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Tractors should be red

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On Sunday afternoon, several dozen people came to Sacramento’s The Avid Reader to hear Anthony Barcellos read from his novel, “Land of Milk and Money” (Tagus 2012).

Barcellos, dressed in white shirt, black tie, black pants and black-and-white tennis shoes, presented a professional yet casual appearance, that of an approachable author. He welcomed people and said, “It is bad luck to go into a bookstore and leave without buying a book.”

He opened by talking about how the novel came to exist, how at family gatherings someone would say, “Hey, tell the story about … ,” and how he was a storyteller and said that anything can be true in fiction.

Barcellos proved his mettle as an oral storyteller as he read several passages from the book, beginning with the first chapter, "The Gambit," which he referred to as the setup. It is a passage that sets the tone for the book that several have called funny or hilarious.

One of the most enjoyable parts was when he showed the alternative book covers. Beginning with the current cover, he provided commentary that had the audience laughing, and at least one of us thinking a bit differently about cows.

The current cover shows a cow “that has not been bred and lactated.” The second cover, the one coveted by the author’s mother, gained the most return commentary from the audience, who agreed that it showed a “non-Central Valley landscape,” and that it was certainly “not a California dairy farm.”

Second alternate cover
Barcellos should know, since he spent his early years on a farm, or as he later said, trying to get as far away as possible, which led him to become a math professor and department chair at American River College.

The third cover, the author’s favorite, features a cow about which Barcellos proclaimed, “Big, bad Bossy has been bred, has been lactated,” and “Yes, that is manure on her haunches.” Barcellos felt that this cover best depicted the spirit of the novel, and admits to still pining over it.

Throughout the reading, Barcellos had the audience engaged and laughing at stories like “Boys Meet Girls,” and lines like “It was also a meat market.” Laughter continued with “A Son Back Home,” and the awkward interchange between the boss and his hired hand.

“Tractors are to be red, not blue from Ford or green from John Deere or yellow,” Barcellos said before closing.

The author graciously signed books for friends, colleagues and strangers, and posed for photos with audience members, including representatives from the Portuguese Historical and Cultural Society.

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Trina Drotar

  • Thank you for an entertaining account of my book event! For purposes of clarification, the “tractors should be red” remark stemmed from the days when the Barcellos dairy farm relied on Massey-Ferguson tractors (red!) in preference to John Deere green and Ford blue. In the present era, my brother has admittedly diversified the dairy farm’s color palette.

  • Trina Drotar

    Thanks for talking more about the red tractors and that they were Massey-Ferguson. I think I prefer red tractors, too. Best to you at your next event!

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