Real Life Stories

Laura T. Barnes and her husband live in a 19th century barn on her farm Barnesyard. Her adopted horses and miniature donkeys actually live on the lower level of the barn. Her animals are the inspiration for her stories. To find out more about the actual events that inspired each award winning tale, read the stories below.
Twist and Ernest

Twist and Ernest


Twist and Ernest is the very first story that I wrote – and it’s what inspired me to continue with the series.  Our little donkey, Ernest, was very lonely.  It was obvious that we needed to find a friend to keep him company.  We heard about a beautiful show horse named Twist. Twist had become too old to participate in horse shows and his owner could no longer afford to take care of him.  We decided to adopt Twist and bring him to our farm to live with Ernest.

Unfortunately when Twist arrived, he took one look at little Ernest and decided that he wanted nothing to do with him.  Twist didn’t want to be with such a little donkey who looked so different from him.  While we were quite upset about this, Ernest didn’t even seem to notice that the beautiful show horse didn’t want to hang out with him.  Over the next few days, Ernest persistently stayed right by Twist’s side.  Twist gradually got to know Ernest and we watched as their friendship quickly grew to the point where the two became inseparable.

Years later as I thought back to the day they met, I realized that it would make a wonderful story.  The growth of their friendship demonstrates the importance of not judging others just because they look different from you.

Teeny Tiny Ernest


This tale helps to convey how adorable Ernest really is! I have a big pile of topsoil in our pasture where our animals graze. Ernest loved to stand on the top of this little hill of dirt. Every time one of the other animals walked by, I watched Ernest stand up straight and raise his head high. I soon realized that he was standing on the hill in an attempt to look taller! What Ernest didn’t understand however, is that the other animals don’t even pay attention to how tiny he is. Regardless of his diminutive size, he “rules” our pasture – the animals follow him wherever he goes. It is clear that they don’t care how small he is. They love him simply because he’s Ernest!

I knew that this would make a wonderful premise for a book – a tale about the realization that it doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside. It’s who you are inside that makes you special.

Ernest and the BIG Itch


I smile when I talk about this book because it portrays what a funny little guy Ernest really is. We have a wonderful, very large birdhouse that my husband had made for me. It looks just like the barn we live in. One day I was looking out the window and noticed that our birdhouse was shaking back and forth. I looked down to see Ernest scratching his back against the pole that held the birdhouse. I realized that all of the little birds in the birdhouse were probably being thrown in every direction as Ernest persistently made the birdhouse shake. I chuckled as I realized they must think that an earthquake was taking place.

I walked out to the birdhouse and guided Ernest away from the pole and took him over to the fence in hopes that he would choose to scratch there instead. Unfortunately, I discovered the fence would not work since the bottom rail was too low to reach his back and the top rail was too high. I obviously had to find another place for Ernest to scratch. As I found myself trying to assist in resolving this dilemma, the idea for the book came to me. The tale focuses on the importance of teamwork and cooperation and how two very different new friends work together to come up with a solution that makes them both happy.

Ernest's Special Christmas

Ernest’s Special Christmas


Ah – my very favorite Christmas story of all – because it’s true! On December 23rd (the day before Christmas Eve), we discovered that our horse Chester had been lying down in the pasture for far too long. Since horses do not lie down for extended periods of time, we realized that something was very wrong.

Ernest, who had been standing beside Chester as we arrived to help, never left his side. He kept nudging Chester as we tried to pull him up. We spent hours trying to get Chester back on his feet. Our efforts, however, along with help from both friends and neighbors, seemed futile. Just as we were about to give up, someone suggested that we contact a neighbor who owned a front-end loader. We devised a plan to put a sling around Chester, hook it onto the front-end loader and hoist up Chester.

Although we had never met, I called the neighbor and implored him to assist us. Naturally, he thought I was crazy to make such a strange request – especially on a cold, dark, December night. Nevertheless he came to help. We maneuvered the sling under Chester’s large body then secured it to the bucket of the front-end loader. Slowly we managed to raise Chester, but much to our disappointment, Chester immediately collapsed back to the ground as we attempted to lower him into a standing position. Not to be deterred, everyone started to massage Chester’s legs which we realized became numb after lying down for such a prolonged period of time. We again raised the bucket of the front-end loader then gently lowered Chester until his hooves touched the ground. Chester wobbled a bit but then managed to stand on his own. A huge cheer rang out from our group of helpers. Ernest was so excited he kept trotting in little circles around his friend Chester.

There was not a dry eye in the pasture that night. It was our little Christmas miracle. We had all worked together on that freezing December night to save Chester. It was without a doubt the best Christmas gift of all and an inspiration for a very special edition in the Ernest Series.

Ernest and Elston


Can you imagine living with a rooster who thinks he’s a dog? Well we do. We have a handsome rooster named Elston who truly does not know he’s a chicken – he thinks he’s a dog. Elston goes for walks with me, follows my husband around the farm, assists with chores – we even carry him to his bed every night. He expects to be petted and hugged just as a dog would.

This became the premise for my fifth book – with one change. In Ernest and Elston, Elston decides that he no longer wants to be a chicken, but rather, he wishes to be a donkey. Elston is upset because he thinks the other animals are angry with him when he crows every morning and wakes everyone up. He firmly decides that he no longer wants to be a rooster but chooses to act like a donkey instead. Of course all havoc breaks out at the barn because of this. This tale focuses on all that can go wrong when you try to be someone you’re not.

By the way, my husband is a huge New York Yankee fan. Elston, like several of our animals, is named after a famous Yankee baseball player, Elston Howard.