What’s a half million words between friends?

So I spent almost 30 years doing the “traditional” writer thing: turn out a book every few years. Spend a crapload of time writing and re-writing my query letter. Submit said letter and sample chapters to various agents and editors. Wait months for a form rejection letter (or to be completely ignored). Rinse and repeat.

By the end of last year I realized it wasn’t going to work. I’d had a couple of agents over the years, but that never went anywhere. It had gotten to the point where most of the agents and editors I queried didn’t even respond–even those who specifically said they were looking for new writers. It was either give up my dream of being a full-time author or try something drastically different. Continue reading “What’s a half million words between friends?”

Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Water, water nowhere…

Date Creek wooden diversion 2
Date Creek itself

Back in college I used to do a lot of backpacking with one of my friends. One time he and I were headed out to backpack in the Chiricahua Mountains and as we were pulling our packs out of the car I noticed that he had a milk jug full of water in the back seat. When I asked him what it was for, he told me it was so we’d have something to drink on the way home.

But it’s in a milk jug, I said.

It’s okay, he replied. I cleaned it really well.

I just smiled and shook my head. Trust me, you aren’t going to want to drink that.

He argued with me, but I knew I was right. How did I know this? Because I’d long ago made a similar mistake… Continue reading “Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Water, water nowhere…”

Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Fun with tractors

The old loading chute at the ranch headquarters

Time for the tale of how I earned a scar worthy of a champion.

In the early days, our lone piece of “heavy” equipment on the ranch was on old Ford tractor. I’m guessing that it was of a 1940s vintage, but without going to the trouble of emailing my sister for verification, I can’t be sure. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.

It wasn’t a big tractor, nor did it run very well, which meant that most time it had to be fixed before you could use it. That also meant that it fit right in with the rest of our rusty, crumbling, creaky equipment.

One of the tractor’s more entertaining traits was it complete and utter lack of functioning brakes. They were just useless metal appendages affixed down near your feet, fun to stomp on, but nothing else. If you wanted to stop, it was best to plan ahead. As in, Hey, there’s a gate coming up in about fifty yards. If I don’t want to crash through it, I better take action now. And, since the tractor had a top speed of about five miles an hour, fifty yards gave you plenty of time to take action.

Continue reading “Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Fun with tractors”

Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Gymkhanas, part 2

This is the big truck, after the wooden racks were replaced by a water tank.

I’m not quite sure why I wasn’t riding Cortez, my horse, on that fateful day. I have some vague recollection that she had a limp. I’m not even sure how the decision was made that Dinah should be her replacement either. Maybe it was just the universe having a little fun at my expense.

However it happened, one fine day we loaded Dinah and Kim’s horse, Suzy, into the Big Truck, piled into the cab and headed for the tiny town of Bagdad and my date with infamy.

You know, I’m going to go off on a side rant here, triggered by my traumatic memories of the Big Truck.

One of the things that I really hated when I was a kid was how we were always different. All I wanted to do was fit in and just be like everyone else. But it was not to be. Even around other people who were different, we were still more different than them.

Case in point: the Big Truck. When we went to gymkhanas or any sort of gathering where people brought horses or livestock, everyone else had horse trailers. Why? Because they’re low to the ground and it’s easy to load and unload your livestock from them.

(find part one of this story here) Continue reading “Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Gymkhanas, part 2”

Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Gymkhanas, part 1

View of Date Creek Mountains

Shortly after I bought Cortez, Mom started taking Kim and me to compete in gymkhanas. And now I’m guessing that you’re wondering what in the heck a gymkhana is. Well, it’s like a rodeo for kids. However, instead of roping or bull riding or any of that dangerous stuff, you have events like barrel racing, pole bending and the keyhole race. They’re all timed races with some pattern you have to get your horse through as quickly as possible.

Surprisingly, I actually did pretty good. Scratch that. We did pretty good. I wouldn’t have done so well without a horse. Cortez wasn’t fast, but she was very responsive to the bit and, not being a big horse, she was quite agile, which really came in handy, especially in pole bending and the keyhole. (Contrary to what you’re thinking, no poles are actually bent or harmed in any way in this event. A half dozen long poles set in buckets are laid out in a line about 8 or 10 feet apart. The idea is to weave through the poles as fast as you can until you make it around the last one in the line, then you run straight back across the finish line. Knocking over a pole gets you penalized. Missing one gets you disqualified.) Continue reading “Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Gymkhanas, part 1”

Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Time for a real horse, part 2

My lovely wife, Claudia, at the ranch. On her first roundup years ago, she got to go on foot! Why ever did she stick around?

So the first horse I tried out turned out to be a lemon. There was nothing for it but to keep on trying. The right horse just had to be out there.

The next horse that arrived at the ranch was a friendly-looking mare. The initial stages of saddling and mounting all went well enough. I was feeling pretty positive.

As luck would have it, once again I was going to be riding down the creek. I don’t remember the details, but I imagine we’d missed some cattle and we were just checking the pasture again. The difference was that this time Scott would be riding with me. Continue reading “Tales from Date Creek Ranch – Time for a real horse, part 2”

Fun with jackhammers!

So apparently jackhammers aren’t the entertaining tools popular media has made them out to be.

Ugh. This sure brings back memories, and not the good kind. This was step one of “remodeling” our old pool, which had become the bane of my existence. The old plaster was flaking away in great chunks and the pool had become home to a mutant strain of black algae that mocked my feeble efforts to eliminate it.

The guy at the store told me to jackhammer 4-6 holes in the bottom so rain could drain away. That doesn’t sound too bad, I thought. I’ll start with the easy one by the drain.

Boy was I completely clueless.

Apparently in the 1970s they built pools to withstand a direct nuclear strike. The damned concrete was like 18 inches thick! With freaking rebar crisscrossing every 8 inches or so! It was like breaking into Ft Knox, but with no happy surprise on the other side or men with guns to shoot you down and end the pain.

I cashed in the first jackhammer after an hour or so and got their biggest one. It still took all bloody day. And that was for one hole.

And that was when I decided this old pool was only going to have one hole in the bottom. This is Tucson, after all, where rain is both scarce and infrequent.

Anyway, the whole thing turned out well in the end as you can see from the following picture. It only took about 175 cubic yards of soil that all had to be wheelbarrowed (is that a verb? Well, it is now.) in by hand because no machinery will make it into the back yard.

The new pool is 1/10th the size, fiberglass, and nary a sign of black algae!