Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Writing Michael Martin Murphey's Story"

Howdy Folks,
On Friday I had the privilege and honor of interviewing Michael Martin Murpey for a story in my Heartbeats column in Trail Blazer. I figured it needed to be in the April issue, because my story about David Lichman's "Horses Helping Humans North American Benefit Tour" was my March Heartbeats story.

After Michael's interview was scheduled, for Friday at noon, I sent Bobbie Jo, the fantastic editor at Trail Blazer, an email about my upcoming story for April. It must be in April, I said, because one of his major fundraisers, a nationwide trail ride event to raise money for the, "Fiona Rose Murphey Foundation," was happening in June and I'd like my story to help that, too. Bobbie Jo loved the idea and said she was just about to ask me about moving David Lichman's story to a "Feature Article." So if I could get Michael's story to her by Monday, his could be the March Heartbeats! Of course I said, "You Bet!"
Michael Martin Murphey
I never had two stories in one magazine issue before! The fact that I only had two days did not sink in yet ... Happily, I'm all set to do the interview at noon on Friday.

A good interview takes me about two hours. I figure we'll do the interview, I'll take a short ride, then start writing about five Friday evening, and finish it Saturday. Then send it to Michael and his publicist to proof. It usually takes me ten to twelve hours to write, edit, polish and complete a story for a magazine. I figure I'll get the proof back Monday, make the suggested corrections, and get it to Bobbie Jo by midday Monday right on schedule. Good to go. Almost.

Friday morning I'm talking with the publicist, about getting photos, and I verify the time, "12:00 Eastern, right?" 

"Oh no, you're Eastern, that's right." He says. "That would be 3:00, your time."

Oh darn. Well that's okay, I'll just ride first. No big deal. And I did. Then at three, I called Michael. No answer. I leave a message. I call back at 3:30, no answer, and the mail box is full, but the number is there for his assistant. I call her, leave a message. Then I call the publicist, and leave a message. It's about 4:00 now. I hang out, table set, paper, pens and recorder ready to go for the interview, just waiting for a call.

About 6:30, Gary Holt, from Equine Legacy Radio, who had suggested and arranged for the story, calls me to see how the interview went. I said, "It didn't." I told him what happened, and knowing it had to be to Bobbie Jo by Monday, Gary said he'd try to contact everyone.

Gary called back to tell me he too found Michael's mail box full, but left a message with his publicist. I knew I couldn't work on the story at all on Sunday, I'd be gone all day, and that couldn't change. I also had an obligation Saturday morning. So now I worried about my completion time. Bobbie Jo had probably even begun to change the layout of the magazine by now.

As soon as Gary and I say goodbye, Michael called. It was getting close to 7:00. He literally called me as he was unlocking his motel room door. Apologizing, a lot, he explained he planned to call as he drove, but he had no, or not very good service in the desert, and couldn't call until he got to Reno. "What would you like to know?" He asked. "We have about forty-five minutes before my appointment with a major sponsor."

Oh my gosh. Forty-five minutes! I need a lot more time than that. I'm a different kind of interviewer. Never had any training, barely graduated high school, so I just have a visit, and listen. As if we're having coffee. I don't really know how to ask a lot of questions. I just spend time with them, like I do with horses, and let them lead the way. And the story comes to me. That's it. That's how I work ... But 45 minutes, holy cow!

I used every bit of the time we had. Michael was terrific! We had a most delightful chat, and an hour later, I felt like we were long time friends. I think he was getting ready for his meeting while we talked, but like the pro he is, he made sure we had a perfect interview. Including the true story behind his beautiful song, Wildfire." And what those lyrics mean to him.

I wrote the first paragraph Friday night. – "Growing up in the city, but spending the summers of his youth on his grandparents' ranch, Michael learned the horse, human bond early. It was there the spark of enjoying the world from horseback was first ignited deep within him. Life on the ranch was busy for a young Michael, but that busy time forged ideas and plans that shaped a lifetime. The ideas did not take long to sprout into real life adventures and by the age of fifteen, he vowed he would see as much of America from horseback as possible. And he would help others see it too."

I always try to get my story started soon after the interview. I usually go out to Kessy, or go lay down a bit, let things bounce around in my hollow head, then write the beginning. I'm good then, the rest can grow as it needs to. It was nearly 10:00pm by the time I had that first paragraph, but now I had my footing.

Saturday morning at 11:00 I started right off. Let me here explain, every story must not only tell the tale, but it has a beginning, a middle and an end. It also has a rhythm, and transitions. My opening paragraph carried me into the story. I read my notes, listened to our recording and did really great. It all came together and flowed gently. Until about 3:00. I was in a big transition, knew where the story wanted to take me but it just wouldn't work. When it doesn't flow, well, it just doesn't. Everything was in my head, but nothing worked smoothly.

Only one answer, saddle Kessy, and let her help. So I did. We had a delightful ride, lots of gaiting and racking. We had a blast. We were half an hour from home when my transition sentence came to me. I couldn't wait to get back. The rest of the story, even the last sentence, was shouting to be written before I could see the barn! The last sentence by the way, made Bobbie Jo cry … Me too.

I finished the story at exactly 10:30 Saturday night. Sent it to Michael and his publicist for review. Sunday they sent it back, approved. They had one small edit. Michael said he liked it, "a lot." His publicist said I caught things few people do, and he really liked my, "conversational style of writing."

They sent me terrific pictures, and I got everything to Bobbie Jo by noon on Monday. It was a wild ride writing this one, but my story about how much more than a great singer/songwriter Michael is will be in the March issue of Trail Blazer. Thanks everybody for helping!

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry 

By the way, if you'd like to know more about the June, "Fiona Rose Murphey Foundation," Nationwide fundraising ride  CLICK HERE 



  1. Not fair, my heart was racing just knowing you didn't get done in time! I'm glad you did, and now I can't wait for that issue :)

  2. Suspenseful beginning to a wonderful talk with a new/old friend. Glad it worked out well.