It was June of 2010, and my dad, at age eighty-seven, lay on a hospital bed, prepped for an angiogram. His aortic valve was just about closed, and his cardiologist ordered the test as a first step to open-heart surgery. The heart surgeon would not want any surprises when he went in to replace the valve.
Now Dad held my hand and told me he wanted to tell me the end of
the western romance he was writing – the novel he began to write nine months before.He titled it THE STAGECOACH MURDERS.
He had read and owned (from the look of his cupboards) every Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey novel printed. As we wound our way through airport security on our return from The Highland Springs Resort, in Cherry Valley, CA, I remarked the resort would make a good setting for a novel.
I was writing my first novel, a historical romance set in the 1600′s, but I was thinking of a contemporary suspense. Dad said 1800′s. He’d been intrigued with the old photos of Highland Springs back in the days it was a stagecoach station.
A few days after the trip, I received an email from him. Subject: Highland Springs Story Line. The body of the email contained a complete synopsis of the story. He signed it: How about it. Love, Dad.
I wrote back, Dad, why don’t you write it? And so he did. Now it was nearly finished, and I had read each chapter as he completed, carefully printed and mailed it to me by priority mail service. A western romance, where Louis L’Amour meets Zane Grey: THE STAGECOACH MURDERS.
I couldn’t wait to get each new package! Though he’d never studied the craft of writing, he was a natural and knew each chapter needed a hook. Dad was writing a page turner!
He was born in Chanute, Kansas, in the year 1923 and grew up dreaming of being a farmer and a cowboy. In 1943 he joined the Navy and met my mom when he was stationed at Beeville, Texas, as a flight instructor. He flew SNJ’s and AF’s.
In 1965 he traded airplanes for horses when he retired from the Navy and moved with my mom, my three siblings and me to a small farm in Oregon.
As we kids flew the nest, they put down anchor on a one-hundred acre ranch in the Willamette Valley.
When they were not taking care of cows, horses, chickens and a big vegetable garden, they delivered Meals-On-Wheels, were charter members of the The Prince of Peace, an Episcopal church in Salem, Oregon, and served as volunteer directors at the Oregon State Penitentiary Day Care Center for seven years, where they were affectionately known as “grampa” and “gramma”.
I didn’t want Dad to tell me the end of his story. I squeezed his hand and told him he would be just fine. He would come home to his ranch to write his ending. But he insisted, and as tears fell, I listened.
His heart surgery was a success, but his recovery was interrupted two days later when he suffered a major stroke to the left side of his brain.
My siblings and I stayed by his side 24/7, both in the hospital and when he returned home. His physical recovery came quickly, and soon he was taking care of himself and his horse, Cotton, on his own again.
But speech, and the ability to write, were a struggle for him. He knew exactly what he wanted to say, or write, but the words would come out a jumble, or sometimes the opposite of what he was thinking. He was frustrated, but determined to finish his book.
And he was blessed with a speech therapist who was determined to make that happen. When he told Dad his speech had improved to the point he no longer needed speech therapy, Shawn pointed out that there was still work to be done. Dad had a novel to finish.
He was inventive in his sessions with Dad, printing out western art and asking him to write three short sentences about the action it depicted. Then he would have Dad connect two of the sentences, then bring in the third.
And in January, at age eighty-eight, Dad finished his novel! He
never gave up. He never said it was too late, too hard or he was too old, too tired. He has left such a legacy for his children and grandchildren! The hope he gives to others recovering from stroke, and their loved ones, is truly inspirational.
Lily is bent on revenge for the murder of her father, and she sees Boone as the means to find it. Soon love ensues, but is it enough? Boone seeks justice, Lily vengeance. Both want to find the killer. For a full review of THE STAGECOACH MURDERS, please click: FICTIONADDICTION.