Our people: Literary legacy

By David Stevens: Freedom New Mexico editor


Name: Betty Williamson

Birthday: Nov. 12, 1961.

Volunteers for: Friends of the Portales Public Library, High Plains Prairie Chicken Festival and Dora schools.

Famous relative: She’s the niece of novelist Jack Williamson, who died in 2006 at age 98. The annual Williamson Lectureship has attracted science fiction writers from across the country to Eastern New Mexico University for more than 30 years.

Did you know: She writes “goofy poetry” and short stories.

Betty Williamson is a mother, writer, rancher and community volunteer. She lives with her husband Milz Bickley and 14-year-old daughter Katie Bickley near Pep in Roosevelt County.

Who’s invited to your fantasy dinner party, and why? “There is an endless list of famous people I would love to have the chance to visit with:

“Mother Teresa, Mark Twain, Amelia Earhart, John Adams, Walter Cronkite, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, just to name a few.

“But, honestly, my guest list for my first fantasy dinner party — Hey, if it’s a fantasy, I can have as many as I want, right? — would have four people: my grandparents. All but one died before I was born, and my one surviving grandfather died when I was too small to really remember him. I would give anything for an opportunity to meet and know them all.”

What do you think about Portales? “I love Portales. Even though we live 34 miles away, it is my town, and I am here by choice.

“I’ve lived other places, including the Washington, D.C., area, and I am so happy to be here. We are blessed with wonderful friends and an abundance of activities. Even though I live a little too far outside of city limits to vote in the recent municipal election, I supported Sharon King’s bid for mayor, and I’m very optimistic that good things are in store for us all.”

What’s your favorite TV show? “One of my all-time favorites was the quirky show ‘Northern Exposure’ that was on in the 1980s. We tracked down the first few seasons on DVD this year and it’s been fun going back. Maybe there is a little bit of Portales in Cicely, Alaska.”

Tell us about a happy time: “I love spending time with kids (especially my own) and I’d have to say that getting an unexpected hug from a child is one of the happiest things I know.

“I’ve had three of those recently, one from a first-grader at Dora, another from a 5-year-old friend and the last from a 3-year-old who ran clear across the library Tuesday to tell me ‘I didn’t see you for a long time!’ Every one of them made my day.”

Tell us a story about your childhood: “We had an adorable, but grumpy Shetland pony named Peanuts for a good many years. We also had a tetherball in our front yard.

“One day I rode Peanuts up to our yard and, for some unknown reason, rather than tying the reins to any one of the many fixed objects available (porch railing, fence posts, trees), I tied him to the tetherball. No, not the pole. The ball.

“Peanuts backed away nervously. The ball followed him, dangling near his eye. While I watched, helpless, our tetherball pole was pulled over flat to the ground. So let that be a lesson to all — never tie your pony to a tetherball.”

Tell us a story about your dad: “My dad died last year at the age of 96. He was a lifelong learner, a trait I really admire.

“When he and two of his siblings, my Uncle Jack and my Aunt Katie, were all in their 80s, they all learned how to do e-mail so they could stay in touch with each other. My dad listened to Spanish-language tapes well into his 90s, studying and practicing all the time.

“He was a great role model for never letting age or physical disabilities stand in the way of education.”

If money were no object, what would you do to make the world a better place? “I’d try to find a way to put good food, good books and kind grownups into the lives of every child in the world. Nutrition, education and love would solve an awful lot of problems.”

What are you reading right now? “I am an avid reader, and usually have several books going at once. I recently finished Connie Willis’ new novel, ‘Blackout,’ and my current checkout list from the Portales Public Library (my home away from home!) includes ‘Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters,’ ‘Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women,’ ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’ ‘Revenge of the Spellmans,’ and ‘To Hell On A Fast Horse.’”

What is your favorite smell? “Because water is so precious here, and so tied to our existence, my favorite smell has always been that of rain, especially when it comes after a long dry spell. But a very close second comes each fall when green chile is being roasted at the farmers’ market and outside grocery stores. If heaven doesn’t smell like green chiles being roasted after a rain, I’m going to be very surprised.”

Tell us how you met your spouse: “I’ve always been a sucker for a good cause, and so has my husband, so it seems only fitting that we met at the Community Services Center in Portales.

“He was working there at the time, and I had been talked into serving on the board for the unfortunately short-lived Roosevelt County Community Foundation. Milz attended our board meetings, and I found someone as passionate about community service as me.

Our first ‘date’ was going for hot chocolate at the old Tastee Freez, and we ended up with about five other people in the booth. But it all worked out in the end.”

— Compiled by David Stevens Freedom New Mexico Editor dstevens@pntonline.com