Press Release

Release Date: September 28, 2023
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

GEORGETOWN, Texas – A quarter century of prolonged interruptions, accompanied by self- doubt and lengthy hours of research, have ended for Don Branscum – poet, songwriter and now, Texas author. 

His book, “Ride the Whirlwind,” a 689-page epic novel, has been an on-again, off- again passion for him since 1987. His 35-year endeavor culminated with a book that is now available on Amazon. 

The fictional work – with a smattering of actual events and real- life characters – follows the dream of Dusty Fowler, a Chickasaw cowboy who ventures off to California in hopes of striking it rich or at least acquiring enough capital to start a ranch in the Davis Mountains south of Pecos, Texas. 

But the adventure takes an unexpected twist when he stumbles across an 11-year-old Hispanic boy – Alberto Sandovar – unconscious in the arid, punishing heat of the New Mexico Territory. 

Over the next several weeks, the two of them form a strong bond. It was a friendship that would eventually send Dusty on the longest journey of his life when the young boy is taken by marauders. It was not unusual in the late 1800s for children to be kidnapped by pillagers and sold into manual labor to farms, mining enterprises and ranches across the border into Mexico. 

What emerges through the brilliantly descriptive writing of Branscum’s pen is Dusty’s search for Alberto in hopes of freeing him from the bonds of a slave-like existence. 

“I don’t want to give too much of the story away,” Branscum said laughing. “The truth is that I started out on a mission to author a story called ‘The Old Man and The Mexican’ after a song written by singer-songwriter Hank A. Thompson. But after taking pen in hand, I couldn’t get past the first few pages. Writing in longhand was too slow, and I soon put it aside in frustration. 

“Then, in 1995, I purchased my first computer and commenced writing my long-overdue masterpiece – or so I thought,” Branscum writes in the book’s preface. “My first draft was so inadequate and depressing that I spent the next few years devouring books on how to draft a novel. 

“Once I returned to the story, I found it ‘“veering away’” from the original plot and ‘“taking its own course and a new title.’” 

Years passed. 

“One day, I pushed away from my desk, took a hard look at the stack of paper in front of me and nearly wept. After all those years of anticipation and hard work – it had grown to over 1,000 pages at the time – I had finished what I set out to do: author a classic western novel.” 

As he read the manuscript, self-doubt emerged. “It was clear I still didn’t know how to write the finer points of a story, much less a classic.” 

So, he turned his computer into a tool of research, reading more “how-to” articles and recommendations of how to write a successful novel. 

“Many drafts later, I finally have a story I’m proud to publish,” he noted. 

He dedicated “Ride the Whirlwind” to his wife Linda, adding “without whom it would still be languishing in my computer.” But Branscum is emotionally vested in the undertones of his novel; of child labor, hardship and cruelty and the grit of eking out a life in the Old West. He quotes famed New York City author Neil Postman: “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” 

“Postman’s quote moved me,” he said, adding, “In time, you may well forget the words in this book. It is, however, my hope the message between the lines will remain a part of you ... forever.” 

Branscum’s words will stir readers. His writing is on par with what Texas native Robert Benton brought to movie theatres in 1984 with “Places in the Heart.” Benton, born and reared in Waxahachie, Texas, 90 years ago, vividly illustrated the desperation, toil, racial inequity and hunger pangs of Great Depression subsistence. “Places in the Heart” delivered an Academy Award to Sally Field as best actress and also earned an Oscar for Best Screenplay. 

Branscum, a Chickasaw citizen, was born in Wilson, Oklahoma, and spent his early years there and in nearby communities such as Ardmore. His mother was Imogene Carlton Branscum, daughter of William and Fannie (Adams) Carlton. William Guy Carlton was half Chickasaw, the son of Roberson Carlton and Sarah Underwood. 

Moving to Texas at the age of 5, he grew up in Odessa. In high school, he worked summers in the oil field as a roustabout. As the son of a “roughneck,” he knew he would pursue a safer line of work after his uncle was killed on an oil rig. 

Following high school, Branscum joined the Marines and returned to Odessa after boot camp and ITR training as a member of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserves. He attended the University of Texas at Austin for two years and took courses at Odessa College with the aim of completing his degree in sociology. 

Taking advantage of a chance opportunity, he began a 45-year career in the alcohol beverage industry. Years of working in sales and management in southwest Texas paid dividends in his descriptive passages in the book. 

“The air was still and there were no clouds in the azure sky to provide relief from the late-afternoon sun. The terrain was almost level now, though painful challenges still existed. Thorny mesquite bushes, prickly pear cactus and vicious catclaw stretched as far as the eye could see,” he writes about Dusty’s ride into Texas from New Mexico Territory. 

Dusty is proud of his Chickasaw heritage, and references to it are woven into the story. In an early chapter, Dusty educates Alberto that “soba” means “horse” in the Chickasaw language. As Alberto admires a jet-black stallion, Dusty suggests the name “Soba Losa.” 

“In Chickasaw, the word for the color comes after the word for horse, same as in Spanish,” Dusty points out. 

Today, Branscum is enjoying retirement in central Texas with his wife and his trusty laptop where new storylines and characters are waiting to be set loose on the pages of his next novel. 

To enjoy “Ride the Whirlwind,” look for it on Amazon either in paperback or digitally. 

His songwriting can also be discovered on YouTube. Merely search “Don Branscum” and several country songs he has penned will be ready to enjoy.