Tracking down the lost manuscript

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I heard tell of a “lost manuscript.” It was said this manuscript told about an important era of Eastern Oregon history. And like a gold miner who hears about a lost mine, I became obsessed with finding this manuscript.

I made phone calls, chasing down any and all leads I happened to uncover. Some were disappointing dead ends, but I followed any slim possibility until I had collected enough reliable information that the urge to get going consumed me.

I threw together my camping gear, jumped in my pickup and started the hunt in earnest.

On the second day of my travels I unearthed the mother lode. The lost manuscript was in a cardboard box, 319 typewritten pages, yellowed and brittle with age. It had been hidden from the light of day for more than a half-century.

Will this lost manuscript became the basis of a book? I don’t know.

Time will tell.

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Rick Steber is an award winning writer of contemporary western stories. To find out more about his books, including non-fiction biographies and novels, audio books and DVDs, visit his website:  Writing the West http://ricksteber.com

To purchase a copy of Rick Steber’s latest release: Red White Black: A True Story of Race and Rodeo visit: http://ricksteber.com/newreleases.html

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My desperate search for the lost manuscript

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The writer’s life . . . Only a small portion of a writer’s life is spent actually putting down words on paper.

That process can only begin after all the research has been completed. The problem I often find in my writing and researching are the distractions that suddenly appear .. The salmon are running in the Deschutes, or in the Coquille.

But recently it was something far different that called me away from work and sent me on a desperate search for a “lost manuscript” that was said to exist somewhere in the wild of Eastern Oregon. It was doubtful the manuscript had survived fires, floods and the passage of time. But the very possibility that it might exist drove me on a desperate search .. (more to come)

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Rick Steber is an award winning writer of contemporary western stories. To find out more about his books, including non-fiction biographies and novels, audio books and DVDs, visit his website:  Writing the West http://ricksteber.com

To purchase a copy of Rick Steber’s latest release: Red White Black: A True Story of Race and Rodeo visit: http://ricksteber.com/newreleases.html

Race, rodeo and discrimination

Rick Steber and Leon Ransom

Rick Steber and Leon Ransom

While in Pendleton at the Pendleton Round-Up, I had dinner with Leon Ransom. Leon’s wife, Georgia, fixed a wonderful salmon dinner that included a dessert of blueberry pie fixed from scratch.

Leon contributed to my research for Red White Black: A True Story of Race and Rodeo and was friends with one of the principal characters in the book, George Fletcher. We talked about race and rodeo, and how discrimination still remains woven into the fabric of America.

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To purchase your copy of Rick Steber’s book: Red White Black: A True Story of Race and Rodeo visit: http://ricksteber.com/newreleases.html

Rick Steber is an award winning writer of contemporary western stories. To find out more about his books, including non-fiction biographies and novels, audio books and DVDs visit his website:  Writing the West http://ricksteber.com

1,000 mile trip through Oregon rodeo history

From the last leg of my 1,000 mile research trip for my upcoming book: Red White Black, A True Story of Race and Rodeo . . .

Frontier Days!

Frontier Days!

GRANGEVILLE – LEWISTON – WALLA WALLA – PENDLETON
In Grangeville I visited the Bicentennial Library and did research on microfilm of the Border Days Rodeo. After visiting with a few old-timers, it was off to the Nez Perce Memorial Museum and the Nez Perce County Museum where I found a file of interesting information, oral histories and photographs relating to Jackson Sundown. And then there was more microfilm to investigate at Lewis and Clark College before driving to Walla Walla, Washington and looking for information on the Frontier Days Rodeo.

George Fletcher grave

George Fletcher grave

In Pendleton I located the grave of George Fletcher in the Olney Cemetery, visited the Round-Up Hall of Fame, interviewed a few people and drove to Pilot Rock where I talked to the man who is the keeper of Round-Up photographs.

And then I drove six hours home and fell into bed, exhausted from a whirlwind week of research.

Home at last

Home at last

Visit my website at Writing the West, http://ricksteber.com for more tales of the Wild West, including non-fiction biographies and novels, audio books and DVDs. My books are now available for purchase as ebooks. Subscribe to this blog to find out more about my upcoming book: Red White Black, A True Story of Race and Rodeo.

History and Horse Rustling, Ca 1911

More from my 1,000 mile research trip for my upcoming book, Red White Black, A True Story of Race and Rodeo . . .

UNION, OREGON

John Spain, Eastern Oregon Livestock Show, Ca. 1911

John Spain, Eastern Oregon Livestock Show, Ca. 1911

The Union County Historical Museum in Union, Oregon has an extensive collection of photos and research about John and Fred Spain, as does the Union County Stock Show.

I also visited with family members related to John Spain and gathered information from the courthouse in La Grande on a trial that was held where John Spain was accused of horse rustling. With this information in hand, I visited Pierce Library on the Eastern Oregon State University campus and looked up newspaper accounts of the trial from 1911.

Then I was off to do a quick interview with the newspaper editor in Elgin and through Wallowa County on my way to Idaho. I drove through some incredible country, stopping to gaze into the heart of Joseph Canyon, and then dropping down the long, steep, winding grade to the Grande Ronde River and back up the other side.

Joseph Canyon, OR

Joseph Canyon, OR

I passed through Lewiston and drove to Jacque Spur, visiting Jackson Sundown’s grave at the Slickpoo Cemetery and took photographs of his old home, now abandoned and falling in on itself.

Jackson Sundown's old home

Jackson Sundown’s old home

Visit my website at Writing the West, http://ricksteber.com for more tales of the Wild West, including non-fiction biographies and novels, audio books and DVDs. My books are now available for purchase as ebooks. Subscribe to this blog to find out more about my upcoming book: Red White Black, A True Story of Race and Rodeo.

On the Trail of Rodeo Rider, John Spain

BAKER CITY, OREGON

On my last research trip I wanted to gather any last bits of information that was out there to add to my book Red White Black, A True Story of Race and Rodeo, as well as to visit the graves of the three main characters. I made a big circle; drove a thousand miles and was gone for a week.

John Spain

John Spain

I arrived in Baker City on a Sunday and there were a few people getting a jump on Memorial Day and putting flowers on the graves of loved ones in the Mt. Hope Cemetery. I stood on the green, wet grass and felt uneasy as I looked through my binoculars and tried in vain to find the headstone of John Spain among the 16,000 people who are buried there.

John Spain GraveThe next morning a caretaker looked up the grave and I took photos of John Spain’s grave marker as the sun edged over the bald hill to the east. And then I visited the library, courthouse, and sheriff’s office and talked to the man who has spent his lifetime gathering photographs of Baker County.

Visit my website at Writing the West, http://ricksteber.com for more tales of the Wild West, including non-fiction biographies and novels, audio books and DVDs. My books are now available for purchase as ebooks. Subscribe to this blog to find out more about my upcoming book: Red White Black, A True Story of Race and Rodeo.

Creating a keepsake: Red White Black, A True Story of Race and Rodeo

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On the trail of rodeo phenomena, Jackson Sundown. At his grave, Slickpoo Cemetery, Jacque Spur, Oregon

The written words of a non-fiction book get their beauty, grace, elegance and validity from the research that has been done to support them.

I do enjoy the research.

Not so much in blowing dust from a written history, but in talking with the people who actually lived that history.

Most of the events in Red White Black – the book I am currently working on – occurred a hundred years ago, or more. But I have been gathering material for this book for almost four decades and during that time have interviewed people who knew the three main characters – Jackson Sundown, John Spain and George Fletcher – and watched them ride broncs at rodeos.

Time passes. People die. They take their memories with them to the grave.

And now in my current research I hear stories from people who say their fathers told them about a particular cowboy, or an incredible ride they witnessed.

I take all these stories that are shared with me and try to weave them together into a text that will be as rich in color, texture and usefulness as a Pendleton blanket, a keepsake to appreciate in life and pass down from one generation to the next, just as the stories have been passed down to me from generation to generation.

39688_150106865005032_5183089_nVisit my website at Writing the West, http://ricksteber.com for more tales of the Wild West, including non-fiction biographies and novels, audio books and DVDs. My books are now available for purchase as ebooks. Subscribe to this blog to find out more about my upcoming book: Red White Black, A True Story of Race and Rodeo.