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Author publishes second book in Windy Rafters Roughnecks series

ronalee orr
Author Ronalee Orr of Orton has published the second book in her ‘Windy Rafters Roughnecks’ series.

A poem by an Indigenous writer and the story of a Canadian cattle rustler provided inspiration for author Ronalee Orr’s latest book.

Cattle Thieves is the title of the second book in a series featuring the Windy Rafters Roughnecks, a group of children who find themselves embroiled in mysteries.

“When cattle first start disappearing in the Windy Rafters neighborhood, everyone assumes it’s the usual case of a gate left open or a broken wire,” Orr explained. “It doesn’t help that the Roughnecks have shown a lot of interest in Papa’s fencing tools. As time passes, and more and more cattle are missing, it becomes clear that someone is stealing cattle and whoever it is has expertise.”

“When a neighbor’s cow is shot and killed on Windy Rafters land, Papa (Marty Ferris) becomes the top suspect, and the sheriff gets involved in investigating the crime. Farmers and ranchers in the neighbourhood also mistrust the American tourists that Windy Rafters is now bringing into the resort on tour buses every week.” 

Orr said the Roughnecks are concerned when they find out Seth Borden, the teen who stole from Windy Rafters last year, is back in town.

“Could he be responsible for the thefts at the swimming pool and the antique store? And could these thefts have anything to do with the cattle thieves? Or is there more than one person committing crimes around Ferriston?”

The Roughnecks are transported back in time during a big hailstorm at Windy Rafters on Heritage Day to 1910, where they must develop skills for daily living in a vastly different time.

Orr’s inspiration for the book came in part from her mother-in-law, Retta Orr, who was involved in amateur theatre in Orton.

“One of the things she loved to do was memorize poems and recite them on request,” Orr said. “My favourite of her recitations was a poem titled The Cattle Thief. It was written by Indigenous poet Pauline Johnson.”

Orr was further inspired by the story of a highly educated Canadian who moved to the U.S. and organized and led an international ring of cattle thieves that ran successfully for many years.

A graduate of the University of Lethbridge with a bachelor’s degree in education, a diploma in early childhood education and a masters degree in educational leadership, Orr worked 25 years as a teacher and administrator.

An avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction Orr has long planned to write books. Her interest in children and a desire to write something of value for her own grandchildren, led Orr to write fiction for young people.

The development of the Windy Rafters Roughnecks series happened over 10 years as Ronalee and Monty organized and hosted events at real-life Windy Rafters Barn, including school field trips where early Alberta history was showcased for students.

Orr said her favourite characters shift depending on what she is writing, but admits to a fondness for Great Grandma Beatrice Taggart, who appears in the third book in the series, which is in progress.

“She is a real character in every sense of the word,” Orr said.

Orr said as she writes the third book, the Windy Rafters characters develop much like real children.

“They are children becoming youth and teens, whose views of the world and relationships within the family are constantly changing. I have to say that what surprises me most is the way in which incidental or minor characters, who we met in Book 1, evolve in Book 2 and Book 3 to become people of depth and complexity, central to the development of the plot.”

Response to the Windy Rafters Roughnecks has been positive and Orr uses the feedback from readers to improve her writing. She also credits her editors for helping with her development.

“I’ve learned about my weaknesses in writing, and now I  know what to look for so that I can write cleaner and self edit much more effectively than I once did.” 

The third book in the series is set in the summer of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Windy Rafters becomes an oasis to the Ferris family and they decide to make use of this “gap year” to renovate and enhance what they have to offer guests.

“As the summer wears on, it becomes clear, however, that there is a little too much togetherness and despite the isolation, crime makes its way back to Windy Rafters, causing a wave of worry and suspicion,” Orr said. “Perhaps there truly is a ‘bad guy’ in the family, maybe even among the Roughnecks themselves. In this book, the time travel takes us back to 1942, at the end of the Great Depression and the middle of World War Two, another time of doubt and uncertainty at a global level.”  

Orr said Book 3 is proving a little more challenging with more research than for the first two.

“There are also more direct ties between the present and the past in the plot, which means every part must be carefully organized to create those seamless links. I am still working on the first draft, so I wouldn’t expect Book 3 for at least another year. ”

Both Windy Rafters Roughnecks books are available at Fort Pharmacy or from Ronalee Orr at ronaleeorr@gmail.com. They will soon be available through the library as well. 

“I am really interested in reader feedback,” said Orr who invites readers to contact her directly by e-mail or write reviews on her Web site, ronaleeorr.com.

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