Thursday, April 22, 2010
Although I live in one of the most populated and industrialized areas of Texas, basically I’m still just a small town, country girl at heart. Even now, I’m more prone to not wearing shoes than to wearing them, but I’ve learned to conform… at least when I’m at work.
To begin at my beginning, I grew up in the small Texas town of Marshall, which is very close to the Louisiana border. Back in those days, we had black and white TV and three broadcasting stations. Cable… well that meant something you put on your truck to securely haul something safely from one place to another. I remember that it was such a great treat to come to Arlington and visit my grandparents because, oh my gosh, they had five television stations. Most of my childhood was spent playing outdoors with my sisters. Back in the day, imagination was key to entertainment. There wasn’t any Wii, there was only we… my sisters and me. We were very inventive children and enjoyed many happy days wandering up and down the dirt road in front of our house, playing in the woods, and just being carefree. Many of our adventures prompted parts of my novel, Moon Dance.
My parents purchased a ten acre parcel of land a few miles outside of town when I was five or six. We promptly dubbed this as “The Place”. It was such a joy to go out to “The Place” and play in the old school house, which had been renovated into a country store after the turn of the century… the last century that is. At “The Place” we had horses, cows, pigs, and chickens to tend to and love. We had woods to roam in and creeks to fish in. It was a magical time… childhood.
Imagination played a major role in my life, and I really can’t remember a time when I didn’t write down my thoughts, short stories, or poems. My mom was a songwriter, my dad told stories all the time, and many of my ancestors traveled from across the waters in Wales to somehow, eventually end up in Texas. I’ve heard tell that Wales is a lot like where I grew up, and I’ve read that one of the national pastimes there is storytelling and writing. I’ve always felt an affinity to the folks there and often felt that my yearning to write is deeply rooted in my ancestral past.
Moon Dance is my first attempt at writing a full-fledged novel. It was born one cold day in December 2007 when I was overcome by a desire to write a story about my Aunt Margaret. Let me go back just a bit in time. My sister, Vickie, and I had begun researching information on my aunt and uncle during the summer of 2007 because we both felt that Aunt Margaret should be inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, which is located in Ft. Worth. We gathered a fair amount of information, and then school started, so our plans were put on the back burner for a bit. During our summer research we uncovered quite a lot of information, including one of the deeds to the largest portion of my aunt and uncle’s ranch. This deed was for the purchase of 250 acres a few miles down the road from Hugo, Oklahoma, and just a hop, skip, and jump from the tiny community of Sawyer, Oklahoma. Margaret and Joe ran the ranch together for many years until my uncle had a heart attack and died while fighting a wildfire on their ranch. After this, my aunt ran the ranch on her own for almost twenty-five years. She was close to eighty when she finally decided to sell off her land and move into town. As Christmas break neared, a yearning filled me to tell my aunt’s story. So began a journey of love, more research, and many late nights working on my “project”.
I was blessed to spend a considerable amount of time with my aunt in the last twenty years of her life. She loved everyone and everyone loved her. My earliest recollection of Margaret and Joe took place when I was about four or five years old. At this time, they had been married almost thirty years. But even at my young age, I was struck by how happy they were together and how much they seemed to love each other. This image has stayed with me all these years, indelibly printed in my deepest memories. Visits to their ranch were always filled with happiness… the older folks sitting around playing guitars and singing, making homemade vanilla ice cream the old fashioned hand cranked way, which then was the only way! I remember riding in the back of a slow moving pickup, dragging my feet in the dust, cattle dogs barking and racing around us as my uncle or aunt drove out to the back pasture to round up the cattle. Those are happy memories.
Today, I live in the city with my husband, Alex. It is a very good place to live, and I’m blessed to teach at a school that is only about 10 minutes from my house…at least on a good day when there’s not much traffic. I’m also blessed that my family lives nearby and I am able to see them as often as we can all get our schedules meshed together. Everything is so much busier today, and as a teacher I see so many children that have never experienced the sheer joy of just walking down the street, gazing into the sky, and thanking God for the trees, for the day, for just this second, this moment we call life. Their young lives are so wrapped up in all the technological toys that they often miss out on discovering the wonders of nature and of God’s world around them. Sometimes I wish we could go back to the days when imagination was your best friend and life was just a little less rushed.
Moon Dance takes the reader back to a time that was even less rushed than my childhood. It is a story of falling in love for the first time, of growing from childhood to womanhood, and of overcoming the dark side of life through faith and forgiveness. It is a story that many people will be able to relate to, and hopefully many people will want to read again and again. I often felt as I was writing Moon Dance that I was being guided by my aunt’s spirit, as if she was looking down at me from Heaven and inspiring me with her thoughts and love. More often than not, I just sat down and let my fingers fly across the computer keys, and then I would read over what I had written and think, “Did I write that?” I loved writing my novel, Moon Dance, and I really hope that you will love reading it.Check out my website at http://susanearl.tatepublishing.net