“The big thing for me was acknowledging that the steers are beef cattle – they have no other purpose – they’re going to be sold to the packer,” she says. “Loading day is called the Day of Tears pretty much across all the state fairs. And none of the boys were embarrassed admitting that. They were glad to have had a year to love their animals. It was the circle of life.”
Still, Petruck initially attempted to work some authorial magic until she had some sense talked into her by an early reader.
“I saved the steers in the first seven drafts,” she says. “I brought them home. I let them hang out in pastures. And it was a thirteen-year-old 4-H (member) who read an early copy for me who said, ‘It’s kind of a Cinderella ending.’ I realized later I wanted to be true to their experience year after year.”