Prather’s Pick: A creative nonfiction book |

Prather’s Pick: A creative nonfiction book

Diane Prather
"The Boys from the Bushes," by Lou Dean
Courtesy Photo

“The Boys from the Bushes”, this week’s featured book by Lou Dean (Jacobs), is a carefully researched true story of three Oklahoma boys who competed in horse races that were held in pastures. According to Lou Dean, these “bush” tracks didn’t have any starting gates, and the finish line was a line drawn in the dirt or sometimes even a rock. The boys ran these races when they were young, long before they became professional jockeys.

Also included in the book are the biographies of 27 other pioneer jockeys, both boys and girls. There are photographs in the book, too — lots of them.

In the preface of the book, Lou Dean explains that categorizing the book became an “interesting discussion.” Because the book is research, it’s nonfiction, but she wanted to make it “more readable” so she created dialogue and a story line. That’s the creative side of the book.

So Lou Dean wondered, “Is it creative nonfiction?” “Is it a memoir?” In the end, she decided to leave it up to the critics and editors to decide on the category.

The three boys featured in book are Earnest Clayton Epperson (Little Epp), Charles Edwin Burr, and Glen Eldon Nelson. Each story begins when the boy was very young, follows his career as a jockey — including some prestigious wins — and continues into his life as a mature adult. It seems that all three had a lot in common. They worked hard on their family farms, knew how to follow directions, were tough, and they knew how to ride. Besides that, the boys aspired to be professional jockeys.

In the bibliography for the book, Lou Dean listed 30 interviews, plus numerous magazine/periodicals and newspapers. She spent an incredible amount of time on research, and by crafting the book so that there was a story line, she did make the book more readable. Although I was aware that the book was true, it read like a novel and I found it hard to put the book down. This is a tremendous book, and it would make a great addition to the library of anyone who enjoys horse racing.

“The Boys from the Bushes” was in the Top 10 Best Selling Books in Oklahoma in 2014. It was also a finalist in the creative nonfiction category in the 2014 Colorado Author’s League Awards. You can obtain a softcover cover of the book for $18.95 by contacting Lou Dean at

Lou Dean Jacobs lives in Northwest Colorado. She is the author of countless articles in major magazines, three books of memoirs, and two young adult novels. She has received a Colorado Blue Spruce Award nomination, two Colorado Authors’ League Awards, and the prestigious Wrangler award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Her latest book, “On My Ass” (reviewed in this column), is available at the Museum of Northwest Colorado and other bookstores.

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