The Wedge of the San Rafael

The Wedge of the San Rafael
Someone has to live here, in the middle of desert beauty. Might as well be the Kellys.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Old Friends

I'm probably the world's worst blogger, because this is such an artificial setting for me. As with most people, now and then something interesting happens. When it does, I like to write about it. Mostly, though, life is a series of small things. Because of that, I choose not to bore you too often with my ordinary life. Lately, it's mostly consisted of reading for research about Comanches, visiting grandkids, proofing and re-proofing manuscripts to get them ready for printing. Are you excited yet? Me, neither.

We're going to Montana next week to visit our son, Jeremy. People ask where he lives in Montana, and it's a bit hard to describe, since it's an enclave on the Blackfeet Reservation just a short distance from the border. There is guvmint housing for Customs guys (The Blues) and Border Patrol agents. There's a large building on the border to let people out and back in, and then a short distance north, another building for the Canadian border workers. Nearest shopping is in Cardston, Alberta, about 20 minutes away. Jeremy has three passports - a garden-variety one, a special guvmint one, and a smaller, credit-card-sized one. As he says, unlike Jason Bourne, it's the same name on each passport.

While we're there, we'll visiting Waterton Park, which morphs into Glacier National Park, once the border is crossed. We'll be visiting some places further north, too, including a coal mine. One of these summers, we'll venture farther north to go to the Calgary Stampede. I do like a good rodeo.

This past Tuesday, we spent the night in Mapleton, Utah, with old friends, Jan and Rick. The purpose of the gathering was a book club, which had chosen Borrowed Light for their read. There were 21 of us, with Martin and Rick in a back room. Martin said later that we were laughing so much they had a hard time talking. Ah, yes. That's what a good book club should be. All's right with the world when ladies can get together and talk books.

We've known Jan and Rick since our salad days in Torrington, Wyoming, beginning in 1972. We were all young and dumb and poor, with little kids. Rick was a social worker. Martin taught theatre and English at Eastern Wyoming College. Jan and I were mostly home with kids, but during the summers, I rangered at nearby Fort Laramie National Historic Site. Jan did sing in the community college concerts. She had an amazingly beautiful voice.

We moved to Provo, Utah in 1975, so Martin could start work on his doctorate. He and our kids went ahead and I finished the season at Fort Laramie. One night before I left to join my troops in Utah, Jan and Rick and I drove to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, to see a new movie called Jaws. Scared us all silly. Jan confessed later that she and Rick wouldn't sleep on their water bed for a few nights.

Life moved on. We kept in touch via Christmas letters, and then five or six years ago - maybe more- I stopped in Cheyenne to visit them. We've stayed in better touch since then. When Rick retired and they moved to Mapleton, Utah, we were only a few canyons away. Now we visit our old friends. I never thought they would leave Wyoming - Rick's a native son. He's devote to BYU athletics, so that's why they moved.

Rick had a remarkable career, moving steadily up the state agency ladder until he was the top dog in social work/child advocacy in Wyoming. He did some traveling as a consultant to other states, and is a respected leader in his field. I strongly suspect that Wyoming will never be able to replace that knowledgeable, humble, doggedly determined, fearless man. There are quite a few children who owe their lives to Rick.

Jan, too. When he was out in the field, and not in Cheyenne offices - although it probably happened there, too - Rick brought home broken children to Jan. They would keep them for a few days so Rick could do a more informal, comforting assessment, and have a better idea where and how to place them, for their own safety. Their own children learned to roll with the punches, although Rick says the night he brought home a baby covered in blood was a tough one for his kids. It was the baby's parents' blood.

Jan remembers feeding one little boy four or five helpings of bacon and eggs. Turns out he hadn't eaten in three days. Jan said everytime she asked him if he wanted more, he would just look at her solemnly and nod. These were typical days in Jan and Rick's home. Look up nurture in the dictionary. I'm just sure you'll find a photo of Jan and Rick.

I'm so thankful for people like them. I am reminded of that excellent movie, To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch has just lost the case for the black man accused of rape. He and the children go home, and then Atticus learns that his humble, innocent client has been shot to death while trying to escape. Atticus goes to give the bad news to the man's family.

Scout is sitting, disconsolate, on the curb, with the neighbor lady joins her to comfort her. As near as I can recall, the lady tells Scout that Atticus Finch is one of these people chosen to "do our dirty work."

I feel that way about Rick and Jan. What a noble man. What a courageous wife. He's had successes, and failures, and he has not forgotten them. His job took an enormous toll, but I'm grateful that those helpless children in Wyoming had a prince for an advocate.

Well done, Rick and Jan. You're the best.

I have another set of old friends that I'm in touch with again. Last fall, after a visit to our younger son in northern New Mexico, I started a historical mystery set in 1780 in that area, when the Comanche were at long last beginning to be tamed in that area, or at least, were focusing their considerable energy toward the poor folk in Texas. Spain was pulling back what little border security there was, which meant the citizens of northern New Mexico were pretty much on their own.

I was supposed to be writing that third book in my last Harlequin contract, but I was drawn to these new "friends" of mine. I wrote 15 chapters, then returned to the novel due in January. When I finished that, I wrote My Loving Vigil Keeping, which comes out in August.

My New Mexico story was only on a back burner. I showed my 15 chapters to an acquisitions editor in Seattle, and she liked them, too, to the tune of a four-book contract for my Spanish Brand series. Now the decks are cleared to finish the book. I'm writing it in the style of a Spanish fable, which has turned into a gently humorous approach or a serious subject: life on a dangerous frontera. Widower Marco Mondragon is the brand inspector (yep, they've been around for 400+ years),and his new bride is Paloma Vega. And now there is Toshua, an older Comanche who is just about to enter the story. Paloma is terrified of Comanches, and Marco has told her to nurse the Indio back to health. Marco knows Paloma is braver than she thinks.

They're my old friends now. I've known them since October. Looks like we're going to be in each other's company for a goodly time. If I need a point of reference for their particular kind of courage, I'll just think of Rick and Jan, and other old friends who have influenced my life probably even more than I know.

1 comment:

  1. Carla, I know I'm not the only one who does get excited whenever you put fingers to keyboard (does anyone put pen to paper anymore?), be it for a blog or a novel. Whatever you write is worth reading. We'll follow you to New Mexico and wherever your imagination takes you.

    Tell Rick and Jan that people like they are who we all should aspire to emulate. God bless them.