Somewhere, some cow’s therapist knows everything there is to know about me.

When I started writing my soon to be released novel, Voices on the Prairie, I took the advice of E.L. Doctorow who said that writing was like driving at night; you can only see as far as the headlights.

After writing this Growing Up Kansas series, I would add: you also need to look in the rearview mirror ever once in a while to see what you ran over in the road.

I started off the “Growing Up Kansas” humor series to chronicle mostly true stories of my youth. Twenty-five thousand words later, I now look back at what I ran over in the road and realize that The Cows of Hobson’s Pond play a significant role during my formative years. My imagination took flight about the same time our naked little bodies streaked across a Kansas pasture. Some people blame their parents for everything that’s wrong in their life. Not me, I blame the Cows of Hobson’s Pond.

As a writer, this series taught me a lot about writing that I didn’t know.  For example, I did not know I could make myself laugh while writing. In the first story of us three little boys streaking home naked from Hobson’s Pond, I busted out laughing at six o’clock in the morning as I wrote. My wife checked on me to see if I was okay and I said I’d told myself a joke I’d never heard before. She walked off muttering something about who in their right mind laughs at his own writings at six o’clock in the morning?

Making myself laugh has become my standard for each of these stories. I write, re-write, and re-write again until I make myself laugh. Hopefully, you laugh, too, but by the time you’ve read it, I’ve already had a good chuckle or two. I’m kind of simple that way; I can entertain myself.

Every writer writes for both a known audience and an unknown audience. The known audience for these stories of my youth is made up of eight people, seven of whom can’t read or write yet. Those seven are my grandkids; someday they’ll read this and it will make complete sense why they think cows can talk. The eighth is my older sister, Carmen, whose children are a part of these stories. Her children are also to blame with what’s wrong with the other parts of me that the cows didn’t tarnish. I learned early the American way: accept no responsibility and always play the victim.

The unknown audience is people I’ve never met like the lady from Australia who lived for a period of time in Kansas with her children. She wrote to tell me how homesick the stories made her for Kansas. They apparently met some distant cousins of The Cows of Hobson’s Pond.

Each time I write a story, I call Carmen on the phone to read it to her. Writing a humorous story is very different than telling a joke. With a joke, you get to hear people laugh. With a story of humor, you just hope someone writes back to you and tells you it was funny.

My sister makes for a great audience because she knows the players in the story and, as a person, has more fun tickets than most people I know; she laughs easily and sweetly.

She laughs when I read the stories; she cries when I read the stories; she reminds me of things I had forgotten; and she apologizes for letting Jeff and Colleen torment me so much.

And always, and I mean every bloody time, she says this: those poor cows. She feels sorry for The Cows of Hobson’s Pond and the manner in which I portray them. However, I argue I’m actually being much nicer to them than they were to me.

A friend once told me I’m an anthropomorphic writer. I told him to wait right where he stood while I looked that word up ‘cause I might have to punch him for insulting me. It turns out he wasn’t questioning my heritage after all; he was saying that I give human-like qualities to non-human beings like the Cows of Hobson’s Pond. I won that argument when I reminded him that the Chik-fil-A cows could read and write. My logic was flawless.

I’ve decided I’m changing the name of the series from Growing Up Kansas to The Cows of Hobson’s Pond. All of these stories are being compiled into a Kindle book that will also have a print form. That’s the nice thing about writing a series of blogs that turn into a book; one day you look down at the word count and realize you have enough words to make it a book.

Each book has a dedication section and I would be remiss not to dedicate this book to The Cows of Hobson’s Pond. I suppose I’ll list Gertrude, May Belle, Claudine, Nettie, and Frances, since they were my favorites. But I sure hope I don’t hurt the feelings of the rest of them like Flo, Hazel, Henrietta, and Eudene.

I make it a point not to offend any cows these days. I’m just getting too old to be chased across any more pastures.


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