My Book

Before Life Got Complicated is a book I wrote about my childhood up to the age of 16.  I was born in the great state of Tennessee, and I guess you could say I came from Hillibilly stock!  My grandma had a small farm in the Cumberland mountains and that is where my early love of animals and nature originated. 

We moved to South Carolina when my father who was sometimes absent from the family for reasons beyond the control of a child, appeared with a truck and a friend and my Mom, me, and my 2 sisters were whisked away to a new life.

We lived a small duplex on a sandy road in the rurals of SC and settled into childhood adventures mostly with the boys next door and a few other kids in the neighborhood.  We spent all our time outdoors with no adult supervision, our parents were busy working.  We had lots of ideas about how to get rich, we tried selling Christmas trees, Iced Tea, we knew a cold war was raging after all it was the 1960's so we dug a bomb shelter, we rode bicycles with no brakes, we swung on vines just like Tarzan, we lived in a world or imagination and make believe and the world revolved around us!

My one big dream was to own a horse.  Its all I could think of so I ran around the yard pretending to be riding a horse or pretending to be a horse!  We rode stick horses for miles and miles... Since the time I had sat astride the big plow horses back on my Grandma's farm I had fallen in love with horses, so it was my one BIG DESIRE to have one of my very own.  Who knew in order for this to happen my father would have to pass away...

So at the age of 12 I got my first horse, and and that was only the beginning of many new adventures in my life, before it got complicated....
The book is geared for a younger reader, but enjoyable at any age...due to some serious decisions made by a kid who was out there feeling her way along the road of life. 

The book was published by Publish America in 2006
If I had it to do over again, I would have searched for a mainstream publisher to take the book.  Im an awful salesman and dont have a clue how to market a book!!

If you want a copy of my book, just email me:
For my blog readers the cost of the book will be $12.50 that includes Media Mail shipping- Below you will find 11 pages from the book, I hope you will enjoy it-
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I grew up in the best of times. We had it hard, but life was easy for us kids. We did have to deal with some “grown-up’ stuff, but for the most part, we just had one adventure right after another. In the 50’s and 60’s you could still be left alone, your parents at work, or in the house while you and your buddies rambled around your neighborhood. It was before kidnapping and killing kids was something you had to look out for…before the world went nuts. I remember summer days spent outdoors, from sun up to sundown, and never being with an adult all day long. It was a nice time.


I grew up in South Carolina, down a dirt road, about 12 or 13 miles from “Town” as we called it. We were poor, and had precious little in the way of material things, but we had a childhood to grow up in. We had tons of time to just make up our day. Those long summers, when school was out and it was hot and steamy, we went on our rambles. Mostly it was my sisters and I, and some of the neighborhood kids and the dogs. On the dirt road there were five houses. Of these five houses, four of them contained families with kids. One family that lived up above us had kids much younger than us, the family right next door had two boys close to our age, and then one girl on the corner my age, and there was a spinster woman on the other side of the road.

The girl my age was hardly ever outside, her mom had a baby late in life and she had to help mom with the baby, which is not a fun way to grow up. This girl was chubby her entire childhood, she got teased quiet a bit for that on the bus and at school. Later in her adult life she became anorexic. Life has a way of coming down hard sometimes.

For me and mine, we raised ourselves, while Mom and Dad worked. Dad was not a typical Dad in the sense of the word, when he had enough of what life was throwing his way he would disappear, and then there was just Mom. She had to support us, so mostly she was working while we were at home taking care of ourselves. We had the woods, the fields, and our dogs to keep us company.

I lived in an imaginary world a lot of the time. I stomped tin cans onto my feet and made “horse shoe” tracks in the sand, running around neighing like a wild horse, and in my mind at that very moment, I was a horse…I was Fury the black stallion, or I pretended to be riding the black stallion. I loved horses from the word go! I don’t really know why except way back at age four or so I was placed on the back of a field horse and the love grew from that moment sitting atop the huge warm creature…it was a good feeling.

I might be running around with tin cans on my shoes, or I was lost in the imaginary world of our make believe house we had in the woods at the edge of the yard. We, meaning my sisters, and the boys from next door, made a house with imaginary walls. We traced the lines out in the sandy ground, and we drew in doors and windows…then we just played. We had a kitchen where we made mud pies. The house also had a living room, and bathroom. Much of our time was spent drawing and redrawing the lines. Each time it rained, or the wind blew or leaves fell, our home had to be reclaimed. With our dogs by our sides we lived in a world of play and wonder.

Those were the days growing up carefree. We were never told to beware of strangers, never worried or scared. Catching fireflies, bringing home buckets of tadpoles, and fishing in creeks with home made poles…we rambled along, free of constrictions of time, and space…just playing. Growing up for me meant my friends. Not just human but canine, my best buddies were my dogs.

Summers were long and filled with many adventures back on those sandy flats in South Carolina. Cyrano, Betty Sue, London the neighbor boys my baby sister and me, we were four kids and three dogs. Sometimes big sis would come along with us, but she was five years older than us so she thought of what we did as child’s play. On Saturday mornings we watched cartoons on TV. Later we would make a trip to the little store about a mile away for p-nuts and Orange Crush. We always stopped by the creek on the way back, and looked for tadpoles, or frogs. The dogs would take a nice long drink then head off in the woods for a short hunt while we played in the cool water of the creek. The creek was near a highway so the dogs got away from the occasional passing cars. We would spend literally hours staring into the shallow waters, poking sticks into the clear sandy bottom to watch the grains flow downstream.

One day we brought two five gallon buckets with us to the creek. We had dug worms and we intended to fish. The creek was too shallow for fishing so we soon tired of drowning worms and started to catch up tadpoles in our buckets. We took them home and placed them on the back screen porch. In a few days we had green baby frogs hopping all over the place. Mom was sweeping them out the screen door with her broom while she quietly cursed us for bringing them back home in the first place.

After a day at the creek the dogs would either follow us home, or they wouldn’t. We didn’t demand any obedience of these dogs they were considered one of us, not below or different from us. When we decided to have a pretend wedding, I was the bride, and the older neighbor boy was the groom. Lil sister was the flower girl, and big sis was the preacher. Cyrano was the father of the bride, he did have to sit in a certain place in order for us to stand by him and be pronounced man and wife. I believe this was concocted in order for the older neighbor boy to get his first kiss from a girl. It was a quick one on the cheek. I had a circle of wild flowers around my head, and he wore a tie. Betty Sue and London were members of the bride’s family. Cyrano lost interest soon, and the wedding was over. Another wonderful day in childhood came to an end.

One day we decided that we should take all this talk of nuclear war seriously. We decided to dig a bomb shelter for the dogs and us. We found the prefect spot in the neighbor boy’s front yard. We gathered up all the shovels, picks and buckets and began to dig. Since all the parents were missing for up to ten hours a day, we had plenty of time to dig. The dogs helped us at first, scratching their way through the topsoil. We all dug, we threw the dirt into the sandy road, cause we didn’t want anyone to know the whereabouts of our bomb shelter. We spread the sand around, and evened it up so no one knew. We dug till we had blisters on our hands, and we were exhausted. When we finished… we decided to cover the hole with an old piece of plywood that we found in the back yard. So the hole went unnoticed. Each day we worked on the hole, making improvements. We put the dogs in the hole and they couldn’t get out. They barked and tried and finally we got them out… they walked away all indigent. After we had the hole for a week or two we decided the bombs were not gonna fall so we decided to make it into a swimming hole instead. We gathered up every garden hose we had and connected them all together and made a long green snake. We started to fill our hole, which was 6 x 6 x 6. It was a large hole! We began to fill the hole. Only problem was the sand soaked up the water and it was taking forever for any water to collect in the hole. All day we ran water into the hole. It finally got water logged and it started to fill. When it got late we put the hose away and covered up the hole. The next day we began to fill the hole again. We were using the water supply from the boys’ house, which was well water. They had an electric pump…that had been running constantly for two days while we tried to fill our pool. The dogs sat at the edge watching us and wondering what exactly we were trying to do. That day the neighbor boys’ mother came home early, she saw the hose, the hole, and heard the pump. She went ballistic! Well we found that nuclear reaction we were wondering about!

“What in tar-nation are you kids doing? You got the pump running full out, how long you been doing this?”

Well we didn’t answer cause she started to cuss us, the dogs ran away, my sisters and I took off for our house as she was threatening to whop the two boys. The next day when I got up and trudged over with the dogs, the boys were filling the hole back up.

“What are you doing? Why you filling it up?”

“Mama said fill it up or get a beating, so we are filling it up…she said it better be filled so you gotta help.”

My sis and I simply turned and left with the dogs…it’s their yard and their hole, now that it has to be filled. We took the old bike up the hill and took turns coming down. The bike had no brakes, and we had to crash into a shrub near the edge of our driveway to stop it. In deep sand it’s hard to get going too fast anyway. We pushed it up the hill. This bike had no brakes cause it had no chain… you couldn’t peddle it, you had to just get on the hill climb on a then let her rip. We came zipping down the hill, and that is how we learned to ride a bike. The dogs sat well out of harms way and watched with boredom while we kept going up and down the hill. They sat side-by-side…Betty Sue, then Cyrano, and last but not least, London. They were like dominoes, one slightly taller than the other; they turned their heads in unison as we flew down the hill past them to the waiting bush. Each time we went bike riding, we got lots of scratches and skin irritation from the cedar bush that saved us from being killed. The dogs seemed to think we were crazy and would get tired of the play and go to sleep in the shade away from the screams as we zoomed downhill out of control, and then crash landing into the prickly shrub. The neighbor boys yelled at us occasionally when they rested from their labor of refilling the hole. When we grew tired of the bike riding we went inside to watch cartoons.

Fog Horn Leg Horn was my favorite and Yosemite Sam was hers. The dogs lay on the porch on the other side of the screen door. We had no air conditioning, fan, or phone. We had a TV some of the time, until dad would need some money and pawn it. We had a new TV every year, and a new lawn mower too. Sometimes we didn’t have electricity. The city and power guys would come and turn off the power due to unpaid bills, and before their truck disappeared over the sandy hill, daddy would take a penny outside and have the power back on in about 5 seconds. I have no idea how he did it, but he had no problems making it work. The dogs barked loudly, growled and snapped at the strange men who came into the yard. They stayed in the truck till I came out to take control of the dogs. My dad didn’t bother with the dogs it was up to us if they were controlled, feed, watered, taken care of. The dogs were our responsibility not theirs, and we took good care of them. They ate table scraps from the two families. They never went to a vet, or had rabies shots. Unfortunately we had no money for that, and the dogs were not worth spending money on as far as our parents could see.

Not too far away was a steep wooded hillside. We went there on many occasions to play Tarzan. Scuppernong grapes grew wild and the vines wound themselves around the trees. The vines grew large over time, and they grew up to the top of the tree in order for the grapes to get to sunshine. We found a few large strong vines that were suspended way up in the trees, and we would swing like Tarzan off the side of the hill it was the best thrill. The dogs sat in a uniform row with heads turned up and watched as we swung and made the obligatory yell

“AWAWAWAW”, flying through the trees on the flying trapeze what fun it was. We did this for hours. The dogs would take naps in the mottled sunshine while they waited for us. Swinging was one of our favorite ways to spend an entire day. Sometimes though we did the cardboard sledding. That is where we got large pieces of cardboard, and took it over to the leaf covered hillside, and marched up to the rim and then sat down on our cardboard, and pushed off! We slid down hill on the bed of leaves like greased lightening. The stopping was the hard part; you had to grab up the front of your cardboard, and crash into the trunk of a tree… or try to steer it all the way down dodging trees, and make it to the flat bottom. We did this for hours; we kept our cardboard in the old shed of an elderly lady who lived near the hillside. She probably didn’t even know we had it there, and she never saw us come and go. We never bothered anyone; we just enjoyed what we did. If we had been injured or killed, I don’t know who would have come to our rescue. No one knew where we were or what we were doing…only the dogs.

Fall became winter, and then came the Christmas break. Christmas was always lean at our house, and although mom tried, it really was not important to us anyway. The neighbor boys decided we needed to make money for Christmas. They cooked up an idea. We would sell Christmas trees. Only problem was we had no trees to sell. “No problem, we can go cut them in the woods.” So on Saturday we headed out with axes, and hatchets to cut and bring back Christmas trees. The dogs got very excited we had not had an adventure in a while. We had no particular trees in mind, but we did know a place where lots of red cedar trees grew. So we headed out. Dogs leading the way we marched single file. It took us about three hours to get to the cedar grove we knew of. When we arrived we rested and ate the lunch we had packed. Parents were home, but had not been told of our plan. We finally started to make our tree selections. We argued over it, and finally decided on six trees. We started the chopping. It was slow going. Some of the trees we had decided on were too big the oldest boy climbed the trees and cut out the top. It took a long time with a lot of resting to get the trees cut. When we finally had them all we started to prepare to go home…but realized there are only four of us. My sis was just a five year old who couldn’t carry a tree. So we started to drag the trees… the three of us dragging two trees each. Sis had to drag the axe and hatchet. The dogs took the lead, and we headed back. Only problem is its hard to drag a large tree, even harder to drag two large trees…and it was getting dark, and cold. We tried dragging one a distance coming back for the other and we kept doing that till we reached the road. We then left three of the trees by the side of the road and continued on with a tree each. When we finally arrived back home it was eight pm. Our parents were so mad and worried they spanked us, restricted us, and wanted to kill us. I never did figure this out… “I love you so much you worried me to death I’m going to KILL YOU!”

So we spent the next day in our yards and we put a sign out by our three trees. No one stopped to buy them or look at them. So when it was time to put up a Christmas tree at least we had a tree for ourselves. We tried many schemes to earn money…but we never earned a dime on any of our ventures. It looked so easy for the little rascals on TV… I guess maybe cause we lived in the middle of nowhere, but we didn’t know it! We did however always go on a drink bottle search. This made us some change. We got three cents a bottle. Walking alongside the roads and highways, looking for bottles and filling up the red wagon we pulled, brought us a tidy sum. We took them to the store on the corner and mostly we spent out the money right there in bubble gum, and candy bars. It was a treat cause we had no money of any kind. Some kids got allowances…but not us. We were the poor kids.

There was a huge pear tree in the yard of an old abandoned house in the area. It was not just around the block though it was about four miles away. We hiked to it not using the road, cause we didn’t want any adults telling us what to do, so we followed along the trees that lined the edges of the fields. It took us quiet a while to walk the four miles. We took water with us, taking turns carrying it, in a large mason jar. The dogs wagged happy tails as we set out on the daily adventures. Cyrano always took the lead, then Betty Sue, and London bringing up the rear. Sometimes if he got tired he would flop down and just rest. We waited for him, and we sat cross-legged in the sandy soil and talked and drew pictures in the sand with sticks. We mostly talked about things we wanted to do, fly in a plane, have a fast car; I wanted a horse and that is all I talked about. Lil sis didn’t say much she was only five.

When we finally reached the pear tree, we picked, and ate till we couldn’t move…then we rested. The dogs came and put their heads on our laps as we lay sprawled out with bellies distended full of green pears. We drank all the water and had none for the trip back. We were so full, that we stayed a long time…too long! The sun had started to set. Wow, we started to head back, and the dogs went out in front having no trouble seeing the way, we on the other hand couldn’t see as the sky went from crimson, to gray to black. We followed the dogs’ home, and when we arrived we all got spankings for being away from home, and were sent to bed without dinner. It didn’t matter we were still stuffed with pears!

That summer spent roaming around the sandy flats of our small part of this big world was one of the best times of my life. We shared adventures without fear and with total abandon. We didn’t realize it but the foundation was being formed for an entire life of great experiences. Growing up poor was not so bad after all, and I sometimes long for those days before life got complicated.

5 comments:

  1. I'm impressed that you did this! Wow! I've been toying with doing this for quite some time, at the urging and requests of my blog readers, but have little idea where or how to start. Are you self publishing and if so, who have you used to produce the work? I can't quite read the logo on the book back. Congratulatioins to you on this work.

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  2. Okay, closer review revealed that you used Publish America. Have you been happy with them? Would you use them again?

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  3. Hi Sondra I feel ashamed to admit I have only just read this page on your blog.... I would love to read your story just let me know how to purchase a copy and the postage (I can pay with Paypal).
    Regards Andrew
    ps I will review it on my blog..

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  4. I have just visited here, Sondra. When I have completed my Tapophile Tragics round later today, I shall return and read the bits of your book that you have included here.

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  5. Please for readers who wish to get a copy of the book email me directly I do not see these comments and am so sorry I did not respond!The book is no longer in print but I have about 20 copies of the book, still $12.50 free shipping in the USA.

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Comments are appreciated, and reciprocated!