February 5, 2017

Retired Teacher Turned Writer of Colorado-Nancy Oswald

I’m homegrown, a retired teacher from a rural Colorado school, and live on our family ranch south of Cotopaxi, Colorado.  Since I mostly write Colorado-set historical fiction and non-fiction for young readers you’re going to get a bit of an eclectic tour of Colorado starting with my immediate surrounding and then to a few of the settings for my books.  

First, let’s get Denver out of the way.  I grew up there, but none of my books are set there unless you’re a believer that nothing that is ever written escapes the filter of an author’s experiences and who that person is at the heart level.  With that said, the closest book to my growing up experiences was published before I began to focus on historical fiction. It has been re-written and is out today under the title, Insects in the Infield, and captures the feel of growing up in the 50’s and 60’s when motoring around the neighborhood (and beyond) on a bike was common, and the freedom that went along with it electrifying. 

I left Denver for good after college and after marriage and a 12 year detour to British Columbia, returned with my husband to take over the lease on a ranch that has been in my family since 1948.  My husband and I are now the third generation to ranch here, raising and selling beef naturally with a lifetime goal of continually improving soil and pastures and leaving the ranch whole for future generations to benefit from.  

We are situated at the north end of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  This is a smaller mountain range that stretches from New Mexico northward to the middle of the Colorado. If you were a pioneer, traveling a southern route on your westward journey, your first mountain sighting might have been of the Spanish Peaks which Wikipedia wrongly names as part of the Rocky Mountains instead of this smaller, independent mountain range.   
The pioneers didn’t know the difference either.  In my biography of Edward Wynkoop, one of the founders of Denver, he describes the cheers from the seventeen (frozen) throats of the men in his party when “there before us, darting their snowcapped points into the blue outers were the three Spanish Peaks of the Rocky Mountains.”

We’re not always frozen here, but at 7500 feet, we catch our fair share of Colorado winter weather.  A storm can last a few days, but almost always clears quickly leaving the contrast of white against a crystal clear blue sky just as Wynkoop described it.  In contrast to Arizona, our predators and plants are a bit larger and less poisonous and prickly.  Our county has the largest population of Mountain Lions in Colorado and possibly the entire country.  Black bear, coyotes, deer, elk, wild turkeys, and big horn sheep along the Arkansas River are predominant.   

Our stretch of the Arkansas River is also the area planned for the controversial, 40 mile “Over the River” draping by the world famous artist, Christo.  There are some court cases pending in effort by to stop the project, but so far they have only been able to delay the “draping” until some future date.  It’s been nicknamed by locals as “rags over the river” or ROAR—Rags Over the Arkansas River. 

 Without getting too far from the home geographically,  let’s retro-leap to 1882.  In that year, a group of courageous Russian Jews immigrated to Cotopaxi to escape the latest pogroms of the Tsarist regime.  They planned to farm and eventually own land.  The remains of this colony are at about 8,500 feet on the southwest corner of our ranch and formed the basis for my first published historical fiction novel for young readers, 
Nothing Here but Stones. It was first published in hardback in 2004 and is now out in paperback. 

This is the book that lured me down the historical fiction trail.  Not only did I find it fun to write about an event that literally happened in my back yard, but it launched me into other parts of the state.  In 1864, while most of the rest of the country was focused on wrapping up the Civil War, the Sand Creek Massacre took place in eastern Colorado, roughly in the area of Eads.  During this massacre a group of friendly Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians who believed they were under the protection of the US military were attacked and brutally killed.  The events leading up to and beyond the massacre formed the basis for my second historical fiction book, Hard Face Moon, which tells the story of this event through the viewpoint of a mute 13 year old coming-of-age Cheyenne boy. 

To lighten things up a little, my final writing destination in Colorado to date is Cripple Creek,  Colorado where Ruby, an 11 year old girl, her donkey, and a cat find themselves in one predicament after the next.  There are three Ruby and Maude Adventures set in Cripple Creek, Rescue in Poverty Gulch, Trouble on the Tracks, and Trouble Returns.  I call these books my antidote to writing about the Sand Creek Massacre as they are light-hearted and fairly tame in comparison. The history of Cripple Creek began with a booming gold rush and stretches into the present times. Many of the original buildings have been converted into casinos, but the historic flavor of this elevated (10,000 plus feet) mountain town remains. 

This completes my tour.  If the idea of reading more about Colorado’s past has grabbed you, leave a comment for a chance to receive a copy of Massacre, Murder, and Mayhem in the Rocky Mountain West, a compilation of articles published in conjunction with the Pikes Peak Library yearly history symposium.  Make sure to include contact info. 

 I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour and learned a little bit along the way.  More about me, www.nancyoswald.com  More about our business and Grass finished beef:  www.oswaldgrassfedbeef.com

(all info author provided) 


  1. Fascinating post which I enjoyed greatly. Being Jewish and from Eastern Europe the most interesting information was about the Russian Jews who settled in Colo. I live in NM and have driven to Colo. which is amazing.

  2. I've been to Colorado and hope to visit again. Colorado has natural beauty, history, good food. What's not to like?

  3. Nancy, I always love your writing, you neck of the woods and your sense of fun. The Massacre book is so full of information, a must read for anyone who wants to understand history.

    I also love your Ruby books. They are not just for kids. Doris

  4. What a captivating and most informative post about Colorado. Love the state as I do B.C. which is my favorite province. your life sounds rewarding and special. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  5. Colorado is so wild and beautiful! I haven't had the chance to visit for an extended amount of time, but I have driven through a few times and am in awe of the scenery.


  6. Thanks you friends and blog readers for all your nice comments. I wanted to mention that a week or so before this blog was posted, Christo decided to cancel his project for draping the Arkansas River. The reaction here was mixed. For the most part, the towns to the east and west, (Canon City and Salida) were disappointed at the potential loss of revenue, but the local ROAR group roared with delight. Rural people can be curmudgeons when it comes to having their access to City Market and Safeway cut off, but beyond that there were concerns about the environment and disruptions while the fabric was being hung and taken down. If you want to read more about Christo’s decision, you can Google Christo and the Arkansas River Project. The Denver Post article is a good one and explains more about his reasons for cancelling. Thanks again to Annette, for letting me be a part of this fun blog tour. Nancy Oswald

  7. Would love to read your book set i my home state of Colorado. I am from Las Animas, a small farming town in the eastern part of the state situated on the Arkansas River. I really enjoy reading about that area of the state and its history. I have been to many of the towns and historic places in the state. A beautiful place for sure.

  8. I feel like I've been everywhere when I read this blogspot. I met my husband in 1982 in Denver, Colorado and we got married on February 4th 1984. His three children moved in with us shortly after that. We stayed in the Denver metropolitan area for fifteen years, then moved to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. We just celebrated our 33rd anniversary. We now live in Nashville, TN. Your book sounds truly interesting and I'm just a little curious if the Cripple Creek in your book is from the old-old song, Up On Cripple Creek. The one that says: Up on Cripple Creek she sends me
    If I spring a leak she mends me.I don't have to speak she defends me
    A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one. That song brings back memories well before I moved to Denver. The book sounds interesting.

  9. Colorado is such a beautiful state. I've been there many times. I must say I'm glad to hear about the Christo decision. Although I know nothing about it, I'm not one who thinks our natural beauty needs to be improved upon. Perhaps he could do an installation in an ugly urban environment to make things look better.

  10. Thank you for highlighting Nancy. I learned some things about her that I didn't know. Your project of interviewing authors is an interesting one. I hope to follow it.

  11. Nancy, loved all the information about Colorado. I was born in Denver, but never lived there for any length of time. Your books sound interesting too. I am doing Idaho shortly.

  12. Thanks for the great post, Nancy. And for the great books. I've reviewed almost all of them on my author's blog, "Writing to be Read" and they are all well written, with unique characters and interesting subject matter.I am proud to call you my friend and colleague. Happy writing!

  13. Prettiest state I've ever visited!

  14. Colorado is amazing! Located a few hours south of my home in Casper, Wyoming, my husband and I visit Colorado frequently. We LOVE Rocky Mountain National Park, and though we haven't been to your area very much, we intend to travel there in 2017 as well as visit New Mexico. Your work sounds wonderful and interesting; I will have to learn more about your books!


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