My Grandmother Krehbiel's storm cellar was full of cobwebs, spiders, and sometimes snakes! Like Velma Jean, I was not partial to storm cellars! Still, Grandma's storm cellar inspired my book, The Bravest of Us All.
I included some of my father's boyhood memories in the book. Old Peddler Jack was modeled from a combination of peddlers my father had met as a boy. The peddlers came by his family's farm to barter. They carried thread, pencils, salves, and books. His parents had "old radiators, old batteries, and old hens" to give in return.
I also included some of my childhood memories—walking across sandburs, the moss in the stock tank, and picking sandhill plums.
Brad Sneed, the illustrator of The Bravest of Us All, lives in Kansas. When we first met in 2002 at the Children's Literature Festival in Warrensburg, Missouri, we shared lots of Kansas stories. Brad asked me if the name Lecklieder in The Bravest of Us All was a name of someone I knew. I told him it was the name of the family who lived down our country road.
It turns out Brad actually knows the grown-up, married Lecklieder girl, the young girl who once lived down the road from me! It is a small world!
The Bravest of Us All is dedicated to my father and his seven brothers and sisters, including Velma Jean and Ruby Jane. Here are the siblings with their "Mom" Emma and their "Pop" Henry.