You Might be a Redneck If…

You live in Chino Valley, Arizona!

Beautiful clouds

Recently Chino Valley, where I now live, was named “#1 Redneck City in Arizona.” I have to laugh. First of all, by population it’s a town (about 11,000), not a city. One of the criteria for ranking is number of high school graduates, which they said was the least in the state.

A story in the Courier Times newspaper debunked that statistic, quoting Assistant Superintendent Cindy Daniels, Chino Valley Unified School District, “We actually have one of the highest graduation rates in the state, 92 percent (Class of 2016), and have been recognized at both the state and national levels for this accomplishment.”

Another criterion was number of bars (ranked high). However, when my husband and I moved here almost five years ago, we remarked that it was a good sign there seemed to be more churches than bars in town.

It’s funny, how the perception of a rural community can be so skewed. I’d just been talking to a new neighbor who said her son (from Prescott) told her not to even look for property in Chino Valley, because first he’d have to knock two of her front teeth out and buy her a trailer. (We live in an extremely nice subdivision with beautiful homes and well-kept acreages.)

100_0182When we lived in Mount Vernon, Washington, the small town of Sedro-Woolley was about the same distance as Chino is from Prescott, and that was its reputation as well. Birthed from the lumber industry in the 1800s, it still sits in the middle of farming country. Even “worse” was anything “upriver” from there, as if it were the backwoods of Appalachia.

I’ve always been the “hick from the sticks.” I grew up on a ranch in isolated, rural eastern Montana, 35 miles from the nearest town (and only one in the county) which had a population of about 300. The nearest “city” was at least 100 miles away. I attended a one-room country school which boasted four students when I started first grade, and I didn’t have any girls my own age around until I went to high school (where I lived in a dorm during the week). So, I was a bit socially backward for part of my life.

SeekingAmericanDream_1.5x2When my mother emigrated from Germany after WWII, she was considered “different” and therefore “suspect.” Fitting in, for her, was difficult and she fought that prejudice all her life.

My newest novel, Seeking the American Dream, is based on my mother’s life and the kind of life I had as a “redneck.”

I guess you never quite escape your roots!

Published in: on August 11, 2017 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Prairie Fire!

by Heidi M. Thomas

Prairie firePhoto courtesy http://askabiologist.asu.edu

Lightning strikes, a glow forms on the horizon, the smell of smoke wafts on the wind. Prairie Fire!

This scenario strikes fear in the hearts of ranchers everywhere, and this fear was realized recently in eastern Montana near where I grew up. The Lodgepole Complex Fire near Sand Springs eventually encompassed 270,000 acres, burned miles of grazing land, haystacks, outbuildings, and killed some livestock.

Here in north-central Arizona, where I now live, the Goodwin Fire in June also devastated 28,000 acres, closed a main highway, and evacuated residents for several days.

In my new novel, Seeking the American Dream, I have a fictionalized composite scene of this feared wrath of Mother Nature, when Neil and the neighbors battle a prairie fire on their ranch and Anna fears they will lose their home.

praire fireline

Photo courtesy weebly.com

Excerpt From: Seeking the American Dream

As they approached within ten miles of the ranch, yet another huge bolt of lightning crashed into the earth along the horizon. Anna thought she saw flames flicker in the distance.

“Prairie fire.” Neil punched the accelerator to the floor. Then, nothing, just the blackness of the night sky.

Anna breathed a small sigh of relief. Maybe it had been a reflection of the lightning strike against the clouds.

A sudden gust of wind stirred the stillness in the air, and dust swirled in the headlights. Then flames leaped again from the same spot. Anna gasped. In minutes the hillside glowed and smoke rose as the dried grass caught and the fire spread.

“Is it…it isn’t our place, is it?” Anna couldn’t breathe with the fear that gripped her.

“It won’t come our way.” Neil’s voice was firm with conviction, but his knuckles turned white around the wheel…

***

It was only a half-mile from their house. Anna heard the flames crackle. Her nose closed and her eyes watered from the astringent smoke.

“I’m going to get the tractor and plow a firebreak.” Neil jumped out of the car. “You’ll have to carry buckets of water and wet down the roof, in case it heads this way.”

Anna ran to the house, carrying Monica who now screamed in fright. “Honey, it’s okay.” Anna tried to control her quavering voice. “Here, you can lie down in Mama’s bed and look at these books. I have to go to the well and get some water. You stay right here.”

“No, Mommy. You stay.” Monica sobbed and clutched at Anna’s neck.

“Honey, you’re all right. Mommy will be right back. Look at the book. It’s your favorite, see? Three Little Pigs.” She tucked the blanket around her daughter’s shoulders. Oh, please stay put. Dear Lord, watch over her.

SeekingAmericanDream_1.5x2Anna grabbed the drinking bucket from the kitchen cupboard and ran out into the wind. Her skirts whipped around her legs and her hair lashed her face. She pumped a bucketful of water. Now, where was the ladder? She scuttled toward the house, crablike, grasping the heavy bucket in both hands, water sloshing down her dress. It would take forever to wet down the roof. She had to find a faster way. What do I do? Anna looked wildly around and focused on the galvanized bathtub. She pulled it around the side of the house and ran to the granary, where she found the ladder and an armload of gunnysacks. She dragged the ladder to the house, then went back for the sacks. Throwing them into the tub, she dumped the bucket of water on top and ran for another.

The fire thrust intense orange, hungry fingers high against the inky sky and rode the crest of the hill on the other side of the county road. Anna’s eyes stung from the smoke haze. Her throat ached. Vehicles with their tanks of water in the back sprayed the flames. Someone had joined Neil with another tractor, plowing a firebreak. The men looked like black stick figures silhouetted in the wavering glow that lit the sky like a sunrise. The heat flushed Anna’s face.

She grasped several soaked gunnysacks, climbed the ladder, and spread them over the roof. Between trips, she ran into the house to make sure Monica stayed put, terrified she would wander outside to find her mommy. The little girl whimpered, but lay in the big bed, wide-eyed, holding a book to her chest. It was as if she sensed the danger and knew this was a safe place.

“Good girl. Just stay there, Mama is right outside.”

One eye on the fire, Anna climbed up and down the ladder, her pink dancing dress now stained and wet. Then she felt the wind on her face and watched in horror as it switched direction. As if sprouting glowing wings, the fire jumped the road. Now it was headed their way.

She watched the men struggle to turn the fire. Just as they started another fire line, the wind gave a violent push and the fire jumped over. Men beat at the burning brush and grass with wet gunnysacks, trying to contain the spread. The wildfire twisted and turned, a living entity, consuming the dry prairie grasses.

Anna twisted her ruined skirt in one fist. This couldn’t be happening. Would they lose their pastureland and their house, too?

Seeking the American Dream is the first in the “American Dream” series, the next generation of the Moser family we met in the “Cowgirl Dreams” series. This book is based on my mother who emigrated from Germany after WWII. The book is available autographed from my website or through Amazon.

 

Farm Crisis

“It is sad that we feed the country and can’t even afford to go to the grocery store Dairy Cowsourselves.”–A Farm Wife

Did you know that just one dairy cow generates between $13,000-$15,000 in the local economy? Did you know that the average 100 cow dairy farm is currently losing $10,000 per month? Most dairy farmers have used up their savings, depleted their credit and equity and are on the brink of financial collapse?

Check out the article from the Cattle Grower.

Published in: on July 29, 2009 at 9:06 pm  Comments (1)  

Extreme Sheep Herding

These fellows took to the hills of Wales armed to the teeth with sheep, LEDs and a camera, using sheep as pixels to create fun “sheep art.” Quite fun.

Extreme Shepherding

Published in: on June 22, 2009 at 1:41 am  Comments (1)  

A Cattle-herding Pig

Squeaky the pig

Squeaky the pig

Bonney, Texas. I recently came across a cute video about Squeaky, the pig, who thinks she’s a dog. She is very good at herding cattle and is protective of her owner if a bull or cow comes after him. Squeaky Video

Published in: on June 20, 2009 at 3:20 am  Comments (1)  
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Cowboys and Social Networks

saddle-laptopMy picture of farmers, ranchers and cowboys has been formed by my experience growing up in eastern Montana during the ’50s and by doing research about my grandmother and other rodeo cowgirls of the 1920s and ’30s.

So the thought of ranchers sitting at the computer sending out “Tweets” or blogging makes me smile. And yet …

According to a blog article by Chad Golladay on Cattle Growers Network, this could be an important marketing tool for the agricultural community. He writes, “There are not many ranchers involved in this form of networking – But mark my words, it won’t be long. While CattleGrower.com is the first professional online social community that brings all types of livestock producers together, many others will be soon to follow.”

Published in: on February 17, 2009 at 4:58 am  Comments (4)  
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