When I started writing my book "A Sacred Place" six years ago after my father passed away, I had no idea how I would publish or who would publish I was just confident that I would publish. I wasn't writing it to print off the computer and place in a three-ring binder, I wanted to go all the way, to hold a real published book in my hand. My intentions for writing the book was to share the stories and pass down a lifetime of history about my family hunting camp to my daughter and my future grandchildren. My dad was the last living in his family of nine sibblings, Mom was aging and I knew I needed to record the stories now before they were lost for good.
Upon it's completion last spring, I turned to my author friend Jane Kirpatrick for advice on how to proceed. She gave me the name of another author Roger Hite, who had published 12 books with a Print on Demand company. Roger offered to assist me in any way I needed. And so my journey began. With a couple of e-mails to Roger he walked me through the process and made some good suggestions then I was off and running on my own. The experience was positive and exciting. The process allowed me as much control as I wished and gave me complete creative freedom. I was able to design my book and the cover using my photography knowing that they, (the POD publishers) would not let me make a drastic mistake, at least not without warning me first. They wanted me to have a quality end product. In the end, when I received my final proof and clicked on the "accept" button, I felt confident that I had a professional looking product, and I did.
My biggest concern now is marketing. In order for a POD book to be seen and purchased, you have to do the marketing. Unlike having a publisher who advertises for you, With POD you have to promote your product yourself. I am not a salesman, nor do I have the knowledge to know how to internet market or who to approach. Other than selling my books from home to friends and family, things on Amazon have been slow. I believe in this book. I know it is a well written product with contents that some people would be interestd in reading, I just have to fingure out how to get their attention.
This is it...the sheep herders shack. This was the accommodations where my grandparents stayed during the long deer season each fall from the late 1950's until my grandmother passed away in 1969. The cabin was moved deep into the desert sometime in the early 70's. I heard rumors of it's location but never knew exactly where to find it. I haven't seen it for nearly 40 years until today.
My cousin Ron sent this to me today in an e-mail along with the cabin's exact location. He is the one who obtained the pine cabinet that displays the signitures of all the cabin's visitors.
Ron took these pictures just a few weeks ago.
I was thrilled to see it again. Although I remembered it as being much larger. The wood cookstove were Grandma baked biscuits and pies and brewed coffee in the giant granite pot sat just inside the door on the right, directly across the room sat the seemingly large plank table under the window. Though looking at the picture now, I realize there couldn't have been much room for Grandma to manuver her wheelchair. It's funny how when we are small children the world seems so much larger.
It nestled under the old growth pines in the days of my memory. A small one room shack sat behind it. Huge metal water tanks sat up on tall wooden legs off to the cabin's side, their underbellie the cooling place for the tender forked horn buck killed opening morning and used as camp meat during the long season. Tents and camp trailers, pickups and old cars surrounded the home-site, the cabin, the hub of our little fall settlement. Now it sit's in the open desert, a stubby lone juipar grows at it's side.
I plan to visit and take my husband and daughter. To them it may appear only as a little rundown shack, but to me it's a memory of a grand fortress. During our time, my family would make the long journey from Bend over snow burdened roads a month after deer season to prepare and share a grand meal celebrating Thanksgiving in that little shack.
It has been renevated over the years, modernized with electricity, new windows and a metal roof. I think the old roof was covered in handmade wooden shakes. I vaguely remember being able to look up and see sparkles of light peeking through the weatherd wood. The rest appears to be much the same.
Although not much to look at it is packed full of precious memories. as it must have been packed full of family so long ago when the Brittain clan became it's tenants.
I stepped from the bathroom and heard the male voice coming from the other room. I stopped and listened intently. I don't remember leaving the television on before I got in the shower, I thought. Then I realized someone had called and they were leaving a message on the answering machine. I walked into the office where I could hear better. The man on the machine said "I'd like to get together...I thought I recongnized his unique husky voice so I picked up the phone and said "hello" to discover I was right, it was my cousin Bob. I haven't ever in my lifetime gotten a call from cousin Bob so I was a little cautious of why he might be calling. Lately it seems when I recieve a call from a relative that I rarely or never hear from, I can expect bad news of some kind. To my relief it wasn't the case this time.
We chatted for a minute and he told me he had been thinking and pondering the idea of how the family could get together and reconnect, maybe over dinner. He named his sister Shirley and brother Ron, cousin Doug and his wife, and my mom and sister Karen, all of whom he hadn't seen in a long time. Bob is the youngest of these cousins and he is 8 years older than me, so my memory of them as children is a little sketch. I never knew much more about them then the basics. He expressed his recent desire of wanting us all to get together again. We hadn't gathered together ever (with the exception of a few at my father's memorial service ten years ago), since I was a little girl and that gathering occured at deer camp, my sacred place.
After a few minutes of small talk, Bob told me he had read my book "A Sacred Place" and it took him on a journey into his past. He said his brother Ron had mentioned the book in an e-mail so he immediately logged onto Amazon and ordered it. He said he began thumbing through it reading all the parts about deer camp and it transported him way back into his childhood. Both his parents or deceased now, Betty his mother passed back in the late 90's, a few years before my father. Daddy was the last living of his family of nine sibblings.
When I wrote my book A Sacred Place, I had no idea who would read it or the effect it may have on some. I wrote the book for me, and my immediate family, to record our memories. The memories of life as I knew it growing up and how this special place has helped to define who I am as a person. The special connection my family has with the land is now recorded on the pages of my book so one day when I'm gone and no longer able to tell the stories, they can still be passed down to my grandchildren. That was my purpose.
I had no idea that my stories might touch the heart of others and stir a desire to connect with the past, to reach out to family. Life here on Earth is too short to not embrace it. I've learned so much about myself through my journey of writting. I'm hopeful that the stories that I've shared on the pages of A Sacred Place, will intrigue readers to recapture their own memories and leave them longing for a sacred place of their own.
Here is an excerpt from my new book "A Sacred Place"
Sheep Herders Cabin
Mid October, 1966
It smelled of dust and dirty boot socks after a long day’s chore. Tattered pictures of scarcely clad women were pasted on the primitive walls of the tiny backroom—the pictures now partly torn to remove the women’s exposed privates. Momma said lonely sheepherders probably put them there.
An iron bed that was shoved up against the wall nearly filled the room. An oak rocking chair sat near a barrel-shaped woodstove that stood in the corner. We didn’t spend much time in that room but Grandpa did. He’d sit in the rocker by the fire, clad in a plaid flannel shirt, suspenders and rolled up blue jeans. A gray Stetson hat—the only brand he’d wear—hung on a nail in the wall beside the bed. Grandpa drank coffee strong enough to curl your toes and smoked hand rolled Prince Albert cigarettes. I was always fascinated how he made them. He had working man hands with thick and calloused fingers yet he could create the most delicate tightly wound cigarette I’d ever seen. They were nothing like the fat white store bought ones that Daddy and my aunts smoked though they smelled just as bad. Grandpa would pull a tiny brown onion skin paper from a shallow cardboard wrapper then hold it between two bulky fingers and gently shake the tobacco from the slender can. Then he’d roll the paper into a skinny log leaving a little flap. He’d place the thin paper to his lips and slither the tip of his tongue across the edge of the flap followed by a slide of his thumb to seal it tight. Then he’d light it up and place the trim red tobacco can back into his shirt pocket.
The front half of the cabin was the kitchen where Grandma spent most of her day. It was my favorite place of all. It had a knotty-pine cabinet hanging from the dividing wall that was covered with names and dates of visitors, written in ink serving as a guest book, a record of the past. The hearty wood cook stove that stood centered on the outside wall always had the giant gray speckled coffee pot brewing. That was the first thing Grandma unpacked when we arrived. She’d build a fire and get the stuff brewing. I wondered how something that smelled so good could taste so bad—bitter and nasty—but the grownups seemed to love the stuff, making special trips into the cabin just to fill their cup. They all had a little ritual before refilling their cup; it was something like panning for gold. First they would pour a small amount of coffee in the bottom of the cup. Then they swished and swirled before pitching it out the cabin door. This I figured removed the black gravel that settled on the bottom from the previous cup. After the pitching they were good to go, filling the purged cup to the brim before heading back out the door. Grandma said the cabin entrance was like a saloon door, “always swingin’.”
The worn board floor creaked and popped when you walked across it and always looked dirty. With a good cleaning and a crackling fire the dirty sock stench was soon replaced with the aroma of home. Steaming fresh biscuits and sausage gravy covered the long plank table along with Grandma’s homemade venison mincemeat pies.
Daddy loved them, but my sister and I thought they looked and sounded gross. Pies where supposed to be made of apples and berries and banana cream, not sweet spicy deer meat. I never tasted one; they looked yucky because they had a brown and lumpy filling. Deer meat was supposed to be eaten with ketchup and not as a dessert. Grandma always made a fruit pie for the kids.
Grandma sat in the kitchen in her wheelchair with the stub of one leg exposed, her wooden prosthetic cast aside for a time on the old iron bed. I don’t recall her wearing the shiny pink leg that much; mostly I remember the pale naked stump peeking out from under her loose calico dress. With her wood leg she could walk with a cane but usually used the wheelchair because the artificial limb caused her pain. Daddy said that Grandma had broken her leg years ago and the bone stuck clear through the skin. He said the doctor cast her leg too soon. Swelling cut off the circulation and gangrene infection set in causing her to lose her left leg just above the knee.
She pushed her wheelchair around the small cabin’s kitchen, using her foot while occupying her hands preparing a day’s meal. She could make a feast out of a sack of flour and a bag of beans and of course a pot of coffee. It’s what she did; it was her contribution as the rest of her family hunted for the winter’s meat supply. With nine grown children and 32 grand kids, meat was in high demand.
Daddy always shot the first deer on opening morning, a tender forked horn, and Grandma tagged it. It was used for camp meat during the month long season. I remember when the game warden stopped in camp to check the tagged buck.
Camp was empty except for several kids and Grandma who sat in her wheel chair with her amputated leg exposed.
“Who is Fern Melissa?” the warden asked her.
“I am.” Grandma replied.
“Who shot this deer?” the warden asked, while holding the tag in his hand that clearly revealed Grandma’s name.
“Well I did,” she said with certainty, as if the warden believed she wasn’t capable.
Staring down at her missing leg he asked, “How’d you do that in your condition?”
“They just pushed me out in the woods and I shot the darn thing.”
Looking around at all the dirty-faced kids running amuck, the young warden said, “Well congratulations.”
He returned each year after that and never asked that question again. His only comment was, “It’s amazing how Fern always gets the first deer every year.
A Sacred Place by Sherrie Gant is available at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com
Sherrie Gant is a writer, photographer, and