Max Windham lives on a gravel road just north of Sumrall, but his heart is in the West.
After a 40-year career in construction, Windham decided to follow his heart.
“All my life, the West just called me all these years,” he said. “Building houses, I never had time to go. Along about 1995, my wife and I took a little vacation out there. We told ourselves then, ‘From now on, every three months we are going to go and spend a week.’ My mind was so clear that I could do my business. Well, five years later, we went again.”
However, about two years ago, Windham started writing for a book about the West, Indian culture and frontier times. This resulted in his first book, “One Who Knows Horses,” which was published in October 2017. His second book, “Spanish Valley,” was published last month.
Windham said he is lucky that his wife, Sandra, likes to travel.
“All I’ve got to do is call her and say, ‘Put clothes in a suitcase,’ and she’ll say, ‘For how long?’” he said. “On the first trip, we went to Wyoming, Arizona and Colorado. Next year is Utah, Idaho and Montana.”
The Windhams – who take along their grandson, Tyler, 9, on their trips – said the West offers plenty of sites during a trip.
“I told people if I could go every year of my life and I lived 20 more years, I won’t have seen a fourth of what’s up there to see,” he said. “I tried to get my friends to go follow the Lewis and Clark Trail. They said, ‘Oh, I don’t want to do that. That’s crazy.’ Man, you’re going to spend the rest of your life and not know what’s out there. So, I just quit fooling with them.”
As far as his writing, Windham’s family encouraged him to write a book.
“When I got started writing in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s, my wife said, ‘I think you could write a book,’” he said. “I hadn’t thought much about it. When I retired, I was complaining to my son, who worked at the library, ‘All of these Westerns are the same thing over and over. You read the first chapter and you know how it’s going to end.’ He said, ‘If you think you can do better, you should try.’ I said, ‘I think I can.’ I’ve told my kids and grandkids that they can do anything they put their minds to, so I had to put up or shut up.”
In the first book, the story follows Zachery Morris, who leaves Mississippi with his stallion, Ollie. He travels west in 1830 and meets Native Americans. In some cases, Morris is the only white man who has ever been seen by the tribes.
“My first book touches on some of the ways of the Indian life, Windham said. “At the time, I did not know it was going to be published. I was writing it just to be writing it. Whenever I got through with it, my wife said, ‘Let’s publish it.’ I told my wife to read it after I finished it. She said, ‘I love it.’ So, I said, ‘Push the “Send” button.’”
“Spanish Valley” continues with Zack and his wife, One Who Knows Horses, who have lived a good life in their hidden valley. Now their children are doing the same. Daughter Beth finds a journal about a Spanish captain detailing a task he must complete, so she pursues the adventure. Then, the Civil War begins.
“I hope it’s something people want to read because – I tell you the truth – I have probably read that first book 26 times,” Windham said. “You go through the book, you hunt your mistakes and you try to change things to get it right. Every time I read it, I enjoyed it. I would read through three chapters and realize that I wasn’t looking for errors.”
Windham will be sharing his writing adventures during a book signing at 10 a.m. Saturday at the L.R. Boyer Memorial Library in Sumrall.