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Monday, September 7, 2015

ANKLE HIGH AND KNEE DEEP............stories from ranch women By Gail L. Jenner

As an introduction to the anthology, ANKLE  HIGH  AND  KNEE  DEEP, I’m posting the Introduction here. It was part of the pitch I gave to the editor at Two Dot/Globe Pequot 4 years ago. She loved the concept and worked with me through the development of what would be included or discarded with energy and tenacity. I’m so grateful to my editor. The pitching process took a couple of months, UNTIL I settled on the title of the book – ANKLE  HIGH AND  KNEE  DEEP.   Funny, the power in a title; when I wrote my editor and suggested it, she immediately wrote back: “That’s it! We got it now!”

The title came from an old-time expression --- when you are knee deep in s--- and everything around you is falling apart, you might just end up ankle high in it, too!! 

“Farming seems easy when your plow is a pencil and you are a thousand miles from the corn field.”  ~  Dwight Eisenhower  
INTRODUCTION.......or Lessons Learned....
            Life is all about the learning, and the “family farm” is a great schoolhouse. Ankle  High  and  Knee  Deep represents what 40+ rural/farm women have learned while standing in or stepping out of mud, manure, and other “offal.” It is a collection of entertaining and inspirational essays that offers a unique perspective on love, marriage, parenting, relationships, loss, and other universal issues. These women’s connection to the land and to the people and animals in their lives is documented here.   
Concepts that the general public has now adopted, words like sustainability and renewable/ recyclable, come to us directly from the life of a farmer or rancher. Working within a landscape that can change with the seasons or alongside the forces of nature that demand commitment and sacrifice develops deep character; interestingly, the word “character” comes from the Greek word meaning “to chisel.” That describes perfectly what living and working in an often harsh physical environment does to the human soul.

            Several of the best lessons I’ve learned have come from forty-two plus years spent on our fifth-generation ranch:
            *Sometimes the mud and muck gets ankle deep, but it can always be washed off.
            *You’ve got to plant the seeds before there’s anything worth harvesting.
            *Waiting is time well spent. After winter comes spring, and after spring rains comes the summer harvest.
            *Never think anything is not worth saving; sometimes it’s just the odd piece of baling wire that keeps things from falling apart.
            *Don’t be in a hurry; that’s when you run through fences or get stuck in ditches.
            *Always watch out for the soft places:  Anything that looks that good has got to be dangerous.
            *Don’t ignore the rotten apples. They can destroy the entire barrelful if overlooked.
            *Don’t be afraid of hard work and sweat. There’s nothing finer than a shower or warm fire after a day well spent.
            *Love your job. It’s what you do, all day, every day.

            *Just because a skunk is cute doesn’t mean he won’t stink!
            *Don’t look back: that’s when you
find yourself belly up in a low spot.
            *Don’t hold onto trouble; you’ve got to spread the manure around in order to make it effective fertilizer.
            *Do things right the first time so you don’t have to do them twice.
            *Be willing to invest – not only money – but sweat and time. In the end you’ll have something worth keeping.
            *Out of the garbage heap grow the seeds you ignored.
            *Good fences make good neighbors; know what people’s boundaries are and learn to respect them.

            *To have a good garden, you’ve got to live in it; weeds take over quickly.
            *Weaning time can’t be ignored; there’s a right time to let go.
            *Most of the time there’s no choice:  Success requires frequent sacrifice and persistence.    
            Though not a faith-based book, this collection of essays does underscore traditional values while providing an oftimes humorous look at life spent at the wrong end of a tractor, cow, or horse. Many reflect the lessons learned from a life centered around work, work, and more work. Trivial moments become significant moments of transition – revealing that maybe the destination isn’t as important as the road that leads there. 

            Maybe that’s why farmers eventually become philosophers.

ANKLE HIGH AND KNEE DEEP is a great read! If you haven't checked it out, please log onto amazon or check out your local bookstore and ask for it!? This was such a fabulous "journey" -- collecting the voices of western farm and ranch women, some of whom claim they are NOT writers ;-)   

Gail L. Jenner, a past history and English teacher, began writing at age 9. Inspired by so many writers, one of her greatest thrills is having WON a WILLA Literary Award for Best Softcover Fiction from Women Writing the West, for ACROSS THE SWEET GRASS HILLS, re-released by Prairie Rose Publications in 2013. I'm so grateful PRP took it on and gave it new life! It's a story that took 10 years to research/write/rewrite.... 

 For more, visit: OR: Her newest releases from Prairie Rose Publications include PRETTIEST LITTLE HORSE THIEF, JULY'S BRIDE and JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS ! These stories have also been included in the PRP anthologies, PRESENT FOR A COWBOY, LASSOING A BRIDE and COWBOY KISSES


  1. I love the sayings....very down to earth and real life. Best of success on all of your books.

    Robyn Echols w/a Zina Abbott

    1. Thanks, Robyn/Zina :-)
      Yes, life here on the ranch has taught me many "truths" -- some fun and funny, some heart-breaking!

  2. I love the sayings....very down to earth and real life. Best of success on all of your books.

    Robyn Echols w/a Zina Abbott

  3. Even though I live in the city now, the introduction took be back to my childhood growing up in a farming community. Life does teach great lessons, and the quicker you learn them, the less you have to re-walk that manure section. Doris

    1. Amen, Doris!! A friend of mine has a saying when she has to "repeat" those sticky horrible lessons -- she says, well, I guess it's just one more trip around Mt. Sinai!! But you're right...the sooner we learn anything, the better off we are. But, then-- where's the fun in that???! Thanks for stopping by :-)

  4. Great sayings! The book looks wonderful.

    1. Thanks! It was a long process, but a great "journey" and we have had some wonderful reviews along the way.

  5. I love the saying that says, "Don't ignore the bad apples...they can destroy the whole barrel is overlooked." I see this as pertinent to our coming election. Ugh.
    Your book should be wonderful. I do love such. I have a book titled Texas Tears and Texas Sunshine--Voices of Frontier Women. It's a real treasure. Great post. I do love the sayings.

    1. Hi Celia! Oooooh, I love the title of the Texas book :-) Funny how a title can reach out and grab you! I'm always drawn to titles first and then covers and then back "copy!" Yes, bad apples are everywhere these days.....I'm ready to throw them all out ;-)

  6. Gail, great post. Each quote/saying has a huge truth behind it. I, too, grew up on a farm/ranch and heard many wisdoms over the years. Keep up the great writing!