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Country girls and racetrackers — Stories by MaryAnn Myers

racehorse heading to track

flickr: CARLOS62

Back in November, I read horsewoman and author MaryAnn Myers’s sweet story “Hannah’s Home,” and fell in love with Hannah, her friends, her town, her horse, and even her ghost. Myers writes with a thoughtful, country style; she leaves out the five-dollar words and every phrase has a little drawl to it.

This morning I read her recent short story “Shipping Out in the Morning,” and again thought how well Myers knows the people she’s writing about. This story, a conversation between senior racetrackers, swapping stories the night before their nursing home closes, is a sweet little look into the hardscrabble life of people who devote their lives to racehorses. It’s free for Amazon Prime members, and ninety-nine cents to purchase. Read it for funny little reminisces like this:

“I loved raking the shedrow in a crisscross pattern,” Jeannie said. “It was a good feeling.”

“Heaven forbid if someone walked down that shedrow then,” Clint said, laughing. “Tell the truth now, what have you got to lose? Did you really chase Gribner out of the barn with a pitchfork?”

“Damn right I did! He dragged his feet down the shedrow on purpose. He was always messing things up. And I’d have poked him too, if he hadn’t had seen me coming and could run so fast.”

Like Hannah’s Home, there are some formatting hiccups here and there, but I just didn’t care. I liked the story. I liked the characters. And I loved the ending! A less cold-hearted soul than mine might squeeze out a few tears in the end, truth be told… but it’s great.

As for Hannah’s Home, here is the review I wrote in November. I stand by it. And I still feel like at some point, I’m going to study the passage where they’re making ham salad, and try it out. I’ve never eaten ham salad and the idea of it seems kind of appalling, but somehow, when Hannah cooks things (and Hannah is always cooking things) they sound delicious.

I loved this book. I loved it. LOVED it.

old farmhouse, winter

A rickety farmhouse becomes Hannah's refuge in "Hannah's Home." flickr: RickyNJ

“Hannah’s Home” tells the story of a very compelling woman—equal parts tough broad, soft-hearted hairdresser, dedicated horsewoman, farmer to her core—who is forced to rebuild her life from the ground up, and finds home in the process.

Hannah is on her own. Well, not entirely. Her husband may have disappeared, but Hannah has the warmth of the small town she lives in, a circle of close friends who love her, and a leopard Appaloosa named for Billy Bob Thornton. And now, she has bought her own farm. Sure, it’s falling apart. Sure, there’s this sourpuss elderly man who is always appearing on her doorstep and calling her the worst insult a farmer can think of: “City Girl.” Sure, she isn’t sure how she’ll afford the mortgage AND food AND her horse.

But Hannah’s a tough country woman. Hannah will manage. Tough country women always manage. Spend enough time around horses, and you’ll meet women like Hannah. They’re practical. They’re fiercely independent. They’ve been let down, they’ve been disappointed, and they don’t have any expectations of princes on white horses coming to their rescue. As long as she has her horse and her truck, this kind of woman can handle anything that comes her way. In Hannah’s case, she’ll roll up her sleeves and move into a crumbling farmhouse (some people say it’s haunted) and ignore all the nay-sayers who tell her the whole place is just going to collapse around her ears.

Surrounding Hannah’s little tumble-down homestead is the rural community she’s spent her whole life in. Small town America is depicted in all its afghan-quilted, pie-on-the-windowsill glory, and if you’ve ever lived out in the boondocks, you might just find yourself missing it a little. From meeting the girls for Chili Night at the Honky Tonk to sweet-talking the prices down from the local junker, from overseeing the wakes at the town funeral parlor to building a small pie-baking empire, from a solitary tuna fish sandwich for dinner to boisterous pot-lucks with friends, “Hannah’s Home” embraces the warmth and comfort of life in small town America.

Just don’t read this book while you’re hungry. There’s enough comfort food in here to empty your pantry.

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