Santa Fe Trail map.

Santa Fe Trail map.
Map of the Santa Fe Trail.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"My keenest regret was always that I was born too late."

I've just spent 10 fun days celebrating my birthday with visiting family. We filled the days with a variety of excursions including raspberry picking at La Cueva, near Mora and attending a wonderful Jesse Cook concert in Albuquerque. We drove the gorgeous mountain scenery around Rociada and sat listening to musicians on the plaza at Santa Fe on a beautiful fall day with golden trees shimmering around us.... we also enjoyed yummy hor d'oeuvres and cocktails with old friends at the Santacafe (which plays an important role in my book "Into the Shadowlands."). On another occasion we took a side trip to Trinidad, Colorado. Trinidad is also mentioned in my book  because it was a major stop along the Santa Fe Trail. One of Trinidad's famous citizens was an artist called Arthur Roy Mitchell who painted evocative scenes from the old West. Here is me standing in the A R Mitchell museum in Trinidad with just a few of his paintings and an Oxbow yoke used by freighters crossing the trail. Years ago I bought the book "Mitch" by Dean Krakel, a fascinating biography, filled with wonderful pictures (photos and paintings) about the artist. This quote of Mitch's words struck a very deep chord (those who know my books can guess why!):
"This region, this mountain, these pinon dotted hills, are the scene of my oldest memories. Sometimes I think they have come to mean even more to me as the years add up. Maybe what I feel now is nostalgia for these other days and ways in which many of these adventurous, characterful people came back to this spot to make their home, freighters, trappers, traders, men and women of colorful pasts. It was my good fortune, so I consider, to be born in this locality prior to 1890, and to have walked around among them when I was young and they were old. I was on good terms with many of them. They were the people I most admired. The men I liked to listen to were these people of the horseback or buckskin tradition. My keenest regret was always that I was born too late. It was my own good fortune to have moved among them in other ways, often my own leg over a horse, beside them, never dreaming at that time of the day when such a privilege would be gone forever."

If you are ever in Trinidad I highly recommend you visit the A R Mitchell Museum!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"Announcing your plans...."

(Al Swearengen, photo from the TV show "Deadwood.")

Well I should have heeded Al Swearengen's (a character from the TV show "Deadwood,") words of wisdom. "Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh." Just as I was making plans and telling all who would listen that I was going to do a wagon ride/horse ride along the Santa Fe Trail this fall, a non-event riding accident has made me a bit of a cripple for the last 10 days. Needless to say, training is on hold... yet again!

I was riding Pistol out in the fields by where I live and a couple gleeful bucks (with a twist) plopped me on the ground with a very hard thump. I landed on my lower back/pelvis and I have to say I was shocked at just how hard it impacted my 50-year-old body! When I could finally breathe (it knocked the wind out of me,) I found I couldn't get up. My legs worked but I had no faith in my mid-section to support me, let alone walk back across overgrown fields holding onto a horse. Pistol didn't run off, he just stood nearby grazing. 
Thankfully, a lot of yelling got the attention of Joe and his wife Patti... the folks who own the farm where I live... and they rushed over in their truck to get me. Patti led Pistol back to his corral and Joe and their son Clay, dropped me back at my trailer.

I will not give a long winded account of injuries. Mercifully no broken bones (I don't think) but a very bruised back and pelvis and ribs on one side. A recurring hip problem I have dealt with from time to time, went into overdrive and I couldn't walk on that hip for several days, getting around slowly with a crutch. My ribs are still sore and my pelvis feels tender and 'rattly,' no other word for it. I do feel like my 'cage was rattled,' and all is undermined! I can't lift anything heavy or pull too hard (This is 10 days on from the accident.) But, each day there is some improvement although it feels so slow. I am not used to not being robust and active!

So, plans are up in the air but I still want to do a wagon ride... or several... over the next few months. Maybe a series of day rides. I will heed Al Swearengen though.... I will not announce anything from now on.... until the ride/rides are done!

Look out world, I'm in the driver's seat!

Me in the driver's seat!

I love, love, love this. What a way to see the world, clopping along the lanes, behind a sweet little horse like Sissy. Jerome has been accompanying me though as I am still not confident behind the wheel. But, I hope to soon be doing this on a regular basis, without a chaperone,  and both Sissy, Holly and I can see a lot of the Santa Fe Trail (and its landmarks) as a team from my wagon!

Sissy in training.

In mid-August I was lucky enough to have the help of Jerome (the guy who trims my horses' hooves and does fence work for me) and his family to connect Sissy to the training cart for the first time. Like I have said before, Sissy has done all this before, but I haven't. I wanted it all to be safe though and so I asked Jerome etc to act as back-up for me. Jerome and his uncle Tranquelino (Tranque) have a lot of experience driving horses and have their own team of draft horses. It all went well. A great day.... and many thanks to Jerome for bringing in the big guns (aka his family) to help! And, Sissy was a trooper. Tranque said she is a great little horse and he was very impressed.. 

Jerome and friends helping to get Sissy connected to the cart for the first time.

Tranque (driving) and Jerome with Sissy. Both of them have experience with draft horses, which I don't.

Sissy did great. Jerome's son rides out in front just incase Sissy bolts or needs the security of another horse.

Centennial Cowboy Parade.

The horse parade riding up Bridge Street in Las Vegas, New Mexico. August 1st, 2015.

Well, I didn't make it into the parade with Quick Draw and Poco.  About a week or so before the parade, my little dog Holly got trampled by two horses who were fighting in the paddock. The horses were galloping, full speed, along a fence line, one horse biting chunks out of the other as he pressured him into the fence. In the middle of that terrifying scene, I heard my dog scream, although I couldn't see her. The aggressor horse (Pistol) ran the other one, (Quick Draw,) right into the barbed wire fence at the end of the paddock. Mercifully QD mostly jumped it, although he snagged a foot on the way over and fell. He was uninjured though and got up and understandably ran off! I was so intent on catching QD and restoring safety and order to the farm herd of horses that I didn't think of Holly... at first. After I easily caught QD,  I walked him back to the paddock (I removed Pistol and put him in jail for a while!) and that is when I found my wee pup lying motionless in the grass.
      To cut a long story short, she was awake but couldn't move. I thought she had been crushed or had a broken back. I was distraught, she is my best pal and right-hand pup. When I rushed her to the vet he diagnoses a concussion and gave her meds.  She was able to walk again but was slow, quiet and subdued. After several days though, she began to return to her old tireless, effusive self. Phew!

Needless to say, training to be in the Cowboy Reunion, One-Hundreth Anniversary Parade was no longer a priority. I went to watch it though instead. It was great. About 150 horses riding through the old streets of Las Vegas!

My pup Holly, helping me with chores in the rain, much improved from her near death experience.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cowboy Reunion Parade, Las Vegas, NM!

Quick Draw and his lady love Poco.

Since I made the disappointing decision that Quick Draw (the big 16-hand mustang) may be too lame to join our Santa Fe Trail ride in the fall, I will try to give him his chance to shine in the upcoming Centennial Cowboy Reunion parade in Las Vegas, NM instead! I will also try to bring his girlfriend Poco too, (pictured here with him... they are inseparable!) Both of their stories are featured in my book "Brand Name."....

Quick Draw was originally rounded up in Nevada but Poco's origins are unknown... (I've yet to shave her neck and send a photo of her brand to the BLM so they can give me her details.) Quick Draw was used as a trail horse and for rounding up cattle before I bought him and Poco was an award winning child's barrel racer and trail riding contest winner. She was going to be put up as an item in a yard sale before I bought her in 2012. Both have lameness issues. Quick Draw has ringbone and Poco has arthritis in one knee. The parade is only 2 miles long though, on a good street, and so I think they should both be OK for one day. So, although they will neither participate in the Santa Fe Trail ride, they will have their day in the spotlight! (Fingers crossed.) Check out this wonderful event scheduled for August 2015!:

Meanwhile, I am working with Sissy to get her ready to pull the wagon (or maybe I should, get myself ready) and I am also plugging away at a first draft of the sequel to my book "Into the Shadowlands." The new book will be called "Whispers across the Plane." It will pick up where we left off with Tate and Abby, Julia and Lisa and introduce a few new characters, including Richard Szabo/Book McCready. There is also going to be a wild horse element in the new book, both past and present.  "Into the Shadowlands."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sissy, Suerte and snake bites.

Sissy, pondering her new home.

I had hoped to train my 16-hand mustang, Quick Draw to be our wagon horse for the ride. He is already a riding horse and I think he would make an excellent and very handsome driving horse but he has an old injury that may prove troublesome. When I got him in 2012, (his story is featured in my book "Brand Name,") I soon discovered he was suffering from ringbone in one hind leg. When the vet X-rayed him, he determined that the ringbone was quite advanced and had been there a long time. Since Quick Draw was only 8-years-old at the time, it meant that he could well have received some kind of injury as a baby which had led to the development of the ringbone. I surmised that perhaps he had been injured during the roundup that had first captured him. Quick Draw was captured by the BLM as a yearling in Nevada, and since they use helicopters for their gathers, chasing horses over miles of rough country, an injury wasn't such a far-fetched idea.
    Quick Draw has a mild limp but he can still manage a trail ride if it isn't in rough country and perhaps if he has a dose of butte to dull any discomfort. Although I had thought that he could pull the wagon along gentle roads, I have since decided that to ask him to be a part of a ride that could take 10 days or even 2 weeks might be asking too much. I would hate to get him all trained up and then find he was too lame to participate. The training alone could put too much usage on that leg. It is sad and disappointing. Quick Draw is a beautiful, big and powerful horse but he is happy with his harem of female admirers (horses and humans!) and lives with plenty of freedom in the fields at the farm.
    Once I made the decision not to train Quick Draw for the wagon, I pondered who else might work. On a whim I looked online for wagon horses for sale. Of course a mustang was my first choice but to find one nearby would be a remote possibility. I really didn't want to drive across 2 states again to pick up a horse I didn't know anything about, (except if it was to adopt a mustang out of a pen.) I wanted a horse that was fully trained and bomb proof and although there were many advertised as such, none were close by. It was just a whim though. I had 37 horses, I needed another one like I needed a hole in my head!
       There was one mare advertised in Edgewood, NM. Not too far from me and the same town where I had picked up my wee mustang Poco 3 years before.  Poco had been for sale online and was just about to be put up as an item in her owner's yard sale if I hadn't bought her first. (Her story is also told in my book "Brand Name.")  This new horse, "Sis" was described as a Haflinger who had some driving experience, pulling carts and sleds and hauling firewood out of the forest at her original home in Wyoming. She had gone through 2 owners since and the newest owner had bought her for her daughter as recently as February of this year.  But Sis was proving unsuitable. She was a bit spooky and unpredictable and not the best choice for an 11-year-old just learning to ride. I made an enquiry but soon was sidetracked when one of my mustangs, Suerte, got bitten by a rattlesnake.
      I dropped any idea of taking on a new horse while Suerte struggled with his snake bite. He is an extremely spooky mustang and goes nuts when cornered and so I couldn't help him because I didn't want to stress him out when he could barely breathe (he had a severely swollen face.) I had almost lost him in a chute when I first adopted him from the BLM (that whole story is also told in "Brand Name,") and so I had a real fear of putting him in a chute again. So followed several days of monitoring him and helplessly watching him cope with not being able to eat or drink. Mercifully he recovered without intervention, (it took about 2-3 days,) but it was touch and go. I swore then to buy and master a dart gun so that I could administer drugs to horses that could not be safely cornered and doctored.... (the dart gun arrived last week!)
     As Suerte improved I told myself never to tempt fate again. I would not be looking for any new horses, I would focus on the ones I already had. Just then though the lady who owned Sis, (her name is Jane,) contacted me and asked me if she could just 'donate' Sis to me. She was overwhelmed with developments in her own life and wanted Sis to have a good home. Selling her was not a priority. How could I say no? It felt meant-to-be. 
    Without making a story endless, Sis came to live with me a week later. Jane even delivered her to my door although I went down to Edgewood to help her load. Sis (I now call her Sissy) is 9-years-old. She is a pretty little mare but definitely not a beginner horse. So much for bomb proof! She does jump and spook easily but that seems to settle with training and interaction. She was hard to catch when she first came but now stands and waits for the halter. All this in just 2 weeks. (She came here 2 weeks ago today.) I have no experience with driving wagons but she does, although I am sure it has been a while. I am starting from scratch, if not for her benefit but for mine. It also gives us both a chance to learn about each other. I do feel Sissy is a 'one-person-horse' and you have to earn her trust.
      There was something sad about Sissy. She had gone through 2 owners in less than a year and she seemed dejected. She does have a clubbed foot in one of her hind legs and there is a whispery whistle in her breathing when she breathes hard. That breathing thing may not be a good sign but if she doesn't have to run or work at full throttle, I think she is OK. Jane had basically been ripped off when she bought Sissy. Not only is she not a child's beginner horse (as she had been advertised) she also has the above mentioned medical issues. Jane wanted to be rid of Sissy so badly (and the board she was paying at a fancy barn) that she had even offered her to other horse rescues. It made me sad to think of Sissy being in such a situation and so it felt good to take her in even though she isn't a mustang. I truly feel that  I came along at just the right time. I hope we will both be a good fit for one another. 
      (Knock wood,) Suerte has made a full recovery too. I hope all of my horses will avoid any more rattlesnakes but if it happens again, to a horse that goes ballistic when cornered, I will learn to be proficient enough with my new dart gun to intervene safely!

Suerte grazing among the wildflowers after his ordeal
with the rattlesnake bite.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The training begins.

Riding my mustang Pistol... we are both a bit rusty and so we'll be
 easing into it slowly!

And so finally, after much talk, I started my 'training' last month. Mostly that means just getting in the saddle and seeing if all of my joints fall apart. Luckily, even after a long hiatus, both Pistol (one of my mustangs) and I did OK. Little by little we will get in shape. Pistol was originally rounded up in Nevada (his story is featured in my book "Brand Name.") He was used by the man I got him from to teach students from the United World College in Las Vegas, NM ("UWC of the American West") about horsemanship and how to ride. It is a wonderful 'full circle' for me as I attended the UWC of South-East Asia in Singapore in the early 80s. It was a great school and the only one I thrived at. I loved my time there and still have many friends around the world who I stay in touch with. The UWC at Las Vegas (New Mexico... not the one in Nevada!) is only 20 miles from where I now live which is one of those serendipitous coincidences... especially when you see how remote and rough-around-the-edges the NM Las Vegas is! It is still very much the Wild West out here and it makes you wonder how and why they chose to locate this international school (one of several around the world) here. I often imagine some of those students arriving at their new school for the first time, wondering what happened to all of the casinos they had envisioned when they had started their journeys to the famed Las Vegas! There must be at least one or two each year who are shocked when they arrive at this small city, perched where the the Sangre de Cristo Mountains meet the plains in dusty New Mexico.

Las Vegas is featured, past and present, in my book "Into the Shadowlands." Its history is very colorful, scene of much murder and mayhem. To find out more about this infamous town, you can read the book "Wildest of the Wild West" by Howard Bryan. It is fascinating and hard to put down, a whose who of many famous names of the old West.   

At this point I am not sure which horse(s) will be a part of the ride this fall. Only riding them will reveal who is most suitable and who is still sound!.... Hopefully that doesn't apply to me too!

My dad standing outside the United World College in Las Vegas, NM.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Real life inspiration!

Mace T. Bowman, Sheriff of Colfax County,
"The fastest gun in the territory, the only man to make 
Clay Allison back down."

Many of the locations and the peripheral events and characters in my book "Into the Shadowlands" are true. The St. James Hotel in Cimarron is a real place, so too the Santa Fe Ring whose corruption and greed led to the Colfax County War (and later the Lincoln County War). During the 'ring's' reign, there was an enormous amount of murder and mayhem, reprisals and lynchings. Even assassination plots. The St. James Hotel stood center stage to much of that violence but despite the fact that its walls hum with a kind of malevolent echo, I love the place. A few years back (before its complete re-model) I stayed in one of its notorious rooms and although I didn't see any ghosts, the narrow creaking corridors made me feel like I could bump into one at every turn! There are bullet holes in the pressed tin ceiling of the old bar and I played a round of poker in the room still devoted to the game. There is a rogues gallery of photographs on the walls along one corridor. Everyone from Wyatt Earp and Clay Allison to the assassinated Reverend Tolby (whose death triggered the Colfax County War) is represented.... most of them stayed at the hotel at one time or another.
     It was along this gallery that my passion for New Mexico history was truly ignited. When I first saw a photo of a man named Mace T. Bowman, Sheriff of Colfax county... I instantly fell in love with him! I also felt that I had known him and my emotions were so strong that I vowed to research him.  The quote next to his photo stated he was the fastest gun in the territory and the only man to make Clay Allison (the infamous gunfighter) back down. My intrigue was further piqued when I noticed his name in an old guest registry that was on display. It was opened to the page in which he had rented a room back in 1881. When I asked the receptionist why that page was displayed, she said that it was because Jesse James had signed in that day, under his alias R. H. Howard!  Since then I have found no mention of this in anything written about Mace. Were these two ex-Confederates known to each other? Were they friends? Was there some kind of clandestine 'meeting,' one outlaw, one lawman (who, like many in his day, walked both sides of the law)? Or maybe it was just a coincidence and neither of them was even aware of the other. It is one of those potential stories that will forever be lost to history.
      Mace had died in Trinidad when he was just 37 (apparently from complications due to a Civil War wound when he'd been shot in one lung) and was buried in Springer. Like Julia from "Into the Shadowlands," I researched his name online and found an out-of-print book about him. Although it was over $100, (which was a lot of money for me at the time,) I didn't hesitate to order it. I will not detail his life in this blog but it was that instant attraction and curiosity to a man's photo on the wall of the St. James Hotel that inspired the main thread of Shadowlands. I know exactly how Julia feels! When I visited Mace's grave at Springer I felt real sadness and a longing to know more and to see him.... 'again.'
      Mace is not the inspiration for the character Jameson Tate in my book, but my feelings and curiosity about him are certainly the inspiration for the theme of the book. He does make a brief appearance in "Into the Shadowlands" but only as a peripheral character, a friend of Clay Allison (which he was for a time,) drinking in the St. James' bar when Tate and his friend John Calhoun stroll in.

My dad standing outside the St. James Hotel in Cimarron.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hermit's Peak

Hermit's Peak near Las Vegas, NM. Once known as Tecalote Peak or Solitario. It is around its foothills that I set the fictional town of Celestial in my book "Into the Shadowlands." I can see this peak clearly from Shadowlands Ranch... it is stunning and very distinctive. Once refuge to an Italian hermit back in the mid-1800s, that is how it became known as Hermit's Peak.

If all goes to plan with my Santa Fe Trail ride this fall I will be visiting key places from my book "Into the Shadowlands" in order to help promote it and bring it to life for any Shadowlands followers. Since most of the wagon ruts of the trail are now on private land, it will be impossible to just follow the ruts and so I will have to make do with mostly riding along highways, zig-zagging my way to places I feature in both Shadowlands and its sequel (which is in the works) "Whispers across the Plane." (Yes, the spelling of plane is deliberate!) 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wagons Ho!

Holly and I, ready for Santa Fe Trail!
(The Goetsch's dog Sophie wants to come too!)

Well Ok, so it isn't a covered wagon, nor is it an authentic to the period buckboard but it is mine! It is roadworthy and very cute with its running lights, signal lights and hazard sign! But if we are going to be traveling along highways for most of the ride those 21st Century gizmos may come in handy.

I found this wee wagon on ebay (somewhere I rarely shop) and I think it was meant to be! The couple who built it (with a giant draft horse for propulsion) loved it and cherished it and, more importantly, used it! They live in Nevada and lucky for me, Bill, the husband, was going to be driving to Chicago and so he dropped it off along his way. Now I have to train myself and at least one of the horses to use it. I have a couple of wonderful books on the subject and Ernie, a local mechanic, is making me the drag-along-tire contraption and a small cart out of scrap for training purposes. My thought is to train Quick Draw for the wagon. Despite his ringbone I think this light wagon would be an easy haul for a horse his size (a 16 hand mustang!)

At this early stage I envision the wagon with Quick Draw and a riding horse, Pistol and a pack horse, Rebate. The wagon can be used to carry supplies and my wee dog Holly. My dad wants to come along and film the adventure and so he could ride in the wagon too. The riding horse and pack horse would be for back up and for the parts of the trail that are not wagon-worthy like the Raton Pass (I don't want to follow the Interstate for that part and would have to go cross country... which is pretty darn rugged.) Lots of training to be done this summer but this wagon is just what I need to get inspired not only to plan the ride but also to promote the book "Into the Shadowlands" (as well as "Brand Name,") and write Shadowlands' sequel "Whispers across the Plane."

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sombra and Ella-Rose

Sombra arrives at Shadowlands Ranch

Despite what I said (repeatedly) about no more horses in my book "Brand Name," Shadowlands Ranch recently took in two more mustangs. This time they are two older girls who came to us by way of the Santa Fe Horse Shelter. Somehow I couldn't resist! They both have a clouded past, some of which I do not know but they are mustangs, one (Sombra, AKA Sasha, AKA Sombra) started out as an El Rito mustang, rounded up by the NM Forest Service and the other (Ella-Rose (Rosie), AKA Ella, AKA Dirty Rosie) is an SMR Spanish mustang of unknown origin. Both were abandoned, (along with other wild/domestic horses) near Tierra Amarilla in northern NM and had spent a few years fending for themselves (very well actually) until being rounded up as estrays by the NM Livestock Board two years ago and taken to the infamous Chavez feedlot. Mercifully the Santa Fe Horse Shelter took them in and gave them refuge. Rosie and Sombra were pregnant at the time and gave birth to gorgeous foals who are now almost two and up for adoption at the shelter. Despite handling and some training though these girls were still wild at heart and when Beth, a friend of mine from the shelter, approached me about a long-term home for them, I couldn't say no. Rosie is elderly, at least 25, and Sombra is around 14 and so both fit easily into the 'nobody younger than Rebate' (who is now 6) rule that I explain in my book.  

If anyone has read "Brand Name" they will know that the name Rosa, Rose or Rosie will instantly draw me to it. My mother's name was Rosemary and so it is sentimental. Although I had already said I would take the girls in I still had nagging doubts until I read a very abbreviated bio of them that was made out on their intake to the shelter. Like all great characters out of a western, these girls both had a string of aliases that they went by. Although the shelter named Rosie 'Ella' when she was admitted, her wild/estray name prior to that was Dirty Rosie and so I knew she was already a 'meant to be.' Sombra's shelter name was Sasha but on her intake it said her wild/estray name was Sombra and that is when I really knew they belonged with us at Shadowlands Ranch. Sombra is the Spanish word  for shadow and me, being me, recognized it as the sign I was looking for! Shadowlands Ranch would not be complete without a wild horse called Shadow!

Rosie taking in her new surroundings.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Snow day(s)

So Ok, training has been postponed for a few days! We had some fantastic snow out here at Watrous and it is all about getting feed to the horses at Shadowlands Ranch and at the farm where I am living... without getting the truck stuck in the snow. This is really a wonderful bonus. This time last year it was dry, dry, dry! We will have a mess of mud to deal with but compared to the amount of dust we ate last year... I'll take it! This is a pic of some of the sanctuary mustangs chasing my truck when they saw I had a trailer load of hay! What a spectacular sight. Still snowing as I write this but I think the storm should clear out of here by the end of the weekend. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hero horse for a hero character!

In my book "Into the Shadowlands" Tate's horse is called Pie. Pie (Piegan) is a mustang Tate rescued from quicksand up in Blackfoot country. This horse is based on one of the Wyoming mustangs we have at the sanctuary and his story, as well as the compadres he was adopted (from the BLM) with, is in my book "Brand Name." Our Pie is a big mustang, most are pony sized. He has very thick legs and solid feet. He is a tank but beautiful and agile with it. When I first saw him I fancied his ancestors were escaped cavalry horses and so that is how he became inspiration for my hero, Tate's, horse. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Musings on horses...

This is quote from my book "Into the Shadowlands." Although this book isn't about horses, due to the fact that most of it is a western, horses do feature in it. The quote above though is from the 'present day character' in the book and so they aren't only an element from the past life. The sequel to this book, "Whispers across the Plane" will have a lot more to do with horses, both in the past and the present day but I won't spoil the plot here. The new book is yet to be written but the whole story is in my head and ready to come to life!

Horses are the theme though in my three non-fiction books, "Sky-Dog!" "Cimarron!" and "Brand Name." The quote above pretty much mirrors my own sentiments and so it was easy to write. The horses in the above photo are my 'riding' horses who I keep at the farm in Cherry Valley, Watrous, NM where I am living. These are the horses I planned to use for my ride down the Santa Fe Trail before it got postponed in 2012. I still want to do that ride and am more determined than ever to do it this year. I have three mustangs that could be candidates and so training must begin!... not least for me! I am so out of riding shape that the prospect of those tortured muscles I know I will have to live with for a while is daunting!

I have always felt that my book "Brand Name," wasn't quite complete. I needed to include a ride down the Santa Fe Trail to round it out perfectly. The good thing about publishing online is that I can easily add that postscript later on but I will postpone publishing the book as a paperback until I can add that final chapter. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Fort Union, New Mexico

On a recent snowy day I drove the eight miles from Watrous to Fort Union to wander the old grounds and see them in the silent snow and solitude. Nobody else was out there on that cold morning and so I had it all to myself. I love that hallowed ground. I always feel moved by those crumbling ruins and know, without a shadow of doubt, I have been there before... when the fort was a bustling place filled with troops and their families. It makes me cry every time and so it was easy for me to write the chapter in "Into the Shadowlands"about Julia/Abby which takes place there.

Some places are a part of your soul and this location definitely has a soul connection to me. I have read quite a few books about it, a few of them first hand accounts. Two of my favorites are Marian Russell's "Land of Enchantment," and the other is "Frontier Cavalry Trooper," the letters of Private Eddie Matthews 1869-1874. Marian met and married her beloved husband at the fort and that story, along with other poignant memories of her adventures traveling the Santa Fe Trail and living in Santa Fe, are lovingly recounted in her book. Even more profound are her accounts of visiting some of those locations (including Fort Union) as an old lady, when they had been abandoned and were reduced to ruins. Her longing and nostalgia on those visits ripped at my heart.

Private Eddie Matthews was posted to Fort Union as a cavalry trooper and his letters home during that time are a fascinating glimpse into fort life in New Mexico. The first hand accounts are my favorite in every way, they give personal voice to people who could easily be reduced to names in a history book. Their words echo real emotions and insights and frustrations and joys, reminding us that they were living, breathing human beings just like us. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

"Into the Shadowlands" book.

February 1st.

Well "Into the Shadowlands" is now available on kindle through Amazon. I hope to get this into paperback at some point but for all those who read online books.... here it is! I have to say that if there is anything I am remembered for, when all is said and done, I hope it will not only be for my wild horses but also the characters in this book. They are a part of me and this story is truly from the heart. That is why I enjoyed writing it... not only that, I enjoyed researching it too! Do what you love, isn't that how the saying goes? Well, this book is me doing what I love! All feedback would be much appreciated. Ratings and reviews on Amazon would also really help to give the book a higher profile. Thanks to all those who read it. Here is the link:

Julia Bloom is a history teacher at Bath University in England but it isn't until she visits her friend Lisa Stanton in Santa Fe, New Mexico that she discovers just how much the past is a part of her. From the moment she sets foot on New Mexico's high desert soil, another life crowds in on her with such urgency that she knows she is running out of time. From her unique vantage point, 130 years in the future, she is able to relive the story of a destitute prostitute named Abby and a jaded ex-cavalry officer named Tate as they journey down the Santa Fe Trail in 1876. Their's is a tale haunted by past brutalities and highlighted with love, adventure and new beginnings. But after an appointment with a hypnotist, Julia discovers that the life she is uncovering is her own. And not only that, it is the only life she has any interest in living. When her regressions reveal a heartbreaking twist of fate, her agony and feelings of helplessness only deepen. What hope is there for her to find happiness in a modern world she feels, and perhaps has always felt, alienated from? But then again this is New Mexico, where magic and miracles are interwoven into its vast landscapes and colorful superstitions. A land where anything can happen and some things are worth the sacrifice. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Happy New Year 2015!

Willow gazes out on a new year at Shadowlands Ranch.

January 8th, 2015

Happy New Year everyone! From my base of operations at Shadowlands Ranch in northeast New Mexico I hope it will be a good one. Shadowlands Ranch is home to the wild horses featured in my trilogy of non-fiction books "Sky-Dog!" "Cimarron!" and "Brand Name." 
      Willow's story (the horse shown above) is featured in "Brand Name," amongst many other stories of the wild horses adopted through the BLM. A mustang mare, rounded up when she was just a yearling in Wyoming, Willow's first years of captivity were harrowing, ultimately leading to her abandonment in a one-horse trailer on the side of the road in North Carolina. Rescued and rehabilitated by the wonderful folks at the Carolina Equine Rescue (CERA,) she came to live at Shadowlands Ranch in October 2011 and has been running free ever since.
      New beginnings, fresh starts and following your dreams feature heavily in my horse trilogy, made even more compelling because all of the stories are true. Sometimes, no matter how far-fetched or unrealistic your dreams may be, just taking steps in the right direction can turn them into reality. By following my passions, horses, Wild West history, wide open spaces and New Mexico, a wild horse sanctuary was created in the heart of Santa Fe Trail country with vast vistas and the ghosts of those long ago pioneers murmuring in the prairie grass. No one is more thrilled than I am to find myself living this lifestyle in my middle-age!
      Make 'following your dreams' your New Year's resolution and stay tuned to this blog and the shadowlands facebook page for updates about my books and my upcoming novel  'Into the Shadowlands," and its sequel (title yet to be determined!)

Have a safe and happy 2015! Anne J. Thomas.