My dad on hay wagon
Country Roads Lead to All Kinds of Places
The cover of our April Heartwarming, “The Long Road Home,” (written with Patricia Rosemoor) shows the hero and heroine sitting on some hay in the Midwestern countryside. I’ve had plenty of experience with hay myself, since I grew up on a farm in southwest Iowa. Though I did little as far as farming, save gathering eggs a few times and bringing the cows in for the afternoon milking, the years of fresh air and open land made a lasting impression on my psyche.
I grew up in non-corporate farming days when my family actually produced most of the food we ate: fresh milk and cream, vegetables from the garden, fresh eggs, and meat from hogs and cattle we raised ourselves.
Growing up on a farm meant seeing the sky stretch from horizon to horizon and being able to yell all I wanted without bothering anyone. It also meant I could play out in the barn, though I have to say that hay is really uncomfortable when it gets inside your t-shirt.
Our barn was the big, old-fashioned, red kind (here’s an old photo) with a hay mow above and stanchions on one side of the lower floor to milk six to eight Holstein or Brown Swiss cows, as well as an enclosure on the opposite side for hogs. I never learned to milk a cow all that well but I do remember being told to put “kickers” or hobbles on a cow before you try to milk her if you don’t want to be kicked into the barn wall. I also remember being swiped in the face over and over by a cow’s annoyed tail.
I don’t know why I wasn’t encouraged to learn to do more, such as plowing fields or baling hay. Either my parents didn’t believe these tasks were suitable for a girl or they figured I’d be doing something other than farming when I grew up.
Maybe my parents knew I was a city person born in a country environment, a self-description I gave for many years. Maybe they sensed farm work wasn’t what I was eventually going to do. In my last years of high school, they encouraged me to go to college and learn to do something with my mind. They were proud when I published my first book more than thirty years ago. They would be proud now that I’m publishing another. (My mother passed in 2008 and my father in 1990.)
My parents and grandparents would also enjoy the fact that I use so much of my country experience in our Heartwarming Romances. If I’m not caught up on the newest breeds of stock cattle and feed, at least I know terminology and approximately what to look for. I haven’t made cheese, a topic in “The Long Road Home” in which the heroine owns a cheese shop, but I have actually churned butter. My maternal grandmother made sure I had that experience and loaned me her churn like the one pictured. If you’ve ever made butter, you know it takes long enough to make your arm tired!