Friday, July 31, 2015

RURAL MEMORIES by Katya Armock

Join The Roses and me in welcoming Katya Armock as our guest blogger today. She has a prize for some lucky person, so read on!

Even though I live in a large city now, I still love the country and respect my rural roots, which is why I wanted to write a romance series that took place in rural Michigan. So my latest series, Perry Grove, incorporates some of my childhood memories, as well as stories told by my parents and in-laws.
I grew up four miles outside a village of 600 people, on a dirt road, and surrounded by fields on a rotating crop of soybeans, corn, and winter wheat. We had one close neighbor, who had three boys, the oldest of whom  was four years younger than me. I had no siblings, so I spent a lot of time roaming on my own. Our other neighbors were more than a quarter mile away.

About a mile away was a cattle operation, which was far enough away we didn’t smell manure too often, but close enough that sometimes we did. Worse was the smell of fermenting corn used as their feed, which sometimes got carted by our house in large bins towed by tractors. The upside to being on the path between grain storage and cows was that the farmer always made sure our road was plowed in the winter. I decided to make my first hero, Jeremiah, a dairy farmer, although the cattle operation near my childhood home was a beef operation. On the closest main road, there was a sign that proudly proclaimed: “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner!”

I, of course, went to school with a lot of farmers, although my family never farmed—we just lived in an old farmhouse built in the 1870s, with an addition built at some later date I don’t recall. We did garden, though.

Mostly what I remember are the summer days spent outdoors. I wiled away hours in a maple tree in our backyard. I loved the years corn was planted because I could hide among the stalks (thank goodness I have an excellent sense of direction since I sometimes wandered farther than I probably should have). Growing up in such a remote area made me feel safe to explore, and I rarely encountered other people. Instead, I found fertile ground in my imagination. I hope you will find some of my love of the rural Midwest in Monica’s Match.

I’d love to hear your stories about time spent in rural areas. Leave a comment about your experiences and one winner will get an ebook copy of Monica’s Match.

Monica has the ability to see a guy’s aura light up the first time he touches his soul mate, but she’s kept it a secret since her parents shamed her as a child. Still, she decides to start her own matchmaking company—even if she doesn’t advertise her unique ability. Business is so-so until she gets a call to find matches for the singles of the small town of Perry Grove. She’s not looking for love herself but has an immediate attraction to one of her clients. Too bad another woman lit up his aura.
Hunky dairy farmer Jeremiah wants nothing to do with his grandpa’s hare-brained matchmaking scheme but agrees to play along to appease the man who raised him.  But when he meets the sexy matchmaker, he starts to rethink his single status. Too bad she’s intent on pairing him up with another woman. If there’s one thing he knows, though, it’s how to be stubborn.

Jeremiah scooted until his back rested against the tree and then patted the ground next to him with that charming, dimpled grin back on his almost painfully handsome face. “Give me ten more minutes. You haven’t relaxed yet, and under this tree is the best place to unwind.” His voice was a smooth drawl with just the right amount of pleading to batter at her defenses.

Monica hesitated and glanced at her smartphone to note the time. No one expected her back for about thirty-five minutes. Time was just not on her side.

“Come on. You told me yourself you haven’t spent much time in the country. Take a few moments to smell the fresh air and listen to the wilds.”

Oh, what the heck? They could easily spend the next ten minutes arguing about whether to go or stay. She sank next to him on the grass and leaned against the tree so her shoulder brushed his. The electric sizzle she felt whenever she touched him was back.

He inhaled deeply and let it out with a pleased sigh. He looked completely in his element, his face relaxed and boyish. He shifted one leg over the other, and the move pulled his T-shirt tight across his chest so she could clearly see just how defined his pecs were. He took a deep breath.

Oh. Mama. She was sure the sun had just gotten hotter.

He let the breath out with a contented sigh. “Do you smell the grass warmed by the sun? All the oxygen from the trees carried on the cool breeze?”

She paid a bit more attention to her next breath as she wiggled to try to find a more comfortable position. The air did smell fresh, although there was still an undercurrent of cow. “It’s nice.”

He looked at her sidelong. “It’s more than nice. The country air around here is the best smell you’ll ever experience.”

His impassioned statement had her wanting to believe. She closed her eyes, relaxed against the tree, and…what was poking her in the tailbone? She scooted forward enough to pull the blanket back and find the offending rock. She’d had quite enough of the outdoors for the day and started to stand, but Jeremiah’s hand shot out and held her in a crouch.

“It’s just a rock. Move it and sit back down. You haven’t fully smelled the air yet.”

Her glare didn’t inspire him to remove his hand, as she’d hoped it would. His clear, blue eyes stared at her with equal parts challenge and amusement. He wanted her to smell the cow-filled air? Fine. She’d smell the damned cow-filled air.

With a huff she plunked back down, and he released her arm so she could get herself situated. Nothing poked her in the behind this time, and she leaned back against the rough bark. His eyes burned into her, but she refused to acknowledge his watchful stare or how very much she’d like him to touch her again.
She needed to relax and get this over with. She closed her eyes once more and drew the air into her lungs. Now that she was paying attention, she caught the floral fragrance of the grasses and weeds and wildflowers and trees. The air was fresh. No sooty, dirty, city smell from the cars and houses and people.

“It’s so quiet. I don’t hear a single car.”

He chuckled. “Sit here long enough and you’ll learn just how much racket a single car makes. But it’s not quiet out here. Nature is a symphony.”

She listened for those other sounds now. Birds tweeting to each other, insects buzzing, the rustling of leaves overhead. She even heard something scurrying through the taller grasses.

It was beautiful. Peaceful. She felt herself relax farther against the tree, the bark biting into her back but not uncomfortably. She felt almost…happy. When was the last time she’d truly felt that way?
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About Kayta:
These days you’ll find me writing, pet sitting, juggling a number of freelance gigs, and reigning as my home’s domestic goddess. I live in the Midwestern U.S. with my husband and cats. Alas, I have, as of yet, been unable to teach my husband how to purr.
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Diane Burton said...

Kayta, I grew up much like you did--dirt road, no close neighbor girls my age, vegetable gardens, went to school with farmers' kids--in what is now a big Detroit suburb. You brought up great memories. Best wishes on your new release. Sounds great.

Jannine Gallant said...

Welcome to the Roses, Katya. I also grew up in a small town--400 people--in the woods on a river in Northern Northern California. We had a two room schoolhouse and ran wild all summer. Wishing you luck with your new release!

Anonymous said...

@Diane: I grew up between Lansing and Grand Rapids so not too far from you. The town is still rural though. @Jannine: I love Northern California. So beautiful.

Leah St. James said...

Hi, Kayta! Thanks for sharing your rural memories. Love some of your descriptions, like "still an undercurrent of cow." Too funny. I've lived my whole life on the east coast, mostly in the Northeast although I live in Virginia now, and finding open space was a challenge. But the beach does it for me. Nothing but waves and winds (sometimes gale force, sometimes just breezy) and the scent of salted sea. (I ignore the dead fish odor.) :-)

Rolynn Anderson said...

Feral cats in the cow barn (hoping for drabs of milk); sinking knee deep in manure (accidental); picking fresh strawberries, raspberries, peas and beans...and my favorite-ground cherries. My grandmother hacking off the heads of chickens...with us chasing their headless bodies around the yard. I'll never forget these memories...cherished, for sure!