BLACKFOOT — Kelly Steele and his pet rooster, Ross, have something to crow about.
Steele’s lifelong fascination with raising and showing chickens at the Eastern Idaho State Fair has landed him in the world of book publishing. His series of 10 published books about his favorite chicken named Ross have sold in at least three countries, as well as all over the United States.
No one could be more surprised than Steele himself since he disliked English classes growing up in Shelley.
“I always hated English,” he said. “I took countless English classes in college and got A’s, but it was a class I just got through.”
Five years ago, Ross, a Golden Wyandotte, changed all that. When Steele, a produce manager at Costco in Pocatello, couldn’t sleep at night, he began thinking about Ross. Since he was a regular at the state fair, his first story was about Ross’s fair adventures.
“I’ve been bringing chickens to the fair every year since I was little,” Steele said. “I just think it’s a lot of fun to enter and see what kinds of ribbons and trophies I can win,”
This year, he entered four chickens, but there have been years when he entered as many as 37 chickens. Of all his chickens, Ross has been a favorite and the subject of numerous stories he wrote when he had bouts of insomnia.
Unbeknownst to Steele, his wife, Debbie Steele, was reading her husband’s stories to her first-grade class at the Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center.
“She told me that her first-graders loved my stories,” Steele said. “I told her, there are no pictures, but she said the kids loved the stories anyway.”
Steele secured an illustrator, Kim Gerback, who also works at Costco, and with the help of a friend and Shelley native, western author and cowboy poet Kirby Jonas, published his books. Today, he has published 10 books with many more in the pipeline.
The books weave tales of fantasy and reality for pure entertainment. While Ross is the main character, others are Farmer Ron, Gus the Pig and Gary the Goat. Along with fair-going, discovering gold, Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween, there are also books about local history in the The Legend of Bear Lake book series that includes Native American leaders like Chief Washakie, Chief Pocatello and Chief Tendoy. His next book titled, Sasquatch, includes pictures illustrated by Sarah Johnson.
Writing and especially reading his books to schoolkids has been life changing, Steele said.
“It’s so cool to see their faces light up,” Steele said. “It’s an awesome feeling.”
For more information about Steele’s books, visit rosstherooster.com.