By Dana Guzzetti
The Western novel "Waterhole" starts with the question, "Pa, how much longer we gotta' dig this ditch?"
The answer, and every following page, transports the reader back to the time when Dodge City marked the edge of the untamed West.
That could not be further from author Kurt Adkins' life in Walnut Creek or his career as an El Monte Elementary teacher in Concord. However, it is not surprising for a man who has created a life of contrasts while continuing to write.
After work on his high school newspaper and graduation from Chico State with a liberal arts degree, Adkins expected to be a teacher. Circumstances took him sideways into banking.
"I spent 24 years in the business world in internal auditing, operations management and human resource management capacities," he explains. "I think writing for business was good. It taught me how to organize my thoughts and minimize words. It taught me discipline."
All of that discipline apparently did not stifle his imagination or a childhood love of cowboy life.
"I can remember watching the old Western TV shows -- "Lone Ranger," "Gunsmoke," "Bonanza," "The Rifleman" -- I could go on," Adkins says.
When he was not watching TV, he read books about cowboys and imagined what life was like for his grandmother with the last name of Hatfield. "My favorite author is Larry McMurtry, author of 'Lonesome Dove.'"
Earning a master's degree in sports psychology at JFK University, his teaching credential at Saint Mary's College and an administrative credential at Cal State East Bay, Adkins began teaching at El Monte seven years ago.
All along Adkins found ways to keep writing about sports and local news events, but fiction remained closest to his heart.
He shares that passion for creative writing by teaching and motivating his students, as well as through his own writing projects.
"My daughter Christa has continually pushed me to publish," Adkins says.
"I wanted to write something in the true western genre; no vulgar language and not too deep and complex," Adkins explains. "Something historically accurate ..."
As it turned out, what began as a short story became a novel when the characters he had developed demanded it.
"Actually there are more characters, and the plot twists and turns more than you expect," Adkins admits. While teaching students how important it is to "know where you are going from the beginning," Adkins quickly adds, "It's OK if you change later."
His story of a boy whose mother has mysteriously vanished covers a 20-year time period and locations from Kansas to Oklahoma, Arizona and California. The father-and-son quest to find her evolves into an action-packed, coming-of-age tale set in a tumultuous time of dramatic change in the western United States.
There are some historical figures in it, but Adkins' story is definitely fiction and so are the two new stories he is writing for school-age readers.
"Waterhole" by Kurt Adkins is published by Abbot Press and is also available at Barnes and Noble Booksellers and at Amazon.com