SIOUX CITY | Linda Jo Wallen insisted she never wanted to write an autobiography.
Instead, the Sioux City native merely wanted to recount the many blessings she'd experienced during the course of her life.
"I came up with a list of 10 miracles and, quickly, doubled that," Wallen, 74, said with a smile. "Twenty miracles turned into 50 miracles. By the end, I recalled 61 separate miracles in my life."
The miracles -- which revolved around growing up as the eldest daughter of well-known horse trainer Dick Wallen and his wife Marilyn -- formed the basis of "The Horse Trainer's Daughter: Miracle and Memories."
The 212-page book -- completed with archival, never-before-seen photos -- may be purchased at Book People, 2923 Hamilton Blvd.; Sioux City Gifts, 1922 Pierce St.; and Briar Cliff University Book Store, 3303 Rebecca St.
"Even though I've lived in Kankakee, Illinois, for more than 50 years, I still consider myself a Sioux City girl," Wallen, herself a successful horsewoman, said. "To this day, I still refer back to the education that I received at Blessed Sacrament, Heelan and Briar Cliff. A part of my heart will always remain in Sioux City."
You didn't initially conceive "The Horse Trainer's Daughter" as a book, but it actually reads like the biography of your entire family. That's especially true at the beginning, when you do biographical sketches of your grandparents, parents and 11 siblings. Why do think that was important for the overall story?
"So much of the book is told in chronological order that it made sense to give more background. For instance, I was only 3 months old when my dad left to fight in World War II. When he was stationed in Europe, he purchased a baby donkey for $10. Naming the donkey 'Edda' after Mussolini's daughter, my dad taught her a few tricks. That became my dad's role in the war. He and Edda entertained injured soldiers in hospitals during the day and active troops at night. My dad always said Edda saved his life during World War II because many of his friends in the infantry were killed."
After your dad returned from the war, he brought Edda with him, right?
"Yes, he did. If I had to write any book, it would've been about Edda because she was such a special donkey. I'm sure a lot of Sioux City people remember Edda because she entertained at schools as well as at local hospitals during the polio epidemic in the 1950s."
I noticed you refer to many Sioux City landmarks and Sioux City people in the book. But you also mentioned someone who definitely was not from the area: teen pop idol Fabian.
"The Dairy Cattle Congress in Waterloo was considered one of the biggest and best shows in the Midwest. I was showing one of my horses and Fabian was doing a show there. Fabian noticed me and walked with me for a while."
Do you consider that a miracle?
"It was Miracle #19. Being in the right place at the right time to meet Fabian."
Yet I know part of the reason you wrote "The Horse Trainer's Daughter" was to raise money for a few of your favorite charities.
"Yes. Proceeds are set to benefit Operation Smile, which provides surgical care for children born with cleft palates; Clean Water Wells in Africa; as well as Salesian Missions, which helps needy children from more than 130 different countries."