By Betty Slade
I told the world for the past four years about the book I’ve been writing that would soon be released into the market. I don’t think anyone believes me anymore.
It’s like a made-up boyfriend. No one has seen him, but, in my mind, he is real. I continue to tell them how wonderful he is. His name is Luke, 26 and a good-looking Colorado cowboy. He lives on the Upper Blanco with his five-generation family at the Crawford River Ranch, where they run cattle and raise hay.
Bree Steele witnesses a murder and is on the run from the San Francisco Syndicate. She arrives at the Crawford ranch uninvited. Luke sees Bree through the eyes of love — to his grandmother’s disappointment.
Luke rescued a curly sulphur mustang from Disappointment Valley, north of Dove Creek, Colo. This put him on the path to meet Dr. Mitch Wilkinson in Pagosa Springs, who works with curly sulphurs. It changed the direction of Luke’s story to become a fiction based on actual facts and events.
During the writing of the manuscript, I met the doctor on the front page of The SUN on Feb. 20, 2020. I saw an article titled “D-N-Neigh,” written by John Finefrock, about a Pagosa doctor and his two curly sulphur mustangs. I reached out to him and learned more about the dwindling numbers of the Spanish Colonial and the North American curly horse.
The doctor described Pagosa as ground zero for these horses and is close to proving that the genetic mutation that causes the curly hair is unique to North America.
He states, “We have not found this gene anywhere else in the world and it came from the American wild horse herds.”
In order to write an authentic story about this dying breed, I needed the doctor’s help. Collaborating and making visits to the doctor’s house and seeing his curly mustangs, he taught me about DNA and certain genes found in this breed.
He wrote in a recent email. “The Sulphur paper that I sent you is being reviewed in Spain by Dr. Maria Martin. She is a professor at the University of Extremadura in Caceres. She is a vet and a specialist in horse breeding. She also has a Ph.D. in Spanish horse history. Then at Texas A&M the paper is being reviewed by Dr. Gus Cothran. My friend Gus is the most recognized horse geneticist in the U.S.
“I hope to hear back from them next week. I have much the same process as you. While your people are book editors and publishers, mine are scientists and historians.”
The doctor and I are on different missions: he’s saving a breed, I’m writing a novel. Together, we have a good, believable story with romance and drama about a country family. My book will be on the market very soon. Really.
Final brushstroke: It has been a delightful journey and I plan to turn this story into a series. I hope I can make the people of Pagosa proud.
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