Mama Red, the mother cow in my novel, ONE GOOD MAMA BONE, was not the first Mama Red in my life.

Mama Red

Mama Red

My father tells me I can’t possibly remember. But I do.  The pickup truck had wooden railings around the back, and the vehicle came around the side of our house and headed down our driveway. It was late morning, and I was in the kitchen, looking out the window beyond our eating table.

He says someone must have told me those details.

But no one had to. Because of what stood in the back of that truck, inside those railings.  It was our milk cow.  Her name was Mama Red. And she was leaving.

I was three years old. And I loved her. Continue reading »

I’ve been waiting this day for the temperature outside to climb to 52 degrees.   I had laundry to do and floors to vacuum, not to mention working on my next novel.  But, more than anything, I needed to see the temperature at 52 degrees.

52 degrees

52 degrees

At 10:35, there it was –  52.2 degrees.

A smile spread over my face.  Continue reading »

On a morning like this, at my Daddy’s farm, I caught a glimpse of the divine.

Fog over the Farm

Fog over the Farm

This was November of 2008 and in light so early, it still could be considered dark.

I caught it in a gathering of mama cows, a dozen of them, all huddled and straining against the corner of an old barbed wire fence, each with her chin shoved high into the air and sending forth sounds.  They were gutteral.  They made me shiver.  Continue reading »

Finally, after…well, let’s not say how long…I have…drum roll, please!…finished ONE GOOD MAMA BONE, a novel that feels like the work of my life.  It’s what became of a failed novel I wrote some years back, chunking 90 percent and keeping just enough starter dough to get going again.  This “again,” as many of you know, is none other than cows, specifically mama cows and their young.   ONE GOOD MAMA BONE is the story of Sarah Creamer’s journey to reclaim her “mama bone” with the help of a Hereford mother cow named Mama Red.

The glorious Mama Red

The glorious Mama Red

Along the way, we enter the world of a time-honored rite of passage for 4-H boys and girls, the feeding out of a market steer for a shot at the Grand Champion glory.

I am lucky enough to be part of an amazing critique group, the Butt Glue Club, so when I thought I had a pretty strong draft, they gave me some feedback that put me over the moon.  They said they wanted more of Mama Red, more face time with her alone and more with her with Sarah, my main character.

So I did.  Continue reading »

She was ten miles away from the only home she’d ever known.  She was in her new pasture, and she was surrounded by grass, glorious grass.

She was content.  This was what I had dreamed of.  And this is just as I found her.

Mama Red comes running!

I spotted her from my brother’s truck as we crested the hill. She lifted her head from eating.  She knew Jamie’s truck and started our way.  She began to run. Continue reading »

How amazing this life is.

I’ve just spent the last two hours writing a blog and got all the way to the end, when something happened that made me realize what I was really writing about.  And then I sat in silence and looked out my window and saw four glorious turkey hens walking through the leaves that have fallen in my yard.  They were coming from the feeder I have for them out back and making their way to the sanctuary out in the woods where I have their water and a mineral lick.

Now, to tell this story….

I’ve been away from my blog for a while — choosing, instead, to focus my time on writing my novel.  But today I was moved to reconnect with you good people, who share a love of animals, so I went looking for something to share.

I found it amidst my daily Google alerts on one of the subjects I follow, Cows.  The headline read ”Drums Woman Spends Day in the Life of a Cow” and then a brief summary followed, The contest offers winners in each of the association’s six regions a 24-hour stay on a working dairy farm, where they were “treated like a cow” – a reference to the pampered life led by modern dairy cows.

OK, did I really see the word “pampered” referring to the lives of modern dairy cows? Continue reading »

Mama Red and Baby Boy and Baby Girl

It started two long weeks ago with a phone call from my brother, Jamie, on whose farm in South Carolina Mama Red and her one-year-old twins (Baby Boy is beside her and Baby Girl on the ground) as well as her steer from two years ago live.  And when I say “live,” I mean these animals can ride out their days there until they die.  For Mama Red and Baby Girl, this means being able to stay alive vs. at around age 8 or so, being taken to slaughter where they make hamburger out of old mama cows.  For Baby Boy, though, this means being able to live past age two, when he would be considered at his prime for steaks and roasts, etc.

This is unheard of, this freedom to live out their days.  Continue reading »

Whoa! Seems the subject of the novel I am writing, that time-honored rite of passage of 4-H kids feeding out a steer or a lamb or goat for the big show and auction that follows, is getting a lot of buzz the last few days.  And I’m talking heated buzz as in almost 1700 comments left after CNN published two articles in its “Eatocracy” section of its website a couple of weeks ago.

The uproar began with a piece called “Five Reasons to Buy From Your Local 4-H.”   http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2011/06/21/55-five-reasons-to-buy-from-your-local-4-h/

So many people left responses that a second piece, “Does 4-H Desensitize Kids to Killing?” was published two days later. http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2011/06/23/does-4-h-desensitize-kids-to-killing/?hpt=hp_c2 As that article pointed out, two incredibly distinctive lines of thinking emerged: “One was that 4-H promotes responsible animal husbandry and the cultivation of food resources in a responsible, ethical way and the other was that it serves to desensitize children to the suffering of animals.”

This is the question my novel, ONE GOOD MAMA BONE, addresses.  Continue reading »

Gene Baur and Opie

Meet Gene Baur and his good buddy, Opie.

Almost two decades ago, according to published material, this cow, then a tiny calf no more than a few hours old, was abandoned and left for dead at a stockyard in upstate New York.  He was a dairy industry discard too weak and sickly to even stand.  He lay helpless in an alleyway, where few signs of life emanated from him — let alone any indication of the magnificent creature he was destined to become. Continue reading »

I realized when I wrote yesterday’s blog on Billy O’s finally finding his place in the goat pecking order, that it’s time for me to move on to another big love that I have, writing.   “Note to self,” I said, “make your next blog about the novel you are writing.”

Which today’s blog is and is not.

The “is not” first.   I was in my writing space this morning, working on my novel like a good girl, when I decided to pick up my Blackberry and check to see the latest weather.   Before I did that, though, I saw the latest Publishers Marketplace Lunch pop up in my email, so I opened it up.  (Note to self: Tomorrow, leave contraption outside room.  No, lock it up somewhere!)

The good news is my detour lead to a terrifically inspiring article about Tom Franklin, an Alabama writer who teaches at Ole Miss. Continue reading »