Story locations hit close to home
One word comes to mind when speaking with author Jim Ainsworth – authentic. The Northeast Texas author has been spinning tales about small communities in this corner of Texas for some …
Story locations hit close to home
One word comes to mind when speaking with author Jim Ainsworth – authentic. The Northeast Texas author has been spinning tales about small communities in this corner of Texas for some time.
What is most interesting about Ainsworth’s story-telling is that he uses small communities as the cloth from which he weaves his tales. Cooper, Honey Grove and Commerce (among others) are more than just scenes in his novels. They are what the books are drawn from.
As Wood County luckily remains a county of small communities, his work certainly will resonate well among friends and neighbors.
“One of the most amazing things about a small town,” Ainsworth noted, “are the stories which reside just below the surface of daily life.”
The story of Ainsworth’s life journey from Klondike in Delta County to the Panhandle, back to Northeast Texas, is marked by events which seemed to ready him for authorship.
“We grew up poor,” he stated, “not impoverished, but poor. My father, Teadon Ainsworth, worked a small holding for cotton and tended a herd for dairy.” He related that it was a bad drought in the 1950s which closed down the family farm.
Grave circumstances took the family to the Panhandle. An uncle working a ranch west of Amarillo had suffered a grievous injury from a rattlesnake bite. His father was offered the chance to take over running the ranch. The family packed up and headed west.
For a maturing boy, it was a dream come true. Living on a remote ranch with the nearest neighbors miles away, Ainsworth embraced the independent life of a cowboy.
“We didn’t have ag in school,” he stated, “We were ag.”
He admits that his time in the Panhandle was one of the greatest experiences of his life. A cowboy at heart, he stated that he was born 100 years too late.
He described, “My father was a farmer, not a rancher, so he had to learn it all – wheat, maize, beef cattle, irrigation.”
Ainsworth paused to talk about the influence of his parents, and specifically his father. “He taught me by example. They were always encouraging and supportive, but we all had responsibilities and we were held accountable.”
Just prior to his high school graduation, the family returned to Northeast Texas, his parents yearning for neighbors and community. They returned to Klondike and Ainsworth finished high school in Cooper.
He had already been nurturing a requisite talent of a writer. “I noticed everything,” he admitted. The accountability within the family made it mandatory. “You had to pay attention,” he stressed.
A successful career in accounting followed his collegiate studies. His accounting firm specialized in small town accounts. Often, when meeting with his clients, he would jot down notes in a small notebook about the stories they would tell him.
When he co-founded a broker-dealer in Dallas, he built an office on his acreage outside of Campbell and worked remotely from home. This was years before the present trend of working remotely.
Perhaps it was being at home, but his interest in family history, and especially in the travels of his extended family within the state, began to consume more and more of his time.
That pilgrimage which his immediate family had taken from East Texas to the Panhandle and return was not the first such relocation. In 1918, his grandfather, Hiram Griffin, had relocated with the family from Ranger (between Abilene and Weatherford) to Klondike. It was thought that the Spanish flu had played in the decision to move to Northeast Texas.
Interest in family history eventually led to Ainsworth penning a memoir. “Biscuits Across the Brazos” is an account of the horseback journey undertook by Ainsworth and five others in 1998 to recreate the journey his family had undertaken in 1918 from Ranger to Klondike.
The experience of this journey was a life-changing event for Ainsworth. In addition to convincing him of the need to continue writing about his family, there were events which were inexplicable.
This included a rancher who approached the riders at the end of a long day inquiring about some lost livestock. The man took one knee when he spoke and kept his face hidden by his hat. Ainsworth and his cousin, Marion Shepherd, were stunned. They both believed that they had been visited by their long past grandfather. After a brief exchange, the man just walked off.
What followed the memoir of the trail drive was a series of historical fiction books based loosely on Ainsworth’s family history. A collection of stories ensued, as did a novel based on the short and event-filled life of his late brother. At the request of his readers, Ainsworth has also published “Believing in a Grand Thing,” which documents Ainsworth’s personal journey of faith.
Currently there are 14 titles in his portfolio, with more coming.
As he sits in his office surrounded by 70 years-worth of memorabilia, team-roping trophies and books, Ainsworth reflected, “Writing is therapeutic, mentally-stimulating and inspirational.”
Asked to give advice to anyone who would like to begin recording the stories which life presents, Ainsworth admitted that writing tends to intimidate many folks. “It’s simple, though,” he offered, “just write it for yourself, your wife and your kids.”
“Capture the story. It will calm your mind and bring you serenity,” he said. That bit of wisdom should give others hope in recording events of interest in the many small communities of East Texas.