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Children publish mother's long-lost manuscript

Staff writer

It wasn’t exactly Mother’s Day, but it was a surprise when Geneva Wallace received a box in the mail and discovered it contained 50 copies of a recently-published children’s book titled, “The Cats of Burdick Kansas” by Geneva Wallace.

“What is this?” she exclaimed. “I can’t believe it!”

And she cried.

She learned that her four children had worked to publish a manuscript she had compiled 10 years earlier and had lost after she sent it away to various publishers.

The manuscript was mysteriously returned last year, with no return address. It contained a series of short stories about various cats she had taken in and cared for over the years, and each story had a life lesson.

After she got the manuscript back, her son, Jack, of Frankfort, Kentucky, called.

“Why don’t you send me that manuscript,” he asked. “I have never read it and I would like to read it.”

So she did. Months went by, and when she called and asked him if he had read it, he said, no, he didn’t have time.

“I thought, why did he want me to send it to him if he wasn’t going to read it?” she wondered.

Now she knows. Her daughter Kimberly Shenk of Tennessee did the word processing, and Wallace’s sons Keith and Kent, also of Tennessee, joined Kimberly and Jack in paying for publishing.

Wallace said the first story she wrote was in response to a letter from her little grandson Gregory asking her to send him a letter.

“What do you write to a 7-year-old boy?” Wallace asked herself.

That’s when she sat down and wrote a fictional account about “Sweetie Pie,” a lonely orphaned kitten who went looking for friends and, after encountering an unfriendly opossum and raccoon, found them at a big brick house in Burdick, Kansas. Wallace lives in a brick house.

“Gregory liked it, and my daughter-in-law said they would keep it forever,” she said.

From then on, watching her cats and looking at the many Polaroid pictures she took of them, she was prompted to write more stories, like “Tiger the Scaredy-Cat,” “Baby Doll the Tomcat,” and “Lady Bird Learns a Lesson.”

Although fictional, the stories have some elements of fact in them, revealing true personality characteristics.

Wallace compiled the stories on her typewriter and mailed them along with photos. She got several favorable replies, but that’s as far as it went except for one publisher who called and said he liked the story and had read it to his daughter.

When she hadn’t heard from him for a while, she called him back, but was told he was no longer with the publishing company.

“After that, I lost interest,” she said.

The pictures reproduced in the book aren’t very clear because they are based on Polaroid prints, but they are actual photographs of the cats the stories are based upon.

Wallace’s boyfriend, Merle Ecklund of Lost Springs, has sold 31 copies of the book. Wallace has shared others with friends and relatives. She has ordered 35 more.

“I’m proud of it,” she said, “and I’m so proud that people like it.”

Wallace has lived at Burdick for 32 years. She is “fresh out of cats,” she said, and doesn’t want any more. But she has two Chihuahuas who continue to keep her company and go with her wherever she goes. Maybe someday she will write stories about them.

Last modified May 11, 2017

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