When I tell people that my novel is set on an ostrich farm in the southern California desert, the question inevitably comes up: “why ostriches?” but watch these two videos: RACING and FARMING and you’ll have to agree, ostriches are both powerful and dumb, which makes them hilarious as far as I’m concerned. There’s something about those big eyes, connected to those tiny brains that appeals to me. Did you know their knee joints bend backwards? Or that they mate three times a day? Or that they can run up to 50mph? The more I learn about ostriches, the more fascinating I find them, but that was not the reason I originally set my story on an ostrich farm.
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The real reason was that I wanted to tell a story that was (very) loosely based on my mother’s experiences growing up on a dairy farm near Sacramento, but I love the desert and wanted to set my novel somewhere in or around the Mojave. While googling, trying to find a dairy farm in the vicinity of Kramer Junction so as to justify plopping a fictional dairy farm in the there, I came across the OK Coral Ostrich Farm website. It occurred to me that an ostrich farm is like a dairy farm, except a little odd, and somehow magical.
Before committing to the idea I contacted the proprietor of the OK Corral, a man named Doug Osborne (that’s him in the Dirty Jobs clip), and arranged to take a tour of his farm. Half a day walking around his forty acres convinced me.
Since embracing this aspect of my story, it has lost all resemblance to my mother’s childhood, but I was expecting as much to happen. It is becoming a story all my own, with the Mojave desert and a flock of three-hundred pounds birds as a backdrop.
I’ve been working on this story for over a year now, and I just get more and more excited about it as I go. On Wednesday I am heading back out to the OK Corral to grill Doug on some of the finer details of ostrich husbandry, and I’m very much looking forward to the visit. I’ll tell you all about it next week.