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Shortgrass Wins Will Rogers Medallion Award Gold Medal

Shortgrass has won the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award for Inspirational Fiction. Noble author John J. Dwyer’s saga depicts an Oklahoma farm boy, OU football star, and aviator’s rousing adventures during the Dust Bowl and World War II. Dwyer and Shortgrass publisher Casey Cowan of Tiree Press received their medals before an overflow crowd at the fifteenth annual Will Rogers banquet in Fort Worth.

When announcing the judges’ decision, Will Rogers Executive Director Charles Williams described Shortgrass as “an engrossing story of a Mennonite community and a young man faced with the conflicting demands of faith, love, society, and the modern world. It is an exciting, turbulent, challenging book to match the times, with well-drawn characters, historical figures, and fast-paced action. It is just one great book.”

Author John, wife Grace, and grandson Luke Dwyer whoop it up after John’s novel won the Will Rogers Medallion Award Gold Medal for Inspirational fiction.

Photo by Susan Thweatt.


Shortgrass won over entries submitted from across the country in the largest ever Will Rogers Medallion Award competition. Dwyer’s book The Oklahomans won last year’s Will Rogers Gold Medal for Western Non-fiction.

Shortgrass author John Dwyer,” Williams continued, “has a knack for painting colorful word pictures on sweeping canvases. In this case, it’s the Oklahoma prairie and hills, in the wild and wooly days between the world wars, when new and modern ways and mores were threatening traditional values and established practices.”

The Will Rogers Medallion Awards recognize excellence in Western literature and media. Originally created to honor outstanding volumes of cowboy poetry, it expanded into other categories as interest and reader demand increased. According to Williams, “All works must represent an accurate reflection of Western Americana, or cowboy and ranch life, historical or contemporary. Will Rogers was an accomplished author as well as a cowboy entertainer, and the purpose of the award is to honor this facet of his legacy, as well as to highlight current books that embody strong content, excellent production values, and enduring interest.”

The Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering, with which the Will Rogers Medallion Awards share the Fort Worth Stockyards the last weekend of every October.


The awards program took place at the famed Cattlemen’s Steak House in the Fort Worth Stockyards, during Red Steagall’s massive Twenty-Eighth Cowboy Gathering. It again attracted authors and publishers from as far away as California, New York, and Canada. “As writers, as Westerners, and as Americans, we owe a tremendous debt to Will Rogers, and this is our way of acknowledging and honoring that debt,” Williams said.

In Shortgrass, Mennonite farm boy Lance Roark’s faith is as big as the challenges he faces at his family’s drought-ravaged Dust Bowl spread on the old Chisholm Trail. But college football glory and the skills of a natural born flyer carry him away from home and into contact with famed aviators Charles Lindbergh and Wiley Post, entertainment icons Will Rogers and Bing Crosby, best-selling young author John F. Kennedy, and President Franklin Roosevelt.

As war clouds gather across the seas, Lance finds romance first with teenaged Chickasaw cowgirl and stunt flying sensation Sadie Stanton, then with beautiful oil heiress Mary Katherine Murchison, whose mesmerizing voice carries her to Big Band Era stardom. Nearly all of this crashes against Lance’s pious, peaceable ways. And it leads him into the dangerous world of America First, the Lindbergh-led organization that opposes the popular Roosevelt’s covert drive toward American involvement in World War II, already ablaze in both Europe and the Pacific.

Luke “Little Man” Dwyer leads the way out of the hotel to the 2018 Will Rogers Medallion Awards.


When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Lance, dedicated never to raising his hand against another human being, faces his ultimate decision—whether or not to accept command of a B-17 Flying Fortress in which he would face, and inflict, mass slaughter in Nazi-occupied Europe amidst history’s most fearsome war.

Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Famer Patrick McGuigan is publisher of the City-Sentinel newspaper and is the Oklahoman newspaper’s former longtime editorial director. He said, “Shortgrass is great writing and compelling story-telling. It resonates with power and drama and engages the heart. Dwyer is one of the best writers in the western United States."

"I read Shortgrass over a weekend, which is good, because I wouldn't have been worth much at work till I finished it,” said Steve Coleman, chairman of Oklahoma Honor Flights. “I thoroughly enjoyed it and want to know when I can get hold of Mustang, the sequel.” Oklahoma Honor Flights recognized more than two thousand World War II Oklahoma Veterans for their service by flying them for free to Washington, D.C. to see the National World War II Memorial.

Cattlemen’s Steak House in the Fort Worth Stockyards, site of the 2018 Will Rogers Medallion Awards banquet.


Publisher Cowan has won five Will Rogers Medallion awards. He called Mustang, the sequel to which Coleman referred, “an electrifying World War II aviation epic, one of the best books we have ever published.” It picks up where Shortgrass leaves off, though it is a stand-alone novel for readers who have not read that book. In Mustang, Lance Roark becomes a decorated pilot, but suffers tragic loss, in the greatest aerial war ever fought, over the World War II skies of Europe. The book releases next Memorial Day weekend, 2019.

When asked the most common feedback he has received from readers about Shortgrass, Dwyer said: “Something I would never have predicted. I don’t think I’ve talked to one reader yet who didn’t cry when Lance had to say goodbye to Jeb, his horse.”

Shortgrass is available in print, ebook or audio book through local book stores, online retailers, or through us HERE

Luke Dwyer samples Cattlemen’s mighty fine vittles.

John and Oghma Creative Media Director Casey Cowan, who heads Tiree Press, publisher of Shortgrass, brandish their Gold Medals. Casey has won five Will Rogers Medallion Awards.

Luke Dwyer, John’s three-year-old grandson, and his boot scootin victory dance on a Fort Worth Stockyards sidewalk. He shut it down after getting embarrassed by the crowd that was gathering to cheer him on.

The front cover of John’s World War II aviation epic Mustang, the sequel to Shortgrass. It releases next Memorial Day weekend, 2019.

John with his brother Paul, part of the Dwyer Family and Friends section at the 2018 Will Rogers Medallion Awards in Fort Worth.

Watch the two-minute preview video for Shortgrass.

Will Rogers, the Oklahoma Kid, in whose revered memory it all happened.

End of the Trail.

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