On the trail(s)

The Old Wire Road through Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, Missouri.  This stretch of the Wire Road also served as the Butterfield Overland Trail, while parts also served as the Trail of Tears.
The Old Wire Road through Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, Missouri. This stretch of the Wire Road also served as the Butterfield Overland Trail, while parts also served as the Trail of Tears.

I must apologize for not slogging through the backlog of travel posts I owe this site. When the pandemic hit and halted much of my work, including production of Season 3 of Southwest Stories (which we're now re-launching this fall), I discussed things to do while we were all socially distanced - not only from each other, but from our livelihoods as well.

Our partnership with the Oregon-California Trails Association deepened when we began working with them on grant proposals for everything from a full documentary series on the Butterfield Overland Trail, as well as shorter video projects for historic trails and related features. Meeting virtually, we wrote and submitted grant applications, and late this spring, the results began coming in. We were awarded humanities grants from Missouri Humanities, California Humanities (where we partnered with the Amargosa Conservancy), and South Dakota Humanities. We submitted applications to Arizona, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and should learn the results of those applications by the end of August 2021. I'm not hopeful for the NEH grant as that was the hardest, most detailed, and most competitive grant, and it was also the first one I had written, which was a great learning process that helped with the rest.

These aren't crafted to be your run of the mill historical documentaries, either. It's clear to the historian in me, that 19th century "American" history needs a completely new retelling, one that actually includes someone other than white men in starring roles. Despite being a white man, I am utterly bored and annoyed with the American narrative that puts white men on pedestals (often, literally, though a few have been removed from them lately). The authentic history of this continent (for "America" has obviously not always been the United States of America), is far more fascinating than white guys overcoming the odds to conquer the wild (and its inhabitants). It's a greatly complex and intriguing story, with many, many surprises along the way.

I'm blessed to work with a highly creative team that shares that belief, and wants to create works that reach and engage all Americans with their shared history, which runs from the ugliest acts of genocide and inhumanity, to moments of clarity and inspiration. In other words, real history.

We've filmed along the Old Spanish Trail in California and Nevada, for the Amargosa Conservancy and the Oregon-California Trails Association, and we've filmed in Missouri, at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, and along the Wire Road/Butterfield Overland Trail, and the Trail of Tears. We're waiting to schedule our South Dakota shoot, and waiting to hear from the NEH and Arizona Humanities.

On top of the documentary work, which we now have three video projects in post-production - the Old Spanish Trail, the Wire Road, and the Butterfield Overland Trail in the California deserts, we also have the upcoming launch (soon, I promise!), of the Southwest Stories digital magazine, the new Southwest Stories podcast, and production of Season 3 of Southwest Stories. It's an exciting, yet incredibly busy, time.

Of course, I need to complete my Desert Dreams: 20 Years in the Mojave book project by this fall, and just sorting through photographs and stories from the past two decades is a huge messy undertaking.

Meanwhile, it's been an unusually (but increasingly not unusual) hot and dry summer here in our part of the Mojave Desert, and I'm out most every day clearing out any kind of dried leaves, bark, or brush that could encourage a fire, were one to visit. After coming far too close to losing our home to a windstorm-driven wildfire a few years ago, I have found one more source of worry to stuff in the anxiety closet.

In between all of this, I'm working on a few musical projects, as well. I miss my musical fun, and am working on both pirate/sea music, and some desert tunes.

So, please bear with me as I wrangle all of this, along with Mojave Watch and other projects for clients. I have so many hats these days that sometimes it's all I can do to just stuff them all in the hall closet and go for a hike.

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