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Truth or Fiction

I am rural raised, my writing is contemporary laced with injections of western culture, heritage and tradition. And like working with cattle, sorting stories into their respective corrals can have its advantages. My favourite round-pens to hold words in is the one that is fit for sharing around a campfire and the one where the story did happen. 

As a young person, I found it annoyingly and funny how people reacted to stories they heard. While listening with the usual deer in the headlight look, their comments would range from “Really?” or “Did that happen?” to any form of disbelief that dribbled from their lips. Yes, it sometimes made me sassy, and I might counter with, “What do you think?” or “You know, you really can’t make this shit up.” But, as any storyteller knows, you can make it up. 

I learned uncouth, unprofessional, and inappropriate responses do not educate readers about your passion. I have matured, which I might add is questioned by some; however, it has guided me to make a point to take time to explain the stories. I have found when I add a back story or insider memento while at personal appearances, the aha moments come to life.

In preparing for this column, I took liberties with my ‘chore’ time and revisited several pieces I’d like to share with you. I am interested in your thoughts. Are these true stories, or are they campfire worthy – a product of my imagination? 

Throughout February, I will add some back story notes and personal thoughts for each of these stories. The link to their truth or fiction verdict will be on my Facebook Author Page



Cowhide Race

The rodeo always had something for everyone: Rough stock, roping events, calf riding for the kids, barrel and stake racing, and for added enjoyment during intermission, the cowhide race. 

At the last minute, her brother said she would be his partner, and since he was a lot older than her, she knew it wasn’t up for discussion. Besides, she had wanted to ride in the cowhide race for as long as her eleven-year-old mind could remember. 

The bonus was—well there were a few— but the one that she was most excited about was being able to ride her brother’s sorrel horse. She had ridden him before, but she was fairly sure her brother did not know about those times. Maybe this would show him she could handle the animal and be given permission to ride him whenever she wanted rather than on the sly.

At the starting line, a strong arm around her waist tossed her up onto the saddle. She looked down at the stirrups dangling a good foot below her boots. 

“You don’t need them,” he said, handing her the reins. He jogged back to the cowhide, sliding his hand down the lariat which he’d tied hard to the saddle horn. Keeping the gelding standing in line with the other teams, she watched over her shoulder as her brother got settled on the hide. He grabbed hold of a jagged, dried edge with one hand and the knotted rope with the other. 

When the klaxon blew announcing the start of the race, the sorrel catapulted forward. Leaning over the saddle horn, reaching along his neck to give the gelding his head, she felt the slack rope snap tight across her leg. 

They were at the other end of the arena in seconds. Her brother raced from his place on the hide, took hold of the reins, drug her off the horse, and swung into the saddle in one motion. She ran as hard as she could towards the hide. Stumbling, she somehow landed where she was supposed to before finding the end of the rope to hang onto. The gelding was already at a dead run when the rope tightened, swinging the cowhide with the little girl on it through the air in the direction of finish the line. 



Grizzly

It was a good day to check the fence line damage. He loaded the tools and supplies into the side by side and slid his rifle into the scabbard. A few hours into his day, he noticed something dark lying on the other side of the fence not that far from where he was working. Thinking it might be the neighbours’ missing bull, he started down the fence line to check. 

It happened faster than he could think. The roar. The screeching sound of barbed wire stretching to the max before it snapped. The grizzly bear charging. One shot from the hip, the bear dropped. The second shot was lost in the trees. Six feet from the toe of his boot to the nose of the old boar was the distance between life and death. Why he had decided to take his rifle to check on the possible bull sighting, he will never know



Man of the House

She busied herself stoking the fire, topping up the water reservoir, and filling the kettle and large canning pot with water to get them heated and boiling. She had already put the extra bedding, scissors, and thread on the chair beside the bed. 

The pains had started through the night. It wasn’t the first time she had birthed a child, and it wasn’t the first time her husband had been away when it was time. She would get everything prepared before sending the boy across the frozen lake to their nearest neighbours. The neighbour lady had experience in helping in these situations. It was the way of life.

When his dad was home, the little boy spent all his time shadowing the man he looked up to. His young mind knew more about surviving, hunting, and horses than some of the men his dad knew. His dad was proud of him and the man he would become. 

The boy knew there was something not right with his mother but didn’t ask. His dad had taught him that was women’s stuff and not to worry. But today, he was worried. She was doing things he’d never seen her do before. His mind told him something was going to happen, and since his dad was away, he was the man of the house and would look after her. 

It had started to snow by the time the boy finished his chores. At his young age, his daily responsibility was to gather the eggs, feed the chickens and dogs, and make his bed. Arriving at the house, his mother met him at the door. Taking the basket of eggs from him, she leaned on the counter, rubbing her back. 

“I need you to go get Mrs. Brant. Catch one of the workhorses and bridle him. Come back to the house and bring the horse with you. Before leaving, I’ll help you put on extra socks and gloves and your dad’s scarf.”

The boy nodded, leaving the house without saying a word. He pulled his wool hat down over his ears. He would take the big roan horse called Ginger.

His mother gave him last minute words of encouragement, a sandwich she had made, and asked him to do his best to hurry. He had been across the lake to the Brant homestead in the sleigh with his dad. Going by horseback wouldn’t be any different in his mind.  His mother reminded him he needed to go out to the point, on the lake past the beach, and turn toward where the sun would set. 

It was still snowing when he left, but every so often, the clouds would brighten, showing him the direction of the sun and his way. He wrapped the rein around a hand and hung onto the main, urging Ginger into a ground-covering trot across the snow-covered ice. The sound of horses whinnying welcomed them before the shoreline came into view, letting the boy and his trusty stead know they were close to their destination. 

Ginger needed no guidance. He seemed to know the importance of their mission. He didn’t go to the corrals. He went to the house and stood still while the little boy slid off his back, dropping the rein to remind him not to go anywhere. 

Mr. Brant hooked up his team to the sleigh, tying Ginger to the back while the youngster warmed up and ate his sandwich before the return trip. Wrapped in a quilt, sitting between Mr. and Mrs. Brant, they started back across the frozen lake in the fading afternoon light.



Gin in the Jockey Box

It was New Year’s Eve and forty below outside. Still, it was a given that the party at the lodge would not, and could not be missed. In this weather, any kind of travel required a certain amount of planning. In the long run, it was unanimously decided the trip would be worth it. 

After I had finished the morning chores, the Mrs. had coals from the wood stove put into two buckets for me. I put them under the motor of the car to keep a small fire burning all day. We always had a stock of shaving sticks we used to start the fires in the house. These, along with sawdust, were used to fuel the coals throughout the day to get the oil warmed and the motor primed to turn over when it was time for us to leave. 

Now the Mrs., she had things to do as well. The women supplied the midnight supper and My Mrs. was always asked to bring a few of her desserts and her pickled beets. We took the beets from our supply in the cold room, and she had spent a few days baking up a storm. Just because there was a bunch of women cooking didn’t mean we only needed to take a little bit of food. Each woman had to make enough to help feed about sixty people. 

I loaded the car with extra quilts and blankets. In this weather, you never know what you’ll be faced with. The Mrs. wrapped the beets in towels to help keep them from freezing, and layered her baked goods in a box. She’ll put the her baking in the warming oven to take any cold off of it when we get to the lodge.

Now you’re probably thinking, why go to so much trouble when we can turn on the heater? And I bet you think we didn’t have far to go either. That isn’t quite how it works in our part of the world. Driving to the lodge is not a ten-minute jaunt down the street. It takes us the better part of two hours in the winter, sometimes longer if we are the ones breaking trail in a fresh fall of snow.

The car we had is a good one. She’s reliable. I do all my own mechanic work, so I know her sweet spots and what has to be teased and tickled to make her hum. We had a little trouble convincing her that the heater should work all the time and not just when she felt like it. But we’re used to that. 

The Mrs., she wore her big, fir coat and wrapped a quilt around her legs. I chose a less ritzy look with coveralls and a winter parka. Most important was that we stay warm. 

But even when the heater did decide to work, we were faced with the problem of keeping the window clear so I can see if we are still on the road. It is sometimes hard for me to tell when the ground flattens out and trees have been logged off. That’s where the Mrs. comes in. She keeps a mickey of gin and some pieces of an old flannel sheet in the jockey box. Before we leave, she wets a rag with gin and gives the inside of the windshield a good wipe down in front of where I need to see out. It keeps the glass crystal clear for a little while, and when it starts to freeze up again, my Mrs. works her magic once more.  

When we get to the lodge, the men’ll help us carry in the food and drink. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that we bring our own liquor. We put it on a big table sharing with anyone who wanted some. There was always a good variety of homemade and store-bought. I like the potato champagne the Mrs. always makes. We usually take extra for anyone who wants to take a bottle home. 

I’ll put the bucket of coals we brought along under the car and check on it every so often to make sure it keeps things warm and ready for our return trip home. Sometimes we stay for breakfast before heading out, but that’s a story for another time. 

It’s good to see our friends and neighbours again. Happy New Year.

Writing for the Brand

My mind became a state of turmoil when I heard the term writer’s brand.  When you are raised in ranch country, the word ‘brand’ is common. It’s the mark put on livestock to identify who they belong to, and now I was being asked to come up with a ‘mark’ to put on me as a writer. 

I wondered if our family’s brand, Bar K Reverse K, could be used, or if I would have to invent another branding iron that would be mine and mine alone. You should see the file filled with scrap papers, covered with all the brand drawings I concocted to represent what I assumed this new brand should be.

Bar K Reverse K – Edall family brand for over 100 years.

During my time of no-brand limbo, it was decided a logo, a picture, or something, needed to appear on my work to identify it as mine. This would not be my decision alone, as my husband was also my business partner. Whatever we were going to use was not only expected to be my identifier, it also needed to be incorporated as our company’s logo.

I would be several years into what I call the ‘serious writing thing’ before I fully understood what having a writer’s brand meant. It fell into my lap one day while I was explaining why I write what I do and why I take the pictures that I do. Diversity and growth often lead to a need to make other changes. These might be a major overhaul of everything involved or baby steps to make sure the new landscape feels right under your feet. 

February’s Full Snow Moon

For years, the picture of the full moon rising over the ridge has been synonymous with everything we did from my writing, photography, and our company. However, it was evident that the talks of rebranding should become more than dinner table discussions. With the addition of books in various genres, taking on the role of book publisher, and incorporating other projects, this growth to our corporate interests resonated with the need to have an updated look: a look that was a recognizable presence representing the company as a whole. It was time for a transformation, but here again, it had to fit with what I had discovered was my writing brand.

Branding Day

Like rewriting a chapter in a book, change starts with an idea. It can be one thought or the vision of an end result. Either way, it took quite some time to find the right look for the new branding iron. Thinking it would happen in a short time frame proved to be a mistake on our part; however, listening to the people we contacted was found to be invaluable. They may not have provided all the answers or the direction we were looking for, but their artistic concepts added depth to the final result, providing food for what we thought we wanted. Simultaneously, it was a stark reminder that wants and need is two totally different things.

And now I return to the original dilemma of going on the hunt for a writer’s brand. Through my search to locate what I thought was needed as a writing branding iron, I discovered I had been writing under our home brand all along. It is the passion for what I believe in. It is from where I come that guides me to where I go. 

Still Rides for the Brand

Quietly, a cowboy would make a statement, “I ride for the brand.” These five words speak volumes to the dedication and respect we follow in creating our own brands. The values we place on the top rail keeps us true to what we believe in. True to our brand.

Oh! And the company…In the spring of 2020, we were presented with a rough concept that encompassed our vision. It did not compromise the want to include the trees silhouetted against the full moon or the important need of adding a feather. In the end, we got what we were looking for. It’s obvious there, too; we are still riding and writing for the same brand. 

The Quiet Spirits

How did you discover the brand you ride for, I mean write for?

I rely on my heritage to keep me grounded. Reminders of where I come from, mentoring me to where I need to go. Gifting me excerpts of a lifestyle I see slipping away. Snippets shyly materializing in my writing and photography. I am a lover of life and all things that make us smile. Sharing moments others may never get to experience at HorsesWest, DAKATAMA™ Country, and Ann Edall-Robson where you can also contact me. 

Quiet Spirits ~ Open the Gate

Write about what you know.

My initial knee jerk, gut reaction, to that statement was, “No one would be interested in the things that I know.” Followed by, “I can’t write about some of that stuff! People wouldn’t believe half of it.” 

Needless to say, I got past my inner voice with guidance from previous generations, melded with my own experiences and input. I have found writing about what I know is quite enjoyable, even with the hurdles that presented themselves along the way.

I have come across many bumps, frost heaves, and closed gates touring the trails of the four genres that I write in. Yet, the passion to share, and more importantly, preserve the knowledge, pushed me through the shin-tangle, and diversity was born.

Choosing to write in more than one genre occasionally causes me consternation. I think this comes from words pummelled into our brain from those who don’t know us, or what we are capable of. “Find one genre, stick to it, write it well, no cross-contamination, and defiantly no trying to make a name for yourself using more than one genre.” 

Unfortunately, we tend to head these words until we, or perhaps I should say I, finally resolved what works for me. I am not saying it is or isn’t good advice, but these comments proved to be nothing but a frustrating, brick wall challenge for me. Had I allowed myself to adhere to the guidelines of staying in one genre, I might not have bothered to venture as far as I have, into the modern-day literary world. 

There is an old saying that goes something like this, ‘Open the gate and let the horses out if you want to see how they will really perform.’ Well, that about describes me and my creativity to a tee. It took me quite a while to settle within the niche that let me run free with my writing. The realization it was okay to ignore the genre rules made less of an obstacle for me to pen my thoughts. I could now write about everything I love, embrace, and am passionateOld Gate about. I knew all I needed to do was stay true to my brand—something that came easy to me because of my upbringing in ranching country.

While the genre argument was happening in my brain, another mud hole opened up in the road to being published. Notoriety using name identification was certainly not going to happen for me when over thirteen million results of my name, Ann Robson, appear on a search engine. 

I sat looking at a list of books I thought I would write—cookbooks, a collection of my (very) early works, several books to include pictures I had taken, and let’s not forget fiction with some poetry and children’s books thrown in for good measure. How could I write about these varying topics using my plain Jane name? I knew if I was to become remotely successful, garnering a reader following would not be easy; yet somehow, I didn’t care. 

And that’s when the light came on! While I made a list of my first, middle, and last names in as many scenarios as I could think of, the answer became clear. I merely switched out my middle initial/name for my maiden name that starts with the same letter. It made me giddy to think I would include some very important family history in my author’s name. My name was now unique and completely me. The dilemma was over, Ann Edall-Robson would do quite nicely. 

In retrospect, it hasn’t been that long that I have come to terms with the fact that it is okay to write in several genres under the same name. To heck with what ‘they’ say about what I should and shouldn’t be doing. Again, I didn’t care, and it made my job easy—each piece of my published work must somehow intertwine with my brand. 

After eight books in four different genres and more than five decades of various types of writing under my belt, I still walk the trail of uncertainty when I come up with a new book idea and where it might fit in. As a writer, I think it is a good thing that I remove complacency with a jolt of what-if questions before I start a new project, it keeps me focused on what I believe in.

If you are new to this game of writing, my suggestion would be to just write and write lots. Try to write something every day, and don’t stop to edit, just write. After a while, and you get to choose how long, read out loud all of your work in the order you wrote it. You should see a pattern forming. You should see what you are comfortable writing about. Ultimately you might find the genre(s) you are best suited for; and, hopefully, you will get a glimpse at a writing voice growing through your written words.

For those who have always written in one genre, maybe now’s the time to dust off those pieces you have squirrelled away. You know, the ones you didn’t think fit within your current genre. You have already tasted the wide-open spaces, so why not open the gate to a different pasture and explore your options. 

Whether you are an old hand at writing, or a greenhorn, taking the plunge through the gate to write in more than one genre should not be taken lightly. Do your homework. You need to find a common ground in these genres you are about to embark on. A commonality that may need to be justified, or explained to others. Try to remember, your name is not that common ground, but your brand should be. 

 

Do you write in more than one genre?  Do you use more than one pen name? Is either of these something you have thought about doing but have some trepidation about opening that gate?

 

I rely on my heritage to keep me grounded. Reminding me of where I come from. Gifting me with snippets of past life and lives. Providing fuel to include in the writing I do about the lifestyle I see slipping from my grasp, from the world.

The taking pictures thing started forever ago, and when I found I could marry them to the material I have written, and am writing, well, to put it mildly, I think I have a bit of a runaway going on.

I am a lover of life and all things that make us smile. I write and take pictures for the pleasure of being able to share at Morning Muse, HorseWest, and my Blog at AnnEdallRobson.com where you can also contact me.

Quiet Spirits ~ Link to the Past

Growing up, life, and events happened because they just did. As I got older, I had a different take on that thought, and every so often something would filter through my day creating a déjà vu moment. I maybe shrugged this off, but it got archived somewhere in the grey matter for future reference.

I was twelve years old the first time I read the trilogy by Richmond P. Hobson Jr. — a.k.a. Rich Hobson. Book one, Grass Beyond the Mountains took place some thirty years before I opened the cover. It didn’t take me long to grasp that I knew some parts of the country the setting was established in. Some would say it was in our so-called backyard. And how cool was it that he passed through our area to get to his destination. Naming towns along the way that were part of my life.

Grass Beyond the Mountain

At that age, what I wasn’t acquainted with were the people in the book. Who better to talk to than someone I presumed knew everything, and maybe everyone…my dad. I did most of the talking and dad would nod, and occasionally answer a question or two that I threw out there, like: 

“Do you know any of these guys (characters) in this book?” 

A nod. 

“How, where, when?” 

“I’ve come across ‘em.” 

That’s all I got. Not a surprise since dad was known for being a man of few words.

In retrospect of how I was raised, dad wouldn’t have seen the need to expound on someone else. It was, after all their life, not his. If I wanted to know more, I was on my own. Yet, being twelve meant the only viable thing I could do was to read the second and third books. 

Some years later, I met people with names that were somehow familiar to me. It was weird to be talking to someone and wondering where do I know you from? Conversations ensued without any definitive answers. Again, I turned to dad. I wanted to know if our family somehow knew anyone that I had been introduced to at a recent rodeo I had attended. He provided his normal condensed version of an answer. “Could be from Williams Lake, or that Anahim Lake country.” Not much to go on, and once again information was archived. 

Fast forward fifty years…A glimmer of light came on when I re-read Grass Beyond the Mountains. A connection to names and places that had been put in the memory vault started to come to life. Until I was reading the book again, I hadn’t known the significance of my conversations with dad. I started putting the pieces together. The last names of people in the book coincided with the towns I had been to some forty-odd years ago for rodeos. 

Bud Edall – Green Lake Stampede – circa Late 1930’s

You see, dad had been a saddle bronc rider in his younger days, and he too would have travelled to some of the places I had. From his rodeo trail, he knew the family names I had originally asked about. The names may not have been the actual people in the story, but it was the sir names and towns creating the link.  

While reading the book,  I came to realize it wasn’t the main characters who were as big as life in the story. Although without them, the memoir would most likely tell a completely different tale. It was the supporting cast of people and animals that brought depth and meaning for me. The discovery of the link opened the door to possibilities. Had future generations of the book’s characters crossed my path when I was younger? Definitely more digging into my archives is needed to confirm my link theory.

The Last Cattle Frontier – Unexplored Territory

The Last Cattle Frontier – Explored Territory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am thankful to have the old copies of Rich Hobson’s three books in my library. Each holds words of how life was for those men and women of that era. The people who were ballsy enough to venture into the uncharted country. Breaking the trail to make a life for themselves and for those who came later. Their endurance resonates with me.

On a side note, if you have any interest at all in the topic of a frontier being opened up by grit, determination, humour, and horsepower, I recommend Rich Hobson’s memoir trilogy – Grass Beyond the Mountains, Nothing too Good for a Cowboy, and The Rancher Takes a Wife.

 

What fragments of (un-researched) personal knowledge has landed in your lap that you have used in your writing?

I rely on my heritage to keep me grounded. Reminding me of where I come from. Gifting me with snippets of past life and lives. Providing fuel to include in the writing I do about the lifestyle I see slipping from my grasp, from the world.

The taking pictures thing started forever ago, and when I found I could marry them to the material I have written, and am writing, well, to put it mildly, I think I have a bit of a runaway going on.

I am a lover of life and all things that make us smile. I write and take pictures for the pleasure of being able to share at Morning Muse, HorseWest, and my Blog at AnnEdallRobson.com where you can also contact me.

Quiet Spirits ~ Heritage Traditions

 

I find it unfortunate that so many people in today’s world are not interested in their heritage. Traditions and knowledge passed down through generations, face a continual demise because of them. 

Events, people, stories, and personal memories, whether good or bad, are all triggers. Ramblings of the old ways and days somehow are encouraged to leap to the surface from a hidden memory vault.  A pilgrimage to where? Bits and pieces rendered together by a thread of coherent thoughts. 

Perhaps just logical arguments between possible misconstrued imagination and the actual archived knowledge.

 

I am passionate about preserving western lifestyles and traditions. What is it I do to ensure the information passes to the next generation, and beyond?

You can often find me traveling gravel roads and wandering the land, stopping to take pictures as I go, and capturing moments others may never get to experience. When I come across a familiar scene that evokes an image of yesteryear it’s easy for me to slip back in time and writeWestern Traditions

Finding the unexpected sends a slight shiver that pulses through the body and mind. Words resonate with a visual scene telling of a life that still exists from another era, a reminder of stories told by old-timers and elders in an attempt to keep traditions alive. It was a way for them to teach about their lifestyle while sharing a connection to their past.

Personal experiences and the recollections of our family’s stories make for excellent research data, and I rely on both when I write.

What can I suggest to you about keeping your traditions from evaporating into hearsay?

The process has no need to be elaborate. A simple trek into genealogy will provide a lot of information. It’s as easy as paying attention to the stories your elders tell. Make a habit of recording names, dates, and anecdotes. Their age and mental health might cause some skepticism in their tales, but don’t let that deter you.  Take pictures. Ask about people in old pictures. Nothing has to be carved in stone. For now, it only needs to be documentedBear Springs Cabins

Now for some fun…

I encourage you to write about a tradition from your heritage. It can be one your family follows with a modern twist. It can be one you would like resurrected. It can be one you have used for research in something you have written. The only rule…go where ever the quiet spirit within takes you.

 

 

Keeping the fast disappearing western heritage and traditions alive, in case you haven’t guessed, is one of my passions. And like everything else in life, it isn’t until you can see it sliding away, that you start hanging on for dear life. 

The taking pictures thing started forever ago, and when I found I could marry them to the material I have written, and am writing, well, to put it mildly, I think I have a bit of a runaway going on. 

I am a lover of life and all things that make us smile. I write and take pictures for the pleasure of being able to share at Morning Muse, HorseWest, and my Blog at AnnEdallRobson.com where you can also contact me.