Inspiration comes in a lot of ways from a lot of directions. I like to take advantage of research opportunities—particularly when they come on gilded wings.
When I started writing my Smokin’ Hot Cowboys series, I had horses and cattle and country on my mind. Out of the blue, or maybe because I’d been whining about my lack of inspiration, the cowboys and cowgirls of the Gee Cattle Companyand a local forestry firefighter who knew all the backroads volunteered to take me deep into the mountains of Southeast Oklahoma. Okay, I admit when Texans call Oklahoma Baja Texas, they hear Texas is Baja Oklahoma in return. If it weren’t for the Red River separating us, then . . . anyway, back to my point, the cowboys believed Gilbert Jones’ famous mustang ranch located near Medicine Spring would inspire me.
We turned onto a narrow lane, all red dirt shaded by a canopy of green pines and huge oaks. We drove under a tall rusted metal pipe ranch sign that announced “Pure Spanish mustangs and Catoosa Champions.” As we eased down the road, we didn’t see mustangs or anybody. I quickly realized I’d probably missed this ranch in its prime by about fifty years, but even that idea was inspirational.
We parked on a gravel drive near Medicine Spring across from Gilbert Jones’ now empty, former white house with a tall red-brick chimney. As the truck engines cooled, pinging now and again, the only other sound came from the wind in the trees and the trill of birds in the distance. Even on a hot summer day, the air was cool due to the forest. I looked for the famous mustangs, but I didn’t see any, so I tried not to be disappointed since there was so much else to see.
I turned my attention to the spring, since I wanted to feature one in my series. Medicine Spring was an obvious WPA Project. A beautiful round structure of native rock dated 1929 had been built around the ancient spring known for its medicinal qualities. Inside, water tinted orange due to high iron content constantly gurgled into a wide and deep basin before overflowing onto one side of the stone floor and into a stream outside.
We followed the stream to an area of collapsed buildings made of wood and corrugated tin nestled in the shadow of tall trees with insects buzzing here and there. I saw an overturned table with an orange Formica top and metal edge that spoke of a bygone era. Folks had obviously once come here to dine and sleep when they raced horses in the nearby arena. I wished I could’ve been standing on the raised platform to watch the equestrian events back in the day. Of course, at this point I’d have been happy to see a single mustang.
We finally agreed we wouldn’t see horses that day, but we’d had a grand adventure and I’d gotten lots of inspiration. We headed out, taking it easy on the narrow red road. Suddenly, the forestry firefighter beside me slammed on his breaks and pointed across the road. I looked in that direction. Two beautiful mustangs ambled over, eyeing us curiously just as we eyed them. I couldn’t have been happier. My day was complete.
Kim Redford is an acclaimed, bestselling author of Western romance novels. She grew up in Texas with cowboys, cowgirls, horses, cattle, and rodeos for inspiration. She divides her time between homes in Texas and Oklahoma, where she’s a rescue cat wrangler and horseback rider—when she takes a break from her keyboard. Visit her at http://www.kimredford.com.