Alice Orr: Strawberries are Red — Tractors are Pink

Several years ago I bought my husband Jonathan a 1947 tractor to drive in the annual town parade. Back then I had no idea how much that tractor would come to mean to our family. Because back then I had no idea I’d be diagnosed with breast cancer.

We lived on Vashon Island then in Puget Sound twenty minutes by ferry from Seattle. We followed our grandchildren there from New York City – and their parents too. We were all at our first Strawberry Festival Parade when my tractor quest began.

The village main street was packed with people. Children cross-legged on the curb waited to scurry after candy tossed by the marchers. The smell of burgers and sausages drifted from a nearby food booth next to the biggest strawberry shortcakes I’d ever seen.

This was the island’s blowout event of the year but for me it was much more. I grew up in a town where they had summer parades. I’d scramble for a seat on the curbstone just like these kids now. I never expected to be part of anything like it again. Yet here I was – swallowing a sudden lump in my throat.

JJonathan on the Pink Tractoronathan didn’t share my nostalgia. It was a hot day and his interest had already flagged. Then he saw the antique tractors. The crowd roared but Jonathan wasn’t applauding. He was absolutely still. The closer they rolled. The brighter his eyes shone. I vowed right then and there that someday Jonathan would drive his own tractor in this parade.

Pink turned up three years later in Eastern Washington – a hot prairie contrast to the notoriously wet weather where we lived in Western Washington. The sun is so intense over there that our new old tractor had bleached from orange to a lovely shade of pink. We decided to leave her that way and our five acres became known as Pink Tractor Farm.

The first year Jonathan tried his best to get Pink running for the parade but despite his efforts she didn’t make it. The next year we’d moved from the island to the mainland. Before long we were yearning for the small community life we’d grown to love without realizing it. Then Pink Tractor Farm was on the market again and we bought it back.

Two months later we were back on Vashon. Same house and five acres. Same pink tractor. The difference was I had cancer. The last thing we needed was another project. But Jonathan understood what a boost it would be for me to see Pink in the Strawberry Festival Parade.

With the help of an old tractor hand named Milt – Jonathan worked many frustrating hours to get Pink running strong enough to drive the two miles to town then another mile along the parade route plus back home again.

Midnight before parade day he was tinkering by lamplight. He tinkered the next morning too until there was no tinker time left. He and Pink had to get to the parade lineup or it would be no-go again this year. They chugged down our driveway to the road. Ahead lay the long hill from our place to the lineup point.

Our two grandchildren were with me in my red jeep to spot Jonathan as he attempted the climb. Several times Pink’s engine turned over then ran a few minutes and stalled. Jonathan pronounced the inevitable by cell phone. “She’s not going to make it.”

But the children weren’t ready to give up. “Grandpa can do it!” five-year-old Julian said over and over as his ten-year-old sister Maya crossed all of her fingers. That hope and belief radiating out the jeep window to Jonathan and his pink charger may explain why he gave her one more try and she rumbled to life at last then began to climb the hill.

“Come on, Honey. You can do it,” I whispered as the kids and I drove ahead to find a parade-watching spot. “Grandpa will make it,” Maya assured me and I prayed she’d be right. It was nothing less than a family victory when Pink bumped past us at about three miles an hour smack dab in the middle of the Procession of the Antique Tractors.

“Yay Grandpa. Yay Pink Tractor Farm,” the children cheered as they jumped up and down waving the bright pink poster-board signs I’d made three years before and somehow preserved.

I’d been through six surgical procedures since spring and faced a seventh the following week. We didn’t yet know that by summer’s end I’d be blessed with a miraculous prognosis. Ninety-five or more percent chance of no recurrence of the cancer.

That Saturday parade morning I was simply tired. I planned to stay in my camp chair and wave. But as Jonathan drove by I got out of the chair and walked into the road. I reached up and grasped my husband’s hand.

We stared into each other’s eyes for a moment that contained all of the challenges between our first Strawberry Festival and this moment which was about a lot more than a pink tractor. Later on I would sum it up in this bumpy three-mile-an-hour rhyme.

Strawberries are red.
Tractors are pink.
There’s more triumph inside us than we may think.

Alice Orr –

Alice 72 headshot[1]“Alice Orr is a brilliant writer who has a Number One best seller hidden in her pocket. I look forward to more of her work,” says one Amazon reviewer. I say “Thanks!” I love to write. Especially romantic suspense novels and blog posts. I’ve been a workshop leader, book editor and literary agent. Now I live my dream of writing full-time. I’ve published thirteen novels and four novellas – both traditionally and independently – plus a memoir so far. I wrote my nonfiction book, No More Rejections, as a gift to the writers’ community I cherish. A revised edition is now in progress. Amazon says, “This book has it all.” About my romantic suspense, Amazon says, “Alice Orr turns up the heat.” Most of all, I like to hear from readers. Visit my website at I have two grown children and two perfect grandchildren and I live with my husband Jonathan in New York City.

Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Christmas Novella
Luke & Bethany’s Story by Alice Orr

On a cold December day Bethany Miller and her son Michael arrive in Riverton.

A Vacancy at the Inn - Cover 2 200x300 - 20.6 KBShe grew up on Riverton Hill in remote upstate New York where her complicated family still lives. She moved away to escape all of that and more. Now she’s back because of complications in her present life with what is best for her son. She hopes the Miller family will be a Christmas blessing for Michael. She’s less hopeful about what this homecoming will be for her.

The last thing Bethany wants is further complication. That means the last person she needs to see is Luke Kalli staring down at her from the roof of Miller’s Inn. They shared a glorious connection before she fled from here. The power of that encounter and the deep feelings she experienced came at a tumultuous moment in her life. They were yet another strong reason to leave Riverton Hill on Riverton Road and never return – until today. She has no idea this place will put her son in peril.

A Vacancy at the Inn is the first Novella of the Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series featuring the Kalli family and now the Miller family too in stories of Romance and Danger. A Wrong Way Home is Book 1 of the series. A Year of Summer Shadows is Book 2.  A Villain for Vanessa will be Book 3 – coming soon.

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