Deborah J. Lightfoot                Author and Editor

(aka Deborah Lightfoot Sizemore)

Selected Works

"A teenage girl runs away from her life of servitude only to be captured by a sorcerer who will help her discover her true past. … Carin and Verek’s well-crafted relationship balances in a tense power struggle … intriguing premise and original characters … Fine fantasy." —KIRKUS
NEW: E-Books and Paperbacks
History & Biography
FOUR STAR FUNERALS packs the emotional wallop of Titanic, darkened with a dash of Tales From the Crypt. This 10-author anthology about death and its aftershocks will sear your soul, make you laugh … and ultimately help you heal, if you’re haunted by a death that has upended your emotions in ways you never expected.
"A fascinating look at one man's life during an important era of American history."
"A most compelling and highly recommended slice of Texan-American regional history."
Midwest Book Review
"This history of the firm of Freese and Nichols and its substantial impact in Texas constitutes a survey of 100 years of civil and environmental engineering."
—Book News, Inc.
Magazine Articles
A biography of Yakima Canutt (1895–1986), a master of movie stuntwork from Stagecoach to Ivanhoe.
Reviews I've Written
Frances Mayes's Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy—a review recounting the parallels with my own move to Mexico.
Stephen Hawking's Black Holes and Baby Universes—space and time aren't what they seem.

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Trail Fever: The Life of a Texas Cowboy

By D.J. Lightfoot

Illustrated by
John Bobbish

ISBN 0-9728768-0-4

The Texas cowboys who took 10 million cattle north on the trail in the late 1800s, through wild country to Kansas, really were cow "boys," mostly in their teens. One of the best-known was George W. Saunders of San Antonio.

At 10, George rode in his first stampede. During the Civil War, he and a 13-year-old brother ran the family ranch while their father fought for the South. At 17, George took his first trail herd north. The trip had all the adventure he hoped for—storms, floods, Indian raids, and midnight stampedes.

Quitting the trail at 32, George began a roundup to collect his fellow drovers' tales of adventure. "It would be the father of all mistakes to let their daring and valuable efforts be forgotten," he said. He had their stories published in The Trail Drivers of Texas (1925), a 1000-page book said to be the best single historical record of the trail-driving era. George Saunders' grandson told me it was the bible for Hollywood scriptwriters in the 1930s and '40s, who relied on it for cowboy vernacular and scene-setting.

My 15,000-word biography Trail Fever for the 9–12 reader focuses on Saunders' boyhood and life as a young drover. It is based solidly upon fact, including George's firsthand accounts of his experiences published 80 years ago in such magazines as The Cattleman and Pioneer Magazine of Texas.

The book in unfinished manuscript was a winner in the Texas-Wide Writers' Competition for both adult and juvenile works. Post-publication, Trail Fever earned a citation from the San Antonio Conservation Society for "outstanding contribution toward the preservation of the history of Texas and all that is admirably distinctive of our state."

This biography fills a need librarians have expressed for historically accurate, unglamorized yet entertaining cowboy books, the kind kids can read for pleasure or the classroom. The book is a fast-paced, real-life adventure tale that offers the young reader insight into the birth of the American cowboy legend.

Every child knows something about the hard-riding, slow-talking cowboy. Fewer understand the basis of the cowboy's lasting fame, or think of old-time trail drivers as real teenagers who tackled big jobs and succeeded by doing the best they could.

Trail Fever Is Recommended Reading

Trail Fever is on these Recommended Reading lists:

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills in Social Studies Annotated Bibliography of Literature, Grade 4

Houghton Mifflin's Bibliography for Level 4, Unit 4: The Civil War and the Closing of the Frontier

The University of Nebraska's Children's Literature of the Great Plains

The University of Utah's UnRequired Reading: Marriott Library/​Marriott Picks

Willowbrook School Library (Glenview, Illinois) Easy Chapter Books: History/​Biography

Wolfner Library's Cowboys, Gold Diggers and Railroad Builders: Books for Readers in the Middle Grades (RC 37902, on cassette for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, available through the National Library Service [NLS] of the Library of Congress)

The English Toolbox's Fun Books to Read: History—Junior High

Praise for D.J. Lightfoot
and Trail Fever

“Lightfoot depicts in clear, simple language the highlights of Texas trail driver George Saunders’ life . . . based on Saunders’ papers and interviews with his grandchildren. As a young man, Saunders made his mark both as a leader of several difficult trail drives and as an advocate for justice for all frontier residents, regardless of race. A fascinating look at one man’s life during an important era of American history.”
—Kay Weisman, Booklist

“George Saunders participated in many great cattle drives from 1871 to 1886; later, he spent years collecting and setting down his aging comrades’ reminiscences. His career makes a thrilling tale, full of danger and hardship, stampedes, hostile Native Americans, rough country, and bad weather. Lightfoot also depicts Saunders’s life between drives as a rancher and businessman, a solid citizen who rode with a vigilante group but also stepped forward to prevent a local massacre of Mexicans, at a time when racial tensions ran high. . . . [R]eaders will get a clear idea of a cowhand’s work, and of Saunders’s important role in preserving the lore of a vanished era.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Working from the subject’s own writings, Lightfoot includes interesting details, dialogue, and lore from the man’s childhood on a ranch during the Civil War to his teenage experience on his first real cattle drive north on the newly established Chisholm Trail. The hard life of riding and herding comes through, as does a love for challenges. An easy biography that Texas libraries especially will welcome, as will cowboy fans everywhere.”
—Ruth M. McConnell, San Antonio Public Library, School Library Journal

PBS offers a terrific series of lesson plans using their TEXAS RANCH HOUSE website and television series. The lesson plans have good instructions for classroom use, printable student handouts, and suggestions for cross-curricular extensions. They tie in beautifully with Trail Fever in the classroom.

Also check out the clever and colorful Western kit of printables from HP.

Order from
Barnes & Noble

NEW! Trail Fever Teacher's Guide

For classroom use, the Teacher's Guide (2006) by Pat Miller has chapter summaries, vocabulary and concepts, discussion questions, Internet resources, writing prompts, quizzes, puzzles and more. (See excerpts from the guide.) Available for $10.95 from Hendrick-Long Publishing, 800-544-3770

(and Printables)

Teachers, help yourself to this FREE LESSON PLAN for a Grade 4 Social Studies and Writing Activity based on my book Trail Fever and aligned to TEKS.

Also check out the clever and colorful Western kit of printables from HP.

From the New
& Expanded Paperback Edition:

The paperback from Seven Rivers Publishing is correctly cataloged as a biography. The original hardcover publisher — Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (William Morrow, New York) — inexplicably labeled it fiction. Some librarians caught the error, but most shelved the hardcover with the novels. If you're a librarian with a copy of the old hardcover, PLEASE put it with the biographies.

The trade paperback edition also has a glossary and an index not included in the original hardcover. Here's an excerpt from the new glossary:

trail fever. A burning and usually contagious enthusiasm or eagerness for going up the trail. George caught “trail fever” from his brothers. Not to be confused with tick fever or Texas fever—a disease of cattle, spread by the bite of infected ticks.

In George's Own Words

"A quarter of a century of my life, from 1861 to 1886, was a continual chain of thrills, not by choice, but by the customs of those times. The dangers through which I passed during those days make me shudder when I recall them."
George W. Saunders, Texas trail driver, 1920

Trail Fever
Table of Contents

Always a Cowboy
Life on Lost Creek
School Days
Trail Fever
Up the "Chizzum" Trail
The Last Trail
The Trail Drivers of Texas

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