Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams Part lV

Buzzard and Bugs Bunny Cartoon

Dreams

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly

~Langston Hughes

At the end of my writing dreams series, Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams Part lll, young Danni had unwittingly embarked on a more than twenty-year novel writing journey. Gramps–still not widely known as Gramps–kept traveling around the western United States natural gas fields working for wages with his sweet pipelining skills. Danni just worked, and the sons finally outgrew their potty chairs and started using the yard for their bathroom most of the time while the animals on the Colorado rancho soon outnumbered humans by at least thirty-to-one.

Picking up from there, my homeschooled sons beefed up their academics with classes like Life Lessons From the Livestock Auction With Mom and Her SisterChasing and Penning Wild Cattle 101, and Learning to Ride Rough Stock for Fun and (no) Profit.

But, it was night when I really came alive, morphing into a mad typist who sat at the Smith Corona, hammering away on my novel about a Colorado ranching family. My protagonist, Gil, was a reckless cowboy, but his love interest was Kate, a tiresome young woman who wouldn’t die. Ever.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, most first novels are autobiographical in nature, and mine was no exception. How do I know?

Because Kate–and finally Katie in her final form–had big arms.

via wikigallery.org

The Milkmaid by Adolphe Charles Marais via wikigallery.org

She’d grown up milking cows by hand. And, hey, surprise…I did, too!

In my novel, Kate was older than the milkmaid above and she set her bucket underneath the cow’s udder. She’d hunker down with her cheek against the cow’s flank and get after it. Thick streams of milk rang against the metal bucket, raising a head of snowy foam. Unfortunately, the muscles of her forearms and biceps became larger and more unattractive with every squeeze-pull of the cow’s rubbery…er…handles.

Kate had something to say about her arms in every revision of my story for over twenty-years. The fact that–even though she was slightly built–she had to split the inside seams of her blouses to get her arms stuffed in them peeved her greatly. What fictional young woman would want bigger guns than all the other girls and a lot of the guys, too?

(Old people, guns is slang for biceps. I wouldn’t know except one of my favorite people in the world once said something along this line to her brother: “You’re pathetic. My mother-in-law has bigger guns than you do.”)

from Napoleon Dynamite

from Napoleon Dynamite

Kate feared she had guns like Starla’s. (above right) 

I used years of time–and bottles of white-out–while I wrote at my typewriter, trying to disguise long-ago Kate so nobody would see her as my alter-ego. As a result she came across as a boring nitwit, obsessed with her arms. Trying to distance myself from her, I told my story like a news account rather than crawling inside the characters skins and writing from their viewpoints.

Kate embarrassed me every time she tried to come out of her shell, but I had a much easier time writing Gil’s character. I could write about him for days. Still, he had to fall in love with Kate or my romantic story line just fell to pieces.

As I wrestled with that knotty problem, I went about so absent-mindedly I actually endangered the wild animal population, thus:

Our rancho was an hour away from the church we attended. One night after a Wednesday night prayer meeting, I piloted our old station wagon toward home like a rocket sled on rails with my boys buckled tightly into their seats. While I drove, I gnawed on my problematic story line. A mother raccoon unwisely led her little family in front of my speeding wheels. Son #1 yelled out a warning from the passenger seat, waking me from my fictive dream, but…too late.

My goodness, what a mess.

I fought Kate throughout the passage of time until many years later when a writer–who is also my freelance editor and gracious writing mentor, Terri Valentine–taught me how to stop writing like I was in the shower with my clothes on. One of the most helpful things she ever said to me came after I explained to her I didn’t like Kate–or Katie, as she was called by then.

“But, I love Katie,” she said, and then she gave me reasons why.

Her words stunned me. Someone actually loved Katie?

After that, I tried to stop fighting her and write about her like I loved her, too.  My twenty-year novel attempt finally came together.

The take-away from this odd tale? Aspiring novelists, try to find something to love about your characters, especially that first autobiographical one. (Even if she has large appendages and other shortcomings.) You might save years of your life…and young raccoon families.

If you got this far, thank you so much for reading. God bless all y’all and enjoy the Cathedrals singing Sinner Saved By Grace. I love this song and I love the Cathedrals…and I hope you will, too.

*Thank you, Terri, for allowing me to mention you on my blog.
Follow on Bloglovin

 

11 thoughts on “Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams Part lV

  1. Pingback: My Mother-In-Law Has Bigger Guns Than You | From the Ranch Pen–A Danni McGriffith Blog

  2. Poor raccoons, but if you found a way to love Kate, then it seems their sacrifice was worth something. And I’m anxious to hear when this 20-year-in-the-making novel will present itself to the world!

    • I know. Poor ‘coons. Who knows what other things I’ve done in my absent-minded plotting? I don’t know when the twenty-year novel will appear, if ever. I’m like an old hen who can’t quite decide if I want my chick to hatch. Perhaps it will appear posthumously. 🙂

  3. I decided a long time ago to embrace myself. Having big, strong guns to do that with is a plus. hahahaha

  4. Yay, finally! I’ve been looking forward to the next installment in this series. I can’t believe anyone would mention their mother-in-law’s guns like that, though. 🙂

      • It might interest you to know that your granddaughter has been lobbying for a milk cow, since I bought that raw milk. I told her it would have to wait until she’s old enough to help with some of the milking and seeing to the milk. I simply don’t have time. I wonder if I should mention the possible consequences of regular milking to one’s wardrobe, though.

  5. Hahahahahahahaha!! So funny! I have sat here laughing ’til I cried. The idea of you spending hours trying to diguise yourself is hysterical… along with the arm obsessed nitwit. hahahahaha Great post, and not all of it was the funny stuff. Good job.

Go ahead, make my day. Add your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s