Heiress Turned Rancher Neltje Signs Books in Round Top
Life is about authenticity and relationships, not money.
This truth undergirds North of Crazy, a new memoir by Neltje, the daughter of New York publishing magnate Nelson Doubleday who grew up to be an artist, rancher and entrepreneur in Wyoming. Authentic relationships are the reason that Round Top is the site of her first national book signings. She will appear at Leftovers Antiques in Brenham at 6 p.m. on Sept. 24.
“All of the people in Round Top have been generous, kind and welcoming,” said Neltje, who operates Turned Antiques on her ranch near Banner, Wyo., and has been shopping the Round Top Antiques Shows for a decade.
According to Neltje, she tries to limit herself to one semi-truckload of merchandise per show, but usually two or three trucks make their way north at the show’s conclusion.
“I have an addictive personality when it comes to my passions,” Neltje said. “My store is in a very rural area, so I strive to bring something new and different to attract customers, which means I take my shopping very seriously.”
She discovered Round Top as she was scouring the Plains states for inventory for her 10,000-square-foot showroom.
“A dealer in Nebraska told me I had to go to Round Top because it had the largest availability and selection of antiques in the country—and I needed to meet her friends Michael Breddin and Ed Fulkerson at Leftovers,” Neltje said. She also forged a lasting friendship with Mike Peters at Blue Hills, the site of a book signing on Sept. 17.
“I keep coming back because I’ve made so many dear friends here,” Neltje said. “Besides I like walking around sweating and talking to people. The dealers here helped train me when I was just getting started in the antiques business.”
Because she values her Round Top relationships, she got special permission from her publisher to hold signings in late September, almost two weeks before the book’s national launch date in Houston on October 4.
“When Ed asked if I would do a signing in Round Top, I agreed and he made it happen,” Neltje said.
According to Neltje, readers can expect North of Crazy to deliver “an honest, clearly defined life story from riches to rags and back up again. It is a life of adventure sprinkled with highlights from the golden age of publishing, the stress of a loveless marriage, the rediscovery of self and the creation of a meaningful life in Wyoming with two children.”
Her childhood was one of glittering isolation. Wealth delivered all of the creature comforts. The Doubleday name provided early connections with literary luminaries such as W. Somerset Maugham and Irving Stone and all who inhabited the pinnacle of high society. The young girl was shuttled between relatives and boarding schools as far away as Switzerland. She suffered sexual abuse in an era when such things were dismissed with the admonishment, “Don’t tell your father. It will make him angry.”
Neltje married early to escape the confines of her immediate family, but a loveless, emotionally bereft marriage was a jail of another type. After 12 years, she headed west with her two children lured by the advantageous divorce laws of Wyoming. When she arrived, she found her spiritual home.
“It was as if I had lived here in another life,” she said. “I sensed immediately that life in the West was built on hard work, hard words and honesty instead of the disassembling of truth that I had lived with at home.”
Under the broad expanse of western sky, she reimagined herself. Neltje became an abstract expressionist painter “capturing the memory of a moment generally either connected to nature or being a woman,” a rancher raising commercial Black Angus cattle, an entrepreneur overseeing a business dedicated to “early American antiques and contemporary home furnishings to enhance life,” and most recently an author.
“I’ve been carrying around my story for decades because when I was a child no one would listen,” Neltje said. “I’m no more complicated than many people, but I do have a variety of interests. I’ve chosen to wear many hats. As a result, I have a wonderfully, powerfully exciting life—and I had to tell my story my way.”
by Lorie Woodward Cantu
photos courtesy of Neltje