All my protagonists love the country. Whether they’ve grown up as country girls or moved to rural life as adults, each one feels at home in the quietude of a small town setting.
I grew up on a farm in Northern Illinois. Although I was an only child, I never felt alone because there was so much to do on the farm. I loved my life there, wandering the fields in the summer, relaxing under the trees in our timber or playing with friends in our hayloft.
Because I feel my childhood there is still so much of my life, I’m introducing a new feature on my blog called “Stories from the hayloft.” I’ll recount tales from my time on the farm. I hope you enjoy them. Here’s my first:
I Get My Horse
Like most kids my age, I loved horses, and, since we lived on a farm, I bugged my dad for years to get me a horse. Finally, he caved and bought me one, not a horse, but a half-trained black pony, a nasty-tempered little fellow who showed his dislike of me by baring his teeth when I approached. My father warned me that I had to let him know who’s boss. I knew who was boss. He was. His teeth were bigger than mine.
If I was ever going to ride him, I had to get closer than five feet away with the stall wall between us. I decided the best way to approach him was to bribe him to like me by offering him food. Hay worked just fine, because I could keep my fingers out of the way, but a handful of grain meant I’d get nipped. The bribes didn’t work. he ate what I offered, but didn’t give back anything like cooperation much less affection.
Over time I got to like him no better, and he was decidedly of the same mind about me. Dad was getting frustrated with my inability to handle my pony, and I felt defeated at not getting anywhere with him. Again Dad warned me to take a firm stand with him. I began to consider that I didn’t have the temperament for a horse. And this one wasn’t even the size of a real horse, yet I found myself cowed (or horsed) by him. I wondered if the little beast was smarter than me or perhaps he could read my mind and knew I was disappointed he wasn’t a horse. More likely, he just sensed my fear of him.
“You wanted a horse, and now you’ve got one. Work with him,” said Dad. “You’re the boss.”
Dad could say that. he was a grown man. I was a little kid of around ten. Dad was used to pushing large animals around. I watched him shove the rear end of a cow out of the way to place the milking apparatus on her udders. He had certainty. I had timidity. The pony had attitude. And there were those formidable teeth.
That Spring Dad had planted a row of poplar trees just north of the pasture next to our house. They were to function as both a wind break and a visual barrier between the house and the city water treatment plant. Back then we called it what it was: the sewer plant. It was not pretty to look at nor fragrant in the summer months. Once the trees grew we wouldn’t have to look at it, and we could close our windows against the smell.
On a particularly warm spring day, Dad let the pony out into the pasture to graze while he left to do business in town. When he returned in the afternoon, the pony had stripped the trees bare of leaves. The next day Dad sold the pony.
I didn’t feel bad at losing the pony, and I knew better than to fuss about a horse again.
Both Dad and I now knew for certain who was boss.
Do you have childhood stories that inform your writing or help develop your characters?
I’ll return with more tales on my next blog. I hope you enjoy them.
Don’t forget. the fourth book in my Eve Apple Mysteries will be released by Camel Press in September.
In Mud Bog Murder Eve and Madeleine find themselves aligned against their adopted community. Eve is up to her designer boots in mud and murder, and this time no one is answering her call for help.