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Amy Hale Auker

April 20, 2011

Amy Hale Auker

Cowboy Poetry Week continues with an author inspired by the stories cowboys tell and the landscapes where cowboys and their families live and work. Amy Hale Auker is the author of Rightful Place, a book of essays written on the Llano Estacado, rooted in the watershed of the Salt Fork of the Red River.  She lives on a ranch in Arizona where, when not writing at her desk, she is working cows. After 20 years raising children on ranches in Texas, Amy now enjoys an empty nest and the beauty of the mountains; “a place where the bats fly, the lizards do pushups on the rocks, the bears leave barefoot prints in the dirt, the hummingbirds do rain dances in August, spiders weave for their food, and poetry is in the chrysalis and the cocoon.”

Her writing deals with “the real world where things grow up out of the ground, where the miracle of life happens over and over and over again, where people can and do survive without malls or Arby’s.” Amy believes “that what you put out there is what you get back, and that if we do the good work, stay true to the creative process, we will be rewarded.” That’s an ethic 12 Questions can endorse wholeheartedly.

1. What is your hometown?

I grew up in West Texas, and for many years raised a family in the Texas Panhandle, Charles Goodnight country. When I started traveling in 2006 I discovered that I love live water, trees, and rocks. I discovered a true home in the natural world. I ended up on a ranch west of Prescott, Arizona where not only are there trees, abundant granite boulders, and water in the canyons and creeks, but pottery sherds and flint chippings and deep matates side-by-side in the rocks where ancient women knelt in community to grind grains.

2. With what fictional character do you most identify?

I will always identify with the children in the books that captured my imagination long ago. Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird, Billy from Where the Red Fern Grows, Jay Berry from Summer of the Monkeys, Elnora from Girl of the Limberlost… children who roamed the woods, walked over the land, found treasures in the simple things. Like those children, I am still wandering around, finding magic in the hidden hollows.

3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you.

Why Meg Ryan, of course!

4. What work of art speaks to your soul?

I love things made of clay, things that are elemental and natural.

5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?

I am reading a lot of fiction right now because I am writing fiction. I recommend Ann Patchett, John Irving, Jim Lynch, and Wallace Stegner.

6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?

I do not have an iPod. I love music, but refuse to carry it around with me when the birds are singing their nest-building songs, when the horses are chewing grain, when the wind is blowing, when I might hear a cow bawl from over there. That said, I have a weakness for good songwriting and some of my favorite people are songwriters.

7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?

 I cried watching Capitalism: A Love Story by Michael Moore. I cried during Food, Inc. I cried during Crazy Heart. I cry easily.

8. Cat person or dog person?

 Silly question. I am a bat-hummingbird-garden spider-zone-tailed hawk-jellyfish-beaver-dragonfly person.

 Totem Animals

 Some of them chose me long ago, even as I recognized that shifts and changes would come. I like to examine the metaphors on a regular basis, and find that the garden spider still weaves and spins for food and for love, exposing her creations to the dew and the sunlight, signing them with her own messy zigzag.

 The bat still sleeps in the messy smother of community by day, flies and feeds, a misunderstood symbol of darkness, solitary and free in the night, and the beaver still builds patiently, doing the hard work, one hewn stick at a time, showing up at the dam every day, his work feeding him, his family, his community; just ask the muskrat swimming by.

 And the hummer is still the most surprising nominee since like him, I am small. But my respect for him has grown as I watch him throw the sun’s rays back into the day, now transformed into fire, intriguingly fierce in all of his smallness, competitive, territorial, dive bombing life in spite of his size.

Recently, though, two new totems appeared in my life, and I embrace the jellyfish as a necessary template for transparency, resiliency, riding the waves and feasting on what she absorbs, being blessed with every ebb and flow of the tides.

 I was going to add in the mythical winged dragon after a fire-breathing spell of indignation, but then I discovered the ugly mud bug that inhabits the primordial ooze, the smelly mud at the bottom of the water trough, the mud bug that molts and regrows his exoskeleton over and over, for up to five years, growing and hiding and cycling, until that perfect day when everything is right.

On that day, he crawls up out of the ooze, crawls up into the sun, holds tight to the side of the trough or the fragile reed, splits himself open right down the center of his back, and emerges… emerges not, this time, as the same ol’ mud dweller, but as a jewel-toned dragonfly–glorious in the light.

9. What is more important, truth or kindness?

“Before you speak, think -Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it hurt anyone? Will it improve on the silence?” Sri Sathya Sai Baba

10. How do you define sin?


11. How do you define virtue?

Do no harm.

12. Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?

I am not going to have a headstone. I wish for a sky burial. But if I did have a headstone, I would hope it would say : She had a huge capacity for JOY.


Amy Hale Auker
Rightful Place on Facebook

9 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2011 07:16

    Glad to see this if only now! lol!

  2. April 22, 2011 16:45

    Amy is such a gifted writer. Thanks for allowing us to peek. I’m going to take the twelve questions and answer them for myself.

  3. April 22, 2011 00:11

    Love Amy Hale Auker. She’s la mera, mera vaquera! When you read her work, you feel you are standing out in/on the earth and communing with Nature. She’s expansive in her appreciation of same, and yet never overlooks the details they comprise.
    Excellent choice for honest responses to a questionnaire.
    Also, the site has appeal.

    • Spencer K. permalink*
      April 22, 2011 08:12

      Thanks, Michael! We’re glad you visited for Amy’s post and hope you’ll check back.

    • Amy permalink
      April 22, 2011 17:39

      Thanks, Michael! I’ve got your gift pack all ready for July…

  4. April 21, 2011 11:47

    Loved your 12, still crazy about you, too. Crazy Heart was great!

  5. Spencer K. permalink*
    April 20, 2011 18:47

    I really love Amy’s response about Totem Animals. I think we too often forget that we have affinities and relationships with animals that aren’t just our domesticated companions, and that there’s room there for the stately and the lowly.

    • Amy permalink
      April 22, 2011 17:40

      Thank you for this Spencer…. and for the opportunity. What a really fun and interesting way to find out about people doing cool things!


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