04 April 2016

C is for Colorado Country and Cattle

4/3/16 We took a few more trips around the state, and I think I've found an imaginary location north of Denver that might work. We have yet to take a hike through Pawnee Buttes, and after that, I'll decide which of the landscapes most inspire the written descriptions in the novel. I'll probably combine characteristics and maybe even do some paintings to get the visuals clear in my head. Because what's the fun of creativity if you can't turn every project into a grand drama? 

4/3/15 When my protagonists were newly married, they spent their honeymoon traveling across America looking for the perfect place to build Viridian Farms, an intentional community and organic farm that would supply nearby cities with fresh locally-grown produce. Although both Lindsay and Megan had successful careers in major cities, they yearned for a different, more natural and sustainable lifestyle, and they had like-minded friends who were tired of their hectic modern lifestyles as well.

Seeking that perfect, special place to land eventually brought them full-circle back home to Colorado. I knew I would have to explore the state a bit more before settling on a location for them to call home, so I started to explore some options for the setting of this romantic mystery novel. It had to be a place that made sense for my characters who were highly-educated and fairly sophisticated people, with well-established and prosperous lifestyles. They could afford to spend a bit of money on their dreams.

It also had to be  place that provided logical conflicts with believable antagonists, and a landscape that provided not only visual beauty, but a place to hide dead bodies! Mountains nearby would be good, or at least rolling countryside with groves of trees.

So we started to explore areas of Colorado we thought might work - much of it dedicated to cattle production. I didn't realize the extent of that "production" until we headed north toward Greeley where large corporations raise and process hundreds of thousands of beef cattle yearly. (You can read more here.) On my stretch of the eastern plains, herds of cattle are spread out over thousands of acres and lead relatively peaceful and bucolic lives. Not so in this north central sector of Colorado where miles of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) like these are common.

The smell was unbearably eye-watering and throat-clenching, and this on a cold winter day! I can only imagine how toxic the environment in the heat of summer. One thing I did know about my characters without reservation - none of them would willingly move to a place like this!

So my hunt for the perfect location continues, because I believe "place" has as much presence in a novel as the characters inhabiting that setting. If I don't find something just right, I'll probably create an imaginary county and town to suit my needs. A few more tours, and I'll have enough fodder to create a great mash-up. Then I'll be ready to plant my characters in a place where they can really blossom.

And considering the ecological and social themes in my stories, I'll probably make a few prickly comments about cattle feeding operations like these, which I find to be more than a little disgusting. What about you? Please do leave me a comment.


Moonie said...

We used to live across a park from a large dairy and every day at 5 the smell drove us inside. The other thing I learned was the flies that hang out around cattle are worse than a house fly - they leave large dots everywhere. Bucolic - not.

Happy A to Z

Holly Jahangiri said...

My son's Scout troop used to meet at a church near a pig farm. Oh, my God... when we were downwind, it was almost unbearable.

I think I need to cook up a novel about a wonderfully exotic locale, just to have an excuse to travel for the research.

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