Life on the Farm

Out of Many “Theys,” We

      Ten or so years ago a friend asked if I would help him move a gun safe from his garage to his basement. I agreed not knowing what I was in for.

      I had heard of gun safes; I just hadn’t ever seen one. My father’s “safe” was a corner living room closet where […]

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Now Would Be a Good Time for Honest Dishonesty

Somewhere in southern Illinois there’s a high school yearbook that contains a photo of me and another student leaning against a classroom wall on either side of a 1972 campaign poster of a smiling Richard Nixon. The caption writer, another student, notes that my buddy and I are “standing” with our man, the then-incumbent president.

      […]

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Perilous Bounty is a Journey Well Worth Taking

      Some books are worth more in your hand and on your shelf than they are as electrons in your e-reader. These books, and their authors, are valued friends and you return to them often for information, advice, and comfort.

      Two downsizing moves in the last 15 years have pared my library to a few shelves […]

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Sixty Days Until the Farm and Food World Shakes

In March 1919, John Reed, an American journalist, published Ten Days that Shook the World, his eyewitness book on one of the new century’s most defining events, the Russian Revolution.

      Eighty years later, Reed’s groundbreaking work was still shaking the world. New York University ranked it seventh on its list of the 20th century’s 100 most consequential works. […]

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Ahead of Her–And Our–Times a Century Ago

My grandmother was both a woman of her times and a woman far ahead of even our times. For example, today’s electric cars would be a yawn for her; she rode in them “before the war.”

      World War I, that is. Grandma (her given name was Ruth) was born in 1902 and lived 86 active […]

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Sometimes the Hardest Thing to Do is Nothing; Let’s Do it

Mid-July was always summer’s sweet spot on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth.

      With June’s rush of sweaty work—wheat harvest, straw baling, laying corn by, cultivating soybeans, and weed spraying—finally complete and before another cutting of alfalfa was ready, mid-July slipped in with treats like fresh peaches, sweet corn, and juicy garden tomatoes.

      Mid-July also […]

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Red, White, Blue, and Black

      The first African American I really interacted with was not an American but was, in fact, an African. He was a Nigerian graduate student who served as a teaching assistant to the “discussion session” of a political science class I took at the Big U in 1973.

      That I was nearly 20 years old […]

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Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Chains

      For over a month now, nearly anyone who can lift a fork has asked what the “new normal” in American agriculture will be after Covid-19 loosens its terrible grip.

      Six weeks later, we now have a pretty good idea that ag’s new normal will look like ag’s old normal even if it takes a […]

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Hey, Didn’t Rural America Invent ‘Social Distancing’?

There’s a brittle beauty to this year’s spring. Amid the swaying daffodils, cotton clouds, and already roaring tractors and dust-shaking planters hides a deadly virus with a special fondness for those of us in rural America.

      In fact, rural America is perfectly primed for Covid-19, according to any epidemiologist worth their student loans. The virus […]

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“Behold the Fowls of the Air”

My father wasn’t stoic. Instead, his temperament was one of acceptance. He simply accepted the fact that he wasn’t in complete control of most things on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth.

      Sure, he was boss over everything in sight: hundreds of acres, 100 dairy cows, five farmhand sons, three hired men, and his unpredictable, […]

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