Thursday, November 24, 2011

Guest Appearance on the Glenn Beck Show

On Tuesday, November 22, 2011, I had the opportunity to be a guest on the Glenn Beck Show. This was my second appearance, which made me feel good because it meant they didn't think I was really terrible the first time. The show launched Beck's new book, Being George Washington. I was invited onto the program because I had helped with research. I had loads of fun, and Glenn Beck is is a great guy. No surprises...he's just as he seems on his radio and television programs. Being George Washington is an accurate portrayal of the Father of our Country, but told with a more personal touch than other written portraits.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Candelaria, a.k.a. Pickhandle Gulch

The Shopkeeper, the first Steve Dancy Tale, started in Pickhandle Gulch, Nevada. I visited southern Nevada ghost towns researching the book. Pickhandle Gulch was actually a suburb of Caldelaria (okay, side street), but I liked the name and used it in  my story. I took many photos, but few as good as the ones in this slideshow. The town is far off the beaten path, but if you're a ghost town enthusiast, I would highly recommend a trip to Candelaria, known to Steve Dancy as Pickhandle Gulch.

Candelaria Slide Show by Warren Willis

Caldelaria Circa 1880

Caldelaria Today, Author Photo

Steve Dancy Tales
Honest Westerns filled with dishonest characters.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Three Days at a Dude Ranch

Although I'm a western writer, I've never stayed at a dude ranch. At least not until this week, when my wife and I spent time at the White Stallion Ranch outside of Tucson, Arizona. I discovered I had missed out on a lot of fun.

I had always assumed dude ranches were for Easterners who wanted to experience a controlled Old West. To a degree that's true. We found ourselves riding, eating, and drinking with people from all over the nation, as well as from England, Germany, Sweden, and Japan. Some were novices, but most were experienced riders who loved horses and beautiful, wide open landscape. 

It surprised me how many had been coming back year after year. One reason many returned to White Stallion was the ranch staff. They were always gracious and at your elbow whenever you needed something. The ranch hands' politeness seemed contagious. All of the guests were in a holiday mood and eager for the next adventure. This was resort living, seasoned with bit of adrenalin. What a combination.

And the biggest surprise … the adventures seemed genuine. This was especially true for the popular riding lessons. The lesson occurred in a huge corral, and focused on pushing skills to the next level. I had ridden a horse many times, but never had a wrangler give me a private lesson. It made a world of difference, and I'm sure my horse appreciated it.

It was a great stay. We relaxed, ate too much, met interesting people, and became much better riders. We intend to be back in the spring with friends. Maybe we can even get the grandkids out here to race around the corral on a pony. It never too early to help them become Western enthusiasts.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Western History, Breathtaking Monuments, and Great Balls of Twine

A Friend with a gas station horse.
He couldn't find the quarter slot.
The first time I drove across the country, I was ten years old and shared a cramped back seat with two brothers and a sister. Our comforts included an evaporation cooler locked in place by a rolled up window, stale sandwiches wrapped in wax paper, and a static-prone radio that kept losing stations. We saw lots of the good ol' American West, but in truth, the highlight of the day was picking a motel for the night. We drove up and down the main drag of some small town along Route 66 checking out places to stay. Would the motel be a real Indian teepee, or a fort right out of Rin Tin Tin, or just a boring row of doors in an L-shaped building with parking slots in front. Did the pool have a diving board? If during the day we had kept our arguing to a minimum, maybe we could stay in a prehistoric cave with dinosaurs as lawn art? As we cruised back and forth, the four of us in the back seat would shout out our preferences, but our parents whispered some adult secret stuff to each other and we soon found ourselves bouncing into a driveway.

Families don't travel across country by car anymore. I wouldn't even do it with my kids. The trend was already leaning toward flying to vacation, and then the Griswolds ruined the family road trip forever.

Except … a few ol' timers still want to see fly-over country from ground level at a comfortable speed. We just did, and we had a blast. With a couple of good friends, we toured Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska. When you slow down to a leisurely pace, you discover a great country filled with great people. Pioneer and Western History reminds you what it means to be an American. Monuments like Mount Rushmore and the Dakota Badlands are more impressive than the latest iPhone app. Really. And if you have a taste for Great American tacky, you can still find plenty of it along the road. The thirty-foot dinosaurs may be gone, but you can still sidle up to a six-foot garishly painted horse.

A road trip across the country still presents hardships. I think we ran out of ice once for our evening cocktails. It surprised me that a thirty-eight foot diesel-pusher wouldn't have an automatic icemaker. It had everything else, including a satellite entertainment system that could pull in countless radio and television stations. I don't believe there was a roll of wax paper either. The motorhome did have a full kitchen, with an endless supply of wholesome and unwholesome food, but we used zip-lock baggies to store leftovers. Our roomy vehicle leveled itself, kept the temperature perfect, and had a sound system that would make a concert hall envious. We did have to make our beds in the morning. What we didn't have to do was cruise up and down the main boulevard looking for a place to eat or park for the night. A pair of iPads made researching the options for the next few hours or days an enjoyable pastime.

The trip was reminiscent of my youth, but somehow better. We had fun, relaxed, enjoyed good company, and learned a lot about our country. If you get the chance, hit the road. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Would the Founders Think? Reviews Murder at Thumb Butte

Best does a great job of weaving historic Prescott into the story with accurate depictions of well-known features like Whiskey Row, the court house, Gurley Street, and other famous locales in the historic town.  It’s clear he’s been there and mapped out his story accordingly.  The great thing about this is that this part of Prescott looks much the same as it did then. The story itself is as good, if not better than the first two books in the series.

Book Page at Amazon
Book Page at Barnes & Noble

Read the entire Review