The first time I saw Dusty Richards, he was across the room at the Ozark Creative Writer’s conference. It was 1987 and we were both new to the struggle of writing, trying to learn all we could from experienced authors. His hearty laugh attracted my attention when I walked in the door. Nervous about mingling with writers who knew what they were doing, I was pleased when he gestured me over.
He must have known how I felt for he included me in the group already surrounding him.
Dusty was always that way, attracting a crowd with his friendly laugh and greeting. Over the years we grew to be the best of friends. Together with the help of a few more local writers, we formed the Northwest Arkansas Writers Group. Money was scarce with some of us back then. Dusty and I attended plenty of conferences in his company truck over the years, bringing back handouts and reports covering what we’d learned. When group members could afford it we attended a distant conference where there would be as many as five of us sharing a room.
Meanwhile our group grew from ten and twelve to twenty, sometimes even more. We met every week in churches, in members’ workplace, in Jones Center; anyplace we could find that was free. We wanted never to have to charge for helping each other. And we never did. The final few years we were together, Dusty and I held a yearly free conference that attracted up to 100 authors. Because of his membership on the Electric Board in Washington County, we had a free room for that conference.
Meanwhile, Dusty and I, his wife Pat and my husband Don, traveled together attending conferences. Then the hoped for happened. We broke through the difficult doors to publishing. Dusty was first and a year later with his urging, I presented a manuscript to a New York publisher and became the second member published.
We spent hours working with each other, the tall, affable cowboy and I, until we were like brother and sister. Buddies, he called us. Then one day some thirty years after we first met, he and Pat left a dinner with one of his publishers and a scant hour later both were in serious condition from a wreck only a few miles from their home. Neither survived. And a giant hole opened not only in my life, but in that of so many other writers who had experienced the generosity of this man.
Because I’d spent so many hours so close to him, the totally unexpected happened. I was asked if it would be possible for me to go over some of his unfinished work and finish writing it in a way that would suit his massive reading audience, I had to say yes. In doing so I felt as if he remained with me. The Blue Roan Colt is the first unfinished book I took on, editing the first half and writing the second half from scratch. The book has been on the market for a bit more than a year now, most of that the Covid effected year, but it’s doing as well as can be expected in a market place where there is no delivery to book stores and libraries. It’s available as e books and print where possible.This is the first book I took on to work with. It’s a wonderful story for Dusty was a born story teller and I am so happy to have been asked to edit and finish it. I felt Dusty in the room with me as I worked. We were so close and I loved him like a brother.
Here’s a brief synopsis of The Blue Roan Colt
Mark returned from World War II with one wish, to own a ranch. With a lot of hard work he turned that wish into a reality. The first time he saw the blue roan, the leggy colt was running hard through the greasewood and chaparral with his dam, a big palomino mare. She’d run away from some rich guy’s stables north of Scottsdale, Arizona, then escaped into the McDowell Mountains and all that Paradise Valley country. From that first sighting, he knew he had to have the free racing colt for his own.
The first time he saw Julie he knew he had to have her. Even after she told him her expectations.
“I think you’re an exciting guy. Not many men your age ride broncs and are still bulldogging. I love rodeoing. I like to be around rodeo and the people, but I’m not going to sleep in an old car’s backseat and eat baloney sandwiches with these younger guys to get to enjoy my favorite sport. I found out you don’t have a woman. Besides you’re tall enough I won’t have to bend over to dance with you.”
I hope those who have bought and read the book enjoyed it and realize with how much love I worked to make it one of Dusty’s final works that contains some of his actual writing.
Because I enjoyed writing with him so much, I was asked to write some books to finish out a series he began. I finished The Texas Badge series with three books. I am now working on a series of my own from that series. It is the story of a woman bounty hunter in Indian Territory. I don’t yet have a title. I recently finished my nonfiction book about the US Marshals working under Judge Isaac Parker in the Southwestern Territory. We hope to see it released soon.
I hope Dusty’s fans as well as many of mine join me on this Western venture. See you there.