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