I grew up on a pony farm in Silver Lake, a community just outside of Everett, Washington. I say, “grew up” although we didn’t actually move to the farm until I was seven years old. I received my first pony, Star, as an Easter present that year. And I learned everything the hard way, i.e. how to feed carrots, how to avoid being kicked, how ponies see—and no, they don’t like mud puddles. Got that lesson by being bucked off into one and walking home looking like the Loch Ness Mud Monster—Star made it to the barn before I did.
Back in the 1960s when I was growing up, people still did things the old-fashioned way. I learned to ride from the old cowboy who ran my 4-H club like a drill sergeant. His wife used to throw live firecrackers under our horses’ hooves to prepare us for the Fourth of July parade every year. The lecture went something like: “The safest place for you is in the saddle. You don’t want to bust your head like a watermelon on the city street when some dude does that to your horse.”
Horses come in all shapes and sizes, especially at the family riding stable. It’s grown over the years and my mother and I are the only ones who work here now. And for me, writing has always provided an escape from everyday responsibilities. While I didn’t know that it would take years before I sold my first romance, I wasn’t going to give up on the genre. Now, I write mainstream western romance as Josie Malone. I write realistic young adult fiction under what the kids at the barn call me, my real name, Shannon Kennedy. The horse knowledge comes from what I learned on the family farm and now I create heroes who help my heroines save the day. And yes, sometimes the baggage from fifty years of living plays a big part in my stories.
In the first western romance I did for BookStrand, A Man’s World, everybody raves about Missus Sims’ doughnuts or “bear sign” – yes, sign means what you think it does – “poop,” and Ma Sims, as everyone calls her, always takes offense at the description. The recipe I had for the doughnuts comes from the 1908 edition of the Fannie Farmer’s cookbook. It was the one my grandmother used and I always got to dump powdered sugar into a brown paper sack and put in the hot doughnuts and shake, shake, shake until the fresh doughnuts were covered.
And of course, then we got to eat them – my grandfather swore that he always needed a fresh pot of coffee to go with them or it didn’t count. He liked it when we made coffee in the tin camping coffee pot, but Grandma insisted the electric percolator was just fine. And since it was “her” kitchen, that’s the way things were. If you decide to go with Grand-dad’s coffee, let it perk in the pot until it’s a dark brown – then you can dip the doughnuts.
Easier to make and more cakelike than yeast-leavened doughnuts, these doughnuts have a fine, creamy crumb. The temperature of the cooking oil is crucial, so use a frying (candy) thermometer.
½ cup milk 1 tablespoon butter, melted
½ cup granulated sugar 1 ¾ cups white flour, approximately
2 teaspoons baking powder Vegetable shortening or oil for frying
¼ teaspoon nutmeg Confectioners' or powdered sugar
½ teaspoon salt for dusting 1 egg, beaten
Mix the milk, granulated sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, egg, and butter in a large bowl. Add the flour gradually, using just enough so that the dough is firm enough to handle yet as soft as possible. Cover the dough and chill for about one hour. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for a few minutes. Roll out about a ½ inch thick.
Cut with a doughnut cutter or sharp knife into 3-inch rounds, cutting out and saving the centers (which can also be fried). Place on a lightly floured piece of wax paper and let rest for about 5 minutes. Using a heavy pan and a thermometer, heat about 4 inches of shortening or oil to 360°F. Fry three or four doughnuts at a time, turning them with a fork or tongs when one side is browned and continuing to fry until brown all over. Drain on paper towels and dust with sugar.
As a child, I loved to dream away the days in an old cherry tree on my family’s pony farm. In my imagination, the tree became a beautiful Arabian stallion, a medieval castle and even a pirate ship. On rainy days, I headed for my fort in the hayloft. While the rain thudded on the cedar shingled roof, I read books, eventually trading Carolyn Keene for Georgette Heyer. I used the setting of the pony farm for my second romance from BookStrand. The Daddy Spell is a finalist in the Colorado RWA Award of Excellence contest.
Today I live on the family ranch in the Cascade foothills of Washington State in what was once a summer vacation cabin. It’s been modernized and even has indoor plumbing – woo-hoo! I share the cabin with my two cats, or maybe they share it with me. There are also 36 horses to look after, along with other assorted animals.
With all the critters on the ranch, I don’t have time for a husband. As for kids, I have to give back the ones who come to learn how to ride at the end of each day. Now, I’m teaching the kids and grandkids of the ones I taught way back when we started. I’ve had a lot of adventures over the years – and in my next 50 years, I plan to write all about them. I hope you enjoy reading about them!