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Although I was born in Boston, and was considered a Yankee in my elementary school years, I spent my formative childhood on a ranch in rural, central Florida.  So, the cowboy image has significance in that I grew up in an environment that celebrated the rodeo-Florida Cracker Cowboy way of life about which many present-day Floridians know little.   The cowboy persona blurred and merged with a Gulf coast sailing/fishing “salt-water cowboy” mentality when I moved to Pinellas County and spent my teen-age years and young adulthood surrounded by a marine environment.  
I am a retired English teacher, who taught for 39 years on the college, high school, and middle school levels. I earned National Board Certification in 2002 in Early Adolescence/English Language Arts, was a Fellow with the Tampa Bay Area Writing Project, and a summer Fellow with the Poynter Institute Writers Camp. "One Gunshot's Long Echo," Chapter 19 of Growing Up Floridian, was originally published in the St. Petersburg Times newspaper in December of 2000 as a "Sunday Journal" story. This chapter is written in third person in contrast to the first person narratives of the other chapters. The text was edited and reduced to fit the word limitation requirement of the newspaper. What is offered in my memoir is the original version written during a 1996 Poynter Institute's Summer Writers Camp for teachers and students under the direction of Dr. Roy Peter Clark, Mary Osborne, and Janie Guilbault and became an inspirational beginning for Growing Up Floridian. That memoir inspired the two volume novel, Natalie, a New England Girl with Cowboy Dreams.
Growing Up Floridian is a personal memoir that relives moments as a boy grew up in the 1950's and 1960's learning life lessons in a rural Cracker-cowboy environment. He put those lessons to use as he adapted to Florida's west coast as a beach-loving teenager. The stories offer connections for people who grew up in a simpler time and would enjoy both an exploration of natural Florida and a working ranch. Individual chapters capture moments when a boy tries to understand parental decisions, encounters potentially deadly wildlife, and explores evocative moments that ensnared a youngster's imagination. Responding to the accidental death of a brother, his parents' divorce, and the turbulence of the 1960's combined to produce an individual who tried to understand life's rhythms by staying attuned to the natural world. The text presents an educational look at Floridian wildlife from the perspective of a youngster learning the cowboy way of handling the complexities life threw at him. The memoir ends in the writer's young adult years with the suggestion that a second volume has begun.

More Books by
Michael Arthur Taylor

Natalie Gray, a small town New England girl, dreams of escaping a mundane, structured life in Reading, Massachusetts by taking advantage of her skills as a horseback rider, working on a dude ranch, and marrying a cowboy. Having taken horseback riding lessons during much of her young life, she gets the opportunity to become a riding instructor at a stable in New Hampshire during the summer of 1943 after graduating from high school. The distance from home allows her to make the decision to unshackle herself from her high school romance and explore independence.

Her brother’s return home from England as an accomplished WWII pilot, her parents disintegrating marriage, and her success as both a riding instructor and a hand-tooled leather crafts woman, inspire her decision to accept a job at a Massachusetts dude ranch. Her romance with a young cowboy blossoms as her parents’ marriage ends. Her sudden elopement offers a contrast to her brother’s idyllic post-war marriage ceremony.

Natalie, a New England girl with Cowboy Dreams

Michael Arthur Taylor

Natalie, the two volume series, captures the influence the western cowboy culture, that dominated the 1940’s to the 1960’s, had on a young woman…

Book Excerpt or Article

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