Tag Archives: Gage Oklahoma

Randy-the nitty-gritty substance that is essential for a writer

      As a teenager my grandfather ran away from his boyhood home in Tennessee.   We never knew why, why he ran away and never went back.   He rode the rails to the Texas panhandle and married and died across the line in northwest Oklahoma.   There were many things about my grandfather that were never talked about.   There were many gaps that I filled in with my imagination.   Little by little those things came to light, that his drinking might’ve been a problem and that he gambled.

      I based my short story “Grandpa’s Wager” on him.   Yes, indeed, he bet the family farm on Truman during a presidential election that by the time people went to bed Dewey had been given the victory: I learned that from a cousin as my father lay on his death bed.   The event hadn’t made it into family lore.   Amazing.   Now I want to know more: not only the family I knew, but also their secrets, the human side that went to their graves with them.

      As an adult, while my Great Uncle Lem was still alive and lived there, I would drive through the small town of Gage.   I had to look around, see the old farm at the end of a dusty lane, see my great grandmother’s white framed two story house at the intersection of Main and the highway, and see the house in town where my grandparents lived out their last years.   In other words, I tried to get the lay of the land.   These places are still important to me now, as I assess the assets I have as a writer.

      My great grandfather Wright was an early pioneer.   He worked at many trades…I used his machine shop and his great skill as a machinist in a one-act play of mine call ONE DEAD INDIAN (produced by The Dallas Theater Center).   To give you some idea about this guy here’s a list of what my great grandfather did for a living starting with his family, who owned and operated a sawmill on the present site of the town of Gage.   He built east and west drift fences for large cattle companies to keep cattle from going too far south into Indian territory; he drove freight from Dodge City to Lipscomb County Texas; he raised cattle and engaged in farming; he built the first cotton gin and light plant in town; he converted the old gin into a grain elevator and feed mill; and he ran a hardware store, a gas station, a pool hall (“recreation room”) and an ice-cream parlor.   And he did a lot of that with a missing arm. But he didn’t do all of this alone: no secret here.   He was a married man.   I remember my great grandmother, but my great grandfather died of a heart attack shortly before I was born.   She got a big kick out of my exaggeration (it was her huge oak tree that I said I could cut down with a lawn mower I had in Texas.)   And as I write this blog it occurs to me that there is enough material here for me to write a saga.   But none of this gets into the nitty-gritty substance that is essential for a writer.  Detail, detail, and more detail.   Personal detail.  And that’s what I’m looking for.

Randy Ford

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Randy-from a distance the value of memories to a writer

      After all this time, old family traditions haven’t been forgotten.   I haven’t been back to Gage Oklahoma in many years; still I can recall the main streets and the Ford farm.   Very different from where I lived.   I lived in Irving Texas, grew up there, grew up with the town.   And then these places were no longer part of my life, and I’ve moved on.   Or have I?

      From a distance, I’ve revisited various times in my life.   My perspective has changed; in my mind the characters and places haven’t.   Perhaps there is a reason I haven’t let go of most of that.   There are stories there.   (See my short story GANDPA’S WAGER.)   Demons!   Life as a soap opera. AS THE WORLD TURNS; no, I’ve tried to move away from the hours I spent in front of a television set mesmerized by the twists and turns of high-pitched drama.

      I have moved far away from all of that, but I’ve found it very hard to escape where I started.   But though most of all of those people are dead now, three generations that I can count…my family, direct descendents and in-laws…they’re there for me to use.   My cousins, still scattered from northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas to San Antonio and the hill country, share my memories; some may want to write about them, but I doubt that they will because none of them are writers.   That brings up the questions: do you have to be a writer to write about something?   And what is a definition of a writer?

      In spite of our ability today to get around, to easily travel from place to place, we don’t have family reunions anymore.   We don’t get together for Thanksgiving or Christmas.   Or maybe we do; only the cast of characters has changed, as the makeup of our families changed.   It’s my turn to be grandpa, imagine that.   And my grandchildren are too young to have children.   We now have a different story line, as different as today is to yesterday.   I should wait and not dismiss the past or the present; still struggling, I shouldn’t be dissatisfied with what I have been given, the memories, the legacy, the good and the bad.   To everyone there is this gift.   The family I knew in Gage Oklahoma (my dad’s side with memories of Christmas) and Fruitvale Texas (my mother’s side with memories of Thanksgiving) have passed on or have scattered. All of us wanted to be on our own.

      Now, trying to move forward with my writing, I am looking for things that are truly my own.   I have my memories.   I know that’s a good place to start.   However I write fiction, never could stick to the truth.   I’m thankful my memories are there.   So I can fall back on them.   It makes finding something to write about less desperate, less nebulous, and more concrete, that is when I can actually see my grandfather’s farm and still slip and slide across his frozen crick.

      Good afternoon, Randy Ford

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Randy-more on aging as a writer

      Mathias Freese writes about the writer and aging in his blogs WORKING TIME and I LOOK AROUND.  (See his blogs: he’s good.)  A day or two later and we’ve both aged a bit.   Matt writes about what we all face much more intellectually than I could; and he seems to have moved into a better place than I have.   I ask you what’s fair about contracting Parkinson’s, except in my case the disease is progressing slowly and my doctor has prescribed writing to keep the loss of memory at bay.   What could be better for me?

      My time for stopping hasn’t come because stopping would bring me one step closer to the inevitable.   Luckily people around me argue against this inevitability and hopefully they’re right and a cure will be found in time for me.   Honestly, I don’t think too much about the inevitable.   It’s healthier not to.   I do what I can to “power over Parkinson’s” by riding my bicycle (even when it hurts) and writing (even when I don’t have much to say).   Sure, getting old sucks, but you have to decide what you’re going to do about it.   I’m against meeting expectations; I’m for exceeding them.

      People around me have said I’m losing my memory.   My doctor, after listening to my wife, has given me medicine to slow this process down.   I don’t believe them, while I’ve known the symptom of denial before.   The blanks I have drawn so far have been fleeting; when I first start thinking, before I’ve turned the switch on.   Yes, it seems as simple as turning a switch on.   Nothing much seems different than when I was younger.   I’ve never considered myself very bright.   I, however, now know that I’ve often sold myself short.   It was my perception of where I started from that threw me off; and if I were as limited as I thought I never would’ve caught up.   And far exceeded my expectations. Actually, my father had to have been extremely intelligent, as evident by his ability to fix anything, to his building parts for airplanes, from the earliest WWII fighters to the latest jetliners.

      We all know our childhood well.   It has, profoundly, been a part of all of us.   Our family’s history comes with our pedigree, and genes certainly have played their part; and since we can’t get away from any of this, we might as well use it.   But I haven’t yet written about our reunions and my aunts and uncles, all dead now but a strange, funny lot.   The historical Ford-Carder-Wright-Swink-Craft family…as I see it in my imagination…is material for me.   And when I went back to Gage Oklahoma when my great uncle still lived (Uncle Lem Wright), he showed me a cement fence with a perfect arch built by my grandfather (Daddy Ford) that was still standing after a hundred years.   He had built the fence as wedding present to his bride (Mamma Ford.).   Before that, at age sixteen or around that age, Daddy Ford ran away from his home in Tennessee and never returned (and we never knew why, which in itself…the why…is a germ for a story).   What story material!   And, when there is so much more, such a wealth still, Uncle Eddie and his snipe hunt: what are snipes anyway: why do I worry about tomorrow?   Why worry about tomorrow when I don’t know what’s going to happen?   Why not just get busy and go for it?   Who else is going to write about the Ford-Carder-Wright-Swink-Craft family? Who else will record what went on in Gage, Oklahoma?   Who cares as much as I do?   Well, other family members do.

Better get busy, Randy Ford

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