Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Pallbearers

When the preacher referred to our aunt Mabel as Hazel the first time, we pallbearers studied our shoes, or in some cases, boots. The names were similar sounding, and maybe we had heard him wrong. When he said it the second time, we squirmed in our seats a little, but dared not look at each other. When he said it the third and fourth time, we knew for certain that the preacher did not know the first name of the person in the casket in front of him. 

Though she grew up in this area, Aunt Mabel spent almost all of her adult life in Fort Worth. She was a widow with no children and the ravages of time had destroyed most of her mental faculties and crippled her physically. Her only surviving sibling, a sister, brought her back home to make sure she was cared for properly in a facility near her.

Thus, there was no reason to think that she ever attended services at this preacher’s church. I figured he might have visited her in the long-term-care facility where she had spent her final years, but there was no other reason to think that he knew her. Still, her correct name was readily available on the small funeral cards we all held in our hands. Maybe the preacher was not given one.

After loading the casket into the hearse we pallbearers, nephews and great nephews all, crammed ourselves into the limo and waited silently and respectfully to follow the hearse to the cemetery. While they were loading the flowers, one of us squirmed. With timing reminiscent of Johnny Carson or Jonathan Winters, Tim spoke softly; reluctantly; almost under his breath; with no hint of sarcasm or wit; pitifully, as if some great secret had been kept from him since childhood, “And all this time . . . I thought her name was Mabel.” 

I don’t think we fully recognized the humor in the situation until Tim uttered his comment. I feel certain he did not purposely do it with perfect comedic timing, but well, he did. The suppressed laughter we dared not think of during the services emerged into full-throated guffaws and cackles. We all laughed till the tears ran. I hope the windows were tinted on that limo and that folks did not see what many would deem disrespectful. Still, I always remember those moments with the limo actually shaking. I’m sure it did not. 

I’m equally sure that Aunt Mabel would have laughed loudest and longest. She had a laugh that is hard to describe. The peals of laughter that emerged from her would sometimes frighten small children, but were infectious to most adults. She found humor in most situations, and I know she found it in this one. We nephews still laugh about it today.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Story of a Story

Brothers Tee and Jubal Jessup, eight and nine, dismount from their horses and place pennies on the rails at a desolate railroad crossing that marks the entrance to the only home they have ever known, to the ranch that their father has managed longer than they have lived. They step back, remount, and wait for the train to turn their pennies into flattened good luck pieces.

First called Rail Song, then Tee, then The Long Awakening, Rails to a River is not just about trains, rails, or rivers. Meet Tee Jessup. Tee is angry, confused, conflicted, and complicated. As a boy, he seems to be on track, traveling smoothly down the rails of life on the harsh and desolate plains of the Texas Panhandle—sometimes battling, sometimes communing with nature, cattle and horses. He has done it all his life, feels he is good at it, and it’s all he knows. But his life is torn apart by two events over which he has no control.  

When he awakens from a coma, everything he loves has been taken—the world he draws love and sustenance from banished to the recesses of his mind. A Catholic priest who is a stranger to him comes bearing two flattened good luck pieces and a message from Tee’s parents, directions for the remainder of his life. Tee resists, but is left without choices. 

Thrust into a world of concrete, tall buildings, and crowds, Tee shrivels like a cornstalk in Texas heat. He fails repeatedly in the life he did not choose, does not want. The birth of his son gives him something to live for, a semblance of hope, and raising the boy awakens him yet again. Then his wife leaves him, takes their son. Tee thinks she left because of his failures, but that’s not the real reason.  Finding the real reason will awaken him again.

Rails to a River, my seventh novel, is now available in print and e-book at, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online bookstores. Here is what early readers are saying about the book.
Jim Ainsworth did it again. Rails to a River is a book that once started cannot be put down until the last page is read.
Layered plot and complex characters.
Let’s have more Tee Jessup.
Highly recommend this book.
My new favorite author

Thursday, February 12, 2015

An Accountant With Novel Ideas

Thanks to Carol Ferguson and Herald Banner. Unknown authors need all the help we can get. Here is the link to her feature story.

Monday, February 2, 2015

It really has been quite a ride

Yes, it has been quite a ride and thankfully, I’m still riding, physically and metaphorically. I don’t usually select books of short stories. They fill up less than a shelf in my collection. I, like many, prefer getting into a substantial novel, inside the minds of characters, so that I can vicariously experience what they are experiencing.  

So why, you ask, did I publish a story collection?  I’m still waiting for the answer to that question, but it is my understanding that God requires us to have patience. The answer will come. I think, one day, I will be happy that I did. 

It does have a table of contents and an index, so some early readers skipped around, reading the parts they found interesting. That’s fine. That’s one of the reasons for a table of contents.

Back to why I wrote this book. For now, the best explanation is that it all began with the end—the end of my father’s life. He has been gone more than forty years now, but my memories of him seem more vivid than ever. And his funeral lingers in my mind. I don’t exactly feel guilty, but I know that the services did not do him justice. One day, I don’t remember exactly when or why, I started writing what I would have said then if I had been as mature as I am now. 

I wanted my children and grandchildren, of course, to read that never-delivered eulogy. When most of us get well beyond the halfway mark in our lives, we begin to think about the end and about our legacy. We think about the mistakes we made, things we wish we could take back, things we wish we had done, the hurts we inflicted. We want to make amends, keep the ones who come after from repeating our mistakes. But we also examine the blessings, the things that made us into what we have become. Life is lived forward, but understood backward. 

I suppose it is a natural tendency to think that we can save our loved ones from the mistakes we made, to show by example how life teaches us lessons. So I began gathering together what I considered to be the most entertaining stories I have ever written. Then I added several I had always wanted to write about. I tried to include a few of life’s lessons in an entertaining way, maybe a little inspiration. 

I wrote about people I have known and admired—folks like Annie Golightly, an accomplished author, singer, and poet who rode horseback from Fort Worth, Texas to Miles City, Montana—the only woman drover on the Great American Cattle Drive. And Brenda Black White, also a published poet who wrote and performed her poetry nationwide while enduring the torture of a crippling disease for more than forty years.  

I often proclaim that I write what I know. But in the last section of this book, it may seem that I break that practice when I write about the Bible and faith. Here’s my thinking on that. I do know what it is like to seek and doubt and want to understand. I do know what it is like to be hindered by doubts or actions when I want to have faith that is invincible and unwavering. I also know what it is like to find some answers and to be aware of God’s past, present, and future role in my life.  I had my doubts, but an early morning horseback ride convinced me to leave this part in the book. 

So, from stories about friends (human and animal), singers, songwriters, authors, cowboys and ranching, bucket lists, writing and reading, family stories, presentations, life’s final songs, to believing in a grand thing—this is my best. I hope you will see a little of your own life reflected in these pages. Maybe a lesson to be learned, inspiration to be had.  

Learn more about the book on my website , Amazon or Barnes and Noble or other online stores.