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HOME RANGE: Notes on Literature, Nature, Working Dogs, History, Other Obsessions and Sundry Annoyances by Henry Chappell

Closing the File: Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut

July 21, 2016

Tags: Books, San Antonio Viejo Ranch, Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut


Day before yesterday, after a one last email on a proposed word change, we brought the design/editorial phase of Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut: The San Antonio Viejo Ranch of Texas to a close. By now, the files should've gone out to the printer. The book will be available in October. This afternoon, after two years of work, I gathered up the mess of folders, drafts, and proofs from my desk and the floor and piled them into a big file box. I have one or more of these boxes for all nine of my books. You can accumulate a lot of material over the course of a long project.

The last item to go in, a worn Moleskine notebook, contains all of my notes and the first draft of the book, written in fragments of a few paragraphs or pages at a time among the notes. When I felt I had the makings of a book, I typed and organized these fragments, polishing as I went, into a pretty good second draft. After another four drafts, the manuscript was ready for submission.

Although I usually do magazine articles and columns entirely on my laptop, I've always written first drafts of my most challenging works - long essays and books - longhand. Friends and family obsessed with efficiency find this appalling, but I've found it far easier to finish a first draft longhand because I'm less likely to stop and re-read my own scrawl and therefore less likely to lose confidence, which builds as the pages accumulate.

Just before I put the lid on the box, I opened the notebook at random to the beginning of a section entitled "La Madama." It's dated 10/31/15. Amazing. It feels like I wrote those paragraphs a couple weeks ago.

I always expect to feel relief if not euphoria at this point, but I never do. Mostly I'm tired, unfocused and loathe to think about that next magazine deadline.

Comments

  1. September 29, 2016 2:21 PM CDT
    I don't think you should glorify the East and King families for stealing the San Antonio Viejo Ranch from the rightful owners and residents of Jim Hogg County. The true story will be published soon and it will expose Tom T. East and Robert Kleberg as thieves who stole the rights to the land they call their ranch.
    - Edward Swidriski
  2. September 29, 2016 3:52 PM CDT
    Mr. Swidriski, you can rest assured that I didn't glorify anyone.
    - Henry Chappell

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