Like many kids of my generation, I loved playing the now-politically-incorrect-on-so-many-levels game of Cowboys and Indians. When my friends and I played, we didn’t care which side we were on, it was all about the game. As we grew older, we still played the game, but now we rode horses and imagined that someday we would reclaim the Wild West. Little did we realize at the time how much the “Wild” West had changed, and that the days of the cowboys as we imagined them were fading fast.
But every once in a while, a kid like me gets to meet real-life heroes. That is exactly how I felt when I sat down to talk to Dusty Richards. I’ve known Dusty for a while, and known of him pretty much all my life. Dusty has lived in Northwest Arkansas since before I was born, and has always been something of a local legend. Besides being a successful rancher in the area, he had a local radio program for years and appeared on a regional morning TV show, and everyone I know talked about the books he wrote and had published.
Wonderful, magical books about COWBOYS.
Meeting Dusty for the first time a few months ago was exciting for me and I managed not to fangirl too much. Even more exciting is the fact that Dusty is one of the authors at Oghma Creative Media, and that means I can talk to him anytime I want.
Dusty Richards is very friendly and approachable, and absolutely loves talking about his life and his books. As part of my official duties, I sat down to ask him about his life this past weekend. As Director of Marketing, I want to try to know our authors not just as writers, but as people—who they are, what makes them happy or sad, what brought them to the point they are now as artists.
Dusty had scheduled an appearance at the Springdale (AR) Public Library as part of Indie Author Day. He agreed to sit and chat with me until his scheduled time slot, and we found a place to settle in and get comfortable. The tables near the south windows offered light for recording, and space apart from the main activity to prevent us from interrupting others.
In my innocence (not being a published author) I asked the question “What got you started writing westerns?” Three hours later, I still wasn’t sure that I had a definitive answer.
But looking back over the interview, I discovered the answer was right in front of me. Dusty had given it to me in true storyteller fashion. I had expected him to say “This is how it happened,” but what he actually said was “This (a writer of westerns) is who I am, and here is how I got to this point in my life.”
Dusty Richards told me about his early years, living in Chicago, moving to Arizona, meeting the people on the ranches, working with vaqueros, and learning to do things with his hands. He told me about learning to ride horses, entertaining the notion of riding bulls (he became an announcer instead). He told me about the authors he read, the stories he loved, the stories he wanted to write. He told me about his failures and successes, his mentors and supporters, his family and friends.
The closest to a “real” answer to my question came down to this. Dusty once had a friend who spoke about what he wanted to do when he retired. Unfortunately, his friend died before making his dream come true. Dusty said that woke him up. He told his wife he didn’t want to miss his own chance, so he retired from Tyson Foods after more than thirty-five years, and got serious about writing his stories. After more than one hundred books, numerous short stories, three Spur Awards, and now a movie deal, I can say that his fans are glad he took the chance.
Wait—did I just say there is a MOVIE?? Yes, folks I did. This summer (2017) Dusty earned his third Spur award from Western Writers of America for his novel The Mustanger and the Lady, published by Oghma Creative Media. The new movie Painted Woman is based on characters in that book and will be showing in select theatres around the United States. Friday night (November 10th) it will be premiering in Poteau, Oklahoma. That’s fitting, since it was filmed in Oklahoma. Ask your local venues if they will be screening it. If not, go ahead and ask them to request it. And while you’re waiting, pick up the book. We’ll talk more about this Saturday, after the show.