Author Archives: admin

August 17/19

 

 

 

 

 

The Sabinal River is still flowing clear and strong despite lack of rain and 100 F heat.

Another letter from my 90-year-old friend in Australia; her life experience is broad, and it seems all through it she has been attentive and remembers every detail. I read them over twice, sometimes, full of local doings there in Moree (NSW) and memories of England. She was a Land Girl in WW2, married a man who became the governor of NSW, traveled the world with him, has two active and interesting daughters and sons-in-law, grandchildren — I would repeat some of the stories but I don’t have permission. At any rate, she was a land girl on one of the Royal Estates and remembers meeting the young Princess Elizabeth. Remembers seeing the layered banks of bombers going overhead toward France on D-Day and gave me a full run-down on her neighbor who is an Aborigine who volunteered to fight in Vietnam and makes good whiskey which he brings occasionally to her daughter and son-in-law next door.

Unsocialized Generations

An interesting blog — Metallicman, Growing up in the Sixties. Love reading it. The usual curmudgeonly complaints about ‘young people’  (millenials?), which we have noted and read about many times now and most of them justified; one example is the girl who misspelled ‘hamster’.

So here is my take; increasingly kids are not really socialized. They are different. They have no people skills. These are people who have grown up on a lighted screen, watching. bodies still and inactive, perhaps sitting with other children but all the children’s attention is elsewhere, staring straight ahead at the screen. They do not interact with the other children around them in any significant way.

They ignore or do not see expressions of impatience, boredom, they are not learning to read another’s eyes, expressions, body language, tone of voice. They are not doing things together.

This would be absence of lateral interaction.

Kids normally socialize themselves. If they have rational and decent parents they will interact freely, without adult authority, and socialize themselves. They make up games and pretend situations and take them very seriously. Those who break the rules are shunned or chased home, or they don’t play with the rule-breaker any more because they know the game is done if anybody can break the rules any time they want. Then the fun is over.

You have to stay in the imaginative world or go home; then it’s ‘we don’t want to play with Johnny anymore’. And they don’t. That’s kids socializing themselves, finding out who will ‘play’ and who will not, who will ruin everything, who will add to the imaginative world and the game. There are little power plays, little negotiations, and when it’s all boys, they learn the rough-and-tumble conflicts and how to work those conflicts out.

Riveted to the television, your mind does nothing imaginative but only consumes. And kids are raised staring at the screen, seeing only the screen, not interacting with one another. With phones, of course, all skills of interacting with other people are down the drain.

And so after some years they don’t know how. The only thing they know is that an adult authority will make them behave like civilized beings. Adults, the law. When those constraints are lifted they are at a loss. When they talk together they talk about consuming things, not doing things.

These are huge generalizations and I am properly ashamed of myself.

‘Consuming’ includes going to music concerts, watching filmed dramas, buying stuff.

I often hear younger people talk about their childhood memories and it’s all about the television programs they watched. The wonderful characters on the Saturday morning cartoons. That was their childhood.  How incredibly sad. Luckily my grandchildren (and many more younger people that I know) were chased out of the house by their parents to do things by themselves, fortunate kids.

Old people’s childhoods; you have heard all these stories before and at length. But here’s more. We made play houses, swings, fell out of trees, adopted stray animals, pretended to live on another planet, and one glorious afternoon found a long slope and several old used tires, and got inside them and rolled each other down the hill. It was suicidal. My cousin Maggie Self said it would be lots of fun.

The thing was, just prior to the brilliant idea about the tires, Maggie and I and some other girls had just made a kind of play house, with lines scored in the dirt to mark the walls, all sorts of junk for dishes and doors carefully left as openings in the lines and you had to go out the door or else. No stepping across the wall lines! Then we abandoned the house temporarily for the tire idea. It took three of us to stand the tire upright with Maggie in it, and hold it steady, and then give it a shove down the slope.

Maggie went barreling down the slope and struck a tree. She survived, but she rolled right through our ‘house’. Screams of indignation. Junk flying everywhere. Then it was my turn but just when I struggled inside the tire, and they had me upright and ready to go, something else even more interesting occurred (I don’t remember what) and they dropped me and went off to see about it. So I never got to take that wild ride down the slope.

When I got home from school I couldn’t wait to go out and find the other kids and start something. I don’t remember any television programs at all when I was in grade school. It wasn’t until I was thirteen that we got a TV. So my mind is different.

And when we did get one they were crummy images anyway. Black and white, ick. The world was full of color outside. Now the images are startling, they are hyperreal. And my heart breaks when I visit young married friends, with their kids sitting in front of an immense monitor the size of a barn door with these glowing perfect pictures, their little eyes round as dollars, not being themselves, only a receptacle for the images that distant studios make and pour out.

So. millenials and those who come after them are not going through the normal socializing process that all children on earth have gone through up to now. Playing together with no adult around to be the authority kids learn how to work things out, interact with one another, a kind of genuine, organic politeness, do negotiations, live in their own imaginations. But without this kids aren’t really socialized. And this is why so many display a kind of emotional incontinence, outrage at any contradiction, inability to figure out how things work, and other stuff.

Short story; Zero Hour by Ray Bradbury. He got the idea by seeing his daughters playing out in the street and yard with the other kids.

(Gorgeous illustration by Steven Knudsen)

 

 

 

 

When I am traveling for book promotion a lot of people ask me ‘but what do you do, in a place that small and remote?’ What they mean is, what do you consume. What restuarants, bars, music events, shopping places, entertainment venues, are there? I think my friends Caroline Woodward and Jeff George probably get asked the same question.

But there is almost too much to do.

Well, there are three restaurants, no bars, no movie theaters, no shopping malls, etc. and I am very busy; too much so sometimes. Now, enough. I have to learn ‘Ring Them Bells’, as Kim is going to sing it and probably needs a little backup on the C whistle, and Evelyn and I are going to ride tomorrow during the cool hours, meaning I get up at 6 and load the golf cart with saddle, bridle, etc. and go get him out of the pasture, saddle up down there, ride on Evelyn and Pat’s 70 acres and hope he doesn’t act up since Brandy is in heat and my new horse Jackson is apparently livng in his imagination, and many times I simply long for days and days without seeing people or doing anything but writing.

Dog Days 7/20/19

(But this year has not had as many days over a hundred as usual.)

In May I was very sad to hear of the passing of Tony Horowitz, and have not made a blog post about it until now. Twenty years ago when he was on tour for Confederates In The Attic and me for Enemy Women we read together at the Granville Island Lit. Festival (Vancouver B.C.), had a great time, liked him very much. He was very funny. I loved Confederates In The Attic, it was just splendid, so was Blue Latitudes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just really sad to hear of his passing at the young-ish age of 60.  Have not yet read his latest book but just finished Olmstead; got it as an e-book.

Sometimes people seem puzzled about ‘the south’ — a very diverse area and people — but they should read Albion’s Seed. Northeastern people and hills southerners came from very different places in the British Isles.  Southern hills people were almost entirely from the Scottish/English border. It was a very hard place. Northeasterners came from mainly Norfolk and the southeastern part of England — a settled land with secure property rights, rich farmland, and they were not regularly burnt out of their homes by various armies. The English, in, say, 1700, regarded the Lowland Scots as sort of beasts, which they probably were, having been drafted into clan fights, repeatedly losing their cattle and homes, etc. (living in a war zone).  Many northeasterners in the early colonial times who journeyed to the south (that would be North Carolina, Georgia, mainly) found the Scots borderer-descended people to be the next best thing to animals. They carried the old prejudice from the British Isles with them from the old country.

But — regarding the scots borderers — I would think after several centuries of living in the aforementioned war zone that people would cease to value nice homes, tidy landscapes, possessions in general, and concentrate their values on family and music.

However, people are not in general interested in the cultural differences of the founding groups. We are at present in an age of shrieking hatred and emotional meltdowns, which many people find quite fun. A fun thing. I just take out my hearing aids.

Looking for old photos of trains, engines; found this one which was quite helpful in describing Simon, Doroteo and Damon’s journey from Galveston to Houston, hitching a ride in a boxcar. So this was about 1863 but I think it works for a locomotive ca. 1867.

 

 

 

 

This gives a good view of the smokestacks, the coal car, and especially the boxcar. It’s a photo of the Atlanta roundhouse when the city was burnt down.

 

 

Cover — Simon the Fiddler June 12/19

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover for the new book Simon the Fiddler. It’s rich and gorgeous and my only objection was that it is actionless and Simon has much strenuous and boisterous, even turbulent action. But so it goes. It is a really beautiful cover.

It is in the final editing stage, and while waiting I am tracking the ever-elusive Great Spotted Typo, finding them no matter how I scour the pages. I think they breed.

My stepson Jim jr. just emailed me and said there is an announcement on twitter about News of the World. That it is A Thing. That it is a movie happening. Since I have no twitter I suppose I should try to find it online. Both Jim and Nadine have always been so helpful and supportive. Jimjr and I get into long involved talks on books — the last time was at Faith’s wedding and the next morning we sat up by the patio fire with coffee and talked for some time about Stephen Maturin’s character, what made him so riveting. About all of O”Brien’s books. I love talking with Jimjr. He is trying hard to learn to play guitar but he is left-handed and has to have his guitar re-strung.  His dad, my husband Jim Sr, was left-handed as well, but he was trained out of it in school. They did that when he was in elementary school. So he was right-handed except for shooting and he shot left-handed because his left eye was the dominant and there was no way of getting around that.

My new horse Jackson is still unsettled and nervous. He has been separated from his close buddy Cooper, for three years it was just him and Cooper in a pasture — not ridden for three years — and he’s having a hard time adjusting to Billy the Donkey and Buck. Just have to wait it out I guess. I have not ridden him yet because of time — had to get the last draft of Simon in, and then droopy eye surgery in San Antonio and then to Kerrville for yearly allergy tests, just one thing after another. At any rate I visit with him and brush him and lead him around and talk to him every day.

April 12/2019 the horse auction in Bowie

June and April and I travled up to north Texas, to Bowie (pronounced BOOwie), near the Red River, to a well-known horse auction barn. April needed horses for her camp string — she was looking for old, gentle horses for kids— and I also was prepared to buy something if it looked sound, and then Nancy, our friend who was thrown off her dressage horse and broke her thigh, needed an older gentle horse to get started riding again so April said she would buy something for her — she couldn’t come. She still walks with a cane. June came along for the fun of it. The auction and all its activities were really interesting to watch. The whole thing was fascinating.

 

 

 

 

 

April driving. This was her diesel truck and a three-horse slant trailer.

The auction barn is owned by David O’Dwyer, a great horseman. We came the day before and looked around and walked the catwalk above. When the auction started they began driving in the horses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

They were saddled up and the barn riders rode them in the auction ring, which was a really tiny space. Other barn riders cut loose horses out and ran them up to be saddled.

 

 

 

 

 

This barn rider really knew how to use that flag. This in some way fits into the new book because Simon was raised in a livery stable and was a barn rider and all-around worker and learned his fiddle on the side until it took over his life.

A lot of interesting people wandering around looking at the horses, prospective buyers. Also lots of kids. Here’s a proud dad and his daughter.

Strange people as well as cowboy people…

 

 

 

 

 

 

And kids all over the place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April and June and I walked the catwalk to get a good view; while up there April looked down and saw a seller inject his horse with something, probably Ace or one of the other horse tranquilizers, so he could sell it as a calm and gentle horse. This is despicable. Take the horse home and the sweet gentle thing breaks in half and you’re on the ground. This made me really reluctant to bid on a horse at all, no matter how good it looked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But O’Dwyer is a good man and trustworthy; saw a horse I liked and April said, “Let me talk to David about it.” David said, “Don’t trust that guy.” If I ever bought a horse there it would be with David’s advice and approval.

 

So if you want to sell a horse or horses, you pay a small fee to the auction barn and also a fee for a stall for a night or maybe two nights. Then a barn rider takes it into the ring and shows it off while the auctioneer roars out his patter. They say, ‘no alley deals’, meaning no private deals in the alleyways because after all the barn has to take its cut or it wouldn’t make any money and it would close. Also, the barn owner (David O’Dwyer, from Ireland) has a selection of stock that he has bought, worked with and will sell in the auction ring. There was a big trailer load of ranch horses that came down from North Dakota. Everybody watches closely as the horses are ridden in one by one. A sign overhead says the Lot #, and also ‘Sound’ or ‘As is’, meaning, guaranteed in good health or Take Your Chances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The girl barn riders seemed to have developed a fashion for elegant hand gestures when reining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

They were great to watch. Terrific riders. The one on the right is sitting behind the saddle to show how broke he is.

Up beside the auctioneer O’Dwyer keeps an eye on his laptop as several people were bidding online and watching online. Our friend Evelyn was watching online and was e-mailing us and could hear us chatting! The auctioneer would cry out the price, the assistant gestures for bids, and the auctioneer would often say, “And Online bids…” so much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One goodlooking horse went for about $7800, there were others that were absolutely beautiful but there was no telling how they would be to ride so I sat on my hands. April endured seven hours of that loud auctioneer’s voice blasting out, but I couldn’t take it and sort of came and went. April bought a huge tall old Thoroughbred for Nancy, and that is going to work out great. The old boy needs a good home and an easy life. She also bought two other older horses, and again, there at the camp they will be very well taken care of and enjoy an easy old age. We stayed with June Chism’s husband’s people who have a beautiful home just outside of Nocona. We had the place to ourselves as they were gone on a trip to Italy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so the next day they turned out all the unsold horses and they were glad to get back to open spaces. We loaded up the bought horses and came home, about five hours, eating junk food all the way and enjoying one of the greenest springtimes I have seen in Texas. Wildflowers everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluebonnets near Nocona, town cemetery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was south of here in the brush country, just east of Uvalde, last week, when I drove in to do my shopping.

March 20/19 map of the old plazas

I made this map to locate as many of the businesses and buildings as possible (1865-70) from old photos and memoirs. Mary Maverick’s memoirs were helpful.  It was fun, also demanding. Puzzling. The two plazas today are almost unrecognizable compared t this map and photos from that time.  

 

Noted all the bars and saloons with a red dot. There were certainly a lot of them.   Will try for a clearer picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is looking south on Soledad, about 1873. I think the cross-street is Market. The Plaza Hotel where Simon and Damon got a job making music would be behind the viewer. I think. It’s so wide-open, and now it is hard to see the sky for all the great multi-story buildings. This looks like many towns in Mexico, even today.

March 9/19

We never had lighted screens to watch all day, never in human history. It’s astonishing and dubious and pleasing. Firelight was the closest thing.


 

 

 

 

Lighted screens and firelight are hypnotic, they lower your judgement potential by 30% (I just made that up). Go now and buy my books. Go now. Buy two copies of all of them. Give them to your friends. This is an approved thing to do, it will enhance your social prestige. Go now. Obey. That is all.

 

February 27/19

 

Read the same book on Kindle and as a physical in-your-hand book.

There is a different feeling about them. Move from a lighted screen onto a paper page and there’s a kind of let-down. The paper page is duller, less significant, less exciting. We are tuned to light. The lighted screen gives importance to things above and beyond their intrinsic merit. Lighted screens make you suspend judgement. It all started with fire. Staring into a fire. About a million years ago.


 

 

 

 

As most writers and editors know, you will miss typos and inconsistencies in your text if you try to edit on the computer screen, because you’ve suspended judgement. The light makes you less attentive, you coast. The great two-edged sword.

 

 

February 16/19 Movies

Just discovered a film that bombed but it looks very good. They said you could only get it on Amazon — $2.99

The Death of Stalin; A Comedy of Terrors.

The trailer and clips are intriguing and the fact that somebody has been able to at least attempt a comedy of dark humor about Russians under the evil Stalin. Amazing. I don’t think you would get belly laughs but Oh God laughs.

 

My oriole is back on his/her flyway north and so are the robins.

The Big D February 9/19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been trying to play this low D whistle for three years and finally managed ‘The Water Is Wide’. It seems the size of a drainpipe. Too much of a stretch for my short fingers. If there is any air leakage at all, if all the holes are not completely covered then you get skraaawk skreeeek. Finally realized it was the ring fingers on both hands that weren’t completely covering the holes and so worked at that. Also I run out of air. It takes a lot of breath to move a large column of air down the bore. But, at any rate, the sound is wonderful. It sounds like an oboe.

Have been working on ‘Margaret’s Waltz’ on the G, which is also a large whistle but not as big as the low D. I finally found somebody on YouTube who played Margaret’s Waltz  in G, his name is Lester, and Lester plays it nice and slow on the melodeon, which I listened to repeatedly and picked it out on my little three-octave keyboard along with him, from thence to the G whistle. Lester had about twenty hits on his YouTube video until I came along and upped his numbers enormously.

So Lester and I have been merrily tootling and squeezing away. Tom our fiddler and Diane and Chuck play it in G, so the G whistle it is. I don’t know why they decided on G but I am a latecomer to this piece and will do it in any key they choose.

Myself and June and Sherry and Evelyn and Nancy (all horse people) watched The Rider which CD was sent to me by the producer on this upcoming film of News of the World.