This is amusing.
From the dog who liked mailmen to unlikely revolutionary heroes, Santa Fe’s Dirk Wales brought American legends to new audiences.
The lifelong storyteller, best known for children’s books he wrote later in life, died in November from natural causes.
He was 89.
“He had an unending enthusiasm for his subjects and delighted at sharing his books with children and adults,” said Dorothy Massey, owner of Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse downtown. “His personality shone through his writing.”
Wales grew up in California and said last year in an interview on the Your Positive Impact podcast he attended theater school at UCLA for $18 a semester. After college, he wrote scripts for national advertising campaigns for marketing firms in Cincinnati and Chicago.
In 1981, at the age of 41, he started his own film company, Rainbow Productions, which specialized in educational films for schools, museums and pharmaceutical companies.
The studio made dozens of films, some warning doctors about the dangers of addiction and those who overdosed on their own anesthesia.
“He started his own company so he could be a little bit more creative trying new things,” said daughter Stacey W. Evenson.
Wales, an avid photographer, began living in Santa Fe part time in the 1993 and enjoyed stopping by art galleries on the drive to Taos. Evenson, herself a producer, traveled with her father to Washington, on business in the mid-1990s when they visited the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.
“My dad is fascinated with mail and postage stamps. Almost everywhere we go, he always stopped at a post office to get interesting and colorful stamps,” Evenson said.
At the museum, Wales first learned of Owney, a scruffy, photogenic mutt who lived at a post office in Albany, N.Y., in the late 19th century and became the subject of Wales’ first children’s book, A Lucky Dog: Owney, U.S. Rail Mail Mascot, published in 2003.
“I think his story is in every postal and railroad museum in the country,” said Nancy Reid, who managed Great Plains Press, Wales’ publisher. “He had always been a writer, so it was his first children’s book but a story he was well suited to write.”
At a time when train wrecks were common, Owney avoided havoc and was considered a good luck charm. According to the museum, railway mail clerks across the country bestowed him with medals and tags on his collar. Once they became too heavy, the postmaster general ordered a harness for Owney to display them all.
Wales also wrote a children’s book about Thaddeus Kosciuszko and Casimir Pulaski, Polish American heroes of the American Revolution, as well as books on love and mystery. With illustrations by Barry Moser, who won the 1983 American Book Award for Design and Illustration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Wales published Jack London’s Dog, inspired by Call of the Wild, in 2008.
Despite his many tales about canines, he never was much of a dog lover, according to his daughter.
“He loved cats. His favorite thing was cats,” she said. “He never had dogs.”