Love and Holsteins at the Corner Cafe

My guest today is Sherry Wachter, writing as Bodie Parkhurst. She and other members of the BBT Café group are on a month-long virtual tour with their anthology of short stories, Corner Café, available on Amazon for 99 cents. Learn more about this book at the Blog Book Tours blog. Bodie’s story is “Love Song with Holsteins.”

Welcome, Bodie. How did your story come about?

The roots of this story grew out of a past filled with dairies. My great-grandfather ran a dairy farm, which he passed down to my great-uncle, who also ran it, then got rid of the cows and just had a farm for years. The actual setting was built around a childhood visit to another dairy farm, where I played happily for hours with the little girl who lived there.

Russell (the bull) came from stories my parents and grandparents used to tell about a dairy farmer and his wife who did exactly what Maggie would like to do—they made their dairy bull into a family pet—even called themselves “Mamma” and “Daddy” to it.

He got his name from my sister’s cutting steer, which she used to practice for rodeos. She got him as a calf, but it turned out he was friendly. He loved her sons, and they loved him. Feeding time became play time, and of course it was probably inevitable that they named the calf Russell (because that’s what one does with cows) and trained him to ride. At that point Russell lost his value as a cutting steer—he no longer believed he had to run from horses. A steer like Russell is just too good to waste, hence the story. No life experience need ever be wasted.

Is your main character, Maggie, based on a real person?

Maggie is no one person, but a tribute to a lot of farm and ranch wives I’ve known—women who feed and care for their families, keep reasonably neat houses, keep everybody dressed, and yet spend huge parts of their days working outside—with the cows, in the fields or orchards, wherever there’s work to be done. These are women who rarely ever sit down—and yet they seem to carry a kind of graciousness that makes it hard to see how very hard they work, and how very much they do.

Bodie, I’m quite familiar with women like this—my mother was one.

How did you get started writing?

When I was in college, my professor used to tell us to “write what we knew.” The truth is, I spent a lot of my life not knowing what I knew. I had a lot of experience, snippets of stories, but my family was the kind of family where there were a lot of secrets. Trying to understand our history was a little bit like crossing a creek by jumping from rock to rock—a story here, a story there, lots of dark water in between. And I definitely didn’t want to fall into that water.

What else have you written?

I’ve written a lot since then—a couple novels, several children’s stories, articles for historical magazines, a memoir, and I’m working on more memoirs, and a textbook. I’m also writing a music book for musicians who, for one reason or another, need a less complex, more linear form of musical notation, and I’m developing some of the art that I’ve done over the years for sale in textiles, housewares, clothing, and even, in one case, a painted memoir.

Bodie’s novels include Redeeming Stanley, (winner of Best of E-Books), a savage little tale of true love, old gods, bitches, bestiality, burnout, and above all, Payback; Good on Paper, another book about ranch women who find themselves in a world where Americana has gone wrong—the “All-American” life they lead in rural America conceals a twisted, deadly core.

She has also published Past Lives: A Journey, a collection of short stories that grew out of what she says she later learned was an ill-advised foray into solo past-life regression, and Benchmarks: A Single Mother’s Illustrated Journal (available as both an illustrated book and as an unillustrated “text-only” book), a memoir about the journey from single life to motherhood.

Her picture books include: The Someone’s in the Kitchen Family Cookbook; Secret History, A Painted Journal: A series of captioned paintings documenting passage from abused child to happy, successful parent; Building Something Better: A story of a woman (Harriet) and her car (Betsy), and what Harriet discovers when Betsy breaks down; and The Very Good Dog: A character sketch of a farm dog with “Personality”—sometimes a little too much personality, maybe. Bodie’s books are available on Amazon.com

BIO: Bodie Parkhurst is a writer, artist, and designer. She lives in a Craftsman worker’s cottage named Betty in the empty half of Oregon, with her son Patrick, two formerly-feral Hawaiian cats, and a ghost named Jesús. She has a Master’s degree in English with a minor in Art, got through college by driving a truck and working in a dairy, and believes that no experience in life should be wasted. If nothing else, it provides plot material. She provides cover design, typesetting, and print coordination services to various small presses, and self-publishers.

Learn more about Bodie Parkhurst at her blog, where she shares news about her writing, her life, her projects, her printing house Magic Dog Press and her family recipes.

Please join the BBT Cafe group at the next stop: Monday, June 11 Marian Allen http://www.marianallen.com/

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37 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Love that story title! Interesting to learn more about it!
    Chris Verstraete>, “Perfect Timing – The Corner Cafe

    • Cows creep into my work a lot. I’m a great believer in their integrity. Horses are social climbers–if they think you’re higher socially than they are they’ll do anything for you. If they think you’re lower they’ll dump you in the dirt. Regularly. Cows, on the other hand, will kick you/knock you down no matter who you are. Gotta respect that bout them.

  2. Bodie, it sounds like your life has been as interesting as Maggie’s. I love getting to know more about the author.

    • Thanks, Helen–it’s funny; last night I was talking about this very thing with one of my writing students. My life has certainly been varied.

  3. Great to read more about Bodie’s work! And, of course I LOVE those covers and envy that artistic talent! What a great collection this is turning out to be.

    • Thanks, Red. I like this cover a lot, myself. There’s a joke around here that that checkerboard is sort of my trademark. I sneak it in a lot. It reminds me of my grandma’s kitchen walls. She had yellow tiles with black and white tile borders.

      • It definitely gives that feeling of authenticity!

  4. [...] June 4 Blog Book Tours Kick-off http://blogbooktours.blogspot.com June 5 Bob Sanchez http://bobsanchez1.blogspot.com June 6 Red Tash http://RedTash.com June 7 Magic Dog http://www.magicdogpress.wordpress.com June 8 Heidi Thomas http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com [...]

  5. [...] blog book tour for THE CORNER CAFE continues today at Heidi Thomas’ blog. THE CORNER CAFE will be free this weekend, June 9 and 10. [...]

  6. Very fascinating, Bodie! So much of what happened in our childhood gets buried in our minds, sometimes to come back when we least expect it. I very much wish I had your talent. I always enjoyed art in grammar school, but can’t even draw a straight line!

    Thanks for offering such a great cover for The Corner Cafe: A Tasty Collection of Short Stories.

    • I loved doing the cover. As for drawing a straight line–I can’t, either. Don’t let that stop you, though–on the first day of my Design class my professor explained that that’s what rulers are for. He couldn’t draw a straight line, either. Art is like writing–everyone has their own artistic voice and, with practice and training, it becomes more polished and defined. If you love art, you should pursue it.

      • Great commentary about art, Sherry. If you love it, do it!

        Monti

  7. What happened to the house Leroy? Great interview, you two!

    • Geez, I left him out, didn’t I? Maybe because it’s spring, and he’s spending all his time out in the yard these days. And it shows–my yard is incredible this year. I have one lily plant that has forty blooms on it, and the hollyhocks are over ten feet tall in some cses. The honeysuckle smells incredible, and the garden by the firepit is going crazy. He cares for the flowers, but he loves the vegetables. Those are doing well, too, now that we obtained bug killer.

  8. I loved this story so much, Great, great writing. And this was a good article to find out where I can get more :)

    • Thanks–I love it, too. Maggie’s one of my favorites, and I purely love Russell.

  9. Heidi and Bodie, thanks for the fascinating post. Very well done.

    • Thanks, Bodie, for visiting my blog today and thank you all for stopping by and sharing a cuppa and a story today! I really loved this story too (of course I grew up on a ranch so it brought back many memories!)

      • Thanks for having me–it’s nice to meet other former ranch/farm kids. I’m working on a memoir about growing up on a ranch–as Monti points out, it’s a hard life, but there’s also something about it that gets into your blood and bones. It still makes me ache to know that it’s no longer a part of my life. So I write about people like Maggie, and the family in “Good On Paper,” who are also ranch folks.

  10. Bodie, what great stories from life on a farm. Both my parents grew up on farms, and I often visited my uncle’s farm when I was a child. It was a hard life for everyone. No wonder so many farms like that have vanished.

    What an amazing background you have to share through writing, art, and music! You are truly talented.

    Thank you for having me as your guest on Magic Dog Press!

    Monti

    • Thanks for being my guest! And yes, farming is a hard life. It’s one of those things that one does because it’s a way of life, because you’re sure probably not going to get rich at it.

  11. Wonderful interview and I enjoyed getting to know more about you, Sherry. I know what you mean about the graciousness of farm women and that special quality they have to work so hard at something they love. My good friend in South Dakota is one of those farm women, and she named all her calves, too. I have many wonderful memories of spending time with her and her husband on the farm and getting a taste of rural life. That was part of the reason I decided I wanted to spend my last years out in the country. My husband and I live on a small piece of land called “Grandma’s Ranch”, and I do in a small way what my friend in SD did in a large way.

    • How lovely–one of my enduring sorrows is that I live in town, and can’t have a cow. I thought about a miniature one, but I suspect even that would be too much for the neighbors.

  12. This is one of my favorite stories in the collection, Sherry, probably because I was a farm kid too. Our bull, however, was definitely not a pet. Very scary animal. :D

    • All bulls should be very scary animals. They’re unpredictable. They might look slow and placid, but that’s part of the danger–you just never know what they’re thinking, do you? Cows can be iffy, particularly during calving season, but I never trust a bull–not even a Hereford, and those are some of the calmest ones I know of.

      • Yes, I was knocked down and stepped on by a cow when I was about 10, because I got between her and her calf.

      • OUCH to the getting stepped on thing–I can see that happening–cows tend to get very cranky about things like that.

  13. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I used to spend lots of time at my best friend’s farm where we road horses several times a week and those animals become our second best friends. Miss those days!
    Wendy
    W.S. Gager
    W.S. Gager on Writing

    • I’m always happy to conduct tours down memory lane (funny aside here–there was a trailer court just down the bluff from our house in town when I was a kid, and it was called, “Memory Lane.” I have no idea why, but it was a good place to sell candy when we were doing fundraisers.

  14. Wonderful design and great story! Congratulations.

    Steamy Darcy

    • Thanks, Steamy Darcy–I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  15. What an excellent post! Wonderful to know more about you, Sherry. I’m a farm woman. I love it here on our farm and the ideas never stop flowing. I cannot wait to read your story this weekend. :-)

    • How lovely–I always thought I’d grow up to be a farm woman, but somehow never found a suitable farmer…it makes me sad, sometimes. I know that in theory one doesn’t need to have a farmer to be a farm woman, but having grown up on a farm/ranch I knew that there was no way I could possibly keep up with all the work, write, paint, raise children,and stay sane on my own.

  16. What a great interview, Heidi, and the answers were wonderful! I loved getting to know Bodie/Sherry and the stories you write. Looks like I share some of your experiences — I was a city girl who loved to visit my uncle’s Holstein dairy farm, and I know about those rocks crossing the creek with deep water in between. Now I need to finish my stories…

    • Thanks, Alice–us girls from the deep water need to stick together! Seriously, I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

  17. Lovely interview. The Corner Cafe sounds the perfect place to meet and read.


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