Category Archives: News

General news posts that aren’t categorized

New Crop of Colts, Musical performance November 12/19

Spent a great afternoon with Wanda Waters, April Baxter, June Chism, Laurel Waters, Evelyn O’Hara, Rebecca Douglas and Carole Larue, going out to Wanda and Lou’s place to see the new crop of colts from Wild Card. Wild Card is their Colonel Freckles-descended stud horse, a perfect gentleman, and the horse Robert Duval chose to ride in one of his movies. A great performance horse, a great stud and gentle as a kitten. Most of Wanda’s colts are so popular they are sold as soon as they are six months old, but I think they keep them there at the ranch until they are two.

Wanda and one of the six-month old babies.







Here he is running alongside the van. And below, us, standing around in awe and rather avid appreciation of these gorgeous young things.







June Chism giving a loving stroke to a beautiful little buckskin. June is going through chemotherapy. Healing touches…







Above, April getting up close and personal with two bays.







These three on the right are younger than the rest, they’re only about a month old and so the older six-month-olds scare them to death. All the time we were in the pasture they stuck together like three peas in a pod. Re; windshield picture. The van held no terrors for the rest of them, they were chewing at the windshield wipers.  On left, Evelyn and the little buckskin; he’s looking at her phone to see if his picture turned out okay I guess.







Then a great lunch at the main house, thank you Wanda and Laurel! So happy to be out there and get to see the new babies! That’s Evelyn O’Hara on the left and April and then June on the right. Several of Wanda’s two-year olds are going to CalPoly for their horsemanship and competition program, students take one horse for the whole year, break and train them, see to all their medical needs, feed them etc. CalPoly is very happy with her horses and want more. Gorgeous day, good friends, good food!

Then the Fall Festival, where my musical group played, making as much noise as we could over the sounds of the crowd. We actually got paid!







Diane Causey with her hammer dulcimer — “You’re up!” Chuck (on mando) and I, Tom (on fiddle) and Diane played the tune of ‘Mary of the Wild Moor’ and then flowed straight into ‘The Outlander Song’ properly known as ‘Over the Sea to Skye’, which was Cathy’s solo.






Setting up; Cathy with her guitar and Kim behind her and Tom messing with his fiddle’s electronic booster thingie. Mark Hall (voice, guitar) set up all the speakers and electronics, he is very hardworking and helpful to all.

As I said we did fine, our singers are very good, and I went shopping among all the booths and found a great handmade pot to put on my hearth that will hold all my whistles. I have a terrific new A whistle, made of carbon fiber, and as soon as I can afford it I am gong to replace all my other whistles with carbon fiber ones from Eric the Flutemaker. They have a beautiful crisp sound and are right on the money as far as tuning goes.

Okay I have got caught up with this blog. Girl Dog sends her regrets for not appearing but she is at the vet’s having surgery for a recurring cist, we have had freezing and below temperatures and the most horrible wind yesterday, it went up to 40 mph. So I have not gone to get her and can’t get over the mountain pass until tomorrow when I am sure there’ll be no ice and I won’t go sliding and whirling around as I come down the far side of the pass.

Veteran’s Day (late) Nov. 11/19

Because of a sudden norther and a drop in temperature from 74F to 31F, horses to get up to the corral and hay needed hauling for them, dog to veterinarian, I didn’t get to post for Veteran’s Day but although a day late, here’s to all my relatives and friends who served; those who are gone, those still with us.

But especially to my Dad (deceased, Navy WW2 Pacific) and to James Marshall Jiles, Texas 36th Division, killed at Anzio Beach March 1944.



November 6/19 Ozark Ride






We didn’t do too much riding this year, as my other cousin Cindy had just had open-heart surgery and needed my cousin Susan’s care quite often. Cindy’s husband and kids were also with her a lot.
But Susan and Mark threw a wonderful barbecue and party and Susan got Bobby Lewis, one of the best fiddlers in southeast Missouri, to come too, and he and I played together, luckily I had brought my D and A whistles, we had a fantastic time! Loved playing with him, I wish I were better. . .


Since we didn’t ride all that much I went for long walks in the woods north of Susan and Mark’s place and took lots of arty nature pictures. The sweet gums (above) were brilliant. This is along Beaver Creek.





























Megan Harris, wildlife zoologist extraordinaire.







This is Megan Harris, she and her husband Russel work for the Forestry Service, he is a firefighter and she is an expert on bats. It is wonderful to ride with her as she knows every birdsong and every animal track we ride past and never misses.

Below, Susan with her black-and-white pinto named Doc and his one blue eye.



















Then when we got time to take a short ride, Susan got a branch caught in her necklace which she was wearing outside of her hoodie, and it tore off, a valuable diamond which meant a lot to Susan as it was a recognition gift for raising so much money for Haven House (battered women’s shelter) there in Poplar Bluff and she had had it for years. So we went back on foot with a metal detector and found it! In all those leaves! Great joy reigned.












I would post more pictures but am having trouble transferring from phone to downloads. This was a great year! Less packing and loading horses and cooking gear and cowboy beds etc. etc. and slower, quieter, just as much fun. Susan and Mark drove me back to St. Louis for my flight home, then two hours drive from San Antonio airport to home, and at last in bed with a good book. And a cat. Obligatory cat picture.




September 25/10 Waiting for rain as always







Sooty Cat loves to ride with me down to feed the horses, lounges about on the seat, is currently inspecting the hay for traces of mouseness, just checking.

The movie is going into production and the producer sent me a report saying the release is for Christmas Day 2020. My cousin checks the entertainment news all the time and texts me to tell me what’s new , what’s up, what’s happening with the movie, as does the producer Gail Mutrux and Lynn Pleshette. Simon the Fiddler is also in the final stages of production (as a book) and the endpaper map is going to be fantastic! A little sketch of Simon — people always like to have an idea of what the main character looks like.

We have gone through a terrible dry spell. I remember when I first bought this place I thought, Oh boy thirty-five acres, I’ll never have to buy hay again! Wrong. Am feeding hay, grass all dry and eaten up. The worst of having to buy hay is wrestling with the 60-pound hay bales, I am just getting too old to do it. I think I  can get the Sabinal Feed Company to deliver, however.

Better get this up before I go down to pasture and spend enjoyable quiet hours cutting some trails through cedar — Jackson my new horse is so prone to getting himself cut up, He is a klutz in many ways, startles easily but doesn’t go anywhere after a big emotional startle. Does a little leap; ‘What the hell was that? What the hell was that?’ It was a jackrabbit, Jackson. You have seen them before. They are vegetarians. They are non-combative. All is well.

A cool day, the hot weather seems to be gone at last.



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.