Labor Day weekend is always the start of a melancholy time of the year for me. It used to be more exciting and exhilarating as I always looked forward to a break from the summer’s heat and the glorious colors of Autumn touching the trees with spatters of yellow, red, and orange.
This weekend was also just the start of all the fun occasions for gathering with family and friends carrying us into the New Year.
For many years in the extended Miller family Labor Day weekend was a time for the annual picnic at the park to celebrate Mom Miller’s birthday and end the summer with a cook out. There were lots of folks. Lots of kids. Lots of games. And lots of food.
We’d spend the entire day playing, eating, playing some more amid many smiles and laughter, then we’d all go home, tuck our kids into bed, then collapse in our own bed, exhausted from all the fun.
Now, so many of the members of the Miller family have passed on, including my husband. Perhaps they can find each other and set up a couple of tables to play a few rounds of Euchre.
“Euchre, popular in Michigan, was once dubbed “the queen of all card-games.” Get a group of Michiganders together, add a deck of cards, and chances are pretty good you’ll wind up with a game of euchre. It was once dubbed “the queen of all card-games” and was wildly popular in the late 1800s.”
The Miller family did their best to keep the popularity going, and my hubby and I brought the game to Texas with us. Some of our friends actually came to really like the game.
I miss those family gatherings, and I really miss my hubby this time of year. He always looked forward to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, and celebrating without him is always a little sad.
Slim Randles shares my melancholy today as he remembers the renowned Western writer, Max Evans. Slim was honored to write a biography of Evans, and the two developed a lasting friendship. Here’s Slim’s tribute to that long-time friend.
Ol’ Max has been gone two years now. Well, dead, anyway. A life force like Max Evans, one of America’s greatest writers, is never really gone as long as people read his work.
Max died two days before his 96th birthday, and the amazing thing about this, to his close friends and family, was that he’d lasted this long. You see, in the midst of becoming a legend of literature of the American west, he had these little … foibles?
Sounds good, let’s call them that.
They included bar brawls, skirt chasing, drinking Hollywood producers under the table, and a few things we won’t discuss. Why not?
Well, as Ol’ Max told me, “There are some things that don’t have a statute of limitations.”
I met Max’s work long before I met him. This was in a bunkhouse high in the California Sierra, where those of us packing mules would take turns reading chapters out of his books. One of those guys was an antique cowboy named Grant Dalton, and his dad and uncles were famous for helping Jesse James make unauthorized bank withdrawals.
Grant’s summation of one of Max’s novels … “He’s been there.”
And he had been.
For Max Evans was the real deal.
Years later, when I met him in Albuquerque over a lunch that lasted until closing time, I remember thinking “The hardest job in the world would be to write a boring biography of Max Evans.”
So I didn’t.
I wrote Ol’ Max Evans, the First Thousand Years. I interviewed that old codger over lunches down at our favorite Mexican restaurant for more than three years.
My 35-plus year friendship with him is one of the highlights of my life. He was my mentor, my pal, and something of a father figure. I loved him. I miss Max every day. Everyone should have an inspiration like him.
We were wrapping up the years of interviews for the book, one day, and I asked him if he had any advice for writers just getting started.
He said, “Never hit a critic.”
I sure miss him.
Check out all of Slim’s award-winning books at his Goodreads Page and in better bookstores and bunkhouses throughout the free world.
All of the posts here are from his syndicated column, Home Country that is read in hundreds of newspapers across the country. I am always happy to have him share his wit and wisdom here.
Slim Randles is a veteran newspaperman, hunting guide, cowboy and dog musher. He was a feature writer and columnist for The Anchorage Daily News for 10 years and guided hunters in the Alaska Range and the Talkeetna Mountains. A resident of New Mexico now for more than 30 years, Randles is the prize-winning author of a dozen books, and is host of two podcasts and a television program.