Oh, Serendipity, I love you!

 Canvas Bowtop wagon, photo credit: Charlie Cox of The Irish Rose Farm

So, a couple weeks ago, we got a sweet little 3-year-old beagle named Wilma from the shelter (photos of Wilma to come in another post soon!)  Lil Dude and I brought her to the Farmer's Market last Saturday. You know how dogs almost magically introduce you to all kinds of interesting people?

Well, Charlie Cox was one of these people!  At his farm stand, he struck up conversation with me about Wilma and beagles... and one topic led to another... and next thing I know, he's showing me photos of his AUTHENTIC GYPSY WAGONS on his cell phone!

It just so happens that all summer, I've been researching all things Gypsy/Roma/Romany/Rom for a new book! Don't you love serendipity?!


I've got piles of books and CD's and DVD's about the Romany-- which are great and all, but I always crave real-life, in-person stuff when I'm doing research.  I like talking to people, going places, interacting, getting a completely multi-sensory experience so that I can make scenes come alive for readers.

Anyway, Charlie very kindly invited me out to his farm/ranch in north Fort Collins-- the Irish Rose Farm-- just a twenty minute drive from my house. He and his wife breed, show, train, and sell Irish Cobs, including "Gypsy horses," which led them to an interest in Gypsy wagons.

I drove out to his farm (so peaceful and beautiful) and discovered that this man is a sparkling treasure trove of knowledge about the Romany-- I felt like I'd just won the lottery, in terms of book research.  I love talking with passionate experts, listening to their stories, scribbling notes wildly in a little notebook.  Major research adrenalin rush.

Charlie has two Romany vardo (wagons), which he acquired in Ireland and had shipped here to the foothills of the Rockies.  (One of the deals was sealed by spitting into palms and shaking hands, Romany style.)

This one is called a Canvas Bowtop, built in the early1900's (1930's, I think). Charlie and his wife, Jan, take this to festivals in the region, showing how it's pulled by one of their Gypsy horses.

photo credit: Charlie Cox, Irish Rose Farm

Inside of the Bowtop, repainted in the 1980s.

 this is the front of the wagon-- driver perches on that little ledge

Detail-- this artist, Tom Stephenson, used a fruit motif

pretty scrollwork in classic Irish Romany colors

In the far back is the sleeping area-- a slide-out bed; the cast iron stove is for heating tea and giving warmth.

Charlie's other vardo is under renovation now.  It's a Burton Wagon, aka a Showman's wagon, built in 1914. The14 layers of paint were in bad shape, so he's stripping it and repainting it in Romany style.

Fascinating, no?!  I was captivated.  (For links to more pics, you can go to Charlie's website-- Irish Rose Farm.)  Thanks for swinging by!  Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of my research-in-progress...