When I was small I was a cowgirl. I had a wonderful black skirt with silver tassels, a black bolero, white bodice, a black hat and two silver guns with black holsters.
We had a big field at the back of our house, no doubt in the old days it was where the carriage horses grazed. When I was little the local scrap man grazed his horses there and we got to ride them, bareback mostly, hanging on to the reins like hell.
My favourite childhood television was cowboy films which I used to watch while my Dad dozed on Saturday afternoons by the fire. I loved John Wayne and later Clint Eastwood and best of all the Man from Laramie himself, James Stewart. The slow talking keen eyed man who rode out of camera shot at the end of the film, leaving the woman inconsolable behind him. John Wayne framed in the doorway, Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates, surveying the cattle, his eyes narrowed against the sunlight.
I don't think I've ever forgiven my sister as a baby for screaming when I was trying to watch the Lone Ranger and Tonto. My Dad said that the Lone Ranger was on at the local Picture Palace so often that he stabled his horse there.
My favourite writer became Zane Grey. His descriptions of sunsets were still the best I've ever read. I longed to write a western. I knew there was no money in it but can quite honestly say, fool that I am, that the only time money has been my first priority was when I was a journalist and afterwards when I worked as a house journal editor. These days I wouldn't write a novel I wasn't being paid for but in the beginning I wrote because I loved it. I still love it. I love the words coming up on my screen, I love my pens and notebooks and the ideas tumbling from my head. It's such a thrill but it's a hard thrill, writing fiction is heavy work but it isn't the same kind of work as many people have, on their feet toiling eight hours a day.
I did once write a cowboy book but when I sent it to my agent she laughed and said it was a saga in disguise.
I married a cowboy. He only once got on a horse and demanded to know where the gears were but he was a shootist, a forager, he manoeuvred for gain, bent the rules, traded, fished, built, set up endless business opportunities and was always surprising.
Now when I see James Stewart and John Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance it reminds me of who I was in my childhood and early life. Somewhere out on the range all my cowboys are still there, recreated in the sagas that make up my fiction.