When I was a kid working half time at The Research Ranch in Elgin, I would send drawings, book reviews & short articles off to High Country News by mail, with hand-written cover letters. Marjane Ambler, Joan Nice and Bruce Hamilton indulged me, publishing these modest little offerings now & then, buoying up my spirits. I think it’s called “cutting your teeth” in the writing biz.
All of us in the West owe High Country News a lot for their staff building community among. My buddy Ruben Martinez recently alerted me to the fact that some of those little ditties from 1974-1975 are now available digitally, and I was surprised to see that I’m still curious about many of the same topics I was then. And I still write for HCN’s Writers on the Range, syndicated in 30+ Western papers, for which I remain grateful to Betsy and Dave Marston.
On another front, a “Double a Friend” got me going on my first effort at writing children’s stories: Amalia Astorga of Desemboque del Sur, the Comcaac indigenous community. Amalia was as imaginative, evanescent and mercurial as any person I’ve ever known, and joined me once on a magical mystery tour of six islands in the Gulf of California, singing her songs the entire way. Her story of befriending a lizard named Efrain who would then come to visit her each day was so memorable to me that it evolved into a three way collaboration between Amalia, the whimsical artist Janet K. Miller and myself. Sadly, the press that took a chance on publishing it, Cinco Puntos in El Paso, has recently closed its doors. But I will be forever grateful to the Byrd family for midwifing that book into the world.
Finally, a shout out for the works of my old friend James Aronson – a true desert plant explorer with a love for deserts kindled by The Little Prince — who is at the top of the heap of writers addressing ecological restoration and the value of trees. What a joy for Laurie and I to spend time with him on the road to Silver City to pay homage to desert guru Richard Felger. In addition to our coauthoring recent articles in Plants, People, Planet and Eco-Psychology, James contributed a great chapter to my anthology, The Nature of Desert Nature, where his own distinctive storytelling skills brightened the pages!