As a kid, I dreamed of being a cowboy.
I grew up in a one stoplight town in Michigan. A little farming community of about 1500 people. A place where everyone knew everyone else. Before I get all maudlin
talking about how life was better then, simpler, less hectic and all the other things I find myself saying more often these days, as I slide ever closer to curmudgeonhood, let me just say, one of the fondest memories of my childhood were the TV and movie westerns that I loved. In my opinion, there is very little that can compete with a classic oater. Bonanza, Gunsmoke, High Chaparral, The Big Valley, these were the shows I cut my teeth on as a youngster. And I grew up with an appreciation of western history and all things ‘cowboy’.
And my love of the west didn’t stop with movies and television. In college, my specialty within my history major was American Westward Expansion. I learned the Turner thesis and studied the scholarship of western scholars. My love of western history is plainly evident in many of the books I’ve written like TEXAS RANGERS: Legendary Lawmen and OFF LIKE THE WIND! The First Ride Of The Pony Express! And to this day I still study and consume books and movies and documentaries on the American West.
This weekend, I found myself in Oklahoma City to receive the Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. The award was given for Best Juvenile Book for OFF LIKE THE WIND! The First Ride Of The Pony Express. The award was presented at a black tie gala and hosted by actors Ed Harris and Rex Linn. Some call it the “Cowboy Oscars” and having gone through it, I’d say that’s a pretty close description. From the red carpet arrival at the museum to having my award presented to me (along with illustrator Layne Johnson) by Patrick Wayne, (that’s right The Duke’s son!) seeing cowboy stars like Robert Fuller and Stuart Whitman and Barry Corbin…all I can say is what a night!
Not only was the event a fabulous evening, being able to share with my wife and daughter and with Layne and his family made it all the more enjoyable. I hope I’ll get to write and publish more books on the Great American West. And while my childhood dream of becoming a cowboy never became a reality, I think maybe this was the next best thing.