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Back from R. E. Howard Days

Okay, I'm swiping images from Chris' journal for my own...lol. Chris [wordgrinder] and I made the pilgrimage to Cross Plains, Texas this weekend for the annual Robert E. Howard Days. This was my first time in attendance and I've wanted to go for a very long time. I had to marry Chris to get there. hee hee. In any event, it was amazing. My good buddy Shrews said that attending Howard days would be akin to a religious experience....I agree. It is always an amazing experience to stand where the writer stood and gain an insight into what may have made him [or her] tick. I had very much the same experience when in Stratford-upon-Avon and stood, barefooted, on the cold stone floor of Shakespeare's home. I felt as though I were standing on the holy of holies. Same feeling gazing into the teensy little room that Robert Howard occupied for the bulk of his tragically short life. Walking the streets he walked, seeing where he worked, boxed, and lived, opened a new perspective into his world and writing for me.

I didn't get quite the same feeling at the graveyard, however.

To me, Robert Howard wasn't there. Only his mortal coil rested beneath the large granite headstone. This wasn't where he lived or created. Nothing that was him was here. To me, the deepest experience was that bedroom. It literally is the size of a closet. Every woman will tell you that a small room is automatically made smaller when a man enters it. Men just seem to suck up space. The room was teensy with just the cot-sized bed, desk and chair and dresser in it...it must have shrunk considerably as soon as Bob Howard sat down to write.

The one thing that was a bit of a disappointment to me, an antique furniture buff, was the lack of original house contents. Most were period pieces, which were nice, but I really like picking up vibes from the actual possessions that belonged to the people in question. The window between the bedrooms [Robert's and his mother's] was very interesting as well.

A lot of creepy speculation has been made concerning this window that never was covered with a curtain. However, upon examining the two rooms, and having been walking around in the 102 degree heat for hours, it became very clear as to why the window was left. Robert's room was originally a porch. Since there was only one bedroom in the house, the porch was enclosed to create a room for Bob. New windows were installed on his wall, which when opened, and when the original window was opened, would allow air to circulate into the now internal room. Had the window been removed, the air circulation would have been dramatically decreased. You can choose to disagree with me all you like, but until you've experience the intense heat of a hot Texas summer, and lived without air condition, you have no idea how hot it might have been in the pre-A/C days. Most of these little wood homes didn't even have ceiling fans. When there is no breeze in Texas, the heat just hovers above the ground. Sometimes you can see the heat waves. It's hot. Kiln-hot.

Chris got his photo taken with Roy Thomas, the original writer of the Marvel Comics, Conan series. Check out how hot Chris looks. Smokin, baby. But I digress from my tale...hee hee...

We were thrilled to see Bill Linblad late at night, who magically appeared beneath the pavillion. One minute he wasn't there, the next there he was. I was all excited. "There's Bill!!" I said tugging on Chris' arm. lol.

It was also great to run into Ethan Nahte and Rebecca Fetas again. Ethan has been filming a very comprehensive documentary on Robert E Howard and I have had the priviledge of being interviewed on film for the film. Let's hope I don't end up on the cutting room floor. lol. But, it was nice to see them again. In fact, Rebecca got to see a little bit more of me than she probably wanted to as a huge gust of wind blew my dress up above my head out in the parking lot. Luckily, only she and I were outside, and Ethan was digging in his vehicle and missed the whole Marilyn Monroe display. The dress was a hit though, money well spent. :)

On our last day we stopped by the library to view the copies of Howard's manuscripts. Over at the house there were also the original paychecks formerly donated by Bob Weinberg. It was amazing to see that Howard was getting paid comparable rates to what writers are STILL making. I would be very happy to get some of the checks he received -- all these years later! We could also see why he was considered the richest man in town. Checks for $80, $75, $175 a pop would have been like goldmines in the dark days of the depression.

Chris and I hung out at the annual Barbarian festival, ate at a downhome cookin' restaurant called Jean's Feedbarn, and hung out at the pavilion talking with fellow Howard fans. We met some wonderful people, illustrators, writers, and fellow HWA members! We took a two hour bus tour [in the 102 degree un-A/Ced school bus!] around Cross Plains, to Burkett, Cross Cut, Coleman, and various other teensy towns that were touched by Robert Howard in some fashion. It was an amazing journey and proved very inspirational. I came away with a terrific idea, shared it with Chris, and we ran with it. So, thanks, Don of the school bus tour for such an inspirational and entertaining country tour!

I was struck by how many wonderful old houses have been simply boarded up and left to rot. Naturally, I wanted all of them, and envisioned them all restored. I especially coveted the former hotel/brothel that was amazing! We have a photo of it, I'll post it when I get it from Chris. I WANT the building. I thought it would make a fabulous bed and breakfast if restored. Of course, Cross Plains, population of like 1020, isn't exactly hopping year round, but I'd love that too. It was easy to see how the town, even though Howard wasn't fond of it, could serve his needs. And his little room. As a writer, all I need is access to food, internet connection, and my computer in order to create. I'm sure Howard felt the same way clacking away on his Underwood, lost in his own world of fantasy and adventure. Being in the little town allowed me to see WHY Howard would want to venture off into his own imagination. He was captive by the need to care for his ill mother, the restrictions of the depression and his own feelings on things...but Conan and his other characters, could do anything, be anything, go anywhere...they could LIVE! And through them, there is a little piece of Robert E Howard in each one of them.

Anyway...wanted the old buildings. Maybe when we're retired. By then I'll be too old to do any restoration on my own, unless God grants me superhuman, anti-aging powers. lol.

The trip home was nice too. We stopped by a Half Price Bookstore and found some "cool stuff". Overall, it was a wonderful literary experience, a much needed vacation away together, and a basically fantastic time. I love the heat, so the temperature didn't bother me...it did apparently kill Chris' air condition though. Groan. His car is trying to kill us. It's something short of being a Christine car. CNN even reported on the event! If you haven't ever been out to Cross Plains and you're a Howard fan...you should go. In fact, if you're attending World Fantasy Convention in Austin in November, they are having a special one day excursion to Cross Plains on the Wednesday before the convention. Go! Really. You should go. For more information on Robert E. Howard Days go here.

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