Randall Dale - Writing About The Horses He Knew
Randall Dale enjoys to write what he knows - horses. Growing up on a ranch, with a father who was an exceptional horseman, Dale always had a deep love and respect for horses. His experience with these magnificent creatures compelled him to tell their stories - which ended up in a book meant for his closest family. Pardner's Trust however gained so much popularity that Dale decided to publish the book - it became an award-winning bestseller and the first of a series. As our author of the day, Dale talks about the ranch life, his experience with horses and how he conceived the characters of Rickey and Pardner.
Please give us a short introduction to what Pardner's Trust is about.
Pardner's Trust is a story about a fatherless boy, Ricky, who wants to be a cowboy. He is taken under the wing of a kindly, older gentleman who works in a feedlot in Clovis New Mexico. The youngster learns about horses and discovers he has a natural ability with them. As time goes on he grows to manhood, gets married to his high school sweetheart and goes through many of the challenges and trials we all experience in the course of our lives. In time he buys a horse, but the horse has learned to mistrust humans due to some hardships of his own. Ricky is anxious to earn the horse's trust but Pardner is not is not so forgiving of the human race. If you’ve ever owned a horse or ever wanted to, this book’s for you.
What inspired you to write this story?
My dad was an exceptional horseman and the first part of this story in many ways parallels his life as a young married man trying to make his own way in the world. He worked on a ranch in the middle of nowhere and bought a horse much like Pardner, a horse that was not willing to turn his will to his new master. Over time they became a team. That horse is still a legend in our family. When my children were small I would tell them stories of my earliest years, of riding with my dad and brothers, of good horses and good cowboys and of wide open spaces on distant ranches. My kids are all grown and have started families of their own but about three years ago they asked me to write down the stories as a legacy for their children. I never anticipated anything other than a pleasant book for my family but as others read it and enjoyed it their encouragement led me to publish Pardner's Trust. The reception was beyond my wildest dreams and since the writing was so much fun and people clamored for more I wrote book two, then three and finally four with more in the works.
How much of your own experience with horses ended up in this book?
I grew up in a ranching family and spent countless hours riding through the cows. Horses were and still are a way of life for us. We used them hard and loved them all. We gave them good care and treated them with respect. I would say some of my best friends have been horses. Many of the things Ricky experiences in the books actually happened to me, my brothers or my friends from neighboring ranches.
After publishing Pardner's Trust, what has the reception of the book been like?
I've been thrilled at the response to the books. Those who know horses have been appreciative of the authenticity of the horses and characters and those that don't know horses or ranching tell of their newfound appreciation for the ranching way of life and of the things they learned. It is a book that can be loved by all audiences as evidenced by a prestigious award. I was honored to have been selected as the Will Rogers Medallion Award Gold medalist for 2016. It was unexpected and I still have a hard time believing it. At the awards ceremony, Charles Williams, the Executive Director of the Awards Committee had this to say. “These are stories I enjoyed, my grandchildren enjoyed, and everyone in between can enjoy because they are stories of real cowboys on real ranches in the American west.”
Tell us about Ricky's character. What makes him so special?
Ricky, in many ways, is the story of each of us. Sometimes, in fact, most of the time we hope, things go well in our lives. Yet, all of us have had to overcome challenges, to work through situations that may be uncomfortable or even seemingly unbearable. Ricky, though not perfect, tries hard to be the kind of man he knows he needs to be, both for his young family and for the horses and cattle that rely on him.
Pardner is a "good horse gone bad" - why?
Pardner started his life in a trusting relationship with a young ranchman. He was taught well and wanted to please. Unfortunately, the ranch was sold and his owner moved away. Soon after the horse was sold into deplorable circumstances where his only instinct was survival. As Ricky comes to own him, it takes time, patience and even love from the young cowboy to bring the horse around. (There is some mistreating of the horse that is implied but any specific abuse is not detailed in the books. We all know it happens from time to time but it is not pleasant to think about or read about.)
Pardner's Trust is the first in a series. Did you know right from the start this was going to become a series?
My original idea was that it was simply a good, suitable-for-all-ages kind of book for family members but as others read it they encouraged me to publish. I had never anticipated life as an author but a comment by a reader brought about the possibility of at least a sequel. The comment was "I loved the characters so much I didn't want it to end." I came to realize that I had enjoyed the writing so I continued the story with Friends in Deed then Hidden Regrets and probably the best in the series because of the story and my improving writing abilities, A Good Man Gone.
What, would you say, sets Pardner's Trust apart from other modern-day western books?
First and foremost I'd say authenticity. The characters are real, their mannerisms are real and everyone can relate because they know someone just like them. Secondly, the horse scenes are true to life. For me there is nothing more disappointing than to pick up a book about horses or horsemen and know in a matter of minutes that the author knows nothing about horses or ranching or the western way of life. It is also different because there is no sex or violence. My opinion is that too many authors today bring in gratuitous sex and violence that adds nothing to the story. My philosophy is that if the plot is developed properly there is no need for that.
Does this book have an underlying message? What do you hope that your readers will take away from it?
I think there are possibly two underlying messages here. First is that horses are magnificent, intelligent creatures. Almost everyone I talk to admits that from an earliest age they wanted to own a horse. I've been privileged to own many and I've loved them all. Second is when there is something you want more than anything in the world you can't give up. You must persevere through all obstacles.
Tell us about your writing habits.
I try to write some every weekday. Some days the word count is easily obtained, other days it is more difficult. I’ve found that the more I write and the better I get. The difficult days grow fewer and fewer.
Your book rings true with people who have worked with horses for many years. How did you manage to keep it authentic?
Simple, I've been there, done that.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently working on book five in the series. I’ve been picked up by a publisher, Oghma Creative, so I’m excited to see where the journey leads me.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I'd love to hear from readers or prospective readers. They can contact me at [email protected].