Through out history there have been mountains of literature about the connection between man and animals. Recently we have found that having a bond between dogs and people to be a way of healing emotional trauma. Out in New Mexico on the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway at the Crossed Arrows Ranch, Santa Fe, NM.a retired U.S. Marshal and former Green Beret has opened his heart and home to Veterans who have sustained physical trauma or PTSD. Unlike many horse and rider therapies this program teaches the men and women how to translate skills they learned in the military into ranch skills. They learn how to work horses and cattle which gives them a sense of purpose and belonging which is something they had in the military. As a writer this idea captured my imagination, as a veteran it captured my sense of duty, as an American it captured my heart. So I have been posting about this every chance I get. From here on out at least a portion of all royalties from my books and short stories will go to this endeavor. For more information just remember their motto Cowboy Up I hope that others will also choose to get involved. There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.
The expansion westward was one of the most shameful periods of our history, it was also one of the greatest. Treatment of the Native Americans was deplorable as was the practice of hunting the buffalo to near extinction. When people started talking about expansion across the entire continent they used the term Manifest Destiny, to make it sound better. It also gave them the excuse they needed to take what ever they wanted along the way. Andrew Jackson used it to turn on the very tribes that had helped him win the Creek War. It was also part of the reasoning behind the war with Mexico in the 1840s that brought California, Texas and the rest of the Southwest into the U.S. On the positive side we managed to tame a continent. Men like Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, and a host of others went in search of their fortunes trapping beaver in the Rocky Mountains. Blazing trails along the way that would lead people all the way to the rich farm lands in Oregon, Washington and California. It spurred the rails to find way to cross the mountains and prairies. Many who never made it all the way ended up taming what some called the Great American Desert, turning it into the breadbasket of the world. Out of all of this we have crafted a mythology of what the people were like and have written story after story about them. Well the west wasn't what we see on the movies or even read in most of the books. It was more violent and less than we have believed. The people we have held up as heroes were sometimes very bad people, like Jessie James and Billy the Kid. Some of those we have defamed like Buffalo Bill were not as bad as they have been painted. It was the Texas cattleman Charlie Goodnight that started the preservation of the buffalo by building a herd on his own land. One thing is for certain they were strong physically, mentally and spiritually, they had to be simply to survive. It is one of the reasons that there have been so many who write about the West, both the Old West and modern.
Check out Phil Whitley's books Keechie and Granny Boo for a fictional look at the Creek culture.
Many of my works deal with people facing adversity of one kind or another. I believe in the ability to overcome almost anything life throws at you if you understand one simple truth. While you can't control the things that happen in your life, you can control how you let it effect you. Many of you know a little of my own story and the adversity I have faced in my own life. But this week I got the chance to hear the compelling story of Michael Oher, whose story was portrayed in the movie and book The Blind Side. While I loved the movie Michael's own book, I Beat-Odds: FromHomelessness to the Blind Side and Beyond, tells it in an even a more compelling way. Also his comments on attitude and how it played a major part in his success are an example of that adage. There is a lot more to the story and how he was actually working to get out of his situation. He chose his friends and the people he wanted to associate with as part of his path out of the ghetto. Even if the Tuohy's had not taken him in he had a basic game plan in mind. Even if it meant starting out at a community college and working his way into a four year school with a football program. The very fact that this family did take him in and help him over the hurdles made me think back to all the people in my life who were there when I needed them. It seems that every time I was on the verge of taking the wrong path some one would say or do something to get my attention and turn me in the right direction. Sometimes it was just an off hand comment that sparked the change. You never know what change your comments can make. I just want to thank those people who may never even know the difference they made. My only hope is that in some small way I can pass that gift on to others.