McVille, North Dakota was settled in the 1880s on the open plains of this beautiful state. Among the oldest settled parts of the state outside of the Red River Valley, the small community was relocated in 1906 to meet up with the Great Northern Railway.
And in the winter of 1913, it became the birthplace of my maternal grandmother, Grace Moen Thrailkill. Born of Norwegian parents, the headstrong girl thrived among the hands that worked her father’s wheat ranch. She loved horses, wide open spaces and growing things. It was from her I learned to garden and crochet–and along with my mother, she nurtured my love of story.
I grew up on the history of her town, the school she attended, one uncle’s general store and another uncle’s bank; her father’s work with agricultural scientists to develop and grow a new strain of amber durham wheat. I heard all about the first horse she rode bareback, the occasional visitor from the nearby Sioux reservation, and how her mother cooked for a dozen ranch hands three times a day and served them on fine bone china. Great-Grandmother Julia felt the men’s manners would be better if they ate off nice dishes. Her “everyday” sugar and creamer set hold a place of honor in my office.
My very first western romance was written in honor of my grandmother, shaped by the stories she shared; in fact, the heroine was her. And Grandmother and her personal history still influence my writing.
The mother of three, grandmother of six, great-grandmother of four, and great-great-grandmother of one, Grace dubbed herself GGG, for great-grandmother-Grace, when my brother’s oldest son was born. From that day on, she signed cards and letters, even the Christmas ornaments she painted as gifts for all of us, with GGG.
Grace left this life a few days ago, after more than 96 years on this earth. I’ll miss her wit, her temper, and her zest for life and learning.
Goodbye, Grandmother. Rest in peace. I’ll see you again someday.