Rural America

Summer’s Sweet Bridge

On the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth, July was a slow, sweet bridge between spring’s hard hustle and fall’s quickening step.
The unofficial usher of July’s slowdown was my grandfather, a bond broker known more for his giddy-up than reining in. Most Thursdays and every Saturday year-around, Grandpa visited clients throughout southern Illinois. Every […]

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Twenty-Five Years

June has always been a big month for me. I was born in June, graduated from high school in June, was readmitted to the Big U in June (it’s a long story) and, starting in June 1993, this weekly effort began quietly in the Galesburg (IL) Register-Mail.
Over the past 25 years, newspapering and the column, […]

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What’s The Matter with Kansas?

For over 100 years, some Kansans have either built or added to their journalism reputation by asking this simple question: What’s the matter with Kansas? The answer, however, is far from simple.
      The first to ask was William Allen White, the publisher and editor of the Emporia Gazette. White, a mainstream Republican, posed the question as the […]

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Rest in Peace

By default, obituary writers get the last official word on everyone. They tell the deceased person’s story through births, marriages, and deaths; add to it with names of parents, siblings, and children; and round it out with an anecdote or two about hobbies and professional achievements.
Maybe that’s why my father had a hand in writing […]

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Seventy Crops

Shortly after he turns 86 on April 10, Eugene Glock will begin planting his 70th corn crop on the Butler County, NE farm he operates with his son. “He runs the place,” explains Gene by telephone, “and I’m the hired hand. I plant all the corn, though.”
And, the Lord willing, he adds, he will harvest […]

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Our Trap

The otter, too small to be a wily adult and too unschooled to be fearful of people, was sunning itself on the ice of a small, city park lake when the lovely Catherine and I, also enjoying the sunshine, spotted it on a late-winter walk. Our surprised voices surprised the juvenile and it made a […]

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Slouching Toward 2014

In this space on Feb. 2, 2014, I offered a blunt assessment of the just-passed (and still current) Farm Bill and its key handler, Frank Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican who was chairman of the House Ag Committee.
In particular, I criticized Lucas’s description of the legislation that he and his Senate counterpart, Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow, […]

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A Time to Choose

It’s difficult to improve on Mark Shields’ apt description of today’s Trump White House: “It’s like East Berlin,” observed Shields, a long-time political operative and pundit, during a recent interview, “there’s more people wanting out than wanting in.”
That was true Feb. 12 after the White House released its 2019 budget titled “An American Budget: Efficient, […]

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Grandmother’s Quilt, Grandfather’s Ghost

A slightly frayed, white and peach-trimmed quilt now lays unfolded on one of our spare beds. Twenty-nine of its 30 squares each feature the carefully stitched name of one member of the Ladies Aid of Immanuel Lutheran Church in rural Rising City, NE.
The stitching on the quilt’s 30th and final block, also in peach and […]

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Rising Woe in Rural America

The gap between America’s rural poor and non-poor, like in urban America, continues to widen. The difference in rural America, however, is that the gap is widening faster than in any of the nation’s grittiest cities or suburban counties.
That’s the conclusion of two recent reports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the University […]

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