recommended read: high rider

High Rider

by Bill Gallagher

Many of the stories about the discovery and settlement of our province – and the proud civilizations that existed here long before we did – are so rich that they need no embellishment. And indeed, the most incredible stories are often the ones that are true to the life. But with all of the historic events that our home has witnessed through the centuries, it has always rather surprised me that we don’t have more historical fiction set in southern Alberta, with our local creative voices imagining and filling in the tantalizing gaps in the things that we “know”. Writer Bill Gallagher has done just that and created a narrative around one of our most beloved historical figures.

As the end of the nineteenth century neared, southern Alberta and its fledgling communities were attracting immigrants from all over the world. What we often forget is just how close to home some of those immigrants were, with many coming over the border from the United States. For example, veterans of the civil war, with both sides of that bloody and deadly conflict represented, are buried in Calgary’s Union Cemetery.

John Ware’s life had been formed and shaped by the events that had racked the country of his birth, but of course he had fought for neither side. He was born a slave on a plantation in southern Carolina, and it is here that Bill Gallagher introduces him to us. Gallagher makes you feel as though you are beside John Ware as he walks the one thousand miles from southern Carolina to Texas, and as though you are witnessing heartwarming moments as he befriends good people and wins their respect and admiration. The humiliating events of prejudice and the wistful longing for love and family that seem destined to remain unfulfilled make you feel as though you are standing next to someone you want to encourage and speak out for – and how nice it is to root for a good guy, and to realize that this story happened in places that are familiar to you, too.

Let’s suppose that I am offering a giveaway on this blog and if you win, you get to meet John Ware at the coffee shop of your choosing for one hour and ask him any questions you want. What would you want to know? What parts of his story are the most fascinating to you? Would you want him to myth bust – was he ever really a miner? Do you want to get to know him as a person – what was his favourite breakfast? Or his favourite way to spend a Sunday afternoon? Or, do you want his tips and tricks for calving, or gentling a horse that’s got the best of you at the moment? Read High Rider and then tweet at me (@shelly_mcelroy) with your #QuestionsForJohnWare!!

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