Well, I made it. Anybody who may have been following this blog in recent weeks will know that I have been struggling with aging issues, most especially during the period leading up to a tour earlier this month through central Colorado with my new nonfiction book Season of Terror. Much to my surprise, the tour seems to have been a success; and so has the book, which this week ranked number three on the Denver Post's bestselling nonfiction list. I seem to have carried off my part of the tour somewhat creditably, no doubt in large part because of the kind folks who turned out to hear me read, ask me questions, and give me helpful feedback. Among these I must single out for grateful mention a number of descendants of the very Espinosas who figure prominently in Season of Terror as among the West's most deadly serial killers. These descendants appeared at my readings at the San Luis Valley Museum in Alamosa and The Tattered Cover/Colfax Avenue in Denver and were uniformly courteous and generous.
It was no easy matter for me, a somewhat retiring soul and a born Southeasterner with no blood ties to the West (apart from the fact that my wife Ruth as a native of Colorado) to present myself as a supposed authority on a facet of Western history to an audience consisting not only of Westerners but also of Hispanics actually related to the murderers who were the subjects of my book. It is a testament to the graciousness of my audiences that the experience was a notably agreeable one. I shall long cherish my memories of this tour: Reading from Season of Terror in the parlor of the 1874 Hutchinson Ranch and Homestead at Poncha Springs, CO, built and still owned by a family of Colorado settlers one of whom had a direct connection with Henry Harkens, the third of the Espinosas' victims; appearing in the San Luis Valley Museum in the same room with an exhibit containing the fringed and beaded buckskin outfit once worn by Army scout Thomas Tate Tobin, killer of two of the three Espinosas; and, most of all, meeting and shaking hands with an Espinosa descendant who told me she looked forward to reading my book and comparing my account with the stories of the Espinosas that her grandfather used to tell her when she was a child.
In my last blog I made mention of a possibly demented bird that seemed to be demanding access to my house by repeatedly pecking at my door and windows. Well, he's still here. Now, for reasons best known to himself, he seems focused wholly on the porch door. Several times a day I see him perched on the brass handle of the storm door fluttering in vain against the glass. But no longer does he seem the harbinger of ill fate that I supposed him to be in my last posting. He only seems to be a sadly misguided creature blindly contending against a fate he does not understand. Perhaps he is not the metaphor for dementia that I once supposed him to be. Perhaps he is only a metaphor for life itself, which after all so often seems pointless in the moment but tends to gain meaning with the distance of time and perspective.
When I first saw him, before the tour, I suspected him of being a predictor of my ruin. Now he is only a confused bird probably contending with nothing more than his own reflection in the glass--much as I myself do, much as all of us do, struggling to reconcile our own self-images with the images others hold of us.
How did my audiences on the tour view me? I cannot know. I only know that they were kind, and that their kindness sent me home restored.