My name’s Jim Griffin, and I’ll be the regular 2nd Thursday of the month contributor on the Western Fictioneers blog.
As a brief introduction, my main loves, not in any particular order, are horses, dogs, (especially small dogs), the Texas Rangers, and New Hampshire, particularly the southwest corner, otherwise known as the Monadnock region. Now, some of you are no doubt scratching your heads and saying, “horses, dogs, Texas Rangers, all right. But what in the world does New Hampshire have to do with anything Western?” The answer is, not much, except for this. The first use of branding to identify livestock, which just about everyone assumes started with the large free-roaming longhorn cattle herds in Texas and then spread throughout the West, actually was in New Hampshire. And the livestock branded weren’t cattle, but those critters anathema to the old time cattleranchers, sheep. Yes, sheep… woolies…mutton. Branding sheep in New Hampshire and later other parts of New England started back in Colonial times, even before the United States existed as a country. Just like western cattlemen grazed their herds on common land, identifying ownership by brands, in colonial New England animals, mostly sheep and swine, were pastured on common land, usually called the town common. Unlike the typical image of a nice patch of green land surrounded by neat white houses and a white-steepled church, the common or green was usually either dusty or muddy (depending on the weather and time of year) from grazing and rooting livestock, and trash-strewn besides. But we can still thank the farmers of New Hampshire for introducing branding to the New World. And of course some New Hampshire folk headed West to help settle the frontier. Several fought at the Alamo, and many in the Civil War. As people from New England’s land, never very fertile to begin with and extremely rocky, played out, plenty of New Englanders headed West to start again.
Now on to things more Western. I’ve had horses most of my life, and can’t imagine having to live without one. I still think the infernal combustion engine is the creation of the devil, and the world would be better off with fewer cars and more horses. Maybe we’d all learn to relax a bit more and get along with each other better, too, if more of us rode horses. It’s hard to stay angry when you’re on the back of a good horse.
As far as the Texas Rangers, I’ve been fascinated by the organization since I was a kid. Have a friend who just retired from the Rangers, and got to know enough about them that I’m considered an amateur and unofficial historian of the outfit, although I sure don’t claim to be an expert. I’ve collected a whole passel of Texas Ranger artifacts over the years, which are now in the permanent collections of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, Texas. It’s a great museum to learn about the Rangers. If any of you are down Waco way be sure to stop it, and see some of my stuff. Most is in the Texas Rangers in Popular Culture Gallery, and the items get rotated in and out.
And that’s the lead-in for the chance to mention my books. I’ve got two series of Texas Rangers novels in print, plus one stand alone book, and some more in the works. Not to mention a whole bunch of stuff all over the web. And of course stories in both Western Fictioneers anthologies, and am one of the contributors to the WF Wolf Creek series. My novels completely traditional Westerns, no avant-garde edgy stuff or western mixed with science fiction ala The Wild Wild West. You’ll find straight-shootin’ good guys, nasty bad guys, brave women, smart horses, and plenty of fist-fighting action and shooting in my stories. You won’t need to be afraid to let your kids (or your mama) read most of ‘em.
One other passion of mine is traveling all over the West, although I don’t have the chance to do that as much as I used to. My first trip west I was headed to a job in San Diego, and at an overnight stop in Midland, Texas my hosts offered to take me on a trail ride to let my horse stretch his legs, since he’d been riding in a horse trailer behind my ‘65 Impala for three days, and the previous stops only had small corrals for him. Started the ride, and after a couple of miles of sand and more sand I finally had to ask where was the beach? Here, where there’s sand, there’s usually a beach. Not in west Texas.
Other big surprise was when I first saw the Rocky Mountains. Kept wondering why they didn’t look all that high, not much higher than a lot of the mountains here in northern New England. Then it hit me that when you first see the Rockies you’re already a mile or more above sea level. So, a 12,000 foot mountain seen from 6,000 feet altitude on the plains doesn’t look much higher than one of our 6,000 footers seen from 700 feet above sea level.
So, enough of this introductory stuff. Next time around I’ll promise to talk Rangers, horses, books, and maybe even a dog or two. Not all at the same time, of course. And if any of you have any questions on the above subjects, I’d love to hear ‘em.