Red Barn Books: Creating stories that celebrate the west

In 2019 former news reporter and editor Ayesha Clough started Red Barn Books. After enjoying an exciting career in journalism, Clough and her husband left the corporate world’s hustle. They settled happily into country life on their small farm north of Calgary, Alberta. Soon enough, she was the mother of a little boy, who was almost immediately laser-focused on all things ’cowboy’.

This month, Wildwest Kidz is featuring the most recent publication from Red Barn Books. Howdy, I'm John Ware is the true story of a legendary cowboy who was able to overcome what seemed like insurmountable obstacles.

I invited Ayesha to tell us a bit more of the story behind the story. Enjoy! ~ Becky


Howdy from Ayesha Clough, Author of 'Howdy, I’m John Ware'

Hello Wildwest Kidz Posse,

I am honoured to have my book, ‘Howdy, I’m John Ware’ in your February Box. John Ware is Canada’s most legendary Black cowboy, and yet few people have heard of him. It’s perfect that we’re reading about John in February, which is Black History Month in Canada and the U.S.

You can watch the animated edition on YouTube, and share it with your friends and teachers:

So, why did I write this book? Well, I have a son who is crazy about horses and cowboys. And I couldn’t find him many good books. That made me sad, and a little mad. I used to be a journalist, so I decided to try making some books! My little company, Red Barn Books, was born two years ago, with a mission to write stories about the west – books that leave a hoof-print on readers’ hearts.

John Ware's story practically writes itself. I mean, come on. John was born into slavery in the southern U.S. around 1850. He couldn’t read or write, he had to work as a child, and he had nothing to his name. After the war was won and slavery was abolished, John began to work as a ranch hand when he was just a teenager. Here, he discovered a great love for horses. He was a gifted horseman, a man of incredible strength. Well, there was no stopping him. He got hired to drive cattle north to Canada. He settled in the area that is now southern Alberta, and became one of the most loved, respected and successful ranchers. Now it wasn’t all rosy. He faced much hardship and discrimination along the way. People ignored him, people were rude, people refused to serve him in bars and hotels. Despite it all, John Ware was unstoppable. He stood up for himself when he needed to – as did his friends and the people close to him – and he always kept his sense of humour, his kindness, dignity, and willingness to help. Want to try drawing John Ware? Here's how artist Hugh Rookwood does it:

When John died in 1905, his funeral was the biggest that Calgary had ever seen. That’s how loved he was. Is there a better role model for all of us? Let’s blaze a trail of kindness, let’s stand for what’s right, and let’s overcome hardship with hard work and humour, just like John Ware. Thanks for reading! I’m so happy to be part of the posse this month.

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