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.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Housekeeping, plus the Utah Legislature (something stinks)

Well, I call this housekeeping. Looks like my dance card is full with booksignings from now to the end of April.  This Saturday, March12, I'll be at the new Seagull Bookstore in Springville from 10 a.m. to noon. On Saturday, April 2, I'll be at the Book Shop in Cardston, Alberta for another signing. This one is especially fun, because it gives me an excuse to visit/stay with my son on the border in Montana. On Saturday, April 9, I'll be at the Deseret Book on 989 S. University in Provo. April 16 will find me at one Seagull Bookstore or another - Cedar Fort isn't sure which one yet. And somewhere there will be a Friday signing at another Seagull Bookstore.

Probably the most fun gig will be a Saturday, April 23 booksigning at the library in Mount Pleasant, Utah, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Megan Osmond called me to arrange it, and she said it's a grand reopening of the library, after a length renovation. I love to be in places where books are. She also told me that she finished Borrowed Light at 3 a.m. Monday morning. She said, "There in the living room, I gave you a standing ovation!" I laughed. She's arranging for the booksigning through Cedar Fort, and I'll be bringing along copies to sell of Here's to the Ladies: Stories of the Frontier Army, which was published in 2004 by Teacup (Texas Christian University Publications:TCUP).

The Cedar Fort folks wanted me to be at the BYU Bookstore the following Saturday, April 30, during Women's Week, but that's when I'll be in Fort Robinson, Nebraska, for the biennial gathering of Indian Wars scholars at a conference. I spoke one year, and a friend of mine is speaking this year, and it's a great chance to see my friends. We're a close-knit group. We all go to the same conferences (there arren't that many of us older specimens), have the same friends, etc. You get the drill. I never miss the Fort Rob gathering.

And good news from Amazon: Borrowed Light is now available on Kindle.

But here's what I want to talk about: politicians and human nature.

In 1972, it was Richard Nixon versus Senator George McGovern, Dem-S.D.  Nixon was a shoe-in for his second term, but Watergate rumblings had begun. A friend of mine convinced me to vote for McGovern, and I did. Well, Nixon won that by a landslide, as well all know, because few of us voted for McGov. But wait: there's more. Watergate happened, and Nixon resigned the presidency.

The strangest thing happened. Through the years, more and more people claimed that they voted for McGovern. (No one wanted to be associated with Nixon, of course.)  Some pundit humorously stated, years later, that if all the people who claimed to have voted for McGovern had actually done that, he'd have been elected!

So it goes, but what about that stinky bad bill HB477, that the Utah legisslature passed recently. Basically, the bill allows for much less transparency in what goes on in the state legislature: never a good idea, except for sneaky lawmakers. There is a special session coming up really soon to probably repeal it, mainly - or maybe only - because the good citizens of Utah ALL cried foul, and demanded it be repealed. Already, I have been amazed how many members of the legislature have been nimbly leaping away from their own complicity in initally signing that stinker. Pretty soon, nobody in the house or senate will have signed that bill, in the first place!  What we will see is the immaculate conception of bills in the Utah legislature. No one will have signed it, so it must have been a miracle that it passed and was signed into law by our guv.

I'll call this the Nixon/McGovern Syndrome. I think the legislators have felt the heat and realize they are in serious danger of being booted out of office, when their time comes to face irate voters. And sure enough, before it comes to that, every legislator will swear he/she never voted for it in the first place. Ah, yes, the Nixon/McGovern Syndrome in action. Oh, I do love politics.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In the horror section?

If I think about this much longer, I'm certain my head will explode. It concerns a certain major store, prominent throughout the United States, and Canada. We will call it StallMart, just to give it a name. I think it was called Mega-Lo-Mart in "King of the Hill," which I always enjoyed.

The folks at StallMart were nice enough to arrange a booksigning for Borrowed Light last Saturday in Price, Utah, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.  The first sign of trouble happened the Thursday before the signing, when I dropped by the store to just make sure there were enough books on hand, since none of them seemed to be on the shelf in the LDS Book section.

When two assistant managers showed up to answer my questions, they told me that the main guy was out of town all week. When I asked about the books, neither man seemed to have the slightest idea what I was talking about. Oops. One of them thought there might be some books arriving on Friday, and he wandered off to find out. I left then, went home, and e-mailed Emily Showgren, the trusty PR lady at Cedar Fort. She promptly contacted the WalMart buyer, who said that 75 books would be delivered the next day.

When I checked on Friday, sure enough, there were books available. None were on the shelf, though. Maybe that was a new concept. I put up an "Author Signing" poster on an easel which Dave kindly located, and left it in the Customer Service section. And when I showed up at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, there was a table and chair inside the front entrance, near the bananas and the GloDomes, whatever they are. It was a good spot.

I think I signed between 25-30 books, and was OK, considering that there was a parade in downtown Price at noon that kept some potential buyers busy elsewhere. No matter. I was happy enough. (Didn't sell any GloDomes, though.)

On Monday in water aerobics, Mayzell mentioned that she had stopped by earlier that morning at StallMart to buy Borrowed Light off the shef, but there weren't any. She asked about it, then went back later, and found one, which I signed the next morning.

Wondering myself now, I stopped by Tuesday to see if there were any copies of Borrowed Light on the shelf. I figured there must have been at least 30 left over from the booksigning, so surely some would be on the shelf. Nothing (and don't call me Shirley). I checked with yet-another assistant manager, who had no idea. He did say there would be books on the shelf. When my daughter stopped in StallMart that evening, she couldn't find any.

I was in StallMart this morning to get some veggies, and went back to the book section just to see. Nothing. When I got home, I called the store and asked to speak to someone who knew something about the book section. She sent me to "Electronics." The lady who answered there didn't know anything. When I explained the situation, she said they had nothing to do with books. I suggested that some human had to put the books on the shelf, and she grudgingly agreed.  I told her the name of the book and the author, and she asked me to spell them. I spelled Borrowed and Light, and then she asked me if maybe the book was in the Horror section. I told her I sincerely hoped not, because it should have been shelved under LDS Books.

Here's all I can figure: Either Borrowed Light is selling like hotcakes and they can't keep them on the shelf, or no one has a clue at StallMart and only puts out one or two at a time, as the mood directs. I'm realistic enough to think it's probably the latter.

Ah, well. There's a booksigning at the new Seagull Books in Springville on Saturday, March 26, and one in Cardston, Alberta, on April 2, and I have high hopes for both. Randy Prete at the Book Shop in Cardston has already been in touch with me for a bio, so he can put it in an initial e-mail sent to all bookstore patrons. He's right on top of everything, and I'm grateful. There will be a Deseret Book signing at the DB store on South University in Provo on April 9. Maybe I'll have someone take a photo of me there so I can give a copy to the assistant managers at Price's StallMart and show them that the book exists.

I shoulda been a plumber.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Roads taken

I didn't mean to put bloggers on Big Ignore last week, but I was busy, driving from Wellington, Utah, to Waukesha, Wisconsin, and back again, to fetch my daughter, Liz. The original plan was to take a more leisurely trip and spend a little time with friends in Torrington, Wyoming, but Mom proposed, and daughter's cats disposed. Not to say that Mr. Pants and Flower weren't about as good as cats could be, cooped up in a minivan for three days - still, it was better to move along more quickly to avoid 1) incoming storms  2) kitty meltdowns.

The only bad weather happened where it could be expected to happen: in Wyoming behind Elk Mountain. Sure enough, there was about an hour's worth of blizzard - blizzard definition: cold (check), snow (check), wind (check).

Here's the deal with Elk Mountain. It's a big hunka mountain just west of Laramie, and I swear it makes its own weather. In the 1960s or '70s, when I-80 was going through southern Wyoming, the smart engineers in the project planned to build that stretch of highway at Elk Mountain lower than old highway 30. The locals advised the hotshots to reconsider, because doing that would mean a real problem with winter driving. In essence, the bigshot engineers patted Wyoming on its little head and said, "We're the experts. We'll put this highway lower and a bit straighter. It will save money in construction, and will shorten the travel along that stretch from Laramie west to Rawlins. We know best."

That's what happened. I-80 went through as the engineers planned. Big mistake. When the winter weather gets going, that hunk of interstate is just treacherous. Locals called it the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and wisely continued driving on old highway 30 from Laramie to Rawlins.

I took the Ho Chi Minh Trail on the way to Wisconsin, because I did want to save time. It was none too good then. On the way back, we were obviously headed into a winter storm and I did the smart thing and took Highway 30 above Elk Mountain. Yep, there was an hour of tense, watch-the-yellow-line driving, but then it cleared up and the road was fine. Even in the worst spots on Highway 30, I knew it was worse on I-80.

Sometimes it's good to stick to the tried and true path. Sometimes it's best to listen to the voices of experience, rather than the guys with slide rules (in those days) who only think they know, but who really don't know Wyoming as well as the veterans who have been driving that route for years.

Besides, when you take highway 30, you get to stop in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, the "home" of Owen Wister's 19th century Western (the first, maybe) called The Virginian. Liz and I stopped in Medicine Bow and went to the Virginian Hotel. The folks there are pleased to show off the really great old 1911 hotel's rooms. They're open for business, and plan to celebrate The Virginian Hotel's centenary in June of this year.

I'll be going through the area again in April, and I plan to spend a night at the Virginian Hotel, soaking in the atmosphere. Um, I hardly need state that there is no atmosphere on I-80 between Laramie and Rawlins. Sometimes you have to try the blue highways, instead. Safer, too, in the winter. And if you remember Wister's grand Western, you can think, "When you call me that, smile!"