When I was a youngster, living in the wild west, I had a fairly long list of what I wanted to be:
A pretty darn cool cowboy; check. 5th grade ping pong champion at my wind-blown, foothills school; check. Cub Scout who not only aced the wolf patch, but who cruised into bear status with surprising ease; check. Dog owner; hmmm… had to wait on that one. Music listener; easy to do since we didn’t own a TV. And reader of all things interesting and intriguing; double check.
For years when I was growing up, Dad took me and my brothers to the local library and let us check out as many books as we could read that week. (A quick aside: I remember having to do a paper on the Dewey Decimal System as a wee lad and, probably just because of the karma of my doing that, libraries far and wide have welcomed me in with open arms ever since.)
A slightly better version of me might exist had I taken the Evelyn Wood Speedreading courses that were being offered back in the 1960’s. Think of all the thousands of additional pages I could have lost myself in – and all the extra knowledge I would now possess! Oh, well. I have enough trouble with forgetting what I’m supposed to remember as it is.
But I do remember the kid in this photo. That’s me, plain and simple. And I love that I’ve got a compass hanging from my belt loop for any just-in-case moments that crop up in life. A favorite story of mine involves the frontiersman Daniel Boone and what he said when asked if he had ever been lost. “No,” he replied shyly. “But I was bewildered once for three days.”
I’ve been bewildered lots of times – and for waaay more than three days. But, like Daniel, I never lost my way. And I am so grateful for the grace of that. I’ve always had words to guide me. They have helped me stay on the path, to believe in my ability to get back on track when roads divided, and allowed me, with great patience, to continually learn more about who I am and might yet grow to be. Many times those words were written by others. But sometimes, over the course of my life, those words were written by me.
Cowpokes ought to be out there riding the range. And maybe someday I still will. But more than I can say, I’ve come to love writing down the things that matter to me and arranging the words of others who inspire me. I have both authored and edited dozens of books in the past thirty years, and my desire to read, write, and make a creative living in this world has circled around and provided me with a small library of my own, enough to make me worry about the creaking floors in my studio office.
And that dog I always wanted? I probably should have named her… “Check.” Not only did she finally come into my life; these days she hardly ever leaves my family’s side. When she wakes up long enough to have a little back and forth chat, occasionally I’ll ask her if I’m still headed in the right direction. And, well… I guess I must be. She has never told me otherwise.
— Douglas Pagels