Summer Reading by Natalie Ann #mgtab

Now that summer has officially hit most of the US and school is out, people tend to have vacation plans.

Are you looking for a quick book to read while you’re sunbathing by the pool? How about in the hot tub with a glass of wine next to you? By a campfire at night while roasting marshmallows?

I used to love reading longer novels, but lately, I find I enjoy the shorter novellas. Some can take less than an hour to read, others just two to three hours.

It’s a great way to pass a little bit of time and read a book from start to finish all at once…while sitting on the beach under an umbrella.

It finally hit me. If I enjoyed reading them so much, why not try to write some?

So that is what I did. In April I published the first of my Love Collection and have released one a month since. All my novellas are stand-alone stories that are a collection rather than a series. They can be read in any order and usually within two to three hours. The best part is, they are only 99 cents each! And if you’re part of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program you can read them for free.

Check them out and enjoy!

Secret Love

True Love

Finding Love

Beach Love

Intense Love

#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.


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“Book” your getaway!

Picture of a red truck pulling a small camping trailer along a quiet road in the middle of a huge green forest. Last weekend as I drove to town to do errands, every tree and stretch of land beside the road was green, green, green. The air pouring through my car’s open window was sweet and warm, and the sun smiled down, kissing everything and everyone with heat and happiness. I’m not exaggerating! I know the other drivers felt spring’s invigorating cheeriness, too. Even folks at a notoriously treacherous four-way stop near where I live managed to take their turns properly and with minimal road rage.

What caught my attention most, however? The profusion of camper-laden trucks pulling boats, ambling RVs, and cars jampacked with tents, sleeping bags, coolers, and other miscellaneous gear.

After our long winter, it seemed like everyone and their dog (Seriously, there were a ton of pets grinning joyfully from passenger windows) was out and about, ready to explore.

All the smiles—and bags of fast food—I spotted through windshields brought back memories of the many, many road trips I enjoyed with my family as a kid. One of my favorite parts of those long and varied holidays was waking up in the gently swaying camper, already long in motion, miles from where we’d stopped for the night. (Remember when you could legally travel like that? I am old!)

I’d clear a peephole in one of the condensation-misted windows and stare out at the blur of highway and—to me, at least—“exotic” scenery. No matter how familiar our destination was, my grandparents’ farms, or down to Vancouver to shop and visit extended family, or off to a favorite remote lake or campsite, each trip was ripe with possibility and promise.

When I tired of gawking, I’d burrow back into my sleeping bag (I favored a chocolate brown one that was incredibly soft and had an orange, beige, and brown interior, sporting a wild forest scene, replete with huge moose) and commence my other favorite part of the trip—one that will come as no surprise to anyone: putting my nose in a book.

Picture of old blue suitcase crammed with books.My mom bought me an old, slightly battered train case at a church rummage sale when I was six,  and I treasured that thing until late into my teen years. It was perfect for book hauling!  Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, Harriet the Spy, Laura Ingalls, Mary Lennox, Anne Shirley, Bugs Potter . . . I’ve lost track of how many childhood friends I dragged with me in my early travels—a tradition I continued when I grew up, then passed on to my own kids and husband during road trips (especially via audio books).

In the same way that certain scents have a way of sending you back through time to places—and people—from your distant past, at specific scenic spots all along Hwy 16, I hear various characters and recall dramatic happenings. (Miss Marple haunts Terrace to Prince Rupert very spectacularly!)

I’ve always wondered if this duo love of mine for stories and road trips partially explains the inspiration behind my River’s Sigh B & B series. After all, each standalone novel is somebody’s road trip, his or her own personal story.

These days, thank you eReader, my luggage is a lot lighter when I travel, but whether it’s the beach, a campsite, the city, or the open road, you’ll still never find me without a book nearby.

And whether I’m literally traveling or not, I go on little escapades all the time. It’s the most wonderful part of being a reader: how there are no limits to the places you can visit, the time periods you can explore, the people you can meet, the adventures—sweet or terrifying!—you can find yourself in, the ways you can grow. . . .

I hope you and yours get to explore new-to-you terrain this spring or summer, by boat, plane or car—but even if you don’t (actually, especially if you don’t!), make sure you “book” other getaways and adventures.

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“’Book’ Your Getaway!” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, June 21, 2018 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

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And hey . . . in case, you’re looking for your next audio gallivant, I’d be honored if you’d give WEDDING BANDS a try. 😊 Listen to a sample here and/or buy it today: 

Audible.com  ~ Audible.ca Amazon Nook 

Wedding Bands is also available on iTunes and from a huge variety of other vendors, so if you have a favorite spot to buy from that’s not listed here, please look it up. 

 

Wonders of the Ancient World

There’s no way to see everything in the British Museum in one day.  But on a recent trip to London I got to wander through some of the displays, marveling at art and artifacts collected from around the world. I always gravitate to the antiquities, and I usually start with the Rosetta Stone. When I first saw it, it was sitting right out in the open. Now it’s protected by a glass case.

This object, discovered by a French soldier in the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in 1799, was carved in black granodiorite during the Hellenistic period. It sets forth a decree issued in Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC and is written in three languages: ancient Greek, Demotic script, and Egyptian hieroglyphics. Each text says approximately the same thing, and by comparing them, scholars were finally able to translate hieroglyphics—although it took them more than twenty years to do it.

Next, I usually wander over to the mummies in their elaborate sarcophaguses. But the ancient Egyptians didn’t just embalm people. They also preserved cats for a trip into the afterlife.

I also have a fondness for Roman mosaics, which are displayed mainly on stairwell walls, although in ancient Roman civilization they were used on the floor, not on walls.

By studying a list of “must see” exhibits, I also found some treasures that I had not seen before. Here’s a beautiful Aztec two-headed snake.

And did you ever wonder where Wedgwood got the idea for his Jasperware?  He saw this Portland Vase, produced in Italy—probably in the Etruscan period, and determined to create something similar. It’s jaw-droppingly beautiful. And even more amazing, it was painstakingly put back together after a crazed museum patron smashed it in the early 1800’s.

I’m home now, but I can’t stop myself from thinking—when can I get back there and wander through some of those fabulous galleries?

Do you like to travel?  What are some of your favorite places to visit?

Rebecca York’s latest Decorah Security novella is Hollow Moon, about a werewolf who almost loses his mind when he gets caught sniffing out a drug lab in the Maryland wilds.