I am a fifth generation Kansan on my mother’s side and have spent the majority of my life tending the soil and livestock. During just my lifetime the number of small family farmer/ranchers has dwindled to just over 1% of the US population from an average of 25-30% in the 1940’s.
As the daughter of an Air Force Lt. Col, I was not born on a farm. My mother had inherited the family land from her grandfather, but it was managed by a local farmer. Each summer we traveled from the military base in Norfolk, VA to Atwood, KS to spend time with my grandmother. I clearly recall the day my young soul awoke as I crawled between the rows of ripening wheat and breathed the living earth.
In 1975 I married another multi-generation Kansan. He had grown up on his family’s farm. Of his many siblings he was the only one to feel the tie that a true farmer feels and he wanted nothing more than to dedicate his life to growing crops and raising cattle. We started life together on a 1500 acre isolated ranch along the state line of Kansas and Nebraska at the ages of 18 and 21, nearly half a million dollars in debt to the Farmers’ Home Administration and local banks. We hit the farm crisis of the 80’s head on, losing everything after eight years of trying our hardest.
I began writing in earnest during that time, publishing a short story in a ranching magazine about being stranded in the middle of a torrential storm on the way home from working at a dairy for vital income. Seeing my work in print was a true joy.
Shortly after losing our farm I had our second daughter. She was born without health insurance and thus we had another debt owed to our local hospital. In a creative effort to pay off that bill I began writing and publishing a newsletter for the hospital. That led to a new path, becoming a Registered Nurse through the hospital’s scholarship program. Writing grants played an important part in that process.
The last years of my nursing career were spent as a school nurse. Once again, I wrote several grants for children’s programs related to health, nutrition, and anti-bullying programs. Turning words into action continued to impact my life.
Other changes came about and in 2003 we purchased the 1907 Shirley Opera House in Atwood. We’d started over on another small farm, developing a hunting lodge business and converting to organic wheat. All of these ventures required writing skills to apply for grants.
In 2014 I had the honor of having an article published in Hobby Farms magazine on the subject of heritage Red Wattle pigs. While my husband worked for the local paper as a photographer and printer’s devil, I wrote local interest articles to accompany his pictures.
UNDER A FULL MOON: The Last Lynching in Kansas had its start while I worked on the application for the placement of the Opera House onto the Kansas and National Registers of Historic Places. Working on the story between other life events, the manuscript took nearly sixteen years to complete. As each piece of information was processed the story line became more complex and darker.
Concurrent with the completion of UNDER A FULL MOON I worked on a self-published instruction manual called GROW TOPLESS: A Modified High Tunnel Design for Headache Free Extended-Season Gardening which is available on Amazon as both an e-book and a paperback. This system for a protected space for growing food is ideally suited to the extreme conditions of the high plains. I continue to be passionate about tending the soil, crops, and livestock.
On a side note, as both of my parents, my grandmother, and my older sister are each published authors, serious writing is a genetic right. The sound of a clacking Underwood typewriter was as present as the strains of classical music throughout my childhood. The next generation continues the legacy as our oldest daughter is a free-lance copy editor and Director of the Atwood Public Library. She has written several grants to supplement the small town library’s services.