ADA — To write a novel is a big accomplishment, but to suffer from dyslexia and still attain that feat is a reward in itself, as former Ada resident Richard Hartgraves found out.

“Being a person with severe dyslexia, spelling, writing, and even reading- in my childhood- are all extremely challenging,” he said. “I wanted to conquer that challenge.”

Hartgraves has spent the past 15 years putting together and penning “Little Cedar,” a fiction piece featuring Pud and Skeeter, two young cousins raised in rural Southeastern Oklahoma in the 1940s. He said even though the work is fiction, many of the scenarios the characters encounter are based on real experiences.

“‘Little Cedar’ is a work of fiction, however much of what is recorded in the book actually happened,” he said. “Time has been compressed to make the story flow and some characters are a product of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Pud’s encounter with the viper, the tornado, their antique fire arm episode and the bee hive adventure are all actual occurrences as well as several others.”

Hartgraves grew up in Southeastern Oklahoma in the small community of Long Creek, located a few miles north of Hugo. “My father was a country school teacher and was principal there for many years,” he said. “All of my mother’s folks lived in Antlers and I would catch the train in Hugo and go to Antlers for visits. We moved to Ada when I was in my preteens. My father had taken a position as principal at Galley School.”

According to Hartgraves, in earlier days IQ testing was mostly comprised of reading and spelling tests. Due to his dyslexia, he did not score well and was told that due to such a low IQ, he would be better suited making a living using his back rather than his mind.

“I managed to graduate from Ada High School in 1953 with my class, however, only after attending summer school to make up an English deficiency,” he said. “I attempted a year of college before going into the army in 1955 and while in basic training I was given a battery of tests that showed I was neither dumb nor was I mentally deficient. After two years of military service, I enrolled in college at East Central, Ada, Oklahoma. With the help of Dr. Nelson, a psychology professor, I was able to graduate with a BA degree in Industrial Arts and Mathematics.”

During his time at ECU, Hartgraves met his wife Jean, and they married while still students. Upon graduating, they both took on teaching positions in school district 70, Pueblo, Colo. They have one son, one daughter and two granddaughters.

“I went on to earn a masters degree in Guidance and Counseling from Western State College, Gunnison, Colo. and did post graduate work at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo.," he said.  "I retired in 1999 after 30 years of service, all but one of those years was in Pueblo school district seventy."

As aforementioned, the book contains the adventures of Pud and Skeeter, and at times caused creative and personal frustration for Hartgraves.

"Over the past 15 years,  Little Cedar has been a work of love, sometime hate, and sometimes even frustration," he said. " My cousin, 'Skeeter' - one of the two cousins in the story-, passed away from complications due to cancer. All through the process of writing the book, there was a desire to keep his memory alive."

In addition to writing, Hartgraves also enjoys art, fishing and attending church.

"I enjoy drawing and painting, work with acrylics and pencil," he said.  "My art work has been honored by my being the recipient of several blue ribbons in local art shows. I also am an accomplished wood worker and an avid fly fisherman.  I teach an adult couples Sunday School class at First Southern Baptist Church."

While unsure of whether he'll publish any more stories, Hartgraves did have meaningful intentions with "Little Cedar."

"I also wanted my grandchildren to know something about the days before electronic gadgets and what it was like to grow up in a more innocent and slower paced time," he said.

For more information regarding Hartgraves or "Little Cedar," visit www.freewebs.com/littlecedar.

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