Mimi” and 2-year-old grandson Ben were intently playing out on the sun porch with the toy farm set he had just received for his birthday. Playfully, and carefully, they positioned the farm animals and agricultural equipment on the floor of the “barnyard.” Then, one by one, “Mimi” put farm animals into the driver’s seat of the tractor. “Can a pig drive a tractor?” she asked, in the loving voice of a grandmother but with the expression of the kindergarten teacher she had been. “Can a duck drive a tractor?” she continued.That day, four years ago in the little town of Bunkie, La., surrounded by fields of sugar cane and corn, a children’s book, Can a Rooster Drive a Tractor? was penned by Bonnie Murphy, with encouragement from the laughter and love of little Ben. Murphy had only one other grandchild at the time, Hayden, also 2. Her love of animals provided the additional inspiration Murphy needed to make the book come alive with cows, geese, pigs and ponies.The 32-page, hardback book, which is written for preschoolers, has few words but their simple, delightful rhyme fascinates and entertains the inquisitive minds of very young children. Available in October, the book is being published by Alabama Farmers Federation as a tool to influence the next generation about agriculture.What took the 60-year-old Murphy about one hour to write, took her brother, Shelley Richardson, of Irondale, nine months to illustrate. Richardson’s colorful, expressive illustrations of the major characters bring the book to life. Can a Rooster Drive a Tractor? is the first book for Murphy, and Richardson, 64, who retired as community education coordinator for the Jefferson County Board of Education. Richardson said he doesn’t consider himself an artist but has had an interest in drawing and sketching since he was in the fourth grade. The characters in “Rooster” are done with colored pencil, he said. After getting her brother to agree to illustrate the book, Murphy tried unsuccessfully for three years to get a publisher. Discouraged, she let it sit on a shelf another year before her brother started encouraging her to try again to get it published. It was his idea to contact Alfa Insurance to see if it could fit into their marketing program. Because of its agricultural theme, the insurance company referred it to the Alabama Farmers Federation. The organization quickly agreed to publish the book because it believed there was a need for books with a farm message that could reach young children.”This is a very creative way to tell a simple farm story that enables us to reach a very young audience. We think this is an important part of promoting agriculture for our future generation,” said Jerry Newby, president of the Federation.The siblings’ parents also were educators, but they had cows, chickens and a garden. Both Richardson and Murphy have spent most of their years in rural areas, exposed to farm life on a daily basis. Richardson today lives on 27-acre farm in Jefferson County and enjoys what he calls “tractor therapy” as he mows his pastureland. He and his wife, Lulu, have four children and 11 grandchildren. Murphy recently moved to Foxworth, Miss. She and husband, Steve, have three children and four grandchildren.With the success of their first effort, the brother and sister team already are collaborating on their next children’s book.”Can a Rooster Drive a Tractor?” may be purchased from the Alabama Farmers Federation for $14.95, plus $3 for tax and shipping. Make checks payable to the Alabama Farmers Federation and mail to: Alabama Farmers Federation, Rooster Book, P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, AL, 36191-0001. For more information contact the Federation’s Department of Public Relations at 1-800-392-5705, ext. 4410.
Can A Rooster Drive A Tractor?