Wendell Affield’s mother, Barbara, lived an unusual life. He began a series of interviews with her, hoping to tell her story, never suspecting that the key to it lay decomposing in the chickenhouse, seventy feet from where they sat visiting in the old farmhouse. After she died in 2010, Affield and his sister salvaged the chickenhouse treasures dated from 1822-1984. Over the past six years he has spent countless hours studying, scanning, and transcribing the documents he discovered locked in the chickenhouse on his childhood homestead.
Affield’s stories are about family history shaded by world events. They take the reader from fortunes built by 19th century timber barons to lost wealth of the Great Depression. From the Carpathian Mountains of southern Poland to the terrors of World War Two. From concert halls of New York and Paris to the back roads of northern Minnesota. In the chickenhouse, Affield discovered the stories behind his mother’s suicide attempts, violence, rage, and eventual commitment to a mental hospital.
This first book in Affield’s Chickenhouse Chronicles series is a background sketch of his mother’s fourth husband. It’s also a treasure of reproduced 1940s mail-order bride catalogues— including the names of hundreds of women—that his stepfather ordered in his search for a wife.
Herman, 1940s Lonely Hearts Search. Chickenhouse Chronicles, Book I (eBook only)
After WWII Herman returned to his farm with a dream and PTSD. Affield reconstructs his stepfather’s early life, war experience, and Herman’s four year search for a wife, culminating in the tragic discovery of the author’s mother. December 1945 Herman received The Exchange, a mail-order bride catalogue. In 1949 he discovered Barbara in Cupid’s Columns. Three months after the wedding, Barbara’s mother wrote a letter to the governor of New York. It began, “Dear Gov. Dewey, Please help us find our schizophrenic daughter.”
The Farm, 1950s, Nebish. Chickenhouse Chronicles, Book II (Summer 2017)
In 2012, Affield published his Vietnam War memoir, Muddy Jungle Rivers: A River Assault Boat Cox’n’s Memory Journey of His War in Vietnam. It’s a close-up look at life on a gunboat during 1968, the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War. Told from a twenty-year-old brown water sailor’s point of view, this memoir takes the reader into the frustration, rage, terror, death, betrayal, and search for redemption. Forty years later, Affield writes, “The memories of those muggy days are never far away. When I hear a gunshot, pass over a river, smell diesel fuel or exhaust, decomposing flesh, or a thousand other triggers, I am back on the river. And I hear voices of those we lost.”