Farm Stories Come to Life

Posted: July 1, 2021 at 2:28 pm

Carla Crane Osborne’s picture book captures magical moments on a farm

By Dianna Troyer

Instead of a dreaded chore, feeding livestock on winter evenings enchanted Carla Crane Osborne during childhood on her family’s farm in southeastern Idaho.

Carla Crane Osborne's book, "Under the Barnyard Light," was released in November after a decade of work. It is the first of a series. Photo courtesy of Carla Crane Osborne
Carla Crane Osborne’s book, “Under the Barnyard Light,” was released in November after a decade of work. It is the first of a series. Photo courtesy of Carla Crane Osborne

“It was a magical time for me-a routine I still love to tell our grandchildren about,” Carla says. “The color of the sky was unforgettable-a deep blue. There was a peaceful stillness. I can still hear nickering horses and bawling calves greeting me, waiting for their hay, then quietly munching it. When I was done, I’d catch snowflakes on my tongue and kiss our horse, Dandy, goodnight.”

Carla helped her father care for the animals beneath a mercury light that cast a soft glow over the barnyard.

“The warmth of the light represented love and security to me,” she says.

Wanting to share those memories, Carla teamed up with a nationally acclaimed illustrator and wrote and published a 26-page children’s picture book, “Under the Barnyard Light.”

“I wanted to bring to life a snapshot of the past, so children today can experience a sliver of the magic I knew growing up on a farm with all its wonders—especially the sky,” she says. “I was
thrilled to find an illustrator who painted the color of the evening sky perfectly.”

Carla’s parents, Calvin Crane and Raeola Drake, raised crops and livestock with the help of their five children in the Unity area east of Burley.

“The barn and other buildings I grew up with are still standing,” Carla says. “I’m proud my brother, Dennis, is the fifth generation to run the farm and is carrying on our family’s heritage.”

Carla says she and her husband, Ron, who grew up in nearby Heyburn, will always have a sentimental connection to southeastern Idaho. They live in Meridian in western Idaho, where they run their family businesses dealing with real estate, storage units and insurance.

The Osbornes own land near Albion, 14 miles east of Unity.

“We spend as much time as we can there, taking our family on outings,” Carla says.

She jokes that completing the book was more strenuous and time-consuming than any farm chore. She embarked on her literary odyssey—a labor of love—a decade ago.

Carla summoned her endless energy and lived up to her childhood nickname of Gona.

“My brothers called me that because they said I was always going somewhere on an adventure,” she says.

Carla says she channeled her Gona energy into writing the manuscript. Next, she searched the internet for the right illustrator.

“I looked for a year,” she says.

Carla finally found Brandon Dorman, who has illustrated two dozen picture books, including the covers of New York Times bestsellers “Fablehaven,” “Goosebumps” and “The Land of Stories.”

She contacted the agency that represents him and sent him a copy of her manuscript. She also told him she hoped her book would help children understand where their food comes from.

“Brandon told me he wanted to illustrate my book because he believed in its messages,” Carla says. “Some kids think food just appears on a grocery store shelf and have no idea it’s grown on a farm.”

She asked her nephew, Michael Crane, who grew up on the farm, to sketch the buildings.

Carla discusses sketches with her nephew, Michael Crane.
Carla discusses sketches with her nephew, Michael Crane.

“He’s a talented artist and provided Brandon with true-to-life sketches to follow,” she says. “Brandon was contracted to other writers, so he squeezed my book in between other projects.”

Carla waited about four years for him to complete the illustrations.

“It was worth the wait,” she says. “When I showed the illustrations to our grandchildren, they told me, ‘Hey, that looks like where you grew up.’”

Carla contacted Aloha Publishing in Eagle, Idaho, to print her book. The company usually publishes business and inspirational books.

“They told me that my manuscript’s message resonated with them, and for the first time they would publish a children’s book,” she says. “They said my writing made them feel like they were there in the barnyard with me pitching hay to horses and bottle feeding calves.”

Carla’s book is the first in a series, “Go Gona Go,” a nod to her nickname.

“I had so much fun with the first book, I decided to write two more,” she says.

“Pony Express” was released in April, followed by “Alex the Lamb.”

Along with her farm chores, another of Carla’s cherished childhood routines was going to local libraries with her mother and siblings.

“We spent many happy hours perusing the shelves for adventure books,” she says. “We’d come home with a stack of books.”

Wanting children to go on adventures by reading, Carla donated copies of her book to libraries in Rupert and Burley, and the elementary school in Malta.

“It’s exciting to read positive comments on the book’s Facebook page, on blogs and the Goodreads website,” Carla says. “I hope my books foster a love of reading and make children feel like they’re at a family farm going on their own adventures.”

Carla reads to children at Raft River Elementary School.
Carla reads to children at Raft River Elementary School.