One of my parents’ pecan trees is out near their driveway, fifty feet from the edge of their property. Across the property line lies a thick young pine forest, dark and tangled with undergrowth. Wild animals live there— deer, racoons, opossums— and squirrels.
The squirrels have no respect for boundaries or property rights, and they think of this tree as their own. Early on, when the pecans were just hard green pods hanging in clusters, the squirrels would hop tentatively out of the dark woods into the grass, pausing, standing upright, little heads periscoping for dogs and cats, then skitter across the driveway and charge straight up the pecan tree. They worked in shifts, pillaging and feasting, hauling away bounty their hands had not produced.
When my father saw what they were doing he was filled with wrath, and swore that he would not let the squirrels have his nuts. He spent hours in the garage with a pellet gun, but at that distance he couldn’t hit them, and after awhile they learned to watch out for him and…
The following was published as an afterword in the 2009 edition of Levi’s Will, my third novel, published by Bethany House. It is a true story, a Thanksgiving story. It’s a bit long for a blog post, but I don’t feel it’s necessary to apologize.
— Dale Cramer
It has never been a secret that Levi’s Will was loosely based on my father’s life— it’s in the acknowledgments. The story of Will McGruder is about half true. While the characters, the dialogue, and most of the anecdotal details are entirely my own creation, the major turning points of Will’s story are drawn from my father’s actual experiences. He really did run away from home and join the Army, leaving behind a pregnant girlfriend and changing his name to keep his father from tracking him down, actions which resulted in his being banned by the Amish. He eventually married a Southern girl and kept his real identity a secret from her for seven years. His daughter was in fact raised by his sister Mary, who remains Old…
Several years ago we bought a porch swing, a fancy little thing just big enough for two people. It had cute little turned posts with back slats morticed into the bottom rail, and all of it painted glossy white, which probably explains why we didn’t know those little mortice joints were trapping rainwater until the whole thing rotted in two.
Pam enjoys her porch swing. I built a latticed pergola to hold it, and we put a canopy over the back deck where she likes to sit in the cool of the evening and listen to the woods. So when the old swing rotted in half I knew I had to do something. I could have bought a new one someplace and been done with it, but several years ago my father and I cut down some oak trees on my land and carried them to the sawmill. Now there’s a stack of cured oak lumber in his barn that’s just sitting there. Dad is in his eighties and he doesn’t do much woodwork anymore, though he still has…
Author Spotlight: Dale Cramer
Suzanne and I talk about life, writing, and family.
Here’s the link:
Bethany House has put together some really good information they plan to use in advertising the new book. The following bit I thought captured the book and where it comes from rather well. — Dale Cramer
Bestselling Author Dale Cramer Turns to His Amish Heritage for Inspiration
The son of a runaway Amishman, Dale Cramer is also a bestselling, critically acclaimed author. Growing up, Dale’s life held a mix of the Englisher and Amish cultures, and it is here, where these two ways of life collide, that he finds inspiration for his novels.
Because his stories stem from his Amish ancestry, they captivate readers with an authenticity rarely found in Amish fiction. His new novel, Paradise Valley, in stores now, is a heart-wrenching tale of love and loss. Yet it also examines a very real, and very little known, piece of Amish history—a time that shaped the lives of one Amish community—and his own family—for better and for worse.
Here, Dale talks about his unique family, reconnecting with his heritage, and the story he just had to tell.
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