I grew up in a small Kansas town where the biggest yearly event wasn’t football but the annual wheat harvest during mid-June. For days you’d see huge trucks with tractors and folded-up combines mounted on long flat-beds roaring up and down Main Street. For a couple of weeks custom cutters harvested fields of wheat and soon move on to another town. It was always interesting to watch as a kid. I remember playing around in the back of a big wheat truck while waiting for the combine to dump a load of grain. Then it was off to the mill to empty the wheat. It was so cool to be in the cab and feel the front end of the truck raise so all the grain fell out.
Family reunions were also a fun time to play with cousins in Oklahoma and listen to the adults tell and retell stories of growing up on the farm during the Depression. They spoke of getting into trouble, epic fight with siblings and receiving fruit for Christmas. And, of course, there were the long treks going up hill to a small country school. Not too many dust bowl stories, although my dad and Uncle Chuck said they had to keep the dishes upside down to keep them from getting too dirty. I loved those stories. Much of the feel for Dust and Roses came from hours of soaking in those retold tales.
After high school, I went to Hutchinson Community Junior College, then later received a M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling from Emporia State University. From ’77 to ’82, I worked in different sheltered workshops, and for a short time was a Rehab Counselor for the State of Kansas. State budget cuts forced me to find work as a Disability Examiner, determining who was eligible for Disability Benefits. Or not. Exacting work, plus the paper dust in the office gave me an asthmatic reaction. It was a relief when Deb, my wife, asked me if I wanted to help her in her food service business. I said sure, but it was only going to be temporary.
And so for the next 30 years I helped Deb in three different cafeterias in Topeka and the Snack Zone in Wichita. It was my longest temporary job. We retired in October 2018. Since we retired, I’ve finished Stalag Sunflower, and I’m now working on some short stories and researching the sequel for Dust and Roses. Watch out for the cover reveal for Stalag Sunflower in the coming months.