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  • Writer's pictureNotes From The Frontier


Filled with gratitude to have been the Featured Speaker at my high school alumni banquet. Nearly 170 people😮 What a wonderful homecoming! Thank you Dayton, Iowa! Thank you Williamsburg, Iowa! Thank you Lehigh, Iowa! Thank you Dayton Alumni Banquet Planning Committee! My heart is full🙏💙

Here are some fun highlights!

Here I am speaking about my debut novel, BLOOD TO RUBIES, at my high school all-class reunion at the Dayton, Iowa, Alumni Banquet––170 attendees! Pretty darn good for a small farming community of 700❣️ Many of the characters and place names in my debut novel were inspired from my childhood growing up in Dayton.

Dayton has a very famous national rodeo. I was a rodeo queen a half century ago! Here is my amazing horse, Sundance. When he died, the town newspaper, The Dayton Review, ran his obituary💙

I rode Sundance--almost always bareback--throughout Webster County on remote country roads, dirt and gravel. My favorite place was riding along the Des Moines River Valley. There, Sundance and I explored an old abandoned coal mine and ghost town called Hardscrabble, Indian mounds, buffalo wallows, an abandoned stage coach trace, pioneer ruins, and we enjoyed spectacular wildlife. You'll find all of this in my debut novel, BLOOD TO RUBIES. PHOTO BY MADELINE DARLAND.


During my presentation, I recounted many of the inspirations in BLOOD TO RUBIES from Dayton and my childhood. Here are just a few: Allen Porter (who founded the Dayton rodeo); a herd of Appaloosas led by a leopard stallion that grazed in the Des Moines River Valley where I rode as a child); the Maple Leaf Cafe (where I worked as a waitress in high school; Danny Stoneburner (my classmate, who was also a grill cook there); the Rusty Spur (our town tavern); Helga (an old Scandinavian widow and hoarder who lived in the heart of Dayton on a half block buried in trees and collapsed buildings); Fred Jebron (an old farmer who drove a beaten down John Deere tractor. His three-legged rat terrier always ran under the back axle); Marilyn Sandholm's big oak tree (Marilyn was the town piano teacher who taught me and most of the kids in Dayton. At the corner of her property was a big oak tree that used to scare the wits out of me at night); the "three sisters" trees ( three huge elm trees in the front of McElvain's sheep farm next to my parents' home. I used to play under those trees and called them "the three sisters," just like little Ella in BLOOD TO RUBIES. Later, I pastured Sundance in Mr. and Mrs. McElvain's sheep pastures; Erma Kay and Burton Yale (two oldsters from Dayton. Later, when I became friends with Erma Kay, I discovered that she and her husband had been vaudevillians early in the 1900s! They make an appearance in my book); old pioneer ruins near Skillet Creek in back of Dan Bohlke's childhood home (you'll find this inspiration in the chapter, sumac dreams); Velda Porter (the first Dayton Rodeo Queen and Allen Porter's first wife, who had suffered severe brain damage as a young woman after being kicked in the head by a horse. When I was the Dayton Rodeo Queen, I cared for her in the Dayton Care Home, where I worked all through high school. That was a profound experience, as were so many of my childhood experiences growing up in Dayton.) Read BLOOD TO RUBIES to discover even more inspirations from Dayton!

Above are my classmates from the Class of 1972 who attended the Banquet posing with me and BLOOD TO RUBIES. There were originally only 26 of us graduates! Thank you so much, dear friends (Bruce, Sandi, Sharon, Judy, Mark and Gail) for attending and sharing this amazing life experience with me 🙏💙 Two other classmates, Dan Bohlke and his wife Roxie and Rick Dayton and his wife Paula attended our Williamsburg Library event several days before, as they all live in Iowa City. So very thrilled to see all of you! Love you all❣️

Above, from left to right: My amazing 92-year-old mother and heroine, Dorothy Hufford, and my husband, kidney donor and hero, Evan Jones; my wonderful two sisters, Scheila (left) and Sue (right); and my role model and mentor growing up, spectacular horsewoman, former Dayton Rodeo Queen (like me), and all-around wonderful woman, Kay Owen. Love you all❣️

I especially want to thank the Dayton Alumni Banquet Committee, especially Barb Sandholm, Brent Sandholm and Gary Sandholm and Jack and Davonne Burns. (I hope I didn't miss other names. If I did, my sincere apologies😰Please comment below, if I did.) As I mentioned in my presentation, these folks have worked very hard for years to plan these events, which are so vital to keeping Dayton's 170-year history alive, as well as our childhood friendships. That is sacred work! Thank you all so much🙏💙 Also a big thank you to Judy and Joann Nemechek, who began the tradition of these banquets and also worked for many years to continue this important tradition. Many thanks to the wonderful Neil Blair for serving as the Banquet's MC this year. What a wonderful and generous man!

Thank you also to the many librarians I worked with to make our library events possible:

Brianna White and Sandy Jones, of the Williamsburg Library

Courney Sogard, Dayton Library Director

Erin Murray, Lehigh Library Director and her dad, Harold Murray

And, last but certainly not least, my sincere thanks to the 170 Dayton alumni who attended this event and the many of you who have read my book and brought them to be autographed. It means so very much to me that my old childhood friends and Dayton alumni have supported me and have been so loyal.

Bless you all and keep you💙

A Special Note

For all of you who have purchased and read BLOOD TO RUBIES, thank you!! Please know that every time you purchase BLOOD TO RUBIES (in any format) a portion of each sale goes to the Chief Joseph Foundation (, in honor of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce tribe, and the Chieftain and former Chair of the Tribe, Allen V. Pinkham, Sr., a descendant of Chief Joseph, who helped me vet my book and wrote a lovely Foreword.

"THE GREAT BLOOD TO RUBIES IOWA BOOK TOUR" was first published on Facebook and on Memorial Day, May 27, 2024.


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Deborah Hufford

Author, Notes from the Frontier

Deborah Hufford is an award-winning author and magazine editor with a passion for history. Her popular blog with 100,000+ readers has led to an upcoming novel! Growing up as an Iowa farmgirl, rodeo queen and voracious reader, her love of land, lore and literature fired her writing muse. With a Bachelor's in English and Master's in Journalism from the University of Iowa, she taught students of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, then at Northwestern University, Marquette and Mount Mary. Her extensive publishing career began at Better Homes & Gardens, includes credits in New York Times Magazine, New York Times, Connoisseur, many other titles, and serving as publisher of The Writer's Handbook


Deeply devoted to social justice, especially for veterans, women, and Native Americans, she has served on boards and donated her fundraising skills to Chief Joseph Foundation, Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), Homeless Veterans Initiative, Humane Society, and other nonprofits.  


Deborah's soon-to-be released historical novel, BLOOD TO RUBIES weaves indigenous and pioneer history, strong women and clashing worlds into a sweeping saga praised by NYT bestselling authors as "crushing," "rhapsodic," "gritty," and "sensuous." Purchase BLOOD TO RUBIES online beginning June 9. Connect with Deborah on, Facebook, and Instagram.

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