Lyn Coleman didn’t run across too many cows during the three decades she worked as a land use planner in Montgomery County.
Even when she married Ron Widmyer and moved to his family farm near Charles Town, W.Va., she still steered clear of the bovine beauties while commuting to her job in Silver Spring on the MARC train.
“After 30 years of marriage and two children, I still don’t know a Guernsey from a Hereford,” Lyn Widmyer says in her book, “Chasing Cows: I’m Not in the Suburbs Anymore.”
Widmyer, who retired from planning in 2008, is hosting a book signing on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at the Sandy Spring Museum.
As part of her job, she wrote master plans to help guide development in Sandy Spring, Olney, Gaithersburg, Damascus and Clarksburg.
She enjoyed writing plans, but she also thought, as she settled into Jefferson County, W.Va., not far from Frederick, that she’d try her hand at chronicling her family and community life.
For 10 years, she wrote 500-word columns, replete with her characteristic humor, for newspapers such as the Martinsburg Journal and the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.
Originally she thought about compiling the columns about farm life and family trips around West Virginia in a self-published book for her children, Molly and Nick.
“I wanted to save the stories and history of the farm for my children,” she says. “It was such a wonderful legacy and something to pass on.”
But then she thought the columns also were “stories about Jefferson County and West Virginia that I thought a lot of people would enjoy.”
One of the tales, called “The Half-Ton Family Pet,” relates the quest to pick up a vial of bull semen for Molly’s cow, Queen Arrow.
Feeling lonely, Queen Arrow sometimes would escape from her pen when she was in heat and run off looking for companionship, says Molly Widmyer, now 25.
The Widmyers decided one way to keep the cow at home was to help her produce a calf.
So off Lyn and Molly went to the sperm bank in Berryville, Va., and while sitting in the waiting room, Widmyer began flipping through bull breeding magazines, which featured photos of “relevant anatomy.”
Daughter of an Air Force man who moved his family around, Widmyer says she never knew much about farm life growing up.
She started to laugh and could not stop.
“Molly was someone who took cows very seriously, and she was just aghast,” says Widmyer about her mortified daughter, who was 12 at the time and hoped no one would see her mother laughing hysterically.
“In middle and high school, I wasn’t very mature about [the columns], because they used to joke about it in school,” says Molly Widmyer.
“But now I’m really proud of her, and it’s nice she can remember [these things.] She’s a great storyteller — she has great skill in that.”
There’s also the account of Widmyer and her friend Carol driving 231 miles to drop off a homemade chocolate cake to Martha Stewart, who was serving time in the federal prison in Alderson, W.Va., for insider stock trading.
“When a famous person comes to your state, it’s appropriate to welcome her,” says Widmyer.
However, a guard said cakes couldn’t be accepted, while another confiscated film from their camera, saying it was a federal crime to take photos of the prison.
So the two travelers left with the cake, happy they had at least tried to properly welcome Martha to West Virginia.
Soon after retiring in 2008, Widmyer won a six-year term on the Jefferson County Commission.
She’s thinking that her experiences as an elected official will serve as funny fodder for her next book.
“I’m already collecting my stories,” she says. “It’ll be in the same vein, a lighthearted look about what it’s like to be a politician.”
Widmyer says she’s even picked out a working title — “Chasing Votes: I Got Elected and Now What.”