December 15, 2014


Pinning the ‘tale’ on a donkey

December 2, 2014

For sure I am not the first storyteller to pin the “tale” on a donkey.


“Jack the Burro” by Frank Seckler at Paul’s Western Wear in Taos, New Mexico.

Robert Louis Stevenson did it in the 1800s with Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes. Zane Grey did it with Tappan’s Burro. More recently Tim Moore wrote Travels with My Donkey and Andy Merrifeld penned The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World.

While donkeys played central roles in these books, each is about something more than the donkeys themselves. Likewise, with Full Tilt Boogie: A journey into autism, fatherhood, and an epic test of man and beast, I have framed my story with the Rocky Mountains as the backdrop and the gritty sport of pack-burro racing as a theme.

But Full Tilt Boogie is really about my challenges parenting my autistic son, Harrison. It is a story of determination, love and perseverance in the face of adversity.

The book is 224 pages and includes several color photographs. It is available in both electronic form and paperback.

Pay what you want ebook

To get an ebook (pdf) that you can read on your kindle, iPad or Nook, simply send an email to and I will send it to you! You choose the price! There’s a button inside the book that will take you to a place you can easily pay for it online.


The paperback also is available directly from me for $20, including shipping. You can either “send money” using paypal to or send a check to me at 307 Centennial Dr., Westcliffe, CO 81252. Of course, send along your address so I know where to mail it.

If you prefer, Full Tilt Boogie is also available on amazon.

The book also is available at the Book Haven in Salida.

Don Con giving away music to fund new album

November 30, 2014

Taos musician Don Conoscenti, well known in Central Colorado music circles and a former San Luis Valley resident, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund production of a new music album.
As incentive for the campaign, Don Con is giving away all of his previous music — about 10 albums — as a free music download through Dec. 31. Donations of any amount are welcome.
Known nationally for his song “The Other Side,” which became popular after the 9/11 terror attacks, and regionally for his song “Beautiful Valley” about the SLV, Conocenti’s music explores the spiritual nature of life in the mountains and deserts of Colorado and Northern New Mexico.
For more information about the music and to donate to the kickstarter program, visit

A visit to see the GEMS burros

November 7, 2014


Finally made the trip (and it was a trip!) out to the Great Escapes Mustang Sanctuary (GEMS) where my friend Kim Zamudio is the trainer in chief and is working with wild horses and wild burros.

The sanctuary is out northeast of Kiowa.


Kim and some of the donks she’s trained at GEMS.

Kim is an official trainer with the Platero Project, launched by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in an effort to place more wild burros captured off Western rangelands into adoptive homes. She is able to take animals directly from the BLM, train them, then offer them for adoption.

There are as many as 1,300 wild donkeys that have been removed from public lands by the BLM and are being held in captivity.

Currently at GEMS 10 of these formerly feral burros are available for adoption. Kim has them trained to various degrees. Many of them are halter-trained and broke to carry pack saddles. These are about as nice a bunch of donkeys as I’ve seen.

People often ask me where they can get a burro. If you’re considering an animal for packing, pack-burro racing, a guard or companion donk, or a pet, I would encourage your to get in contact with GEMS. Not only are these burros gentled and trained, the adoption fee is extremely reasonable.

The sanctuary also has 29 mustangs, and serves as a center for education and awareness about burros and mustangs. Tours are available and donations are appreciated. Check out their website at

A season through the classroom of time

November 1, 2014

My recent column in Colorado Central magazine


‘Full Tilt Boogie’ available as ebook

October 26, 2014

FTBcover2 copy

My new book, Full Tilt Boogie — A journey into autism, fatherhood, and an epic test of man and beast is now available as an ebook directly from me. This ebook is a PDF that can be read on most tablets or your computer.

Full Tilt Boogie is a story of endurance and perseverance in the face of adversity, and is filled with parallels and metaphors for life. The book is organized as a series of vignettes that weave together to tell the story of how I set out at the age of 53 with a jenny donkey named Full Tilt Boogie to win a seventh World Championship in one of the planet’s most obscure and difficult endurance sports, while also struggling with the challenges of raising my autistic son Harrison, financial hardships, and aging.

To get a copy simply email your email address to me at The book is “pay what you want” — there is a button on the copyright page and on the back cover directing you to an online payment form that takes Paypal or credit cards.

The ebook is also being published by Vook, and will soon be available on all major epublishing channels — Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Nobel and others.

Print copies of Full Tilt Boogie will be available from me in the near future, and several signing events are in the works. Stay tuned for details.

This is an exciting time to be a writer, with so many ways to get your work out there, and also to get paid for it. I thank my readers for being a part of this journey.

“Inspiring, thoughtful, humorous, pensive, honest…a must-read for parents, athletes, ranchers, farmers, animal lovers. Without question, four hooves up!” Nancy H., Colorado Springs

“In two evenings I’ve experienced more than every human emotion; loved this book , what a great job you’ve done. God bless you all.” — Chuck L., Westcliffe

Words and Pictures

October 7, 2014


“Nearly everything we are taught is false except how to read.” So says poet Jim Harrison, who apparently has an ax to grind.

“A picture paints a thousand words.” So says Frederick R. Barnard, in Printer’s Ink, a national trade magazine for advertising.

Barnard also had an ax to grind, but then that magazine went out of business.

Ancient peoples wrote in pictures painted on rocks, a form of expression which is real and lasting. Later people learned to chisel words into rocks.

Then came paper and ink.

Now it’s bits and screens, perhaps not as enduring as rock or paper.

Temple Grandin says language gets in the way of visual thinking, that words tend to cloud some ways of thinking. What does this all mean in the age of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, which all feed into short attention span, and in a world where success is determined by “Likes?”

In journalism school we were taught to write short. The “Five  Ws and the H” first. Everything else can be cut from the bottom. An editor once told me the end of the world could be written in 10 column inches.

It’s also struck me that poetry is a form of condensing words into a picture.

As both a photographer and writer I see that pictures get way more “likes” than the words. I’ve been conducting an unscientific study, which I think is unbiased since nobody’s paying to view or to read. The photos win hands-down, 5-1 or better.

There also have been instances when I have posted something to read and someone has “liked” it so fast I know there’s no way they could have actually read it.

If you write a book, however, longer is often believed to be better. But will anyone read it? Or will they skip through it looking for the pictures, those you’ve painted with words? Or go right to the ending?

In this new age of expression it’s up to those who create to figure out how best to get their ideas out there. Perhaps there’s something to be learned from poets.

Like those who painted rock walls before us, we have no other choice. We can blame electronic media but then did the ancients blame rock walls?

Full Tilt Boogie

January 28, 2014
Check out “Tales from a Pack-Burro Racer” on Modern Farmer.

Half Moon

October 12, 2013


Light on the headstones

October 2, 2013


By Hal Walter

As I was pulling away from the feed store I noticed the early evening light on the headstones of the small cemetery on the hillside about a mile away. I’ve seen so many great photos of cemeteries in the Southwest, and had tried some photography in this graveyard a couple of times with no luck. But this evening the light and the clouds looked interesting and I thought I’d drive up there and take a look around.

Harrison and I got out of the car and stepped across the cattle guard and into the fenced-in area. There was a warm breeze and the little flags on the veterans’ graves all fluttered in unison. It seems there’s always a breeze at this cemetery. But it’s one of the most peaceful places I know. Harrison began running around looking at the headstones, reading the names, some of them of well-known Wet Mountain Valley families.

For the past few years it’s been common for us to hang out at the playground after school lets out so Harrison can play with the other kids. But he had become less interested in the playground or his friends, and more commonly bothered their parents, asking for their cell phones or their keys, interrupting conversations. One afternoon his behavior was such that I realized I needed to physically remove him from the playground. Like so many of these incidents over the years, after it’s over it’s all a blur, difficult to remember the sequence of events and the deciding factor that led to the decision to take extreme measures. He had been rude to his friends and their parents. He had yelled and screamed. He had talked back when I asked him to stop, and continued on with the misbehavior. At some point I took his backpack over to the car then returned to pick him up and carry him kicking and screaming and swinging from the playground with a group of parents of neurotypical children as an audience. I know deep inside few of these people could do what I just did without the guidance of both a personal trainer and a psychotherapist. This is the sort of behavior and consequences one might expect when dealing with much younger children, but at 9 years old it’s physically like picking up and carrying a very uncooperative and loud bale of hay, and psychologically as flattening as being run over by a truck.

Afterward strikes the realization that as a parent I could avoid this entire scene repeating itself by simply avoiding the playground.

Now Harrison was running around the graveyard like it was a playground. He asked if it was a maze. I told him no, that this was a cemetery, and anticipated the next question but there was none. In recent months he’d had questions about death and dying, and I’d tried to explain as best as I could, keeping in mind that such abstract notions seemed the most difficult for the autistic mind to reason. I recalled the sheer terror when I was about his age and learned about death and that some people were buried after they died. I stayed awake at night in a claustrophobic panic at this notion. I didn’t want Harrison to have this same experience, but then many grown-ups battle with this fear.

We walked the little two-track dirt road through the graveyard, and I focused on a tall white cross with some headstones and iron grave fences behind it, clouds for a backdrop. I took several shots at different angles. I knew the images were somewhat less awesome than, say, Ansel Adams’ “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” for example.

When I turned around I found Harrison sitting in a painted white wrought-iron bench at the foot of a nearby grave. As I walked up to him I could see the massive and dark-polished stone, the actual grave covered in decorative gravel — white with a red pattern. Harrison was inspecting a weathered teddy bear that was wired to the bench as if to keep the ever-present wind from carrying it away. I looked to the stone and saw the grave belonged to a girl who had died when she was 15.

What is this? Harrison asked.

Well .  . . it’s the grave of a girl who died, I said. She’s buried here.

Let’s dig her out, he said with an air of concern.

No, son, she’s gone . . . her spirit lives on but her body is dead. Just her body is buried here.

Is her spirit gone to outer space?

No, her spirit is in heaven. This is a just a place where her family can come and sit and remember her, talk to her.

OK. he said.

We walked down the little two-track road and I paused to take more pictures. Harrison read more names from the stones. I surveyed the little cemetery and its collection of graves. A big white stone Santo stood at the entrance with arms outstretched. The graves were marked with everything from simple hand-painted wooden crosses and small flagstone slabs to ornate granite and marble stones, some with spires and crosses. Fences around some of the plots. Little pots of plastic flowers. We went back to the car. I looked through the windshield at the sweeping range of the valley. Because of my childhood fear of being buried I’d always wanted to be cremated, but I thought if I were to change my mind this would be the place to be. On the wind there was the sound of music, like someone playing a flute very badly. I stuck my head out the window trying to determine what this sound was and where it was coming from. I asked Harrison if he heard it too and he said yes.

Finally I stood back out of the car and listened. The sound was coming from the cemetery. Perhaps some wind flute over a grave, or the breeze breathing through a fence, a headstone or some other ornament placed by those left behind. Or perhaps the music of a friendly spirit playing a tune to a weathered teddy bear.


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