Petticoat Ranch I felt like I was really writing what I knew. I can bring a lot of authenticity to a novel about a woman with four daughters and a man who’s never been around women.
So it’s time for the sequel, Calico Canyon. What could I do but tell the flip side of the story? Grace Calhoun is a prissy schoolmarm who’s never been around men. She’s forced into a marriage with Daniel Reeves, the father of five sons…her most unruly students. They’re monstrous brats.
Or maybe they’re just boys.
Grace has no idea what boys are supposed to act like, but surely it’s not like these rude, hyperactive, messy little sons she just acquired.
Calico Canyon is written in the same style as Petticoat Ranch but Calico Canyon, though it has suspense elements, is more of a flat out comedy. Those five boys just lent themselves to comedy.
The whole book was tricky because I have no sons. I’ve had exposure to lots of little boys, brothers, classmates, cousins, neighbors, students, nephews. But can I bring honesty to the story?
To bring the authenticity I needed to it I listened a lot to my mother-in-law, Marybelle, the mother of seven sons.
She’s got this great love for her sons but she’s very clear-eyed in her understanding of the behavior of little boys. And Marybelle tells great stories.
I love the story of the time, in response to some article she read, in an effort to make her little sons more sensitive she bought them each a doll. I guess in modern language you might say she was trying to help them get in touch with their feminine side. One of the boys ran the doll around on the floor on its belly making vroom-ing noises. One "rounded up" the doll, found it guilty of heaven knows what and hung it.
You can’t believe the list of stitches and resulting from from fights and dare devil behavior and general mayhem. One son was hanging by his fingertips from the eaves of her house, one went head first through a window, one backed over the other with a tractor, one swung a hoe back to whack a week and smashing the hoe into his brother’s head. The boys all lived but there are lots of stitches and blood in Marybelle’s stories.
She says she can laugh now, but at the time it wasn’t a bit funny. Like the time one started walking home from the movies. The movie wasn’t close to over. It’s a ten mile walk home. He had to walk across a highway. Marybelle was waiting for him and his four big brothers in the coffee shop next door to the movie. He was four.
She thinks boys are different than girls. It’s hard to convince her it’s all nurture and not nature. But really how hard did she try except for the dolls, huh?
I dedicated Calico Canyon to Marybelle Connealy, my mother-in-law and one of my very favorite people on the planet.
So what do you think? Are boys different than girls? How? How much is nature or nurture?
If you have boys and need advice, go ahead and ask. I can’t help you, but I can check with my mother-in-law and get back to you. If you’ve got girl problems, bring it on. I am a master.