When COVID-19 hit in March, Doris Daley of Trinity Mennonite Church in De Winton, Alta., decided to clean the house. Many families, stuck at home, have taken this “unprecedented time” to throw out expired food, wash the windows and clean out junk drawers. She chose to do a deep dive into old boxes that had been packed away in her storage closet for years.
To her surprise, she found an old book she had written and forgotten about.
More than 20 years ago, Trinity Mennonite held a unique fundraiser. One Sunday the ushers handed out $100 bills to congregants as they left the building. They were challenged to go home, make it grow and report back.
One congregant used the money to build and sell doll furniture. Daley decided to write a book. She made up a series of questions and sent them out to church members, friends, colleagues and family, and then she compiled the answers. Her little book raised $600 for the church.
“By golly, I’m going to do that again!” she exclaimed, when she discovered the decades-old book at the bottom of a box. This time all the proceeds will go to one of her favourite charities: Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS).
Daley and her singer-songwriter husband, Al, recently came back from a two-week MDS assignment rebuilding homes in Ukiah, Calif., destroyed by wildfires.
“We know the work they do, and we know the integrity, thrift, competence and care that goes into each project,” she says. “None of us knows when a disaster might strike. When it does, the Mennonites show up. . . . While it isn’t an exact parallel, it seems a fitting cause for the times.”
Daley decided she would use some of the same questions as in the first volume, but then expand the list.
Having worked most of her life as a cowboy poet and entertainer, she now has a wide range of “interesting” connections, stretching from the Yukon to Texas, to draw from.
Contributors included Australian bush poets, farm wives, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) members, professional Santa Clauses, polo horse trainers, opera singers, truck drivers and lawyers, ranging in age from 6 to 90.
Her writing career began when she started writing poetry as a child for family events, often inspired by life on their ranch in Granum, Alta., population 300.
After serving as a young person for four years with MCC in Pennsylvania, and then two years in Ontario with Ten Thousand Villages, she returned home to Alberta.
Shortly after that, her brother pushed her to present one of her poems at a cowboy poetry event in Pincher Creek, Alta. Everyone who entered received $25.
“I loved listening to the oldtimers, ranch women and teenagers. I was hooked!” she says.
Now it’s been a lifetime of booking gigs across North America, reciting her western poetry around campfires, at Christmas parties and corporate events, while emceeing, holding workshops, and even performing with the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Saskatchewan Opera Company. She has even done a TED Talk.
Even though she is not tall and handsome, with a big moustache, she has been warmly received into the mainly male-dominated profession. She gets joy from writing and, as a person of faith, she writes through a lens of gratitude and appreciation for God’s creation.
“God wants us to see joy and wholesomeness in our world, and I love getting to be a purveyor of it.”
Her new book is entitled That’s a Good Answer: Wise Words from Wonderful People. One person answered the question, “How did your parents save money?” this way: “By convincing the kids that a trip to the dentist was a vacation!”
According to Daley, “the book is full of answers that are funny, reflective, thought-provoking and, above all, entertaining.”
Daley has already sent one cheque to MDS and expects to send another one once the rest of the books from the third printing are sold.
Books can be purchased online at dorisdaley.com. (She expects to have a third edition out in 2040!)
Do you have a story idea about Mennonites in Alberta? Send it to Joanne De Jong at email@example.com.
Further reading from our Fall 2020 Focus on Books & Resources:
New hymnal will be ‘part of the fabric of our lives’
‘The Daily Bonnet’ creator publishes book
Living at ‘home together’
Pastor channels love of stories into children’s books
Fall 2020 List of Books & Resources