Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Time sure flies by fast. Have you noticed?

One of my cousins emailed me some old pictures. As I looked at them, I thought back to the days when life was simpler. 

In the breakfast nook at my Aunt Mildred’s house sits my Aunt Mildred, my Aunt Mary and my cousin Mary Alice. Mary Alice looks like she may be about 12 years old. The wallpaper on the walls behind them is busy, the chrome kitchen set sits in the small area with two long windows on either side. It was summer in Ohio, the windows are open and my aunts and cousin are wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts. Aunt Mildred’s cigarettes lay on the table.

Both my aunts are gone now, and Cousin Mary Alice is now a grandmother. When I went to college at the age of 38, I wrote articles for newspapers and magazines. My aunts were very proud of me. They made me feel like I was someone smart. Somehow I’d never thought smart and me belonged in the same sentence.  

Going to college and then writing gave me the self esteem I lacked as a child. Writing is therapeutic for many of us. I read once that writers are their own psychologists, and I believe that’s true.

When I worked as a reporter, I found it fascinating that I could be nosy, ask questions, find out about people and their lives—and get paid for it. I also took the pictures that went with the stories at some of the newspapers. 

As farm page editor, I learned a lot about farm animals, farmers trying to save their family farms, and how they struggled to save their crops during a draught. Another year they were the ones helping out farmers in another state who had a draught by sending hay and straw to them.

I interviewed 4-H children. Some were talkers and were excited to tell me about their pigs, cows, sheep or goats. Others, well, there were times it would’ve been easier to interview their animals. One young girl raised beef for her 4-H project. But for several years she couldn’t eat at McDonalds as they bought her prize beef. She feared her hamburger might be one of her cows.
A woman who was in her twenties raised rabbits for their fur. They were her pets and the fur they provided was turned into yarn to make sweaters etc. One night some wild animal broke into her crates in the barn and killed most of her rabbits. She was devastated. 

The one thing I had a hard time dealing with is when I learned people raising goats not only used them for their milk but also for their meat. I learned that goat meat is the number one meat in the world. Truth is, I fell in love with some breeds of goats. They reminded me of dogs. I always thought I’d adore sheep, but learned they aren’t overly smart or affectionate—at least not the ones I met. One goat in particular caught my attention at the county fair. He’d stand in a corner and pout the whole time he was at the fair. I was invited to come to their farm and see the goat a few weeks later. Like they said, the goat had a very different personality at home—he was friendly and loveable.
The younger people I worked with at the newspaper used to say to me, “So now I know everything I ever wanted to know about pigs, cows and all those other animals,” when they proofed my stories.

Funny, I kept all these articles in albums never thinking I’d pay much attention to them, but my grandkids may want to see them some day. They don’t seem to show much interest. However, I’m finding I am looking through these stories for writing ideas.

Do you find life is passing by too fast, too? Do looking at pictures and stories give you writing ideas?


  1. My older brother lives in the UK in an area of small farms where vets are very important, like the author of All Creatures Great and Small. My brother was the principal at a high school and, during harvesting, none of the farm children came to school. They were too busy helping with the harvest.
    When there was an epidemic of mad cow disease and many animals had to be killed, the kids were devastated and tried to stop soldiers with guns entering their farms.
    Many of the kids weren't interested in reading about people who live in cities but they would be interested in animal stories. And what about those interactive exercise videos that kids jump and dance to? You could develop animated animal stories.

  2. I agree with Pauline. Life experience is the raw material a writer works from. Nora Bonesteel is a truly compelling character in a fascination setting.