Books · family · My Thoughts · Ranching

Truth and Fiction: My Next Two Books!

Cowboys working cattle—truth

Truth and fiction! My next two books again centered on ranch life and my family through truthful nonfiction and historical fiction. One was truth—how my granddad put our family ranch together during the depression when others were losing theirs. The other was historical fiction where I fictionalized a story I had heard my whole life.

Let Me Tell You a  Story—Truthful nonfiction. Truth
Dad on the cover!

The Truthful Nonfiction–Let Me Tell You a Story

My dad celebrated his 75th birthday on March 20, 1993. So, Mom and I worked together on producing a chapbook of the story of how our family ranch was put together for his gift, titled Let Me Tell You a Story. Dad dictated the unique stories to Mom about the technique Granddad used to put together our ranch during a time when many lost their homesteads. Dad, the master storyteller, relished the telling and retelling of these familiar family stories. Then I typed them up on a 2E Apple computer with floppy disks. Then Dad helped me edit it, which was hilarious for this ole cowboy—he didn’t trust computers but immediately saw their usefulness. As a finishing touch, we added pictures to it.

Originally, I had copies printed for only our immediate family members and twenty-five copies for a classroom set for my literature class. Again, this lay aside for over twenty years. In 2016, I self-published it, again. It has become a favorite in Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.

To tell the truth, this small chapbook warms my heart each time I reach for it because Dad’s words live on in it.

When Will Papa Get Home? Historical Fiction. Truth
The Philly Place

The Historical Fiction—When Will Papa Get Home?

In 1986, I taught my first year in Denver, Colorado, and the school district lent me a 2E Apple computer for the summer. I visited my parents on our family ranch, and we ventured to my favorite homestead on the place, the Philly Place. It got its name from the original owner, Philadelphia Cardenas. I had been there many times, but this time as I was leaving the homestead, I stopped out of what was the living room, looked down and found a blue marble.

I asked Dad about it, but he did not know. “Probably some arrowhead hunters out here with kids.”

I stuck that marble in my pocket, went back to Denver, and the story came pouring out of me, based on a story I had heard my whole life, told by Dad in Let Me Tell You a Story:

Charlie Garlutzo was working for the County Sheriff Department. Bob Gleason had “Phillie” (Philadelphio Cardenas) up on cow theft. Charlie got the one hundred and twenty acres bought from Phillie for seven- teen dollars and fifty cents an acre while he was scared about the charges. Garlutzo had the choice of selling the land to either Horner or Doherty. He chose to sell it to Horner.

Phillie was sentenced for a one-year term but got out in seven months for good behavior. Had Garlutzo not got the land bought from Phillie when he was scared, he would have been right back out there, back in business.

Larada Horner-Miller, Let Me Tell You a Story ( 2016): 15.

So, I fictionalized this true historical story and made the supposed culprit a horse thief with a twist. I told the story through the eyes of the daughter of the man accused of the thievery, and the blue marble belonged to her. The sheriff falsely accused her papa, and the story unfolds. Through extensive research, I wove their story of immigration from Mexico to the high desert prairie of southeastern Colorado. In doing that, I discovered how much I liked research and dove in. I researched adobe house building and much more.

For this book, I laid it aside for almost thirty years! After my successful stab at self-publishing, I released When Will Papa Get Home? in 2015. My aunt now owns the Phillie Place, and she gave me and my brother to revisit it to take pictures. So I took the picture on the cover. We had a delightful day rummaging through the ruins and marveling at how much of the original homestead was still there.

So, I featured truth and historical fiction in these two books. Retelling my family history in the one book encouraged me to jump into the historical fiction in the next. Enjoying both genres, I loved celebrating my country roots and heritage.

Do you have family stories? Truth or fiction? Share your thoughts! (Scroll down below!0


Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Truth

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

family · Holidays · My Thoughts · Ranching · square dance

Why Celebrate Father’s Day?

The Last Time I Danced With Dad!

Having just returned from the Colorado State Square Dance Convention in Pueblo, Colorado, I choked back a tear or two and felt a little nostalgic about the influence my Dad had on my life. Father’s Day is a day to celebrate our dad’s, so I wanted to share some of my fond memories.

My cowboy Dad loved his wife, his children, his ranch and friends. My brother and I inherited the ranch my grandfather put together—the place my Dad worked his whole life. I just returned from a drive around the ranch with my brother in the early evening looking for wildlife. I feel a special connection to Dad any time I’m standing on a ridge overlooking the canyon or eyeing a windmill he put in many years ago. Dad is everywhere on that ranch for me, and it happened again tonight.

Dad left a small souvenir all over the ranch—wrapped up baling wire for hay bales that he tied in a certain way and pitched out the truck window. We have tried to gather them up over the years, but a stray one appears, and I smile.

Yes, Dad loved this ranch, but another couple of his passions were dancing and storytelling, and I inherited both of them!

Dad and Mom met dancing, and it continued to be their main hobby until he couldn’t dance anymore. They danced to many of the big bands in Raton, New Mexico—a Catholic priest brought these famous bands to town, and the folks were on the dance floor—the cowboy donned a suit and boots and danced the night away. They glided across the floor as smooth as any other couple. During this time, they danced to the bands of Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Glen Miller for sure, but I bet there were others.

It wasn’t until I took round dance lesson after Dad died, I learned that he did the Foxtrot instead of Country two step—that was so surprising to me, but he loved big band music, and he danced many a mile to them, so they influenced his dance style.

He had a special step he did in his jitterbug repertoire; he said he stumbled one night when he was drunk and liked it so much, he kept it. Mom and I tried to reconstruct it after he died, but we couldn’t, so that dance move died with him.

When I was growing up, Dad was our 4-H club square dance caller, and he loved to teach people how to square dance. For a couple years we took two squares to Fort Collins, Colorado for the state competition. We never won, but we had a lot of fun.

He also liked teaching folk dances. Dad and I did the Jessica Polka to any polka played at a local dance. He taught us “Put Your Little Foot” or the “Varsouvianna,” the “Lily Marlane,”  the “Schottische,” and many others.

In this video, Cal Campbell explains the origin of the “Varsouvianna.”

This is the music I grew up to doing the Schottische:

Because of my family’s interest in dancing, I learned to country swing in the 80’s. One time, I came home with my newest move—the snake. Dad and I moved to the kitchen, I grabbed his hands and whipped him around, and his old shoulders shouted at him and then he at me! He couldn’t move like that anymore, but he wanted to, more than ever.

My Dad’s other passion was storytelling and he was an expert. Many guests sat around the round table in our dining room at gatherings and listened to his tales. He told stories of growing up in a small country town in the 1920’s, the depression with the lack of tires and life as a rancher during the World War II. He had asthma, so he couldn’t go to war, but he told about working on ranches around the area for cattlemen whose sons did go. Dad got to know the parents of his buddies during this time by working with them–what stories!

Dad told stories of a time and an era long gone—helping Mose Russell drive a herd of horses from southeastern Colorado to Cimarron, New Mexico. He often talked of horses; he had two horse accidents to share. The life of a rancher never has a dull moment, so he spoke of cattle incidences and the wonders of his life—mother nature was his God, and he told of glorious sunsets and miracles with a hard birth for one of his favorite cows.

Dad’s health declined, and death came quickly—in August 1995 things changed, and by January 1996 he died.

“. . . he progressed to the point of not being able to talk—his lips moved to form words but they just wouldn’t come out, and his left hand curled up in a ball.
His intense, frustrated glaze locked in on me. His frightened eyes searched mine for the words. Sometimes I finished his sentences; other times I had no idea what he wanted to say. He struck the table with his clenched fist, more desperate each time it happened.”

A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir

Yes, he could no longer speak, and his stories ended; the last time he danced at our school gym to celebrate his 75th birthday, he gasped for air and couldn’t finish a complete circle around the floor. Every once in a while still, when the music is right, I can almost do his favorite move, but I haven’t yet!

When I come face-to-face with Dad in the hereafter, I’m sure the first thing we do after shedding a few tears and a bear hug is a glide around the celestial dance floor, doing his move once more and laughing and enjoying the beat of the music! And then he will tell me his favorite story once more, starting with “remember when . . .”

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FATHER’S DAY SPECIALS GOOD UNTIL JUNE 24, 2019: 25% off of 2 BOOK BUNDLE: This Tumbleweed Landed & When Will Papa Get Home? paper copies. The men in your life would love these two books. Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, to purchase my books.

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