing is where the trouble began. That’s when one of my “real” cowboy friends, who shall remain nameless, told me my new boots weren't  cowboy boots at all, but city slicker boots.
          I laughed, but later what Dusty, I mean the cowboy who shall remain nameless said, really bugged me. I grew up country.  But because of the state listed on my birth certificate, I can be called a “flatlander” a “hoosier” a “river rat” and a “country gal” but I can’t be called a cowgirl? How does that work?
         I spent my youth in the Havana Theater on Saturdays watching cowboy movies from ten in the morning until 5 at night. Getting me out of the house for that long probably saved my grandmother from an early death. She’d already raised fifteen kids of her own, but I was thrown on her doorstep and she had to start all over with a wild young girl who wanted nothing more than to be John Wayne. I rode the fence out back, traipsed around in a pair of my uncle’s old rodeo boots, and spit and scratched like a prospector. I called my grandma ma’m. And on occasion threw out a curse word to make myself appear more fearsome. I wore Roy Rogers six shooters around my waist and begged everyone in town to watch my quick draw. Durn it, I was a cowgirl.
        Then life interfered and I went to school, got married, had three boys, and took the path that appeared in front of me for decades. Now I find myself surrounded with all things cowboy and naturally I’m falling back into the dreams and desires of my youth. I want to be a cowgirl.
          I might have wrangled corn growing up instead of cattle. I might have eaten fried catfish and frog legs instead of beans cooked over an open fire. I hunted raccoon with my grandpa instead of bears and buffalo. But we moved to the country and bought horses when my kids were old enough to ride, and I walked around doing chores with a piece of straw between my lips. I took up scratching and spitting again, and let go of many disparaging words.  But for the life of me I can’t figure out why just being born in a certain place can make all the difference in receiving the coveted title of cowboy or cowgirl.
          While putting together the Cactus Country anthologies, our goal was to publish things besides traditional westerns. We published a wonderful poem that basically said being a cowboy is simply a state of mind. I guess I’ll do what I always do...buck convention and be a cowgirl whether those around me agree with it or not. And don’t tell anyone, but I happen to know that the cowboy who shall remain nameless was actually born in Chicago. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Brett Cogburn's book signing in Ft. Smith this past Saturday was a terrific success. Below are a few pictures from the event. You know how to get on the best seller list? One book sale at a time. That's from my old friend, Dusty Richards. 

Brett, Delois McGrew & Dusty Richards

Brett's Mom and Dad, David and Sherry Cogburn

Delois McGrew (and her authentic Native American belt buckle),
 Brett & Brett's daughter River Grace

Dusty Richards, Pam Jones (alias Pamela Foster),
Ruth Weeks & Brett Cogburn

Eddie Owens, Pam Jones, Lou Turner,
Brett Cogburn & Ruth Weeks

Two of the neatest young people I've met in a long, long time.
River Grace & Talon Cogburn

Monday, September 10, 2012

Brett Cogburn to be in Ft. Smith, Arkansas

Meet Brett Cogburn in Ft. Smith, Arkansas
 Visit Brett's Facebook page and say hello!
Brett Cogburn's Facebook Page

Brett is doing a book signing for Rooster: The Life and Times of the Real Rooster Cogburn
at the Fort Smith Museum of History on September 15, 2012 at 10:00 a.m.
Visit Brett's website for more information and a map.
Brett Cogburn's Website

You can also find Devil's Hoofprints, a short story collection published by Cactus Country on Amazon
Devil's Hoofprints on Amazon

Sunday, September 9, 2012

How Western Writing Has Changed!

"As Wild felled one of the redskins by a blow from the butt of his revolver, and sprang for the one with the tomahawk, the chief's daughter suddenly appeared. Raising her hands, she exclaimed, 'Go back, Young Wild West. I will save her!'" (1908)
This copy of a weekly magazine published at the beginning of the twentieth century shows how westerns were written about more than 100 years ago. Boy how things have changed. Dusty Richards once told me that the pioneers in western writing did all the hard work. They had to describe a land not seen by many Americans. A wild and rugged view of landscape and people that were often hard to explain to anyone who hadn't been west of the Mississippi. Imagine writing about a vast desert and expecting a city slicker back east to see it. It took a lot of skill to explain to readers where the hero's horse tread. Below is a short explanation I found that explains a little about western literature and its history.


The predecessor of the western in American literature emerged early with tales of the frontier. The most famous of the early nineteenth century frontier novels of the frontier were James Fenimore Cooper's, the five novels making up the Leatherstocking Tales. Cooper's novels were largely set in what was at the time the American frontier, the Appalachian Mountains and areas west of there. As did his 1824 novel The Prairie most later westerns would typically take place west of the Mississippi River.


The Western as a specialized genre got its start in the "penny dreadfuls" and later the "dime novels". Published in June 1860, "Malaeska; the Indian Wife of the White Hunter" is considered the first dime novel. These cheaply made books were hugely successful and capitalized on the many stories that were being told about the mountain men, outlaws, settlers and lawmen who were taming the western frontier. Many of these novels were fictionalized stories based on actual people: Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James, Wyatt Earp (who was still alive at the time) and Billy the Kid.
By 1900, the new medium of pulp magazines also helped to relate these adventures to easterners. Meanwhile, non-American authors like the German Karl May picked up the genre, went to full novel length, and made it hugely popular and successful in continental Europe from about 1880 on, though they were generally dismissed as trivial by the literary critics of the day.


Popularity grew with the publication of Owen Wister's The Virginian in 1902 and especially Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage in 1912. The first Hopalong Cassidy stories by Clarence l. Mulford appeared in 1904 both as dime novels and in pulp magazines. When pulp magazines exploded in popularity in the 1920s, western fiction greatly benefited (as did the author Max Brand, who excelled at the western short story). Pulp magazines that specialised in Westerns inclued Western Story Magazine, Star Western, West, Cowboy Stories and Ranch Romances. [1] The simultaneous popularity of Western movies in the 1920s also helped the genre.


In the 1940s several seminal Westerns were published, including The Ox-Bow Incident (1940) by Walter van Tilburg Clark, The Big Sky (1947) and The Way West (1949) by A.B. Guthrie, Jr., and Shane (1949) by Jack Schaefer. Many other Western authors gained readership in the 1950s, such as Luke Short, Ray Hogan, and Louis L'Amour.
The genre peaked around the early 1960s, largely due to the tremendous number of Westerns on television. The burnout of the American public on television Westerns in the late 1960s seemed to have an effect on the literature as well, and interest in Western literature began to wane.