10. Viewing the only known photograph of the Wade House featuring the plank road out front
9. Setting up our book tent under an oak tree near a hitching-post and watering-trough like those at the Mather Inn
8. Enjoying the sound of hoofbeats and the jingle of harness fittings as the stagecoach passed us on its rounds of the Wade House property
7. Watching brother-in-law Franklin learn to card wool with an antique drum carder
6. Helping children make butterflies and bookmark tassels out of rainbow-colored wool
5. Seeing children’s faces when they learned the wool had been dyed with Kool-aid
4. Being so enthralled by conversations about wool that Emily had to remind me to mention the book
3. Hearing people say that after reading about us in the Sheboygan Press they had come to the fair specifically to buy our book
2. Signing a book for a little girl descended from the Mathers of Racine County
1. Finding Plank Road Summer on display in the Wade House gift shop
I was a tween (though the term wasn’t used in the 1970s) when I first visited the Wade House in Greenbush, Wisconsin. The restored historic inn caught my imagination, especially because back in Racine County, a neighbor’s house had also been an inn along a plank road. At the Wade House I admired the tea leaf dishes in the dining room, the woodstove in the kitchen, and the third floor ballroom.
Back at home I spent hours poring over the photographs in the Wade House souvenir booklet, imagining stories that might have taken place within the inn if the historically dressed mannequins had suddenly come to life. Pretty soon I began to wonder what might have happened to a girl sitting on the front porch of my own house as she watched the passing wagons stop next door at the Mather Inn. Though the Mather Inn was a much smaller and humbler version of the Wade House, I thought the stories could be just as interesting.
Twentysome years later Hilda and I visited the Wade House again while we were researching Plank Road Summer. Though the mannequins were gone, the docents who led us through the house gave us a detailed sense of what life at an inn was like. We learned that innkeepers used to count out floorboards in the ballroom to mark sleeping arrangemements, a fact that made it into our book.
Soon Hilda and I will head to the Wade House once more, this time for a book-signing. Back when I was making up stories about little girls in the ladies’ parlor I did not imagine that someday I would return with my own published novel about an inn along a plank road in Wisconsin.
Stop by to see us at the Wade House during the Arts and Crafts Fair–Sunday, August 23, from 9:00-3:00. We’ll have our own craft projects going–you can make a wool-tassel book mark or wool butterfly and add a plank to our road. Copies of Plank Road Summer will be available for purchase and signing. We hope to see you there.