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Western author Rick Steber tells stories to seventh and eighth grade students Friday morning at Memorial Middle School in Albany. (David Patton/Democrat-Herald)
Several years ago, author Rick Steber remembers, a young man approached him and thanked him for speaking to his school when he was a boy. The young man never forgot the autographed book Steber had given him, signed to him personally. It had traveled with him each time he moved back and forth between his divorced parents. "It means something to me," he said.
To this day, Steber said, when he speaks to students - and he does so frequently; between 5,000 and 10,000 students a year—he gives each one a personally autographed book. They must promise to read it, and to remember his message: that they are capable of doing whatever they really want to do in life.
"You may not get rich. You may not get famous," the Prineville-area resident told 42 seventh and eighth-graders Friday at Memorial Middle School. "But if you find something in life you have a passion for, that's what you need to be doing."
Steber's own passion is telling stories, particularly pioneer-era stories and stories of the Old West.
Growing up in Eastern Oregon, he'd listen to the man who broke mustangs as a boy, or the woman who worked as the cook in a logging camp, or the guy with the pearl-handled pistols who called himself Rattlesnake Pete.
Steber began his writing career with a column called "Oregon Country," which he promoted by riding horseback to dozens of weekly newspapers throughout Oregon. Some of his interviews became the short stories that in turn became part of his 30-book bibliography: "Cowboys," "Mountain Men," "Western Heroes," "Tall Tales."
Some of the characters were too large to fit in a short story, Steber found. Those led to full-length books.
One such person was a man Steber met who was making and giving away birdhouses. The man explained he'd asked his wife, who was dying of Parkinson's disease, what he could do in her memory.
"Can you bring the bluebirds back to Oregon?" she asked. He said he would. That story became Steber's most recent, "A Promise Given," just published this week.
It"s important to Steber to capture people"s memories and bring them to life for a new generation. One of his favorite quotes comes from a proverb about the death of an elderly person being akin to a library burning down.
"I'm trying to get it down before it's gone," he said.
Steber spoke to both Memorial and Central Elementary on Friday, and was the guest of honor at Friday's meeting of the Albany Friends of the Library.
Read more: http://democratherald.com/news/local/author-rick-steber-follow-your-passion/article_839087d6-864c-11e1-ab43-0019bb2963f4.html#ixzz1s5Iq7YWe