When I was little, there was a TV program that featured a young boy and his very smart collie, Lassie. The collie was always rescuing Timmy, his mom and dad, all of the neighbors and townspeople, and any animals that needed it. She would run from whatever problem that threatened to the nearest adult who could solve it. She always saved the day and taught life lessons along the way. Self-reliance, adults worked hard to solve problems, and collies could save everyone. I wanted a collie of my very own.
People would fall down cliffs or fall into the well or from a tree or a roof. Lassie got a rope and dropped it down whatever so that the human could climb out or she’d race to let someone know there was trouble and then lead the rescuer to the fallen. I remember her pulling on the rope to get either Timmy or another kid out of the well.
Then I found the book at the library. Lassie Come Home, by Eric Knight. It wasn’t anything like the program, but it tugged at my heartstrings just like it. Thus started my time spent in the worlds created in books. Thornton Burgess and Reddy the Fox may have been the first book that brought me to tears. Lad a Dog by Albert Payson Terhune consumed my imagination.
I fell in love with my first horse, Black Beauty. Then onward to Margarette Henry and Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind, Justin Morgan Had a Horse. Who can forget Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion? Remember the TV show Fury? I collected statues of horses from the toy shop and told myself wonderful stories as they galloped across the landscapes of my mind. I was horse-crazy. I eventually had two of my own.
Enter science fiction and fantasy. Tom Corbet, Space Cadet. I was halfway in love with my first Marine, Donald “Scotty” Scott from the Rick Brant science adventure series. It didn’t hurt that my dad worked in the space industry with the astronauts. I got to meet some of them when they came to the house for dinner. There were stars in my eyes even then. I wanted to be an astronaut. Heinlein’s Space Cadet and all the rest of the stories of the future made me want it even more.
I joined the Navy after a year and one-half of college and became a meteorologist and anti-submarine warfare specialist. I served at NAS Naha, Okinawa, Japan as the first woman ever stationed in the meteorology office there with only one other enlisted woman on base. I met and married my Marine after transferring to NAS Atlanta in Marietta, Georgia. We bought our first Shetland Sheepdog there. Best little dogs in the world. Instinctive herding dogs, ours kept our young girls away from the street until we could put up a fence after we bought a house in my home state - Colorado. We’ve raised, trained, and shown Shelties for 46 years.
This long tour of books in my life emphasizes how much they influenced me. Now I write stories about dragons, magic swords, and demons. The books are good vs evil, the classic Hero’s Journey. Who would have thought?
A final note. Whenever my shelties start barking, my first comment to them is “Is Timmy in the well? Oh no! Timmy’s in the well!”
If Timmy had a sheltie, nobody would have gotten close enough to fall in the well. Good dogs.