My beloved and I arrived in Texas last Sunday, eager to get to know a little of this state. We rented a car—something we’ve actually never done before when traveling—and headed out, destination Waco.
For those of you who may have been following my career over the last couple of years, you’ll understand immediately why we headed here, first.
My only two historical novels, written under the penname of Cara Covington, were set in Waco, and westward, into the Texas Hill Country.
I wanted to see this city I’d researched.
I wanted to look out and up at the Texas night sky, and breathe in the Texas air. I wanted to feel the intensity of the Texas sun on my skin [and boy, did we ever luck out there].
I wanted to learn firsthand just a little bit about the spirit that is Texas. People are people everywhere, and we all have many things in common. But sometimes there is a regional spirit that binds folks to a location, that binds them heart and mind, body and soul to each other as well.
In my opinion, Texas is one such place.
There is a sense of determination here, of pride and an independent spirit that says, “We can do what we need to do to take care of our own.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that same doggedness isn’t in existence elsewhere in this country or on this planet. I’m just saying it seems to be front and center in the souls of the people of this state.
It’s the main reason I’ve set my series here in Texas.
We spent a couple of hours at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. Our inner “history buffs” were thrilled with the wealth of information there. If you ever come to Waco, that museum is a must-visit spot.
For me, the Rangers exemplify what I think of as the spirit of Texas. They had to volunteer for duty, supply their own horses and badges and guns—and they did so, serving proudly, accepting payment in the form of land, when they were paid at all. Many of them worked as surveyors to get by, and the two vocations went hand in hand.
As well as touching and getting close to that which is real and which I have studied, I also wanted to see if I could find that which I have only imagined.
So yesterday we set out, my beloved and I in our rental car, in search of Lusty, Texas.
In my contemporary series based on the historical, I always hedge about where Lusty is, exactly. My characters say, “it’s about an hour or so west of Waco”. Not completely an arbitrary choice, that. After all, my original characters in the historical stories had some connection to that city.
One of them had been a Texas Ranger there, circa 1880.
I do the best I can, when researching a novel, to try and make things at the very least plausible. In looking at the maps available to me, I decided that just outside of Gatesville, Texas, seemed like a pretty good choice for my imaginary town. There were a few small communities between Gatesville and Goldthwaite, but nothing solid—nothing that could ever be mistaken for this completely fictional town which I had created with my mind and described with my words.
I write what I write with no apologies, but that doesn’t mean I’m not sensitive to the fact that some people may react to my work in an unfavorable manner. I seek only to entertain, with no thought of offending anyone.
If someone is offended by my words, they don’t have to read them. For my part, I wouldn’t want anyone thinking “my town” was really “their town”.
Lusty, after all, isn’t Peyton Place.
So we drove, and watched our miles. We’d both decided when the time was right, we’d turn left off the highway. It just always seemed to me the Lusty had to be more left than right.
We found a road, and turned left, and traveled for a spell. Before long, we came upon a bit of flat land in amongst the hills that looked to be just right for an airfield. Then there was another twist in the road, and another few minutes, and… there it was.
It’s not a very big town, really, a couple of miles square all told, with rolling fields, plenty of trees, and space to spare. And it has a heart as big, and as welcoming, as the state surrounding it.
Just exactly where and how I imagined it would be.