Copyright © 2011 Ann Charles
When the lovely Jacquie Rogers asked me to contribute an article for Romancing the West, I wasn’t sure what I would write. While I’m a huge fan of westerns, I was born and raised most of my life on a farm in Ohio. I grew up daydreaming about cowboys and living out West.
Then, when I was in 7th grade, my mom and stepfather moved to the Black Hills in South Dakota, getting a place in Deadwood. Finally, I was “out West,” and began soaking up the history and lore while walking the same streets as gunfighters and lawmen of old. I learned all about Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, Seth Bullock and Charlie Utter.
In addition to the characters of old, I learned how the wind makes the pine trees whisper; how sunshine on flower-filled mountain meadows can create a sweet perfume in the air; how fresh, cold mountain spring water can make your teeth ache; how a baking hot day can turn into a crispy cold night in just a couple of hours.
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More importantly, I learned all about mining. I hiked deep into the hillsides, brave only due to my naivety on the dangers of old mines. I reveled in tip-toeing through where men a hundred years prior had sweated, cursed, and cheered at the rewards of their toiling … or moaned about their loss of investment and wasted energies. I found rusted pick-axes, homemade gloves, and the odd spoon or small tool here and there.
Little did I know while I was enjoying my “out West” adventures in the Black Hills that I’d someday use all of these details in books about a single mom trying to raise two kids on her own in Deadwood. [Deadwood Mystery series]
The same thing happened ten years later when I moved to Arizona and began scouting out ghost towns, cacti groves, and ancient cave dwellings. I soaked up the sights, smells, and tastes of the landscape, falling in love with the rugged desert landscape. While visiting gorgeous vistas, I daydreamed about who might have stood in that very same spot. Had it been a Navajo, a Spanish Monk, a grizzled prospector?
I read Louis L’Amour books about the land, adding to the fictional story possibilities in my head. I watched Westerns, old and new, that were supposed to be set in Arizona, paying attention to the background to see if the filming was done on a Hollywood Studio backlot, in Old Tucson, or actually on location. Movies like The Gauntlet, How the West Was Won, The Outlaw Josie Wales, McLintock!, Oklahoma (yes, it was actually filmed in Arizona), Rio Bravo, Rio Lobo, and more.
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Jackrabbit Junction series
I hiked and explored and pretended I lived a century earlier, trying to imagine how frightening it would be to find myself stranded in Apache territory in the dark of night. I spent an incredible day experiencing a Hopi pow-wow firsthand, took back-country tours of Monument Valley and studied ancient cave paintings. I have so many rich memories and experiences, a wealth of sensory images from my past that I draw from when writing my Jackrabbit Junction mystery series set in a small fictional town in the southeastern Arizona desert.
So, now that I’ve blathered on about my experiences and memories, I’d love to hear more about you.
Tell me some of your favorite places out west to visit and favorite western movies to watch. Is there a ghost town you go back to time and again? A canyon you love to hike? A mountain stream you roll up your pant legs and wade through each time you pass through the area? [Editor's note: see contest below!!!]
Before I say Adios, I’d like to thank the colorful and funny Jacquie Rogers for inviting me to join her here on Romancing the West. I love this blog and the articles inspire a lot more daydreams for me.
One commenter this week (that includes the article on talented horror artist C.S. Kunkle) will win an autographed copy of Optical Delusions in Deadwood, book 2 of the Deadwood Mysteries series by Ann Charles. (USA mailing addresses only, please) Be sure to leave your email address in your comment or we'll have to choose another winner.
Thank you, Ann, for visiting Romancing The West today!