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Updated: Oct 30, 2021

I have recently written two books that are largely set in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s in Reading and Great Barrington, MA and rural Florida during a time when dude ranches were popular and the western cowboy culture dominated television and movie theaters. I think residents might be interested in the books. The Facebook link offers a preview and the Amazon link connects to both the paperback and ebook editions.

Natalie, the two volume series, captures the essence of the western cowboy culture that dominated television and movie theaters in the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s. A dude ranch culture, given birth and glorified in film, literature, and art, exploded not only in the southwest in AZ and CA, but in New England and New York. Thousands of Americans packed dude ranches every week for several decades along the historic Dude Ranch Trail Scenic Byway, a 40-mile loop beginning and ending at Lake George, New York. Painted Pony Rodeo in Lake Luzerne, 1000 Acres Ranch Resort (founded in 1940 by Jack and Ester Arehart) in Stony Creek, and Ridin-Hy in Warrensburg were favorites. By 1937, an estimated 40 ranches dotted the Catskills, Long Island, Adirondacks, Berkshires, New Jersey highlands, and the Poconos. The eastern ranches had names like the Lazy-J, Box Canyon, Hidden Valley, G-Bar-S, Sun Canyon, and the Bar X. Natalie fell in love with the western cowboy culture as a child and decided she had to live the culture, marry a cowboy, and live on a ranch. She did not know that such dreams would take her to ranches and rodeos in Florida and take her down a rough and tragic trail. Her journey began in Reading, a suburb of Boston, took her to Great Barrington, Massachusetts and back to Reading. She took a gamble by agreeing to move to rural Indiantown, Florida and another with a move to a ranch outside of Parrish, Florida. After a series of traumatic events, she escaped to the retirement home of her mother in Pinellas County Florida, where she transformed herself into an independent, single mother.

After living with digital images for more than two years as I wrote the story, having the books in hand is a satisfying feeling. The coffee table upon which they rest works as a significant element in the narrative. The table, a joint project by Natalie and Bill to memorialize Smokey, Bill’s bronc riding pal, who died in a rodeo in September of 1947, was constructed in the winter of 1947. Almost 75 years ago, Bill built the table, and Natalie hand tooled the leather images, while they worked at the G-Bar-S Dude Ranch in Great Barrington.

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