Inspired Writing: Will James


As a pre-teen, obsessed with writing and journaling, I was always searching for a new way to say things. I wanted to express myself as profoundly as possible – and I thought I had a lot to say.

When I wasn’t writing or causing mischief, I was reading. If fact, one entire summer I was grounded to my bedroom, except for meals and to do chores, so I spent most of my time reading the Encyclopedia Americana, Dad had purchased while stationed at Mather AFB.

 That was some of the hardest and driest reading I ever undertook – but I had little else to do – so I stuck with it from A to Zy. Ugh!

But prior to that summer I discovered a book in my Uncle Adam’s shelf that sparked a real interest. It was a tome written by Will James, entitled, “Sand.”

I loved that book and even begged him to let me keep it to no avail.

Will James’ style of writing was like none other I had ever read before. It was simple and sounded very much like the hands that worked around the dairy.

Born Joseph Ernest Nephtali Dufault in 1892 into a French-speaking merchant family in Quebec, he ran away from home in 1906. By age 24 he had spent three-years in the Nevada State Prison at Carson City for cattle rustling.

In 1919, James was buck off a horse in Reno and seriously injured, ending his ability to make a living as a hand drifting from ranch-to-ranch. It’s at this time he took up writing as well as drawing and painting to earn a living, though he had done both as a hobby before getting hurt.

After reading “Sand,” at least three times, I realized James had a passion. And though he died 18-years before I was born, I learned from that book, and later others like “Cowboys North and South,” also written by James, that no matter what – write about what fills you with passion.

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