Gathering from the Grassland: A Plains Journal, is my most recent prose book. With publisher Nancy Curtis of High Plains Press in Glendo, WY, I’ve been working on it for several years.
In order for me to get copies of the book as soon as it was printed, we agreed to meet in Lusk, Wyoming, between our two ranches. We’d have lunch at The Pizza Place, and catch up on our personal and professional news. She’d hand over my author copies– 5 clothbound and 5 paperbound– and we’d discuss how we will each encourage sales of the book in the coming months. Many publishers, large and small, don’t do much promotion. High Plains Press supports its authors in dozens of ways, including buying lunch in Lusk– the New York City of our neighborhood.
When Jerry and I lived in Wyoming, I drove five and one-half hours from my ranch to Cheyenne regularly, but since we moved to my ranch home, my trips have been rare. So I was delighted to hum a “Prairie Lullaby” (Stephanie Davis) as I headed “Beyond the Horizon” (Bob Dylan.) Since I’ve made this drive hundreds, if not thousands, of times, I knew I’d see familiar scenes, but would also surely see the unusual. And the Wyoming breezes– “Four Strong Winds” from all four directions– would keep me alert.
And there I got a surprise: two bicyclists! Each wore a helmet, and a skintight outfit striped in bright colors; their panniers bulged. Heads down, oblivious to the “Thunder on the Mountain,” (Dylan) they were headed west.
Just how much did they know about the arid country ahead of them? From Edgemont, it’s almost sixty miles to Newcastle, and almost seventy to Lusk, WY. There are no towns or settlements along the route, and most of the ranch houses are a considerable distance from the highway. At Mule Creek Junction, 21 miles west of Edgemont, a rest area offers water and “rest,” but little else.
As I accelerated past them– not in the “Mercedes Benz” Janis was warbling about– I tried to visualize what the bicyclists might be seeing. That “Peaceful Country” (Murphey) looks spectacular from that high plateau: down toward the tree-lined Cheyenne River and Beaver Creek drainages. Silver-blue sage sweeps up the hills, and many of the gullies are jagged and deep. With their heads down, would the riders see anything but their feet and the pavement?
When I drove this route nine years ago, I often thought of Murphey’s “Hardscrabble Creek” as my eyes followed ranch roads winding from the highway into the distance beyond the sagebrush. Often a beat-up car or pickup was parked beside the gate. I knew if I got into that vehicle, I’d find the keys under the floor mat or behind the visor, where ranchers always leave them. The transportation wasn’t abandoned, but meant the family had a child of school age who drove to the highway to be picked up by the school bus headed for Newcastle or Lusk. Is the ranching population aging? I saw few vehicles beside the ranch roads on this trip.
After I’d signed books Nancy will have on hand for customers who ask, we transferred the boxes of books I’d bought at my author discount to my car, so I could head home and begin selling them. One of the most pleasant features of Lusk is those wide streets: two women with boxes of books could move safely from one car to the one behind it without being run over by a semi-load of hay.
“Everyone says that,” she said firmly, “but I am not wearing Crocs. I am wearing Periwinkle Patent Leather clogs.” Publishers have to be precise.
Independent authors and publishers need to “Try Just a Little Bit Harder,” and I promised to do so as I sang along with Joplin’s throaty vocals, accelerating out of town.
I noticed them first when they were applied to Highway 79 that goes past my house. Before sunrise, when I’m still trying to sleep, a truck hitting the rumble strips sounds like a helicopter landing on my bed.
Rumble strips and cattle or sheep that climb through fences to graze the right-of-way aren’t all that keeps a person alert on this highway. I heard a Whoosh! as another “Greenie”—Wyoming slang for speeding Colorado cars with green license plates–raced past in a no-passing zone.
I slammed on the brakes to let the idiot pull in front of me seconds before he would have been obliterated by an oncoming truck. I was angry, but I put on my “Secret Smile,” (Murphey) satisfied with being a life-saver. In the past, I may have exceeded speed limits occasionally, but no longer. I’d rather “Give A Little Bit Back” (Davis), relax, enjoy the scenery, and arrive safe and alive at home.
Linda M. Hasselstrom
Windbreak House Writing Retreats
Hermosa, South Dakota
© 2017, Linda M. Hasselstrom
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Now, thirty years later I’ve published another book in journal form: Gathering from the Grassland: A Plains Journal (High Plains Press, September 2017). Much has changed in the intervening decades, especially because I am no longer involved in the daily chores of raising cattle. A central part of this journal is my research into the diaries and records left by my ancestors on this ranch on the plains. I learned things about my relatives, their history, and this land that I never knew.
I’m more convinced than ever that it’s essential for us to tell our stories, not only for our blood descendants, but for those who will come after us in this world. Write for your children and grandchildren so they will know how you survived this life, and write for yourself.
High Plains Press is offering a special limited-time discount for early orders. If you order directly from High Plains Press by September 20th, you’ll get a $5 discount on the limited edition hardcover.
trade paper — $19.95 plus $4 shipping
limited edition hardcover — $29.95 — Your price = $24.95 plus $4 shipping
Go to the High Plains Press webpage for my book Gathering from the Grassland
Select how many copies you want. (Volume discount on shipping.)
Be sure to use the comment box if you would like a personalized inscription beyond my signature (for instance, “Happy Thanksgiving, Aunt Nellie”) in any of the copies you purchase.
Enter the voucher/coupon code LINDA.
Click on the “recalculate” button to update the amount due, then proceed with your payment.
(Sorry, there is no discount on the paperback edition at this time.)
Thank you and enjoy the read!