Author Lee Nelson visits Emery County
A favorite author of the San Rafael studentbody came to the school recently to share his unique brand of writing with the students. Lee Nelson came to the school at the invitation of school librarian, Dianne Butler. Butler introduced Nelson and told of the influence his books have had upon her and her family and now her grandchildren are fans of Nelson as well.
Nelson said his best reviews come from his fans. One boy in Preston, Idaho read a Storm Testament book for the first time and was so excited he told his mother to come and see all the pictures in the book, but the book didn't contain any pictures. Nelson's words had created pictures in the boy's mind and his imagination came alive as he read the Storm Testament books.
"If you want to be an author, then you have to be a reader. If you don't like to read then you might not make a good writer. Sometimes people send me manuscripts to read and it's apparent that they aren't readers. If someone wants to be an author, then give them a filing cabinet. Let them start doing research and writing notes on subjects they would like to write about. Some of your best ideas can come in the middle of the night so keep a notebook by your bed. I'd heard you were supposed to do that, so I tried it. I woke up in the middle of the night and had a great idea for a book, so I wrote it down. When I awoke in the morning I couldn't remember what it was so I looked at my notes and the title for my book was Tarzan goes to the Temple. I thought that was the most ridiculous title for a new book so maybe that idea wasn't so great. But, a book I'd read from a doctor in India, said we need to give our ideas time to form and develop. So, I knew about Tarzan, he was a boy whose parents had died on an island and he was left alone as a small baby. He began to cry and the apes in the jungle rescued him. There were more that 300 million Tarzan books sold.
"When I was a boy growing up in Logan, there was a grizzly bear called Old Ephraim. He was caught in a bear trap at one time and his foot was crippled which caused him to limp and you could always tell his tracks from other bears. I wondered what all this had to do with Tarzan and the Temple, but as I did more research and pulled out my maps of the area, then Temple Mountain appeared and Temple Ridge and it all just began to fit together and I wrote the book about Old Ephraim and the idea came to me in a dream," said Nelson.
Nelson stressed the need for research on the subject about which you want to write. He began a book one time by a national best selling author and she talked about a buck elk in the opening of the book. Nelson put down the book and decided since she didn't know what she was talking about, he wouldn't read the book. "Do your research, know what you are talking about. Fiction stories are based on a lot of facts," said Nelson.
For one of Nelson's books he researched he shot a buffalo from a galloping horse with a bow and arrow. He had many questions when he began his quest to shoot the buffalo. How close do you get? How powerful should the bow be? How do you train your horse? How do you control your horse when you're shooting the bow? "When the Indians began hunting buffalo with a horse it added to their chance of survival. One man could kill enough buffalo in an afternoon to feed his family for an entire year. I called my friend Peter Weaselhead to ask him how buffalo hunting from horseback is done. He said to hunt it in a pick-up with a high powered rifle because it was too dangerous. I put an ad in the paper for a buffalo horse.
"One man called with an Arabian horse for sale he said it would be great for hunting buffalo because of its speed and endurance. I ended up using a 4 year old quarterhorse I already had. We went to the rodeo arena and I had a cheap bow and cheap arrows and I duct taped the tip so it was blunt and talked some people there practicing into letting me shoot their steers with the blunt arrows. I began practicing. When the horse's nose was even with the cow's hip, I would drop the reins and shoot the arrow. After seven or eight runs the horse figured out was I was trying to do.
"The Indians developed crude saddles for their horses with stirrups so they could steady their upper body and torso so they would get an accurate shot. Their knees would absorb the motion. The horse eventually got bored.
"Eventually I felt the horse and I were ready for the hunt. I couldn't find a buffalo ranch that would let me come and chase their buffalo so I ended up buying a two year old bull. I found a pasture by the Quirrh mountains and went out their with four friends and their cameras and a bunch of kids.
"We set up tipis and I had two nice bows supplied by Browning Arms. When it was time to shoot the buffalo, I loaded the kids in the horse trailer where they would be safe. We let the buffalo out. At first he just stood there.
"Then the kids escaped from the horse trailer and started chasing after me on my horse and the buffalo. The buffalo took off. I started to move into position and moved the horse up on the right hip of the buffalo. The buffalo started to slow down and turn in toward the horse. I was concerned the horse would be afraid of the buffalo. But, the horse acted like it didn't know the difference between the buffalo and the cows we'd been practicing with.
"The horse laid back his ears and gets mad and the buffalo obeys and runs straight ahead. I got in position and pulled back and sunk the arrow up to the feathers into the lungs. Blood began to come from the nostrils of the buffalo and he began to slow down. The second arrow hit a rib and broke. The buffalo ran 50-60 feet and then stopped and died," said Nelson.
Nelson told how they rolled the buffalo from side to side to skin him using an obsidian blade. Nelson showed a slideshow of his buffalo hunt along with a picture of him taking a bite from the testicles of the animal which the Indians believe is a source of strength. Nelson said they were kind of slippery and he doesn't recommend them.
He told how they cut up some of the meat and tried it in various Indian recipes he had collected.
Nelson said research is always the most important part of writing a book. He has researched at least 10 books he hasn't written yet. For a future book he went to Mongolia and learned the life of the people there for a book on Genghis Khan. In Mongolia, milk is one of their staple foods, they even milk their horses, goats and yaks. They put milk in a drum and stir it and make a drink out it which tastes like 7-up mixed with yogurt.
One day, Nelson challenged the young men to roping contests. If they could beat him he gave them a pocket knife. They were also fascinated by his camera and he was asked to take a picture of their Grandma who they figured was close to dying. "I just love the research part of writing a book. People are still reading the first books I wrote. My first book was published in 1979 when I was 37 years old.
"I was born in Logan and grew up in California. "My personal history is coming out soon," said Nelson.
The students had some questions for Nelson. One wondered just how lucrative it is to be an author. He told them writers get paid for the number of books they sale.
For instance you could make $1 from each book sold so if you sold 100 books you would have $100 and so on. He has now written more than 30 books and is still receiving royalties on each of those books.
Before becoming an author he worked for a magazine and also for an advertising agency.
All this experience helped him when he became an author.
Butler thanked Nelson for coming to visit San Rafael. Nelson presented a statue of Porter Rockwell that was just completed which will be given away to one of the San Rafael students in a drawing.