Friday night was dinner and a movie night. Mom worked nights. My sister was usually busy with friends. That left Dad and me to eat at Chins or The Taxi Cab Café and then stroll down the block to Partrick’s Candy for a pound of light chocolates – vanilla, mint, walnut, and maplenut filling only – to share during the show.
Dad always picked the movie and he always chose a western. Secretly, I had a crush on Clint Walker and James Gardner, but John Wayne was perfectly acceptable. I fell in love with the wide-open scenery in those westerns, adored the morality plays all done up with horses and dust and smoking pistols, fell for the slow-talking men every time. But what I did not enjoy – what made me squirm in my seat, look over at Dad to catch his reaction – was the role of women in those old movies.
McLintock is a classic example. I mean, what woman wouldn’t fall for a guy who lifted her skirt and publically spanked her to demonstrate his need to be boss and hers to be dominated. There were strong women in these movies, oh, yes, but women who, ultimately, submitted to the stronger men in their lives. That’s a powerful message for a thirteen year-old girl in 1963.
Forty years after those Friday night movies with Dad, I had the great good fortune to attend the Northwest Arkansas Writer’s Workshop in Fayetteville, Arkansas for several years. The NWAWW is the creation of Dusty Richards and Velda Brotherton. Brotherton writes cross-genre, and makes it all look easy. Dusty writes westerns. Period. 120 westerns at last count. There are no better teachers and mentors for a new writer.
Under their influence, I decided to try my hand at writing a western or two. But, from the beginning, I wanted my westerns to show a truer picture of women in the old west. A picture that investigated the complexity of these women and the hardships they endured.
Think crossing the prairie in a covered wagon is difficult? Try it while pregnant. Imagine homesteading with your nearest neighbor miles away would test your gumption? Try it while nursing a baby. Think cooking over an open fire would be challenging? Try it while caring for an energetic toddler.
I was determined to write westerns that told the truth about women’s lives. So when AIW Publishing decided to put together Unshod, an anthology of traditional and contemporary short stories, I was delighted to have a story included. If you enjoy good writing, you’ll like this anthology. The book has been out a little over twenty-four hours and it’s already on Amazon’s Best Seller List. If you’re a fan of the western short story, you are going to find yourself grinning from ear-to-ear. Along the way, you just might discover nine new authors whose work you’ll want to follow closely.
As for me, I’ve downloaded Unshod. My light chocolate creams are safe in their white Partrick’s bag. I intend to curl up and indulge in some fine western story telling. Somewhere Dad is grinning. I know he is.