With darkness now prevailing on the garden around 7 PM, I'm forced indoors and have more time to devote to my other love, reading! I recently finished Carol Bodensteiner's memoir Growing Up Country: Memories of An Iowa Farm Girl.
To be honest, I wasn't sure what I would think while reading this book. Although I spent a good portion of my childhood in the country, it wasn't on a farm, with cows and chores and family dinners and parents that cared. But a few pages in and I was hooked.
As a child, Carol--also known as "Squirt" by her endearing father--is a valued member of the family and farm. As she grows, so do her responsibilities. But Carol doesn't eschew hard work, she relishes it, proud to please her parents and feel useful.
I could not do the work of an adult at that age. But the work I did, the work all three of us kids did, had meaning. Everything we took on lessened the load Dad and Mom carried. Everything they asked us to do increased our sense of value to ourselves and to our family and the farm. And because Dad and Mom valued what I did, that was the best gift of all. (Page 77)
So, what was I thinking as I read Growing Up Country? For one thing, I was thinking that life on an Iowa dairy farm is so not for wusses! Hard work from sun up 'til sundown was the norm. There were no sick days and it took a pretty strong constitution to tackle some not-so-pretty tasks. But there is also lots of delightful play time for children.
I was also thinking that I wish I could have had this book when my kids were growing up. It would have made a perfect next-century follow-up to the Little House on the Prairie series.
Growing Up Country, written with humor and affection, is the quintessence of the heartland and a vital account of American history.