During my novel writing class at the BYU Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers Conference, my instructor, Louise Plummer, asked us to write something about butter. We had a few minutes, right there on the spot. This is what I wrote:
My mother greased bread pans with shortening, using squares of waxed paper she kept in the shortening can. She only made bread when I was young, before we remodeled the house. The remodel brought men into our house. Men I didn't know. Men who came, kicked up sawdust, then left. Men who never--according to my father--put in a full day's work.
My father loved his work. He came into the house for breakfast with the smell of earth already on him. He brought raw milk, fresh from the milk tank. We'd pour it on our cereal. White rivers of cream flowed through our Cheerios. At lunch, he came inside with the smell of sweet hay or dust from the grain field. We ate meat and potatoes, and slices of bread heavy with butter.
My grandpa was always with him at lunchtime. Grandpa never said much. He'd roll up the sleeves on his work shirt and wash up, past his elbows. He ate ice cream off his dirty dinner plate because he didn't want to my mother to dirty another dish for him. The farm was his, before it was my fathers. It had belonged to his father before that. I watched him butter his bread and chew slowly, knowing that I knew so little about him. I knew they used to have dances in the parlor of the old farmhouse when my father was a boy. I knew that my grandpa was a fine dancer. I knew he stole watermelons from his neighbor when he was a kid and that he swore a lot when he talked with old friends and when the calves were ornery.