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Kansas author who lost vision as a toddler to share farm life journey during online event

Brianna Childers
bchilders@cjonline.com
Reyna Bradford holds a Braille copy of her book, "In My Hands, Stories of the Land and Animals I Love but Cannot See," inside her farmhouse in Hoyt on Wednesday afternoon. Bradford has been blind since an early age, but that hasn't stopped her from pursuing her dreams, racking up countless ribbons and awards for her animal training. Bradford will host a virtual reading available on her website at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Local author Reyna Bradford was only 15 months old when she was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor and subsequently lost her vision after damage to her optic nerve.

Being such a young age when she became blind, Bradford, who now lives in Hoyt, has grown up not knowing what traditional sight is like. But that hasn’t stopped her from pursuing her dreams and ambitions.

She now owns a farm north of Topeka where she takes care of goats, rabbits, her dogs and a miniature donkey. Bradford, who wrote the book “In My Hands, Stories of the Land and Animals I Love but Cannot See” about her journey and life as a farmer, will host a virtual event 7:30 p.m. Thursday where she will talk about her book and life.

The free event will take place via Zoom and people can register by visiting reynawrites.com and following the link provided there.

During the virtual event, Bradford will read from a Braille copy of her book, answer audience questions and share a video that details her day-to-day life on her farm.

When Bradford, who spent her early years in western Kansas before moving to the Philippines, first lost her vision, her doctors weren’t sure if she would be able to see anything.

Bradford said she can now see shadows, but without much object perception.

“So I can see light and dark, I can see shadows, contrast — I can see my black dogs in the white snow for instance — but I can't tell that they're dogs,” Bradford said.

Bradford said she thinks it was easier for her than most to adapt to being blind since she didn’t know any difference.

“It was just part of my everyday learning curve,” Bradford said. “As a kid you learn to do things. You learn to tie your shoes, you learn to eat, use your silverware, you learn to make friends, and I did all that stuff without then having to alter it later in life and have to learn a whole new skill set.”

After moving back to the United States from the Philippines, Bradford’s family eventually moved to northwest Missouri. She later made the move back to Kansas, excited for the opportunity to live in her home state again.

According to Bradford, she grew up with a love for dogs and owned a pony at one point, but owning a farm wasn’t ever a move she thought she would make.

“I've always loved animals and I've always had a pension for working animals,” Bradford said. “First and foremost, they are my friends, they are my pets, but if they can earn their keep and we have a job to do together, that's so much better. I love the idea of animals partnering with people.”

Now after living in Kansas for 17 years, Bradford has 13 dairy goats, two German Angora rabbits, cats, a donkey and dogs.

Bradford runs her farm by herself with the occasional assistance from her parents when she needs supplies that require the use of a car, she said.

“As far as the day-to-day maintenance, milking and cheese making, cleaning corrals and moving animals around, giving shots, working dogs, setting up everything that I need, filling hay racks, carrying feed, busting out water tubs in the ice, that stuff I do all by myself,” Bradford said.

Bradford said she considers herself lucky to be able to have a job and lifestyle that she sees as being an adventure and challenge.

“There are jobs I don't enjoy and there are days that I don't enjoy,” Bradford said. “It is hard in the winter time. I don't like winter anyway, but there is a real risk of me getting lost out in the wind and snow, especially when everything looks the same — everything's white to me. The wind is a big deal because it throws off my hearing. I wouldn't do it if I didn’t enjoy it.”

Additionally, Bradford said, she feels fortunate that she has the ability to choose her challenge.

“I don’t get to choose not being able to see, but I do get to choose how I can live and what I can do with it,” Bradford.

One venture that Bradford chose to pursue was writing her book. The idea to pen her story came on a day when she was struggling with her part-time job.

The introduction of the book details how Bradford lost her sight, but she didn’t want the book to be about herself. Instead, she wrote about overcoming challenges.

The book is divided into four parts that each represent a different season.

“I decided to do it that way, first of all, because that’s how we live, those of us who live on the land,” Bradford said. “We are very tied to the seasons, especially because dairy goats are a very seasonal thing. They have a very set life cycle...”

“I wanted readers to kind of get a sense of the rhythm of life on the land. The other reason I divided in into seasons is because I love Kansas. I love the beauty of each season in this part of the country...I wanted to bring out the unseen beauty, which of course I can’t see anyway. I wanted to share it with people through the seasons and through all the different smells and sounds and experiences that I have.”

The book tells the story of how Bradford’s goats grow through each stage of their lives along with stories of her dogs, which she trains for tricks, barn hunts and tracking and enters into obedience competitions.

“It’s not really a book about me, but you learn a lot about me based on the stories that I share about all the animals around me and what we’ve accomplished together,” Bradford said.

Bradford said she hopes people enjoy a good book in addition to offering inspiration to readers.

“I hope that it makes them, on a deeper level, see the beauty that is around them, even in the challenges,” Bradford said. “That kind of stuff is harder to see. It’s not always enjoyable, but if you look at the bigger picture and if you stick to faith, hope and love, it’s amazing what you can overcome.”

One of Reyna Bradford's goats pokes its head through the fencing Wednesday. Bradford wrote about living on her farm in Hoyt while being blind in her book "In My Hands, Stories of the Land and Animals I Love but Cannot See."