Melanie Chrismer, Doreen Chaky and I have arrived safely home from last weekend's Spirit of the West Festival in Sioux Falls, SD. In spite of Mother Nature unleashing all kinds of rain, wind and tornado touchdowns, we all agreed that the experience harkened back to each of our newspaper reporter days.
While promoting Women Writing the West, Melanie and I were taught to quick draw, and I amazed myself with a time of one second — that is, draw, shoot and hit the target. Melanie's time was lauded at 1.3 seconds. Also learned how to load a Civil War cannon. Did you know you need to do everything from the side of the barrel? And, after the cannon is fired, it’ll jump about 8-12 feet? We were taught the tasks of how to “pick and prime” and “sponge and worm” the cannon, too.
We introduced ourselves to the Festival's Special Guest Cheryl Rogers-Barnett — you know, Roy Rogers’ and Dale Evans' daughter. What a great lady, and her husband Larry let loose some stories of their high-school-sweethearts days while he visited us at our tent. She autographed her book, "Cowboy Princess, Life with my Parents Roy Rogers and Dale Evans," for us and we piqued her interest in WWW.
There were reenactors of all sorts — soiled doves, saloon gals, cowboys, horse thieves, doctors, saddlemakers, you name it, they were there, spread out over 50 acres of a 160-acre hayfield. We befriended ‘Silverado,’ whose specialty is gun spinning, and he could also be seen cracking his whip from time to time. He explained the reason a whip cracks is that the momentum the whip carries — 600 to 900 mph — breaks the sound barrier. Neat, huh? He was a favorite with the kids.
The Hags on Nags, a small group of older women who ride their horses through the state parks in the Tri-State area (South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota), stopped by our tent to learn about our authors. We chatted with cowgirl poets Yvonne Hollenbeck and Diane Tribitt who attended the Festival, and met author/stuntman Bob Petitt. He regaled us with his stunt history, including the times on Magnum, P.I., Lonesome Dove, and doubling for Tommy Lee Jones. He sure looks like him!
We all bought Western scarves and were shown how to tie a special knot in them. I told myself that I didn't want to spoil such a great knot so I planned to slip the tied scarf over my head. But after dinner that night, I discovered I had dripped salad dressing right on the knot! Sheesh! Now I have to go to their website and figure out how to tie my scarf again.
Melanie delighted that all of her Phoebe Clappsaddle children’s books were sold at the Mercantile, and many festival-goers who dropped by the WWW tent were disappointed they couldn't purchase our authors' books that we had displayed. They had to settle for taking home our WWW Catalog of Authors' Books and the Newsletter. Even though the weather hindered us from giving any formal presentations about writing, the three of us were constantly talking about writing and Women Writing the West to whoever came to our tent to check out who we were or to get out of the rain.
All in all, it was a glorious time! We had such fun we're signed up for next year's event on September 14, 15, 16, 2007...
Alice Trego, 2006 WWW Newsletter Editor
Melanie Chrismer, 2006 WWW VP Marketing
Doreen Chaky, long-time WWW Member/Author