At first glance, Paul T. Schulz is one of the last people you would suspect of writing poetry for children.
In the profile below, you'll see that his occupation wouldn't suggest a versifier. Look a little farther, and you'll see his motto is a sparse two words long.
But keep going and you'll come to the part about "Favorite hobby or leisure activity." That's where Schulz mentions his passion for writing for children, and he puts it right up there on a plane with spending time with his dog.
Schulz, who wears his cowboy hat everywhere, published his first book of children's poetry this year. With 17 grandchildren, he has a built-in audience, but the poems in "Easy Poems from Grandpa" are attracting the attention of other children and their parents.
"It's intended for kids up to 11-12 years old, but I've had teenagers read them and they think it's fabulous," he said. "And it's amazing how many moms love it."
Schulz thinks he knows why his poems have struck a chord.
"My grandchildren range in age from four to 20 years, and I want children to know there is more to life than the violence found in today's world of entertainment -- even the cartoons," Schulz said. "There's no violence in my stories. These are stories of fantasy and make believe adventure, as well as stories of my own adventures as I see them in a world of fantasy."
One of Schulz's favorites has to do with his beloved cowboy hat.
"I've worn a cowboy hat for 40-50 years," he said. "It keeps me out of the sun, and that's what I like about it.
"If the sun's coming in this window, I tip it over here. If the sun's in the other window, I tip it over there. I can pull it down. I can push it back. It's better than any hat I've ever had."
Here's the poem:
My Cowboy Hat
My cowboy hat sits on top of my head
and shades my eyes from the sun;
it stays up there all day long
until all of my work is done.
In the summer I keep nice and cool
in my cowboy hat made of straw;
it catches lots of dust and chips
whenever I'm using my saw.
In winter when it's very cold
when icicles form or melt,
I know that I'll be nice and warm
in my cowboy hat made of felt.
My cowboy hat keeps the snowflakes
from falling on my nose,
but if I tilt my head just right,
it lets raindrops drip on my toes.
In the spring when the weather is windy,
all of the tree tops begin to sway;
I hold on tight to my cowboy hat
to be sure it won't blow away.
When I drive way down into town
and the sun makes it hard to see,
just a little bit of my cowboy hat
keeps the bright light away from me.
Whenever I'm traveling all around,
doing just this and that,
you can be sure if you see me,
I'll be wearing my cowboy hat.
Eleven of Schulz's grandchildren are girls, and they are his primary audience.
"I'm partial to kids, but particularly to little girls," he said. "I guess that's because I have so many granddaughters, and girls -- they pay more attention to your stories."
He expressed his preference in one of his poems:
Little Girls With Lollipops
Stores are filled
with lots of treats,
long peppermint sticks
and baked good sweets.
There is candy corn
and corn that pops,
sugar cake cones
with ice cream tops.
We have chocolate creams
and walnuts to roast,
lots of peanut butter
and jelly on toast.
Fancy birthday cakes
and cinnamon hearts,
good cherry pies
and apple tarts.
My favorite treat
comes not from shops,
but little girls
His granddaughters live in Pennsylvania, where Schulz grew up.
The response when he sent them copies of his book was more than he hoped for.
"Of the 11 granddaughters I have back east, five of them are now writing their own stories and poems and they send them to me," he said. "Of course they're young yet -- and some are only 11-12 years old -- and that makes me feel good."
Especially because Schulz himself dropped out of school.
"I went to the sixth grade and never finished, but when we had to write compositions in school most of the kids couldn't come up with anything so I'd write probably 60 percent of the ones that got turned in," he said. "Funny part was they all got better grades than I did. I ran out of things to say by the time I'd get to mine."
Schulz's father died when he was young, and he had to go to work to help support the family.
"I've been working since I was seven or eight," he said. "For a long time I drove a team of horses through the neighborhoods and we sold lettuce, tomatoes, eggs, stuff like that off the back of the wagon. They called us hucksters."
He moved to Arizona in 1961.
"My first wife was very sick," he said. "We were married 26 years and for 20 she was very sick. They told me for health reasons she should live in a dry climate."
While he only moved to Payson seven years ago, he had been camping in the area for 45 years.
"I practically raised my kids up here in Tonto Creek," he said. "We used to come up here nearly every weekend -- snow, rain, shine.
"I had three girls who were all in Girl Scouts and 4H. We had a real good little pup tent we slept in. You can't buy them like that any more."
He started writing poetry soon after he got here.
"When I came to Payson, I was by myself," he said. "I was sitting in the trailer staring at the walls, and I thought, by golly, I ought to start writing these poems for something to do, and I did."
This one captures his love of the Rim country:
Winter on the Mountain
I heard a lonesome coyote
cry out a mournful tune
just before the sun rose up
to chase away the moon.
A dewdrop fell from a leafy nest
to kiss me on the cheek;
an elk stretched his head so high
just to take a peek.
The squirrel hurried on the lawn,
gathering her morning fare;
blackbirds filled the morning sky,
pine scent lingered there.
The forest standing before my eyes
took on a wintry glow;
mountain peaks in the distance
frosted white with snow.
Cities have their sky-high huts
and parks with a giant fountain;
to me there is not prettier sight
than winter on the mountain.
Now Schulz is hard at work on a second book of children's poems, which he hopes to publish by Christmas. He knows his poetry will never make him rich, but he measures success in a different way.
"I live alone with my little pug and writing poetry entertains me," he said. "If it entertains someone else, I'm a happy man."
Name: Paul T. Schulz
Occupation: Maintenance/parts procurement
Age: Past 70
Family: Three daughters, four stepchildren, 17 grandchildren
Personal motto: Try harder.
Inspiration: My parents.
Greatest accomplishment: Living past my 70th year.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Writing for children, time with my dog.
Three words that describe you best: Loyal, plain, caring.
I don't want to brag, but ... I'm in good shape for my age.
Person in history I'd most like to meet: Zane Grey
Luxury defined: Touring the U.S. in a Lincoln Town Car.
Dream vacation spot: The Louvre in Paris
Why Payson? Small town atmosphere, friendly folks and a slower pace.
Paul T. Schulz will hold a book signing at the Payson Public Library from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 1. He will personally autograph copies of "Easy Poems from Grandpa," which costs $7.95.