“I’m gonna be honest, I’m not a real cowboy. I have a hat and boots, but I don’t have a horse. I have ridden horses many times. I got to go on a half-day roundup,” said Rik Danielson, author of ‘You Picked the Wrong Stagecoach’. He grew up in the west, and as a member of the Single Action Shooting Society, enjoys hunting, fishing, riding and hiking.
Most know Rik as Prescott Parson, a former pastor who served churches in California and Arizona. But it wasn’t always that way. “I see myself as an alcoholic, drug-abusing hippie,” Rik confessed. “I started at the age of 15. I thought I was a Chrsitan because I went to church every Sunday, but I had never come to a personal relationship with Christ. There was a youth conference in California. I thought a girl I knew was going to be there; she wasn’t, but God was. A man shared the gospel with me and for the first time I knew that’s what I needed. It took almost two years to get rid of the substance abuse. I ended up in a recovery program at Renewal House in Los Angeles, and God was gracious enough to deliver me. When I got clean and sober, I quickly felt a calling into ministry. I was ordained at the age of 21, and have been in Christian ministry all of my adult life, serving 47 years, until I retired in 2019.”
How does an alcoholic, drug-abusing hippie become a pastor? “I didn’t think I could. It was God’s calling, and I was just dumb enough to believe that was enough. Anybody who thinks they can do it, probably can’t,” Rik explained. God provided opportunities for Rik’s spiritual growth, and surrounded him with influential church leaders who helped pave the way for his success. “My first pastor was an old west Texas cowboy. He only had a 6th grade education, and God called him to the mission field, which was the west. He started churches all over Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah.” Rik’s call led him to a Bachelor of Arts from Grand Canyon College, a Master of Divinity at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate of Ministry with High Distinction at Trinity Theological Seminary. He served as the Director of Evangelism and Missions with the North American Mission Board, and wrote curriculum, gospel tracts, articles for newspapers and magazines, and his book Never Forget Eternity, which was re-released in 2020.
“I was blessed that the Jesus Movement took place in the 60s and 70s; that’s when I gave my life to Christ,” Rik said. The movement that began in California, swept the nation and changed the way people worship. “Churches today have many different expressions. They are not as traditional, more ‘come as you are’. I know several pastors of cowboy churches. They are successful in not only reaching cowboys, but people looking for something not as traditional. They can go to church, be relaxed in boots, jeans and hats. A lot of cowboy churches have a roping arena, and have roping events associated with the church every month or so,” Rik explained.
Cowboy churches attract people like Rik who are enamored with western culture and the natural beauty of the wild west. “As a kid growing up, my heroes were all the cowboys on TV, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, you name ‘em…Rawhide, Gunsmoke, and the western movies. I remember my mom and dad took us to see Miss Kitty and Doc when they made personal appearances in Phoenix,” he recalled. The stories that played out on the TV screens were stories that championed virtues like honesty, loyalty, justice, hard work and community. These often worked themselves into Rik’s sermons.
“As a preacher, there were two things that were important to me: one, teaching the Bible; two, the power of story. Jesus used stories– 75% of the Bible is stories–so I’ve always been a story teller. I would tell a story, and everybody related to that character,” Rik said. “As a writer, there came a point a few years ago where I wanted to start telling my stories, and that’s how You Picked The Wrong Stagecoach came about–my stories about the Old West, which I have always loved.”
Rik draws his inspiration from real life examples, the places he’s visited, knowledge of history, culture, nature and firearms. “In Stagecoaches, there are real life people that I turned into a character and put into a fictional setting, inspired by the things I have seen and experienced, or read. I like to use my imagination. I try to do research and make them as historically acute as I can,” he said.
“My process is usually spending a lot of time thinking about a story: How do I begin this? How does it go? You really don’t know until you sit down to write it, and the story flows out of you. I try to bring a conclusion to the story, but I want to end my story in a way that people want to hear more. As a public speaker, we really only have seconds to capture an audience’s attention. That’s how I write.”
Rik’s wife Carolyn made suggestions to Rik’s Stagecoach stories, and contributed a tale of her own. His two adult children had input as well. His daughter Carly, an English professor, suggested he write a prequel and sequel for one of her favorite characters, so he did. “My son [Aarik] a journalist, and an adjunct professor at a university in Missouri, is ten times the writer I’ll ever be. I talked to him recently about the possibility of editing for me. I don’t know if I can afford him, frankly. He promised to give me the family discount,” Rik laughed.
Rik’s advice? “I would say to writers:
- Find your voice. Don’t sound like somebody else. Find your style. For me it seems to be working.
- If you want to be a writer, write. Writers write. If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer.
- Make sure you have a good editor. You need another set of eyes.
- Come up with a marketing plan. Don’t count on anyone else marketing your book. If you want to sell books, you might need to spend as much time marketing as writing. It’s just the way it works.”
Readers can purchase Rik’s books through his facebook page and Amazon.com