Let me start off by saying that I LOVE historical fiction. A story set within real events in history, whether it’s true or not, just mesmerizes me. I feel like I am transported back in time and the reality is that whether or not we know if some of these things actually happened, they often feel probable.
One of my favorite historical fiction writers is Sandra Dallas. I have read so many of her books, but some of my favorites are The Chili Queen, Tallgrass, Prayers for Sale, The Diary of Mattie Spenser and The Bride’s House. If you even like historical fiction a little bit, you should go pick up one of her books today. Most of her books are set in the west and more specifically Colorado because it’s where she lives and presumably what she knows.
Sandra Dallas started off working for the Rocky Mountain Division of Business Week after graduating from Denver University. It was during this time in which she began her writing career and wrote 10 non-fiction books all about the west. In 1990 she began writing historical fiction, blending her knowledge of history with her obvious flair for storytelling. Dallas is a New York Time’s Best Selling Author and has won awards from The Cowboy Hall of Fame, Western Writers of America Spur Award, Women Writing the West Willa Award and many more.
Now that you know a little bit about who Sandra Dallas is, we can move forward.
For years, I was in a book club with an amazing group of women. It was during this time that I was introduced to so many of Dallas’ novels. Honestly, we all loved her books and often found ourselves returning to the tried and true whenever she released a new novel or we just needed a slam dunk of a book.
About 10 years ago we bought a condo in Georgetown, Colorado. It’s an old mining town that still has that 1800s charm and we love it. I told my bookclub we were buying a condo, of course, because we shared all the details of our lives with one another. A couple months later I received a note in the mail with a newspaper clipping. It was from a bookclub member and the article was from the Denver Post. It was about Sandra Dallas and how she and her husband had purchased an old 1800s house in Georgetown, Colorado and had restored it to its original glory. The article had photos of Dallas and many of the rooms in the house. It was beautiful and I was instantly obsessed. I wanted to see the house, I wanted to meet her, I wanted her to come to bookclub. Honestly, I wanted to be friends.
I promptly emailed her. Before you get all judgy, there is way to contact her through her website. I’m not that good of a detective! I emailed and her and told her I had just moved to Georgetown part-time and I was in a bookclub and that we loved her and wanted to know if she would attend one of our bookclubs. And you know what? She emailed me back the very next day. She was so kind, but she said she wasn’t really doing bookclub events much anymore. She did offer that if I was hosting bookclub and she was in Georgetown she would love to come and visit with us. She recommended that we read her newest book, The Brides’s House. I thanked her profusely and added that maybe I would see her around town. I also promptly bought her newest book. The Bride’s House was released the first year we were in Georgetown. It’s a novel about a young girl who lived in the house that Dallas restored. She refers to many families, stores, hotels, recipes and historical structures that still exist in Georgetown today. She makes the entire town come alive in this book.
Unfortunately, bookclub never really panned out because everyone lived 2 hours from Georgetown and while they all loved Sandra Dallas they didn’t care to make that drive.
I persisted though. That first summer, I set out to ride by her house under the guise of getting ice cream with my kids. You know, like maybe while I was riding in front of her house she would just happen to be in her driveway or something. It didn’t happen. The only thing that happened was my kids made fun of me and to this day refer to me as a stalker. Okay, I started calling her Sandy and acting like we were friends because she had emailed me. I’m likable, it didn’t seem that far fetched that IF we met, we would like each other. It didn’t matter that I was 40 and she was 72 at the time. Age is but a number, people.
And then it happened. Our second Christmas in the condo, we were at Christmas Eve service sitting quietly in our pew and in walked Sandy! She sat directly in front of me. I could barely contain myself and my family was snickering and whispering. It was all quite embarrassing really. I couldn’t possibly tap her on the shoulder and tell her how much I loved her. It wasn’t the right time. We were in church and there was no way I was going to fangirl in this small town church on Christmas Eve. So, I just sat there, staring at the back of her head. I remember thinking she had a very trendy haircut and her clothes were also very stylish for someone who was 72. I’m not going to lie, my admiration was growing by the minute. We sang some songs and Sandy even got up to read scripture. She was clearly part of this church and town. I was still an outsider. We sang some songs and then the pastor told us to greet one another and pass the peace. That’s when it happened. Sandy turned around and with both hands grabbed one of mine, smiled and said, “peace be with you.” There were so many things I wanted to say, but nothing would come out. I just stood there mesmerized while I heard my girls saying, “and also with you.” Oh my gosh, I didn’t even respond accordingly. I totally messed up my part. I don’t even know what happened during the rest of the service. My life felt complete and my family just kept laughing at me. Aside from my total embarrassment, it was the best Christmas Eve service I have ever attended.
We have now had our condo over 10 years and yes, I have in fact passed the peace with Sandy again, but it was never like the first time.
Sandy is now 82 and she doesn’t seem to be in Georgetown as much as she used to be. I know this because I drive by her house every time I am there. I don’t even pretend like I am getting ice cream anymore. I have never seen her anywhere except her yard and church.
Part of me still wants to have a cup of tea with her, but another part isn’t sure she would live up to the icon I have built in my head. I’m not sure I want that to change.
Sandy has a gift and while we may never be actual friends, I will always consider her MY friend. She has broadened my understanding of Colorado and the people that came before us and given me a new appreciation for the place I call home.
Thanks for the memories, Sandy.
Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G