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Two local authors will sign their books from 6-7:30 p.m. on Thursday at Otowi Station Bookstore.
David McNeese, a descendant of a first family of New Mexico, will sign “The Wind in the Trees,” and Tom Steward will sign “Into Solitary Places,” an account of devastating mental illness.
David McNeese’s “The Wind in the Trees” is a history of the Barker family, one of the important families that established New Mexico and helped create the multicultural community that it is today. McNeese is a descendant of the Barkers who made significant environmental, political and literary contributions to the state.
Elliott Barker is well known for his Forest Service and Game Department records and for the stories of his exploits in the woods and mountains of the Pecos Wilderness.
A conservationist and author who helped make Smokey Bear part of American lore, Elliott was a founding member of the National Wildlife Federation. S. Omar Barker, the “Poet Lariat” of New Mexico, was widely acclaimed for his poetry and stories of the West. Charles Barker, a state legislator and mayor of Santa Fe, was the author of many of the early royalty and lease agreements between the State of New Mexico and the oil and gas industry.
Grace Wilson, the youngest girl in the Barker family, made significant contributions as Superintendent of the Kirtland Central School District, where a school is named after her. There is, however, a forgotten Barker, David Marion.
David Marion Barker was the first of the Barkers to be born and raised in the mountains of Northern New Mexico. In 1917, when it was time to register for the draft for the Great War, he was asked, “Do you claim exemption from draft [specify grounds].” He wrote, “None Whatsoever.”
In a letter from France he wrote, “I was unlucky enough to get a sniff of ‘Jerry’s’ gas.” Marion died in 1928 from lingering effects of that sniff. At the time of his death, he was the attorney for Farmington and, according to some, was being groomed to run for governor.
Years of uncertainty followed for his remaining family, but the mountains of Northern New Mexico provided a reprieve for his orphaned daughter, Dorothy Alice.
McNeese is the grandson and namesake of David Marion Barker. Like Marion, David was born and raised in the mountains of Northern New Mexico. From the time of his birth until he was 16, he spent every summer in the Pecos Mountains and returned to his home in Los Alamos the day before school started in the fall.
McNeese spent much of his time with the remaining members of the Barker family, particularly Elliott and Ethel, their children, and their families. These friendly, lively and enjoyable visits brought out many of the stories of the Barker families who made up David’s New Mexico ancestry.
The crowning event for David was participating in Elliott’s last deer and elk hunts in the late 1960s.
McNeese is a network engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory and travels around the country teaching classes on various topics related to computer networks. He is a native New Mexican living in Santa Fe.
Tom Steward has been in the mental health field for nearly 30 years, but it was not until his son was diagnosed with a psychotic illness that he and his family were dealt one of life’s biggest blows.
“Into Solitary Places” is Steward’s account of the progress of conventional and alternative treatments his son endured for his schizophrenia.
But most importantly, Steward writes, faith and prayer filled their home with the most curative power: love. The journey was long and arduous and the Stewards often thought of giving up hope. This memoir is a testament to a father’s enduring love for his son. As a parent and as a professional, Steward recounts his son’s experience with a debilitating mental illness. Steward writes of his son’s formative years and how, in a matter of months during his son’s sophomore year in college, a joyful, daring young man developed bouts of delusions and hallucinations most commonly associated with schizophrenia.
Curiously, while Steward’s background is in psychology, nothing prepared him as he watched his son struggle over a three-year period.
Steward traces his son’s early years to the onset of his psychiatric illness, how the illness progressed, and how, eventually, a cure diminished his son’s symptoms completely.