Prather’s Pick: Lou Dean’s latest book is a wild ride
Author Lou Dean is a Northwest Colorado resident, living at Blue Mountain, near Dinosaur. That’s where she writes — a lot. She has written numerous articles for major magazines and eight books, which include memoirs, young adult novels and nonfiction.
During her writing career, Dean has received a Colorado Blue Spruce nomination, a Top Hand Award from the Colorado Author’s League and a prestigious Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Dean’s book of early horse racing, “The Boys from the Bushes” (2013), was a finalist in the creative nonfiction category of the 2014 Colorado Authors’ League Awards.
This week’s Prather’s Pick features Dean’s latest book, “On My Ass: Riding the Midlife Crisis Trail.” The book is published by High Plains Press, Glendo, Wyoming. Lou Dean will be at the Museum of Northwest Colorado on Saturday where she will give a half-hour presentation at 1 p.m. followed by a book signing.
The book is a true story of a courageous trip from Blue Mountain, across Colorado, to Holyoke, to promote nonviolence in schools. But it wasn’t an ordinary trip. Dean rode her donkey, Jesse James, the entire way. Her riding buddy, Jeanne Smith, of Rangely, rode her Arabian gelding, Tut.
The idea for this trip came while Lou Dean was in Oklahoma during winter 2001. Her young adult novel, “Reaching for the Reins,” had just been published. She wrote the novel following the Columbine tragedy, and it addresses some of the issues that kids face. So, with novel in hand, she visited schools and talked with kids about it. But Dean wasn’t satisfied; she wanted to do more.
So she came up with a plan. She asked Jeanne if she’d like to ride from Dinosaur to Holyoke. Jeanne “hesitated less than five seconds.” She would do it. Then Dean told her writer friend, Mary Finley, about her plan. Finley suggested that they stop at schools to speak about nonviolence.
Before they left on the trip, Lou Dean established a REINS scholarship. (The letters stand for responsibility, empathy, involvement, nonviolence and spirituality.) That way, people would have a place to make donations.
So, finally, it was the morning of April 20, 2001, and Lou Dean and Jeanne were ready to leave. The plan was to take Jeanne’s pickup with a topper and horse trailer along with them. They would park the vehicle, ride a number of miles, and then Jeanne would get a ride back (mostly provided by law enforcement) to get her pickup and trailer.
That first morning (in fact, the first three days) were challenging because they hadn’t even gotten a mile down the road when it started to rain. It rained harder, the wind blew and Jesse James just stopped moving. No matter what Dean tried, he wouldn’t move. What a way to start the trip!
There were other challenges, too, including a blizzard, heat and a near-tragic accident on a bridge. But there were plenty of rewards, too, including the people Dean and Jeanne met along the way.
The story includes stops at Maybell and Craig — the school at Maybell and the bookstore in Craig, where Dean and Jeanne, with help from law enforcement, rode their steeds right up to the door.
Skillfully woven into the story are Dean’s memories of growing up in a troubled family. The memories seem to come as she is riding along.
This is a great book. An especially gentle part of the book was the compassion with which Lou Dean and Jeanne cared for Jesse James and Tut. The book is a must read.
“On My Ass: Riding the Midlife Crisis Trail” is $17.95 in soft cover. The book is available at bookstores or from http://www.highplainspress.com or by calling 1-800-552-7819.