A memoir about a maverick cowboy and a herd of wild horses by H. Alan Day and Lynn Wiese Sneyd

Posts by H. Alan Day

A Cowboy Hits the Writing Trail

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A Cowboy Hits the Writing Trail

I came to writing in a very oblique way. I never had dreams of writing a book while I was growing up or during adulthood. But then one day, the phone rang and my sister Sandra, who is pretty plain spoken and gets to the point in a direct fashion, said, “Alan, I think we should write a book together.” After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said, “Tell me more. Why would we want to write a book? And what would that book be about?” Sandra said that we had been raised in a very unique environment that had taught us both a very strong work ethic. Being raised on the Lazy B cattle ranch, a 200-square-mile chunk of Sonoran desert, taught us to be problem-solvers because out on the ranch nobody was going to solve your problems for you. I had never taken any writing classes and certainly had minimal skills in that department, so the book Sandra was suggesting felt about as big as that ranch. I had a hard time getting my arms around it. Sandra was far more skilled than I in terms of writing ability.She wrote many legal opinions which weren’t graded for literary quality but were read by many lawyers and historians. After stumbling and fumbling with an answer and not wanting to look like a fool, I finally said, “Well, how do I go about this? How do I start to write a book?” Her answer was Sandra simple. Yellow legal pad and number two pencil. “What if the product sounds dumb or doesn’t make sense?” “Whatever you have on paper submit it to me and we’ll make it work,” she said. I have a feeling that not many would-be authors get that kind of a send off in their writing careers. Having been given an assignment, however, I rolled up my sleeves and tackled it. A lot of days I would only get a paragraph or two written, and then after sitting and contemplating it for awhile, I’d tear it up the sheet and throw it away. Other days, I would say to myself, okay big boy, today’s the day for writing. And then I would find fifteen excuses why not to write. Progress was very slow. After six months of writing, I had several chapters that seemed a little bit appropriate. I sat down and read everything that I had written. It was so bad that shame consumed me. The thought hit me that even if I could rewrite these pages twice as good, they would still be bad. In a fit of depressed anger, I tossed it all away. I had attempted to write the history of the ranch chronologically beginning in 1880 when our grandfather settled on Lazy B. I decided I needed a whole different format to make it more interesting. Since I didn’t know what other formats were used by writers, I gave myself two weeks to come up with another way to...

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It’s time for the Virtual Book Tour!

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It’s time for the Virtual Book Tour!

I’m thrilled to be embarking on a twenty-day virtual book tour and look forward to meeting new and interesting people along the way while sharing my memoir The Horse Lover. Thank you very much to my hosts who have agreed to be part of this journey.   The Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustang is my story about starting the first government-sponsored wild horse sanctuary in the United States. As a long time cattle rancher, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be working with 1500 wild horses. As it turned out, the horses and I shared a four-year journey filled with adventures –  some happy, some not so happy – that turned out to be the highlight of my career as a rancher and cowboy. Woven into the wild horse story are recollections of cowboying adventures astride some of my best horses – Little Joe, Aunt Jemima, Tequila, Blackberry and more. Each one taught me indispensable lessons about loyalty, perseverance, and hope. During the tour, I’ll share my thoughts about horses, the West, the ranching and cowboy life and what I’ve learned from my experiences. You may laugh, you may cry, you may want to buy a pair of boots, a hat and a saddle, and go find a horse to call your own. Regardless, I hope whatever you find in these writings and interviews will in some way enrich your life. Here’s how the tour works. Every day from now through May 2, I’ll visit a different blog or radio show. Below is the complete tour schedule. Visit the Virtual Book Tour page each day when a new link will go live. You also can follow via Twitter and my Facebook page. Leave comments, share your personal horse stories, and invite fellow horse lovers to travel with us. Thanks for joining the tour. I look forward to hearing from you. Happy trails, H. Alan Day Virtual Book Tour Schedule Day Appearances Day 1 Alan’s Blog Day 2 TheMustang.de Day 3 Book Marketing Professionals Blog Day 4 LWS Literary Services Blog & Giveaway Sign-Up Day 5 Virtual Writers Inc Blog Day 6 A Love 4 Horses Day 7 Dallas Live Radio Show Day 8 Conversations Live Radio Show Day 9 Horse Talk NZ Blog Day 10 Real Talk with Lee Day 11 HorseConscious Day 12 Book Marketing in Five Day 13 Giftus John Day 14 Write for Travel Day 15 Horse Books Pony Stories Day 16 Cowboy Magic Blog Day 17 Publish With Connie Day 18 WHOA Podcasat Day 19 Savvy Virtuals Best Selling Authors Day 20 Conscious Discussions Are you interested in interviewing Alan? Send him an...

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Sunsets: The Glory of the Day

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Flip open a travel guide to Tucson, Arizona, my current hometown, and you’ll find a healthy list of interesting events and places. We have Rodeo Days at the end of February, a four-day stretch of barrel racing, team penning, and bronco riding. Earlier in the month, we host the largest gem and mineral show in the world. Our  Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum houses insects, reptiles, mammals and plant life that intrigue young and old alike. Trails for hikers and bikers crisscross through washes and over hills. Golf courses are found every-which-way you turn. Then there are the mountains. And margaritas. And mountains of margaritas. But probably my all-time favorite event is something that happens everyday of every year. Not mentioned in many travel guides, it comes free of cost. It started long before I was born and hopefully will continue long beyond my demise. The sunset. That’s what I’m talking about. In Tucson, the sun shines an average of 350 days per year, which means we have ample opportunity to watch that fiery globe tuck itself into the horizon. This time of year, when the circulating air is quick to usher out smog and haze, the sun’s departure is particularly eloquent. I’ve been blessed to witness sunsets in Key West, Florida and Del Mar, California. I’ve seen the sun float above the edge of the South Dakota prairie, buoyed by summer humidity. I cried leaning against the railings of a cruise ship as it entered a volcano crater in the Greek islands, the sun’s last rays bouncing off perfectly calm water and “Chariots of Fire” echoing off the jutting mountains. I’ve seen the glory of a Santa Fe, New Mexico sunset with purple and pinks that inspired painters like Georgia O’Keefe. Still, one of my favorite places to watch a sunset is in Tucson, especially on the golf course about four miles from my home. If I’m out at the range in late afternoon and hitting the ball well, I’ll take a cart out and play nine holes. On almost every hole, I have a clear view of the western and eastern skies. Rarely do I run into people. Somewhere around the eighth hole, the shadows begin to lengthen. I tee off, facing west and have to judge by the feel of the club head hitting the ball whether or not I’m in the fairway because glaring sunshine blinds my eyes. About the time the ball drops into the tin cup, the show begins. A roadrunner dashes into the middle of the fairway and stops. Quail chortle. Somewhere in the distance a motor revs. I turn eastward. The mighty Santa Catalina Mountains have shed their earthy browns for a golden pink. The sun throws its rays against layers of granite and gneiss, turning the pink to a magnificent deep rose. Then as the minutes pass, the mouthwatering hue turns iridescent. For a few still moments, the world feels enormous. Nothing seems as important as being present in this moment. It’s...

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Chico and the Dog

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The time had come to retire Chico. He was my first horse, a little wild mustang captured by a local cowboy in the flanks of Steeple Rock Mountain, just north of Lazy B. Somehow my dad ended up with him before I was born, so my sisters Sandra and Ann also claim him as their first horse. Chico became my best friend almost as soon as I could walk. A pretty bay color with a star on his forehead, he was a small horse, too small for a cowboy, but just right for a child. Chico and I lived many adventures together while he stood patiently in the corral and let me clamber over him like a jungle gym. One day I would be the cowboy chasing and catching wild cattle to the amazement of the other cowboys. The next day I was an Indian stalking game and evading the cavalry. The fact Chico came from a wild horse herd enamored me. When I was old enough to ride, Chico would go at a speed I was capable of handling and no faster. When I fell off and cried and grew angry with him, he would stand still and patiently wait for me to collect myself and get back on. He took care of me more hours than my mother did and at least as well. But now Chico was in his late twenties. It was time for him to roam freely in the pasture and enjoy the taste of fresh grass. Chico had made friends with a boxer we had on the ranch named Chap. I swear that dog loved Chico as much as I did. Chico would amble through the corral, Chap trotting right next to him. The two would saunter out to pasture together. This best buddy relationship had to be tough on Chap because dogs need water every few hours and Lazy B’s desert pasture had no freestanding water. When the duo returned to headquarters, Chap would plunge into the water trough, roll around like an otter in a pond and drink enough water until you thought it would spout from his ears. Since he wasn’t a hunter, he’d fill up on food at the back of the ranch house. Chico patiently waited for a few hours while the refueling took place. Then back out to the pasture the two would go, coming and going as freely as they wanted. One day I saw Chap trotting past the corrals toward the barn, alone. Right then, I knew Chico had passed. I quickly saddled up and rode out to the pasture and found him. The coyotes hadn’t gotten to him yet. I knelt down and stroked his weathered hide, saw the peaceful look on his face. I knew he was old and it was his time, but still. You think you’re prepared but when someone you love dies, the loss comes as a shock. My horse and I walked back to headquarters, tears wetting my face....

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Where Wild Horses and Prisoners Meet

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Where Wild Horses and Prisoners Meet

The horse corrals and puddles from the recent rain could have been on any southwestern ranch. But the handful of men pitching hay weren’t wearing cowboy hats or boots or chaps. They wore bright orange jumpsuits, the uniform required of prisoners at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence, Arizona, where I just arrived having driven an hour from Tucson. The horses in the corrals weren’t just any ranch horses. They were government-owned wild mustangs, and I had come to pay them a visit. I talk a last sip of cold coffee and hopped out of the pickup. A vehicle hurrying up the road turned into the parking lot and pulled in next to me.  “Nice to see you again, Al,” said Randy Helm, settling a Stetson on his head and extending a hand. Randy supervises the Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP) started last year. When the program was in the talking stages, he had called on me for input on the design of the corrals. Born and raised on an Arizona ranch, Randy is a cowboy deluxe, a horse whisperer with extensive experience in law enforcement, including that of chaplin. We crunched across the gravel toward the corrals. A forklift was parked by a pile of long metal tubing that eventually would be used to build more corrals. “Right now we have 400 horses, but eventually we hope to get that number closer to 2000,” said Randy. “We also have a couple hundred burros.” I knew from my experience managing a wild horse sanctuary that the Bureau of Land Management removes the horses from federal lands when the animals start overpopulating. The wild horses remain in BLM holding pens around the country either for life or until they are put up for adoption and sold. Randy indicated that many of these horses were shipped from Nevada. We headed toward a motorized cart. “Hey Justin,” said Randy to a bald-headed inmate who looked to be in his thirties. “How’s that new group doing? Is that mare still being friendly to you?” “They’re doing real good, Mr. Helm. She came up right close to me this morning.” “Nice job. Maybe she’ll be one we can saddle up soon.” Justin grinned. Another prison approached. “Mr. Helm, sir, if you need any extra help over Thanksgiving, I’d be glad to come out here.” Randy said he appreciated the offer and would keep him in mind. We climbed in the cart and headed along the outside of the corrals. “If you treat them with respect, they respect you,” said Randy, perhaps referring to both man and beast. In order for an inmate to work with the horses, he must be held in minimum security, which means he has less than five years to serve on a sentence, and pass a lengthy interview with Randy. Twenty inmates currently work with the horses and the waiting list for WHIP jobs is quite long. The program seeks to build the men’s self-confidence, patience, respect for living things...

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