Children's author was inspired by childhood home in Clear Spring

June 16, 2006|by LISA PREJEAN

As a little girl, Betty Bauer found time between chores to read books from the Washington County Bookmobile under the big maples on her Clear Spring farm.

She says that her childhood home offered much to inspire an adventurous spirit and a love of writing.

"Everywhere I've lived in this country has been beautiful and satisfying," Bauer wrote via e-mail this week. "I feel fortunate to have experienced so many places; each has contributed to my uniqueness. Usually my experiences show up later in writing."

An author of children's stories, Bauer's latest work is "Bison and Burro: From Here to One Hundred - and Fast." The book is timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Mesa Verde as a national park in southwestern Colorado. The park's centennial anniversary is June 29, and commemorates President Theodore Roosevelt's signing of the American Antiquities Act of 1906.

This act authorized presidents to name historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures and other objects of historic or scientific interest as national monuments.


"Bison and Burro" is a delightful journey from the grasslands of Kansas to Four Corners in southwestern Colorado, an area so named because the borders of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico come together in one point, enabling a person to stand in all four states at the joining point.

The book's journey is taken by a bison, the preferred term for an American buffalo, and a burro, the name for a donkey, especially one used as a pack animal in the southwestern United States.

As they travel along in a Jeep commandeered from a park ranger, the animal friends count by fives the things they find or see along the way. This was an unplanned bonus to the story, Bauer notes.

"As I started with the bison calling he'd be back in five minutes and then he goes ten miles up the road, I thought 'Hm-m-m ... Mesa Verde 100 ... why not count by fives to get down there?' It's been a fun thing for little ones to anticipate the numbers as someone reads the book to them."

Bauer weaves geographical features into the story. Bison counts 20 red-tailed hawk and 25 cedar trees. Bison and Burro argue about the number of tumbleweed that they have seen. Was it 45 or 50? They also count 55 or 60 railroad cars. And they must have chugged up and down 85 hills in the mountains.

In a comical look at the journey, the two endure 35 potholes and 40 or more tractor-trailers on the highway. Colorado is notorious for potholes, and Kansas typically has road-improvement projects under way, Bauer explains, noting that orange cones probably should have been included in the text and the book's illustrations, which were drawn by Robert E. Matthews.

The book includes a map of the area and a brief history of Mesa Verde National Park.

Spanish for "green table," Mesa Verde was inhabited about 800 years ago by the Pueblo people. Their unique cliff dwellings were built into sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls.

Bauer, the daughter of the late Fred and Ora Ernst, is a 1961 graduate of Clear Spring High School. If her calendar allows, she hopes to make a trip back home for her 45th class reunion in October. She's also planning a trip back East in July.

Writing talent is a familial trait. Bauer's mother, Ora Ernst, was an editor and reporter for The Herald-Mail Co. in the 1970s until shortly before her death in 1983.

For more information about "Bison and Burro: From Here to One Hundred - and Fast," go to on the Web.

For more information about the American Antiquities Act of 1906, go to

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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