Mice Were My Lions


Climbing up into the hay loft was an adventure as a kid, a place to turn my imagination loose.  One minute I was defending Fort Apache, the next minute building castle walls with the hay bales. When all battles were won, the mice and owls that had watched me defeat the evil knights and the Black Foot Indians became my models. Bread crumbs from the hard roll mom sent me out with kept the mice happy. Sketching wildlife was becoming my passion. Mice were my lions and grizzly bears while the barn swallows were my hawks and eagles. 

Today at 70 I still see barns as places of wonder. Climbing into hay lofts is out of the question but sketching the lions and bald eagles is still an option for me. Chicken and pigs are my subjects these days along with cows and sheep. All feed into my farm scenes. Traveling around the country painting different scenes of country life, I see how the same we are and how different we are. Family farms are disappearing. These little pictures of America touch my heart and inspire me to capture more than simply a barn and a few cows. Family traditions, a way of life, is what I see. Aunts, uncles, and cousins gathering for harvesting and picnicking under the elms after a day of hard work. Cool pink Kool-aid and potato salad, tablecloths that just won't stay down. Apple pie made with apples from the orchard. All this comes to me as I pause to take in a barn in Missouri and another in Iowa.  Pig manure sends out the aroma of country life. Autumn barn dances, uncle Melvin calling out the steps, Aunt Elizabeth in her petty coats and white dress with bright red polk-a-dots showing how square dancing is done. Cousin Maryann climbing up into the hay loft with her boyfriend.  Cows waiting outside to take it all in, their big black eyes seeing Aunt Elizabeth in a whole new light. All these memories pass through my mind as I paint out on the spot.