What started as a collection of memoirs for his grandchildren, soon took on a life of its own according to Cowden native Rod O’Kelly as he revisited his old stomping grounds on Thursday for a book signing at the Dry Point Township Library.
O’Kelly began writing what would become his first novel, “Comin’ up Country” back in 2008 and it was first published in 2011. The book relives some of the many memories of his childhood in Cowden which helped shape his future.
“I stated out writing this as a little bit of family history for my grandchildren and it just snowballed— it wasn’t a planned deal,” said O’Kelly. The book was finished in three years as O’Kelly would write some, put it away and think about it, and then write some more. “It was a fun project,” he smiled.
A steady stream of patrons came to the library to reminisce with O’Kelly and talk about the good old days and pick up a signed copy of his book. Rod took time to talk with everyone and catch up on old Cowden times.
O’Kelly takes a sentimental journey through his early years in Cowden, moving from farmplace to farmplace, battling most of the obstacles common to rural families of the 50s and 60s: drafty walls, sooty coal heat, muddy yards, and uneven floors that caused peas to roll off the plates.
Ever heard of Mud Run School? It’s in the book. Is your last name Ford, Copenhaver, Nance, Moore or Prater? You might end up reading about yourself or your relatives.
O’Kelly said that during the 50s and 60’s, “My favorite neighbor was Ott Blankenship. [Ott’s wife] Bertha worked at the hair pin factory in Shelbyville.” Today we know this as the Sta-Rite company still owned and operated by the Bolinger family. Before going off to college, O’Kelly worked at the Hygrade Cheese factory in Shelbyville.