Calvin Ellestad
Calvin Ellestad
Which came first, the rooster or the IRS?

Calvin Ellestad of Eyota claims it was a Rocky adventure that ends well, even though it landed the cluck with the Pitt.

"Rocky the Bantam rooster suddenly speaks in perfect English as he inquires about the missing hen, Emily," reads the back cover of author Ellestad's children's book, "Farmer Pitt's Talking Rooster."

"But Farmer Pitt, now aware of his talking rooster, can only think about making trillions. Rocky, however, attempts to escape and find a safe haven, but his attempt fails and Farmer Pitt eventually puts Rocky in a carnie sideshow traveling the U.S.A. and Europe. When he returns to the farm, he is met by the IRS."

Ellestad, a retired high school teacher, explained how he began musing about storybook ideas and whether to put pen to paper. "Having been a senior high teacher, I taught writing, and, now retired, I was a bit bored until Sister Theresa of Saint Francis, a former teacher of art, suggested I write a story."

His first project was locally done and was called "The Duck Who Wanted Shoes." From there, Ellestad began to conceive other ideas and plots that he felt would be exciting for children with a theme that would apply to adults also.

"It was enjoyable and kept my mind active," he added.

Rocky was hatched from an egg of an idea that grew feathers and started to fly on its own.

"I chose a Bantam rooster because it added color and interest to the story and illustrations," Ellestad explained. "I felt it was a good idea since children and adults like color. I decided to write this plot because I just followed the human response to something unique, like Farmer Pitt making money with no ethics - I wanted a lesson in ethics given to the children who hear the story, a lesson about what is most important in life."

Ellestad's dedication to teaching ethics through sharing a story with children of all ages evolved as he wrote creative essays for his students. He began his teaching career in Waupaca, Wis., then continued teaching in North Dakota and Michigan, encountering people who influenced his imagination.

"I did write creative essays for my classes as ideas for them to develop their own ideas. These essays do not exist now...I had no idea of writing a children's story. Maybe Sister Theresa gave me the idea - she was a very motivational person, and I suspect a fantastic teacher."

"The Duck Who Wanted Shoes" actually was his official debut effort as an author. "It was a story using a retired artist, a longtime resident of Eyota, for the illustrations, a real hometown type of softcover book just to get an idea of using a printing company rather than a publishing company," Ellestad added. "One can see the difference."

"Farmer Pitt's Talking Rooster" did undergo some editing before publishing, as Ellestad noted, "Rewriting is very important, and I rewrote pages to add something I felt was good. It was challenging making the story flow from one idea to another and blend together. I wanted to go from one conflict to another - giving Rocky a hard time - which in real life can be reality."

Ellestad pondered, "It was also difficult attempting to leave some mystery as to what would happen to the hero, Rocky. Maybe it's an adult story written for children."

Venturing a wing into the publishing arena taught him a few things as well. "I just gave ideas to the publishing company, who referred them to the artist and he did an excellent job developing personification," Ellestad explained. "To work with a major publishing company was the part of writing I knew nothing about, and it was a very interesting and educational experience. In fact, it was the educational experience that helps to develop a book. I really enjoyed seeing the final book and the story come alive with action and color."

If he could begin the writing and publishing process over again, he'd be just as enthusiastic about it. "I considered it just plain fun thinking up one idea after another, selecting some and neglecting others," he explained. "If I rewrote it, I would have continued on as Rocky takes up some agenda to prevent something...or even goes to the state capital to demand chicken rights."

He added, "As I said, I would have added more to Rocky's adventures, but then it would have been a much longer book. Maybe a second book about Rocky is needed."

Ellestad explained that he has given copies of the book to the Dover-Eyota elementary and preschool, sent a copy to the public libraries in Mabel and Caledonia, another to Sister Theresa in appreciation for her tutorship, and to a few friends so that they, too, could determine which came first - the rooster or the IRS.

"Now, it's up to the public to purchase and enjoy it with their children and grandchildren. It's available for purchase online at Amazon and RoseDog Bookstore, and also on Yahoo's homepage - just type in 'Farmer Pitt's Talking Rooster,' and it most likely will come up," he shared.

Satisfied with his rooster and the IRS catching up to Farmer Pitt, Ellestad isn't sure what his imagination will incubate next.

"Another book...I'll let that idea set for a while. One never knows when an idea might begin to download into my mind. When one has attained an education in the field of creative writing, they should give it a test and prove to themselves that they can do it, and if others enjoy it too, that's fantastic. I proved myself as a writer, and therefore, as a teacher," Ellestad concluded.