Friday, October 28, 2022



By Johnny D. Boggs

The telephone rang last week, and I pushed away from the keyboard and answered. The news stunned me.

Karl Cordova died after cardiac arrest the day before. He was 52.

Karl worked for, and loved, the National Park Service, serving as superintendent at Casa Grande (Arizona) Ruins National Monument and Pecos (New Mexico) National Historical Park. I met him after he moved to New Mexico to take the Pecos job. His two sons and my son were in the same Boy Scout troop -- Karl eventually became Scoutmaster, and I was one of several assistants -- and all three boys played baseball. I coached baseball with Karl, sometimes against him, and umpired a few ballgames in which the boys played.

                                                        Karl Cordova at a naturalization 
                                                        ceremony at Pecos National His-
                                                        torical Park in 2016.

I have never met anyone as calm and collected as Karl. He never lost his cool -- hard to do when you're wrangling pre-teen and teenage boys.

The sad news also had me thinking that as a writer, you often never know if you touch readers, and it's a blessing when you have. It's a bigger blessing when you realize how a reader can touch you.

The last time I say Karl was in March. He invited me to bring the family to a dinner in Pecos with Friends of Pecos National Historical Park on the eve of the park's annual Civil War Encampment (the 1862 battle of Glorieta Pass, in which Union forces turned back a Confederate invasion, was partially fought on what's now park property). I'd talk a bit about writing historical novels and answer any questions.

Over the years, I had given Karl some of my novels, and he had bought others. His father, he said, was a big fan of my books and loved Westerns. When you write in this genre, you hear that fairly often: My father reads ... My grandfather reads ... my great-grandpa reads. ... Well, Karl said he liked my books, too, though I'm pretty sure his sons had no interest in reading Westerns.

But that night, Karl told another story.

He was visiting his father in the hospital. His dad was reading Hard Winter, if my memory's right. I said, "I kinda like that one myself." They talked about my my writing style, how they liked the way I told different kinds of Westerns, how I did my research, how I made my characters realistic, believable, human. I was wondering if my hat would fit when I had to leave.

And then Karl said:

"My father passed away that night. So I'll always remember that the last conversation we had was about your books." 

Readers have written letters or emails or even telephoned to say how much they like something I've written, or why they didn't like what I'd written. But I'd never heard anything like what Karl said that night. I signed a copy of the book in memory of Karl's dad.

This morning, I'll be at Karl's funeral. This afternoon, I'll be back in the office, writing a novel with a deadline fast approaching. But I've already rewritten part of that book. A few days ago, I called up the Word doc and went to the dedication. Deleted what I had written, then replaced it with:

In memory of Karl Cordova (1970-2022),
fellow baseball coach, Scout leader, and friend;
and his father, Bill (1936-2020),
who liked my novels.

1 comment:

Anna said...

So sad, to lose such a friend. Thank you for introducing him to us.