Will Nickerson backed the John Deere slowly up to the wagon parked on the gravel next to the road that ran along the side of the Horse Arena. He throttled back and worked the clutch with practiced ease, lining up the hole on the hitch with the one on the wagon’s long steel tongue which
was resting on the ground. Perfect. He shifted into PARK and shut down the engine.
It would be hard to find anyone who looked less like a rancher than Will. At thirty-nine, he was five feet ten and much too skinny to look the rugged outdoorsy type–or the slightest bit athletic for that matter. Meticulously clean-shaven, he had brown hair, most of it hidden under that darn cowboy hat that kept wanting to blow away. His hazel eyes, framed by wire-rimmed glasses, and refined Anglo-Saxon features all combined to give him the look of a true city boy. A banker, perhaps, or
maybe an accountant–or perhaps he looked like exactly what he was in real life–the proprietor of Nickerson Office Supplies, the family business in downtown New Oslo that he had reluctantly taken over when his father passed away four years earlier. But looks can be deceiving as is often the case. There was nothing that Will Nickerson wanted more than his own ranch. He longed to be riding the ranges on his own land, on horseback or in his pickup, with his own brand displayed proudly on his own prize herd of Black Angus. It was nice to dream, but how frustrating it could be for someone who did not come from a landowning family to aspire to be a rancher. He had come close–and would have been ranching by now had it not been for Harlan Plachkow who had almost singlehandedly prolonged his career in office supplies. It was just a setback, he kept telling himself.
Gotta regroup and make it happen. But for now he was stuck where he was in life, and volunteering at the Ranch Park gave him an outlet for his need to be around animals and farm machinery and rub
elbows with others of similar interests. Yes, the Ranch Park was the place for wannabe ranchers. Those who lacked the wherewithal to make it happen and those who had the determination to make it happen at all costs. The Ranch Park offered the hands-on training; so volunteering there was the next best thing to attending ag college–or growing up on a ranch. Will volunteered regularly one afternoon a week. He picked Wednesdays because that was the day he was usually the least busy
at the office supply store–but now and then, when needed, he would sneak out another day–and often helped out on weekends, too, for special events and programs. Tractor driving was his favorite volunteer job, and he liked the Ranch Camp hayrides the best of all. He’d done them for the past five years and couldn’t wait for the new season to begin. In addition, he hauled and stacked hay, fed the animals in the Critter Corral–and his skills as a photographer were becoming renowned throughout the Ranch Park. Several of his photographs had been published in the Ranch Park
Roundup, the small monthly magazine the park distributed to its members.
From Ranch Park, Chapter 2, ‘The Tractor Driver’, as we meet Will Nickerson for the very first time.
They say most authors’ first novels are autobiographical–so I thought why fight it? I designed my main character based more or less on myself. Sometimes like I am in real life. Sometimes like I’d like to be. In searching for a name for this character, I dug into the roots of our family tree. My first ancestor to come to America was a William Nickerson, who immigrated to Cape Cod from England in 1637. His son and grandson were also named William Nickerson. And so, as a tribute to a proud heritage on my mother’s side, I chose the name Will Nickerson. This is a character I can relate to. He’s basically me–so it’s easy to put myself in his shoes. Admittedly I do, at times, put him into more dangerous situations than I would attempt, as in the truck chase scene in Ranch Park, or the breakneck downhill mountain bike ride in It’s A Place For Trees, but for the most part he does what I would do in most situations and interacts with the other characters as I would do, were I to meet them in my daily life. We both share the same likes and dislikes (for example, we both like our coffee lukewarm), the same goals in life, drive the same make of pickup and have similar family backgrounds. We aren’t in exactly the same business–but closely related fields. My business is actually repairing typewriters (yes, there are those who still use them), but I put him in the office supplies business instead, since I think it’s something today’s readers would relate to more readily than fixing ‘office dinosaurs’. Since it is a related field, I am very familiar with office supplies as well; so it is easy to portray Will as being in that business, with all the trials and tribulations of battling the big box stores and selling products that nobody really WANTS–just utilitarian things that go with work. We both would rather be ranching. In the series, Will has an inquisitive mind that takes him far away from the humdrum of the office world, and somehow he always manages to find himself in situations that call for his services as an amateur detective. And, of course, he needs a few partners in crime–crime solving, that is–and so how about a leading lady or two? Stay tuned!
R. L. Anderson, author, Will Nickerson Mysteries.
Available in paperback and Kindle editions from Amazon.com. Also on Nook and Kobo.
Ranch Park. First volume in the Will Nickerson Mysteries by R. L. Anderson. It’s a light ‘n breezy whodunit. The language is clean throughout. And it’s North Dakota all the way.