“Prune Pie and Other Moving Stories”
By Kathy Hare
December 2015, The New Falcon Herald
Author Victoria Ward reminds me of many other ranchers I’ve met over the years; she’s a hard-working woman dedicated to her family and faith. What distinguishes Victoria from the crowd is her quirky sense of humor, evident in the title, and woven into the fabric of “Prune Pie and Other Moving Stories.”
Her true stories cover bits and pieces of a life punctuated with laughs, as she works on various family farms, raises her children, cares for elderly relatives and travels with her cowboy singer husband, “Bear.” Through it all runs a sense of joy and an appreciation for those close to her, along with the people the couple met while on the road. Unless, that is, you happen to be
among the “snakes in the world,” commonly known as scammers!
While Victoria has faced some adversity in life, this is not a memoir about a person who had to overcome exceptional hardships to achieve happiness. Instead, readers get to enjoy tales about familiar daily events. In the opening story, “Misunderstood Words,” Victoria’s account of Bear’s “zone” behavior will resonate throughout the female population. That’s the place men go to where they somehow think about absolutely –- NOTHING! It’s a condition only afforded to the male of the species. While in the zone, they are oblivious to everything else, including sights and sounds. Whether it’s Bear’s slow shift out of the zone, or his less-than-perfect hearing; the end result equals a comical episode for his wife and children.
In the foreword, Bear acknowledges he is “the guy that gets thrown under the bus most of the time” by his partner. But this isn’t a husband-bashing book; in the second passage, “Dumb and Dumber,” Victoria readily admits to brain flutter when she cavalierly ignores the advice of a friend. Weather be damned, she and Bear drive their motor home, named Damon, straight into a blizzard on I-70. While not a bright idea, what’s life without a few harrowing adventures?
But I picked this book for my December review because of three Christmas stories sure to put readers into the holiday spirit. “The Stealth Christmas Carolers” covers a comical situation that happens when a group of young Mennonite singers show up unexpectedly at the Ward’s ranch. Yes, “Bear” once again plays the “straight man,” but then, he was warned. “Horn Creek,” a bittersweet story, describes a mental state all mothers encounter, as they reflect on past holidays, when their children were young and full of wonder. And “Dream Christmas,” which takes place on Michael Martin Murphey’s ranch in Taos, New Mexico, delivers Victoria’s wish for a perfect Christmas, complete with snow.
The book is not written in chronological order, but as it jumps between the years, it becomes clear Victoria’s in-laws enriched her life. “Prune Pie,” the title story, shows the close connection she formed with her father-in-law, Leonard. The two had an ongoing competition when it came to practical jokes, and she certainly “Got him!” that time.
Other stories reveal why a husband should never forget an anniversary, the joy of traveling to visit your now adult
children, the thrill of finding just the right purse and the frustration of a poorly marked airport exit. Two of my favorites, “Mom’s Cold Fried Chicken Picnic” and “The Look,” prove that a strong marriage can survive both adverse weather and an unintentional
dip into some nasty muck.
“Prune Pie” is written in a down-to-earth style, with a “folksy” voice that lends authenticity to the stories. While some literary critics believe home-grown voices should be avoided, John Steinbeck and Mark Twain ignored such silly nonsense. After all, Victoria shops at the “Big R” in Falcon and Monument, hunts for bargains at garage sales and enjoys the company of dogs and horses. Much like formal wear in Colorado, high-brow prose would be completely inappropriate for this book.
So, become the proverbial “fly on the wall” and join the Ward family as they travel through years of love, laughter and blunders in “Prune Pie and Other Moving Stories.”