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Friday Night Lights

Every farm kid who grew up before the change-everything 1970s changed almost everything will recall Friday evenings meant quick chores, a quick supper, and a family night in town.

Back then, nearly every store in nearly every rural community remained open for business until 9 p.m. on Fridays so everyone–but mostly farm families–could shop, stroll the storefronts, or just visit […]

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Riding the Metal Wave Left by My Iron-Bending Uncle Honey

One job on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth was to walk just-cultivated corn or soybean fields to find the cultivator parts–disk blades, sweeps, even whole shanks–left broken and unseen by my quiet, iron-bending great Uncle Honey earlier in the day.

Honey was a skilled cultivator killer. The problem wasn’t the design of our Case cultivator. […]

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The Boys of My Summer Arrive Every April

 I was very young—I had just turned eight—to begin a torrid love affair but the St. Louis Cardinals made it easy. It was 1963, Stan Musial’s last year in baseball, and the young team began the season hot and stayed hot through July.

      So hot, in fact, that the starting infield for the National League’s […]

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Happy Slow, Quiet, Dull New Year

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day was wonderfully different than every other week of the year on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth.

      Overall, it was the slowest, quietest, and—especially for my hardworking parents—dullest week of the year.

      Most post-Christmas weeks, Mom and Dad napped longer than usual, actually had time to enjoy […]

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Howard’s Priceless Gift of Simple Giving

The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered the farm. Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby wood stove. Yellowed Christmas cards, saved over the years and perched like doves in the untrimmed branches, served as ornaments.

      “I believe this […]

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A Challenging Year but an Unforgettable Thanksgiving

Rural people often reminisce by years. The general rule for any talk about “good” or “bad” years is that good years rarely merit as much mention as great years and great years usually play second fiddle to bad years.

      The reason that challenging or tough years like 2019 and 2020 leave an impression is not […]

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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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“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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Home Sick? Try Mom or Grandma’s Cure-All

      The onset of a deep chest cold recently pushed me to wander the aisles of rural America’s drug store, Dollar General, for any cure that might halt the hacking. Three days and three placebos later, my hack weakened to a wheeze. Time, and the lovely Catherine’s chicken soup, did the trick.

      Had I been […]

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Howard’s Priceless Gift of Simple Giving

The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered the farm. Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby wood stove. Yellowed Christmas cards, saved over the years and perched like doves in the untrimmed branches, served as ornaments.

      “I believe this […]

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