Growing up during the late 1940s and 1950s, in a large family with a low income, there were few purchased toys. My childhood play was relatively unstructured, and imagination was essential.
Much of my free time was spent outdoors, exploring. Whole days were whiled away in the woods at the edges of small towns in which I grew up. Creeks provided routes to follow, just as rivers did for early explorers of the American West.
With the arrival of television and a splurge of western movies, my natural boyhood heroes were characters like Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, and Wyatt Earp. John Wayne, who starred in such movies as “The Chisholm Trail” and “Red River Crossing” was my true grit model. I grew up in the glory decades of imagination about the westward expansion of our country, albeit with a largely movie-version view of a western life.
I still remember my first pistol and holster set of cheap plastic and “leather” covered cardboard. As a child, I surely must have built more makeshift forts than the United States Army did while the country’s tsunami wave of settlers swarmed west in the 1800s. I thought of myself as a cowboy, a mountain man, and an explorer all rolled up into one persona.
In adulthood, I continued physically moving from location to location, genetics-inspired perhaps, by alleged Cherokee ancestors. Reading about western migratory trails such as the Trail of Tears, the Santa Fe Trail, the California and Oregon Trails, the Mormon Trail, and the Old Spanish Trail, continued to fire my imagination. The great western cattle routes like the Shawnee Trail, the Chisholm Trail, and the Western Trail, added to the lure of adventure as I read both nonfiction literature and fictional western novels.
Still, these trails were not personally familiar to me as a writer. I knew of them through a childhood imagination; through much falsely presented school and movie information; and through books. But, I figured it was never too late.
I was born in Missouri, the “Show-Me” State. I wanted to experience The Chisholm Trail myself, to see it as it exists today.