Your first question might be why the animals in a novel about tobacco farming set against the Civil Rights upheaval, the Women’s Movement, and Vietnam.
Dogs, cats, horses, and cows were ubiquitous entities during my years on the farm. In fact, one summer we had thirteen cats (all outside) as a result of two mommas and their litters. It never occurred to us at that time to spay animals, only the male livestock received that treatment. Thankfully, time and age have made me sensitive to overpopulation in the pet world.
Dogs and cats populate my novel, If You Walk Long Enough, as an outgrowth of these years.
Cats, encouraged since they lived outside and kept the barns free of rats, came and went with great frequency on our farm. I have delightful memories of finding new kittens in the hay barn every spring, hidden there by the momma cat. Like my mother, Angela and Reid milked a cow daily and gave the cats and kittens fresh milk as they walked back to the house afterwards. It was usually served in a hubcap turned bowl side up.
We always had a dog of one description or another. Sometimes more. There are three dogs in my novel. Grover, a yellow mixed breed adoptee from the pound, is Ellie Holcombe’s yard dog. He is a wise soul offering comfort simply by being present. Grover is based on my dog Luther, a mixed breed, pound adoptee labeled “a good-hearted fellow” by my vet.
Second-hand Rose, aka “Rosie,” is a calico kitten found by Reid and Ellie as they leave a pizza party in a downpour. They hear the kitten crying and find it hiding under a car. I ask you, who can deny the comfort of a purring cat cuddled in your lap? Ellie’s kitten is based on another Rosie that lived with me for eighteen years. I still miss her.
Bugle, a gregarious female, lives on the Holcombe family farm and follows Reid as he makes his farm rounds. There were a series of beagles on the farm as I grew up, all having the deep characteristic hound bay.
Night hunters and bird shooters prized their hunting dogs, usually hounds or pointers. My granddaddy, a dove and quail man, traded and trained pointers. They were working dogs, not pets. Pretty Sal, the Terrell’s bluetick hound, is reportedly the best coonhound in Colleton County. White trash shoot her, a mean effort to terrorize the Terrell family.
I think the animals in my Vietnam novel make the people more humane. Personally, I find that true of myself. Besides, I like “seeing” my furry family live on in print.
If You Walk Long Enough should be out sometime early 2021. I’ll keep you posted.