Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog! You may not think you know me, but I have a feeling we are very much alike. I am the woman in the long skirt and bulky sweater sitting cross-legged on the library carpet reading the hardback vintage classics one can only find on the bottom shelf, back row. You will also find me searching through the online catalogs of publishing companies and chatting with authors on forums. I love the smell of fresh paper in a new book, and the smell of dust on a vintage classic. I love the classics, Christian fiction, short story collections, and those unique finds that keep me up until the early hours of morning when I finally fall asleep with the book still open on my chest. I am, however, a careful reader. I notice missing details, glaring plot flaws, and characters who suddenly have drastic personality changes halfway through the novel and I do not hesitate to discuss these issues in my reviews. I am honest and believe I am fair so please don't take my criticism personally and don't hesitate to contact me about your next book. I also enjoy a good, long chat with other readers and often learn from these experiences. Comments are always welcome. You will find more about me in the right hand column and more about what I look for in books in the left. I hope you enjoy your time here! --Darla Sue

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ralph Moody: Author of Little Britches

View of the Colorado Rocky Mountains on a foggy morning. 

By the late 1800s, the Wild American West was much more tame, but young men like Ralph Owen Moody, raised on the stories of longhorn cattle drives and clashes with Apache and Comanche, still longed for Western adventure. When Moody's family moved West, he finally had his chance, brief as it was, to live the life of a cowboy.

Life as a Colorado Cowboy

Ralph Owen Moody was born in 1898, one of six children of Charles and Mary Moody. The family lived in Rochester, New Hampshire until 1906 when their father was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Moody's parents purchased a small farm west of Fort Logan in Colorado, hoping the dry climate would cure, or at least help with his father's disease.

Moody was a cowboy at the age of eight, and he was thrilled. Nevertheless, the experiences of the Moody family were filled with drama and heartache. When they first arrived on the farm they discovered the house was uninhabitable. Ralph and his father rushed to make repairs while the rest of the family remained in a nearby hotel. These early struggles seemed trivial compared to what came later, including tornadoes and other destructive wind storms. According to a Ralph Moody biography written by Pat Massengill, an irrigation war and insufficient water rights ultimately forced the family to leave the farm and move to Littleton, Colorado. Years later, Moody would relive each of these events with great detail in his most famous book, Little Britches.

Head of the Household

Moody was raised in a warm and loving atmosphere. His mother spent many evenings reading to the children and telling them stories, which fueled Moody’s desire to become a writer. When Moody’s father died in an accident involving a horse and automobile, Moody took on many of his father’s responsibilities. He was forced to do whatever he could to help support his younger siblings, including herding cattle to the local stockyards and selling his mother’s cooking door to door.

The family eventually moved back to New England, but Moody was restless, and he continued to travel through Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Kansas. He tried to enlist in WWI, but was rejected due to diabetes. His doctor told him he had less than a year to live. After many years had passed, Moody decided to stop worrying and move on with his life. He intended to return to Littleton and his childhood home, but decided to marry and start a family, instead.

A Family of His Own

In 1922, Moody met and married Edna Hudgins in Boston, Massachusetts and started his own family with two sons and a daughter. In the late 1940s the family moved to California. When he was 50, he enrolled in a writing class to enhance his skills so he could help his daughter with her school assignments. When the instructor read his stories about his early days in Colorado, Moody was told that he should try to expand these tales into a book, which he did. Moody continued writing and telling his stories until his death in 1982 at his sister's New England home. He was 83 years old.

Western Novels for Children

Most of Ralph Moody’s books are memoirs and only a few include fictional characters. His first book, Little Britches (1950) describes the family’s early days on the Colorado farm. His second book, Man of the Family (1951), continues with the family’s experiences in Littleton. He wrote a total of 19 books, including Dry Divide,The Home Ranch, Mary Emma and Company, The Fields of Home, Shaking the Nickel Bush and Horse of a Different Color: Reminiscences of a Kansas Drove.

A Legacy of Family Values

The books of Ralph Moody still top recommended reading lists for young children because of the high moral values and close family atmosphere described in his stories. Moody explained his writing philosophy in a quote now published on the City of Littleton’s website: "My goal in writing is to leave a record of the rural way of life in this country during the early part of the 20th century, and to point up the values of the era which I feel that we, as a people, are letting slip away from us."

Sources:
  • Massengill, Pat. "Ralph Moody." Biographies, Littleton History. City of Littleton Website, updated January, 2004.
  • Moody, Ralph. Little Britches. Norton & Company: New York, 1950.
  • Moody, Ralph. Man of the Family. Norton & Company: New York, 1951.