It’s always a roll of the dice at events you haven’t done before; you never know if anybody’s going to show up. Judy and I were whistling down the I-5 in the San Joaquin Valley, and the temperature was burnishing the golden hills at a hundred and thirteen degrees.
I was fortunate to be selected by the Autry National Center to kick off their book club at the Western Heritage Museum in Los Angeles—it was to be the swan song of The Dark Horse tour. “It’s the debut of the program, so there might not be very many people…”
I glanced at her. “Yep, I know.”
If you haven’t ever been, the Autry is my favorite museum in the world, and one of the few where you can ride your horse on the equine trails of Griffith Park, tie off to the hitching rails at the museum, and go in. Try that at the Guggenheim.
When Gene Autry started the museum, he was adamant that it not be about the glorification of himself but more of a celebration of the entire West. Back in the late eighties, Judy and I were in LA when I started exhibiting symptoms familiar to every wife—I stood by the doors of stores and jingled the truck keys in my pocket and stood on sidewalks (not my natural element) and looked into the distance with my eyes set in a hard squint.
“Why don’t you go to the Gene Autry Museum?”
I’d been to the Roy Rogers Museum in Victorville, California (now having moved to Branson), and though I loved Roy, hadn’t enjoyed the experience. “I don’t think I can stand to see Champion stuffed.”
“It’s not like that.”
I went, and she was right. The Autry National Center of the American West now incorporates the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of the American West, and the Institute for the Study of the American West. With a huge plaza area of Mexican tile, the Autry showcases many special exhibitions, multiple galleries of memorabilia, art, and statuary that contain so many treasures of the West that I won’t even try to list them. And they have the Wells Fargo Theatre which regularly has events including Native American Theatre, music of the American West, and this particular weekend… Me.
I spent the morning with my mouth open as we were given a backstage view of the museum and lunch in the boardroom. All I could think was how embarrassing it was going to be if there were only four people there, Judy, myself, Scott Frank, the Senior Manager of Education and Volunteers, who was to be on stage with me to do the interview, and Chrystina Geagan, the Director of Membership and Visitor Services at the Autry. The lovely young lady was hopeful in that a number of people had RSVP’d earlier in the week, but I still wasn’t sold; it was LA, it was a Sunday afternoon, and it was scorching hot—all symptoms of low turnout.
We made our way down the stairs that opened into the lobby where the line went out the door. I turned to Chrystina. “Do you have another event going on this afternoon?”
She smiled. “No, you’re it.”
Standing room only.
After the talk, Scott turned and congratulated me, “Well, it looks like your reputation has preceded you.”
I smiled back but admitted the truth. “I think it was Gene and the Museum’s reputation that preceded us all.”
PS: If you’d like to join the museum, please go to their website www.autrynationalcenter.org or http://autrynationalcenter.org/membership_home.php...You don’t have to live in LA, you just have to want to celebrate the West….
PPS: I’ve got a few events coming up, including a guest blog on www.jungleredwriters.com where I’ll be talking about women and lesser subjects (all subjects after women are lesser) all day on Wednesday, August 5th.
The Sheridan Library, Sheridan, WY, Thursday, August 6th at 7:00pm
Barnes & Noble, Littleton, Colorado, August 20th at 7:00pm.