Nancy Radke

About Nancy Radke

Nancy Radke grew up on a wheat and cattle ranch in SE Washinton State. She attended a one-room country school through the eighth grade. She learned to ride bareback at age 3 (Really! It was a common practice.) and when she got off or fell off, she would pull her horse's nose to the ground, get on behind its ears, and the horse would lift its head so she could scoot down onto its back. She spent most of her childhood exploring the Blue Mountain trails that bordered the ranchlands. She and a friend once took a trail that turned out to be a two day trip. They always rode with matches and pocket knives, so made camp and returned the next day. These long rides worried her parents, but provided plenty of time to make up stories. Her first novel was set in the Blues, and is entitled APPALOOSA BLUES. TURNAGAIN LOVE was the first one published. It rated a four star review from Affaire de Coeur. Scribes World said "Turnagain Love has some fascinating twists and turns, unexpected complications, and charming scenes." It is light and humorous.  View website

#4 Unforgettable Memory; Driving Wheat Trucks and Other Farm Equipment

Like most kids, farm kids get their driver’s licenses at age 16. But we were allowed to drive in the fields as soon as we could, and to drive the country roads to and from the granaries during harvest time, when we were 14 or 15. My experiences were common.

I remember vividly my grandfather teaching me how to drive. I think I was 13, but can’t remember. He put me in an old truck that had no doors, put enough of a pillow behind me that I could reach the pedals, and proceeded to teach me how to start it. The starter was a separate foot pedal you had to push.

The procedure went something like this: Right foot on the brake and left foot on the clutch. You let the clutch out far enough that it would keep the truck from rolling (on a hill). Then you moved your right foot over to push the starter pedal, turning the foot sideways enough to push on the gas as soon as the engine started, at the same time pulling out the choke, adjusting the little knob in or out as needed. Here is a short video showing someone starting one of these. Video of starting an old truck.
Notice the play in the steering wheel. You had to turn the wheel completely around to turn a corner, then spin it hand over hand to straighten it out.

I remember how scared I was that I was going to mess up. As soon as I knew how to start it, Grandpa had me drive up a steep hill. Halfway up, he had me stop and turn off the engine, then start again, using the clutch to keep from rolling backward. We did this several times. I was warned not to drive around the hills, or I would roll my truck over. I must always remember to drive straight up or down, especially when I had a load of grain. The combine could go around the hills since it had a leveler on it to keep it upright.

The clods in the fields made the truck bounce up and down, so my feet kept bouncing off the pedals. Going uphill was very hard, as I had to use the steering wheel to pull myself forward enough to reach the pedals. I must have looked funny to the men, with my jerky progress, especially uphill.

I think I drove one or two years in the fields only, before being able to drive to the granary. One year everyone had a bumper crop, well over 100 bushels per acre, so that the combine barely moved, trying to collect all the grain. Before I could unload, our entire line of trucks was sent to another granary. I was 16, so could drive on regular roads at the time. After waiting at the second granary for over an hour, the truck ahead of me and the rest of our line was sent into Oregon to a third granary there. It took me most of the day to unload one truck. They were piling it outside the granaries and loading it directly onto train cars and barges, to stay ahead of the harvest. Everyone was exhausted after that harvest.

I used a description of an old truck my grandfather used for logging, when I wrote “The Stubbornest Girl in the Valley.” That one even pre-dated the one he used to teach me to drive.

One other piece of farm equipment I drove was the D-8 caterpillar tractor, which replaced the four horses and thirty-six mules that dad used to use to pull the combine. My uncle had me drive it to pull the hay wagon. It had two levers and two brake pedals. To turn you used the lever and brake on the side you wanted to turn towards. For a gentle turn, the lever was enough. To turn sharply, you braked, which stopped the track on that side, and pulled the lever back, making the other track spin around the first. Like truck driving, I was scared when I first had to do it, but my uncle would jump on the back of the tractor and talk me through it. He always started it up and rode with me when we took the wagon back to the barn, so I only had to navigate around the bales of hay and remember not to run into the fences.

I found out later that the lever-brake combination is used for airplanes, which explains why they made so many farm kids into pilots during World War 2. I went up for a touch and go flight with an instructor when I lived in Hawaii, and he thought I had flown before. I said, “No. I’ve driven a caterpillar tractor.” The turns had the exact same feel.

On our hilly farm, I was never put on the wheel tractor, as it turned over too easily. I did have to ride the trip rake behind my dad, who pulled it with that tractor. A trip rake is described in “Little Britches,” by Ralph Moody. He broke all except one of the toes on his feet while on it, but his was pulled by horses that ran away with him.

The rake drags across the ground, scooping up the hay. When the circular tines are full, the person (me) riding the rake pushes the foot lever. The rake flips the tines into the air just long enough to release the hay, and then they come down with a force that almost throws the rider off the metal seat. The seat is up all by itself, above the rake, with nothing to hang onto except the seat rim where you are sitting, and you have to keep your feet away from the foot pedal once you trip it. It is like riding a bucking horse.

Ever so often you’ll see one of these rakes still around. I know now that if I ever was thrown off, I would have probably landed in the hay row, behind the rake, and not under the tines, but Dad watched me carefully. I don’t know how old I was when he started me on the rake, but it was several years before I learned to drive.


Buy here at Amazon

Nancy Radke

Nancy Radke grew up on a wheat and cattle ranch in SE Washinton State. She attended a one-room country school through the eighth grade. She learned to ride bareback at age 3 (Really! It was a common practice.) and when she got off or fell off, she would pull her horse’s nose to the ground, get on behind its ears, and the horse would lift its head so she could scoot down onto its back. She spent most of her childhood exploring the Blue Mountain trails that bordered the ranchlands. She and a friend once took a trail that turned out to be a two day trip. They always rode with matches and pocket knives, so made camp and returned the next day. These long rides worried her parents, but provided plenty of time to make up stories. Her first novel was set in the Blues, and is entitled APPALOOSA BLUES. TURNAGAIN LOVE was the first one published. It rated a four star review from Affaire de Coeur. Scribes World said “Turnagain Love has some fascinating twists and turns, unexpected complications, and charming scenes.” It is light and humorous.
 View website

Unforgettable Memory #3 A Summer as a Fire Lookout

Unforgettable Memory #3 A Summer as a Fire Lookout
Nancy Radke #mgtab

After four years of college, my husband and I needed a break from working our way through college, so he took a job as a fire lookout with the Forest Service. They put our supplies on pack-mules and took both of us to the top of Granite Mountain in the Snoqualmie National Forest. We had to call the station and let them know any time the lookout was unmanned.

We were located at the center of all the lookouts, so most of our time was spent relaying messages from one spot to another, usually from firefighters to the Ranger Station. Our station was about twelve by twelve. It had windows completely around it, a fire-finder in the very center, and a catwalk outside. The bed was a narrow cot just wide enough for the two of us. It was only as high as the windows, which we left open at night, until we discovered that mice liked to come inside and run across us to check the place out for crumbs. We could feel them scurrying across the blankets.

We had a stool with insulators as legs, which we were to stand on if manning the radio during a lightning storm. Long cables ran from our large antenna mounted on the roof, down the corners of the lookout and down the mountainside. A burned path under the cables showed their effectiveness. I was already teaching school in the fall when we had our first lightning storm, so my husband had to weather it himself. He said it was really noisy!

Most of the time it was just us and the volcanic peaks around the area, Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams. This was before St. Helens blew off her top, so they all had beautiful, rounded glacier-covered tops. The clouds would roll in from the Pacific, filling the valleys, then rolling over a ridge and filling the next valley in line. After a few hours they would cover the land, leaving just us and the volcanoes, as if we were in an airplane. Then they would rise up enough to reach our catwalk, then go over us. Then we were in thick fog!

My kitchen was a two-burner camp stove, set on a wooden box that could be moved if it got in the way of the fire-finder. A square metal box with a door served as an oven. I had to use high-altitude recipes as we were around a mile above sea level. The “refrigerator” was a large cream can like the ones I used on the farm. We put it in a nearby snow bank. I could make Jello in a jar, just screw on a lid and put it in the can. When the snow bank left, we kept the can full of water, and that kept things cold.

We had visitors all summer. Our favorites were former lookouts, as they would bring us newspapers and other little items that you don’t miss until you are without. Sometimes we would get a Boy Scout troop, all full of questions, wanting to see how the fire-finder worked.

Our loo was a box with a lid on it, placed where you could sit and look out across the entire mountainside. Took me a while to feel comfortable using that! The man who packed in our supplies would sit out there with his binoculars, looking for bear, so he could find them when hunting season came. Our shower was a mile down the trail at an ice-covered lake, which made a small waterfall as it melted. Jump under and get wet, jump out and soap up, jump under again and then out and dry. No one took long showers.

I made lots of huckleberry pies, as the altitude didn’t affect them, and picked enough huckleberries to freeze for the winter. Once while picking I looked up the slope in front of me and saw a stag resting in the bushes. Startled both of us. He jumped over me and took off. The former lookouts had tamed a marmot, which would come and take crackers from my husband’s hand. I was never brave enough to keep holding the cracker when the marmot rushed me to get the treat.

I needed three more credits to get a teacher’s certificate. I signed up for a summer correspondence course and at the same time got a job teaching sixth grade in Kirkland. I had just turned twenty-one, but for some reason they hired me. I finished my correspondence course up there. Plenty of time to read, study, write, and just relax. It was a great way to spend the summer, and I was rested and ready to brave teaching for the first time that fall. I think they do their fire patrols with airplanes now, but the lookout experience was one I’m really happy to have had.

My book, “Courage Dares,” is set in that location, and I notice most of my stories have mountains in them. I live in the city now, but the mountains remain my favorite memories. Buy here at Amazon

Nancy Radke

Nancy Radke grew up on a wheat and cattle ranch in SE Washinton State. She attended a one-room country school through the eighth grade. She learned to ride bareback at age 3 (Really! It was a common practice.) and when she got off or fell off, she would pull her horse’s nose to the ground, get on behind its ears, and the horse would lift its head so she could scoot down onto its back. She spent most of her childhood exploring the Blue Mountain trails that bordered the ranchlands. She and a friend once took a trail that turned out to be a two day trip. They always rode with matches and pocket knives, so made camp and returned the next day. These long rides worried her parents, but provided plenty of time to make up stories. Her first novel was set in the Blues, and is entitled APPALOOSA BLUES. TURNAGAIN LOVE was the first one published. It rated a four star review from Affaire de Coeur. Scribes World said “Turnagain Love has some fascinating twists and turns, unexpected complications, and charming scenes.” It is light and humorous.
 View website

10 Unforgettable Memories by Nancy Radke

The Author’s Billboard has done a set of “Unforgettable” Romances, with Unforgettable Suspense and so forth, so I wanted to do 10 Unforgettable Memories. Here is #2.

Unforgettable Memory # 2 A One-room Country School

This really dates me, but I attended a one-room country school that had one large room that could be divided by a wooden accordion-type door. I had the same teacher for all eight grades. During the morning, grades 1-4 were on one side and grades 5-8 on the other side. In the afternoon the teacher who taught the upper grades left, and the full-time teacher opened the doors and we were all with her in one classroom. She would play the piano as we sang. I remember “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” being a favorite of the boys, as they would stamp their feet in time. We sang patriotic songs like “God Bless America,” and religious songs, like “The Old Rugged Cross.” Maybe that’s why we never had many problems at school.

We usually had around eighteen to twenty kids in the entire school, with some grades not having anyone in them, while other grades might have as many as four. As you can see, our bus wasn’t very big. I went through my grade school years with one other girl, my best friend. In a large classroom, you heard everyone’s lessons, so that by the time you reached the upper grades, you pretty well knew all the answers. My friend and I would study together, correcting our own work. When we were finished, we would help the younger kids with reading or math or spelling. It was like a large homeschool. No politics were pushed, and there were some things we learned, like diagramming sentences and cursive penmanship, that have been dropped by our “busy” teachers today.

At the beginning of the year our dads would burn off all the cheat grass, so that we played in ashes for a week or so before it got trampled into the dirt. We all wore jeans to school, and those of us who had horses would sometimes all ride to school on the same day, so we could play King of the Mountain on horseback. I doubt it would be allowed today, but we rode bareback, two on each horse, with one kid guiding the horse while the kid behind would try to pull the other team off their horse. Nobody ever got trampled, and I don’t remember any broken bones.

Most of our games were running games of tag. To have a baseball game, you needed everyone. The first time I was catcher as a first grader (no gear except for a glove), the eighth grader who was pitching knocked me out with his pitch. Hardball. Some of our eighth graders took a while to go through school, so we had some eighteen-year-old eighth graders. It was years before I could watch a baseball coming toward me and not flinch.

We had a large 8-foot high merry-go-round that our dads had made out of iron bars and machine parts. The eighth graders would get it spinning so hard that we could hang onto the upright bars, about six feet off the ground, throw our feet out, and fly parallel to the ground. If you let go, you would fly out into space and land on the ground, hard, or hit a nearby tree, so most of us just pulled ourselves back down to the seats again. Last I looked, that merry-go-round was still standing.

We had Farm Bureau meetings about four times a year, or more. Once the meeting was over, the men pushed back the desks, got out the fiddle and opened the piano, and we square danced. Since there weren’t very many of us, any kid old enough to walk got pulled into the squares and guided around from one adult to the next. Lots of fun. Even today, there are certain songs we used to dance to, where I remember the calls, rather than the words of that song.

I wish kids today could have that kind of schooling. We all accepted each other, and were like a big family. There may have been problems, but none I was aware of. We had chores to do around the schoolhouse, including putting wood into the big kitchen range that put off a lot of heat in the winter. If your shoes and feet were soaked and cold from the snow, the teacher would drop open the oven door and put a chunk of thick leather on it, then we would put our feet on the leather and get warm while we read a book.

I actually “wrote” my first few books while going to that school, even illustrating them. I never dreamed that years later, I would write so many. My book in the Unforgettable Suspense set is called Spirit of a Champion, a story about a woman who is trying to save her brother’s life. He is a prize fighter, and she is trying to stop the fight in Las Vegas. Everyone is against her, even trying to kill her. The hero is her brother’s opponent, who thinks she is trying to distract him from preparing for the bout.
Unforgettable Suspense

Nancy Radke

Nancy Radke grew up on a wheat and cattle ranch in SE Washinton State. She attended a one-room country school through the eighth grade. She learned to ride bareback at age 3 (Really! It was a common practice.) and when she got off or fell off, she would pull her horse’s nose to the ground, get on behind its ears, and the horse would lift its head so she could scoot down onto its back. She spent most of her childhood exploring the Blue Mountain trails that bordered the ranchlands. She and a friend once took a trail that turned out to be a two day trip. They always rode with matches and pocket knives, so made camp and returned the next day. These long rides worried her parents, but provided plenty of time to make up stories. Her first novel was set in the Blues, and is entitled APPALOOSA BLUES. TURNAGAIN LOVE was the first one published. It rated a four star review from Affaire de Coeur. Scribes World said “Turnagain Love has some fascinating twists and turns, unexpected complications, and charming scenes.” It is light and humorous.
 View website

Unforgettable Memories

Appaloosa Blues

Unforgettable Memories

#1 Riding From Sunup to Well Past Sundown

We have a series of books out, called Unforgettable Suspense, Unforgettable Romance, and other Unforgettable happenings. All with romance in them. I decided to make my blogs about some of the unforgettable things that happened in my life, such as riding horseback from sunup to sundown.

A lot of things that happened to me go into my books. Most writers do that. I think the more things that happen to you, the better your stories are filled out.

I grew up on a wheat and cattle ranch, in the days before cell phones, TV, and computers. My parents paid to bring a telephone line out into our area. That phone hung on the wall, and you called the operator by cranking the handle, gave her the number, and she switched you through. Lightning hit the pole outside one day, shooting fire out of the earpiece, and knocking it off the hook. My mother had just hung up from talking to someone. We stopped using the phone during lightning storms.

I always had a horse, riding with my dad until I was three, when I could start riding by myself. They bought an old mare for my brother and me, but I rode more often than he wanted to. When we were all small, and my cousins came to visit, we would put seven kids on her, from neck to tail. No one had to wait for a ride.

We always rode bareback. The theory was that if a horse fell with you, and you landed under the saddle, you could get killed by the saddle horn. Since I rode in the wheat fields while I was little, and didn’t want to walk the distance home if I fell off, I learned to pull my horse’s nose to the ground, climb on behind her ears, and let her lift me up.

Bareback riding was the only way to ride during the winter, as the horse kept you warm. I would throw a blanket across my legs and take off, getting in an hour or so before it got too dark to see.

During the summer, I had to work most of the day, so I rode every evening. I would take off after supper and ride the dirt farm roads until well after the moon came up. It was always a beautiful time, with the warm breeze coming off the mountains, carrying the sweet scent of the hayfields.

The moon shone so bright, no other light was needed. Once it looked like the wheat was on fire, and I rode quickly to the top of a ridge, ready to report a fire, and saw that it was just the rising moon, glowing red in the dusty air.

On my days off, I would start early in the morning, pack a lunch, and head into the mountains, not returning until dark. Usually I would saddle up for those trips. My horse liked my peanut butter sandwiches, and would reach over my shoulder for a bite if I wasn’t paying any attention.

When I was thirteen, my grandfather was afraid the old mare would fall on the mountain trails with me, so found a three-year-old, sure-footed, mountain-raised mare. They brought her down from the mountains, “green-broke” her in a couple of days, and handed her over.

She was part Morgan and part Quarter Horse, and had the Morgan walk, which was faster than other horses, which meant they had to trot to keep up. Her trot was also fast, so other horses cantered to keep up. I would put her at that smooth, mile-eating trot, and ride the mountain roads all day.

One spring day I went out into the corral, and she had a colt beside her. She had been carrying that colt without it even showing. From then on things got interesting. When I rode, she wanted to be with her colt, and would clamp the bit between her teeth and run away, back to the corral. I didn’t ride her much during the first few months, but the two times I got injured riding, was during that time.

Once I was riding bareback in the fields, and she ran away. For some reason I lost my balance, so pushed off rather than fall under her hooves. I sprained my ankle and had to walk home, about a half mile. That ankle always gave me problems after that.

Another time she ran away on the road, passing a truckload of potatoes, taking me under some branches that scratched my eye. She stopped running when she got up on our front porch. My mother wondered why I had ridden up there. I tried different bits, finally rode with a hackamore, which gave more control.

The girls in my area had a drill team I joined, where around forty of us rode in the fair, at a fast gallop, doing our drill. They said, “Just steer your horse straight towards the other horse, and they’ll swerve to avoid each other.” I said that my horse wouldn’t do that, since she was used to pushing cattle around. She knocked the other horse almost off its feet when she hit it. Scared the rider, but I had pulled her aside at the last moment, or it would have been worse.

After I was married, I rode a stallion in the SeaFair Parade in Seattle. He was a handful, pulling constantly on the reins, so that my arms ached before we even got started. They had trailed him to the parade in a tandem trailer, putting him behind a mare in heat. He kept wanting to mount her, so the other rider and I kept the width of the street between us, as well as we could.

A lot of Western writers have these memories, but fewer now, I’m thinking. I am amazed at the things parents in those days let their kids do. No helmets, no riding gear except saddle and bridle, and no particular hours to keep.

The book that has the most of these experiences written into them is Appaloosa Blues, a story about two ranch families and a feud that is keeping their children apart. Sort of a Romeo and Juliet theme, but of course they don’t try to commit suicide.

Appaloosa Blues can be found at Amazon.
Appaloosa Blues at Amazon

Nancy Radke

Nancy Radke grew up on a wheat and cattle ranch in SE Washinton State. She attended a one-room country school through the eighth grade. She learned to ride bareback at age 3 (Really! It was a common practice.) and when she got off or fell off, she would pull her horse’s nose to the ground, get on behind its ears, and the horse would lift its head so she could scoot down onto its back. She spent most of her childhood exploring the Blue Mountain trails that bordered the ranchlands. She and a friend once took a trail that turned out to be a two day trip. They always rode with matches and pocket knives, so made camp and returned the next day. These long rides worried her parents, but provided plenty of time to make up stories. Her first novel was set in the Blues, and is entitled APPALOOSA BLUES. TURNAGAIN LOVE was the first one published. It rated a four star review from Affaire de Coeur. Scribes World said “Turnagain Love has some fascinating twists and turns, unexpected complications, and charming scenes.” It is light and humorous.
 View website