6.2 fiction author Mike Shoemake reminds us of the importance of dialog to establishing place and explains a couple things about cowboys.
I’ve met two kinds of cowboys in my life, the quiet type, and the talkative type. Can’t say which I’ve enjoyed more. I do know both types have found their way into my short stories.
When I got the news that Relief accepted "Uncle G" for their 6.2 issue, I was surprised. I had submitted the short story fully expecting that Uncle G’s "Texisms" might be a little too much, especially for a journal focused on Christian literary expression. An author-friend of mine, who just happens to be from Boston, had read "Uncle G" in an earlier stage and asked, “Do people really talk like this in Texas?” My friend had thought Uncle G’s way of saying things and his frequent use of certain earthy words seemed altogether strange. I simply answered, “Yep.”
I admit, Texas is it’s own kind of place. My ancestors go back five generations and I was actually born right where cattle ranching began, where the last oil boom in America took place, and where things are so spread out, and the heat so harsh, and the people so scarce, only one born there would dare call it heaven. And, that is what I call South Texas, that place that extends from Bastrop and Austin, all the way down to Brownsville with the harsh Texas Brush Country in the middle of it all.
I should point out that as stereotypical as Uncle G may sound, he is not the composite cowboy/rancher of Texas. Texas cowboys come in all shapes and sizes, but their hearts are pretty much the same. And, you’ll find us all over Texas, even in the city, where those of us raised in those open spaces, now lean back in our office chairs and imagine a landscape that was once miles of swaying grass a century ago, and is now overgrown with prickly pear cactus and mesquite, where so many rugged adventures have taken place, and where Texas men and women still live the ranching life.
In many ways, Uncle G represents the men all across rural America who hold to a less-than-complicated view of life, carrying themselves forward without complaint or blame. I can’t say, just yet, that I’m completely given to letting go of my own deeper contemplations over life’s mysteries, for I am a writer, and I desperately need the angst to propel me forward. But I do admire the Uncle G types who pay little attention to falling prey to an American landscape bent on the emasculation of men. Uncle G, in some strange way, charms me because the deeper goodness of his heart won't let go.
An excerpt from Shoemake's "Uncle G," appearing in Issue 6.2:
“Leave that fire set awhile. It’ll smoke up and the cinders’ll set in. You can stir it up if you want, but I kind of like the glow. Saves the wood.” Uncle G looked at his nephew, Jimmy, and hoped he would take to his hint at keeping the fire low. His stockpile of mesquite logs was getting low. “How are things in the big city of Bastrop, Texas?” Uncle G asked. “Slow. Like always,” Jimmy said. “Can’t be slower than out here.” Uncle G looked west, through the grove of Live Oaks, past the barbed-wire fence and out to the pasture where his cattle stood like statues. “But it sure is pretty.” Jimmy stared at the red glow of the ashes. “I’m not supposed to mess with another man’s fire, right?” Uncle G laughed. “I said that one time, didn’t I?”
Mike Shoemake is a regional author who writes short stories and novels about Texas-based characters. He recently departed the corporate world to begin doing what he’d been wanting to do for a long time: write. He focuses on fiction in order to avoid the nonsense of real life he saw too much of in the corporate world. Michael earned both his B.S. in Journalism and M.A. in Speech Communication from Oklahoma State University. He currently resides in Allen, Texas, just north of Dallas.