CLIO, W.Va. -- Glory Bee thinks the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. So given a gap in the gate big enough to put her cow-sized head through, she makes a break for it.
And while she happily mooed and came running when Suzanne McMinn called her by name just moments earlier, Glory Bee quickly turns a deaf ear to McMinn's pleas and deftly avoids efforts to shoo her back through the gate.
She has the upper hand, by 800 pounds or so.
"It's scary, grabbing a hold of her halter," McMinn said.
Glory Bee also is undaunted by the distressed mooing of her baby, Dumplin' - who either wants Mama nearby or is ticked she missed a chance to make a run for it, too.
Instead, Glory Bee skitters across the road (Can a cow skitter?) and otherwise evades McMinn. The dogs, Casper and Chloe, are no help with the herding.
McMinn has been through this before. She heads up the hill and gets an old coffee can full of feed, which she uses to coax the headstrong cow back to her enclosure. It works, and soon, mother and child are nibbling feed McMinn has dumped on the perfectly good grass inside the enclosure. A few of the free-ranging chickens nose (beak?) their way into the pile, pecking up a few morsels.
Then Maia the pet goat, her red Superman cape askew, gets in on the act and buries her face into the empty coffee can, hoping to find a few tasty morsels. Maia, who was bottle-fed as a baby after her mother, Sprite, rejected her, follows McMinn around like a dog, even nosing her way through a torn spot in the screen door and into the house.
Every day is an adventure on McMinn's 100-acre Sassafras Farm in Roane County.
A person could write a book about what it's like to go from being a suburban housewife to being a West Virginia farmer, complete with three cows, one donkey, two horses, five sheep, a couple dozen chickens, several goats, nine cats and a goose.
And she has. McMinn's memoir, "Chickens in the Road: An Adventure in Ordinary Splendor," will officially be released next week by Harper One, a division of HarperCollins.
McMinn swears she never intended to write another book when she landed in West Virginia eight years ago.
She already was a published author, with 26 romance novels under her belt.
Locals got wind of that and quickly pegged her as "that romance writer." Perhaps they figured she'd be a fly-by-night farmer, one who'd flee back to city life once she realized how hard it would be, especially when McMinn proceeded to build a house and establish a farm on a parcel of land that was challenging at best, requiring a trip down a gravel road and through a couple of creek beds to get there.
McMinn's goal then, as now, was to get back to her family's roots. Her dad had grown up in Roane County, and she had fond memories of summer visits there. Divorced and with three children, she sought a fresh start, and yeah, she had a romantic notion of living somewhere where she could have chickens in the road. (Cue to chickens actually in the road in front of her house.)
McMinn the newbie country girl moved into an old family house to get her bearings.
Her transition into her own farmhouse and expansion into real farm living provided rich fodder for the one thing she knew she could do well: write. McMinn set up her Chickens in the Road blog (http://chickensintheroad.com) in 2007 and committed to daily posts about her efforts at country living.
Her posts were diverse, including travails with raising animals, learning to milk cows, fighting the Mean Rooster that pecked at her every time she came near - with lots of color photos to illustrate it all. She also wrote about good old-fashioned country cooking and crafting. She wrote about living frugally and preparing for situations like heavy snows and power outages.
She wrote lovingly about her cousin Mark's elderly mother, Georgia, and about a sassy neighbor she called the Ornery Angel. She wrote about how her kids were coping (and eventually thriving) in the country. She wrote about her first goat, Clover, and getting those chickens she so wanted. She wrote about "52," as she called him, the man with whom she built a new house and set up a farm.
Readers responded. The blog became so popular that it attracted advertisers (read: income). McMinn was again making a decent living from writing. The Daily Mail ran a feature story about her in July 2008 and now runs a column by her twice a month.