Colorful and lively personal essays about life in the wilds of Alabama’s Mobile-Tensaw River Delta
Among the Swamp People is the story of author Watt Key’s discovery of the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta. “The swamp” consists of almost 260,000 acres of wetlands located just north of Mobile Bay. There he leases a habitable outcropping of land and constructs a primitive cabin from driftwood to serve as a private getaway. His story is one that chronicles the beauties of the delta’s unparalleled natural wonders, the difficulties of survival within it, and an extraordinary community of characters—by turns generous and violent, gracious and paranoid, hilarious and reckless—who live, thrive, and perish there.
There is no way into the delta except by small boat. To most it would appear a maze of rivers and creeks between stunted swamp trees and mud. Key observes that there are few places where one can step out of a boat without “sinking to the knees in muck the consistency of axle grease. It is the only place I know where gloom and beauty can coexist at such extremes. And it never occurred to me that a land seemingly so bleak could hide such beauty and adventure.”
It also chronicles Key’s maturation as a writer, from a twenty-five-year-old computer programmer with no formal training as a writer to a highly successful, award-winning writer of fiction for a young adult audience with three acclaimed novels published to date.
In learning to make a place for himself in the wild, as in learning to write, Key’s story is one of “hoping someone—even if just myself—would find value in my creations.”
In the late 1960s, Malcolm Terence left his job as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times to look for adventure and may have found more than he bargained for. The era had triggered unprecedented social and political changes in America, tectonic shifts that challenged war and the social order that oppressed people along lines of class, gender, and race. One branch was a back-to-the-land movement, and Terence, who had just traveled for a year managing a rock band, strayed into Black Bear Ranch, a commune just starting in a remote corner of the Klamath Mountains near the California-Oregon border.
Black Bear Ranch still exists, but many of its early residents eventually returned to urban civilization. A few, Terence among them, stayed on in neighboring river towns. Some tried logging, others gold mining, and some tried growing marijuana, all with mixed success. The local mining and timber communities had a checkered opinion of their new hippie neighbors, as did the Native tribes, but it was the kind of place where people helped each other out, even if they didn’t always agree.
When wildfires grew large, Terence and other veterans of the commune joined the fire crews run by the US Forest Service. In between, the Black Bear expats built homesteads, planted gardens, delivered babies, and raised their children. They gradually overcame the skepticism of the locals and joined them in political battles against the use of herbicides in the forest and the Forest Service’s campaign to close all the mining claims. As in the best of organizing efforts, the organizers learned as much as they led.
Beginner’s Luck will appeal to anyone who experienced life on a commune in the 1960s–1970s or who wants to learn about this chapter in modern American history. Terence offers insight into environmental activism and the long history of conflict between resource exploitation and Native American rights without lecturing or pontificating. With wit, humor, and humility, his anecdotal essays chronicle a time and place where disparate people came together to form an unlikely community.
At the turn of the 20th century, the California dream was a suburban ideal where life on the farm was exceptional. Agrarian virtue existed alongside good roads, social clubs, cultural institutions, and business commerce. The California suburban dream was the ultimate symbol of progress and modernity.
California Dreaming: Boosterism, Memory, and Rural Suburbs in the Golden State analyzes the growth, promotion, and agricultural colonization that fed this dream during the early 1900s. Through this analysis, Paul J. P. Sandul introduces a newly identified rural-suburban type: the agriburb, a rural suburb deliberately planned, developed, and promoted for profit. Sandul reconceptualizes California’s growth during this time period, establishing the agriburb as a suburban phenomenon that occurred long before the booms of the 1920s and 1950s.
Sandul’s analysis contributes to a new suburban history that includes diverse constituencies and geographies and focuses on the production and construction of place and memory. Boosters purposefully “harvested” suburbs with an eye toward direct profit and metropolitan growth. State boosters boasted of unsurpassable idyllic communities while local boosters bragged of communities that represented the best of the best, both using narratives of place, class, race, lifestyle, and profit to avow images of the rural and suburban ideal.
This suburban dream attracted people who desired a family home, nature, health, culture, refinement, and rural virtue. In the agriburb, a family could live on a small home grove while enjoying the perks of a progressive city. A home located within the landscape of natural California with access to urban amenities provided a good place to live and a way to gain revenue through farming.
To uncover and dissect the agriburb, Sandul focuses on local histories from California’s Central Valley and the Inland Empire of Southern California, including Ontario near Los Angeles and Orangevale and Fair Oaks outside Sacramento. His analysis closely operates between the intersections of history, anthropology, geography, sociology, and the rural and urban, while examining a metanarrative that exposes much about the nature and lasting influence of cultural memory and public history upon agriburban communities.
Deep inside the soul of Cuba are the campesinos—the men and women who have always worked the countryside across the length and breadth of Cuba, away from cities, towns, and often villages. Resilient, resourceful, and proud, campesinos are the heart and soul of Cuba. The fruit of years of travel among Cuba’s less-known and little-explored rural communities, Campesinos: Inside the Soul of Cuba is a collection of loving and intimate photographs by world-renowned photographers Chip Cooper and Julio Larramendi documenting people and places from every corner of the island nation, many never seen by Cubans themselves let alone visitors from abroad.
Into the center of this world traveled two photographers to document these extraordinary people. One, Julio Larramendi, was born in Cuba and has spent his whole life there. The other, Chip Cooper, came to visit for the first time from his native Alabama more than a decade ago. Together, Cooper and Larramendi have captured the light, sounds, and spirit of the campesino landscape and the humble and determined people who inhabit it, ways of living that have not changed, in many instances, for a century or more. From green tobacco fields and winding roads to the faces, both stern and smiling, of children and their close-knit families, Cooper and Larramendi have captured in this landmark volume the rhythms and traditions of contemporary rural Cuban life in ways never before documented.
More than a century and a half after its founding, the Iowa State Fair is the state’s central institution, event, and symbol. New Jersey has the Shore; Kentucky has the Derby; Iowa has the Fair. The humble Iowa State Fairground ranks alongside the Great Pyramids at Giza and the Taj Mahal in the best-selling travel guide 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. During its annual run each August, the fair attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors who make the pilgrimage to the fairground to see the iconic butter cow, to ride the Old Mill, to walk through the livestock barns, and to people-watch. At the same time that they enjoy fried candy bars and roller coasters, Iowans also compete to raise the best corn and zucchinis, to make the best jams and jellies, to rear the finest sheep and goats, the largest cattle and hogs, and the handsomest horses.
This tension between entertainment and agriculture goes back all the way to the fair’s founding in the mid-1800s, as historian Chris Rasmussen shows in this thought-provoking history. The fair’s founders had lofty aims: they sought to improve agriculture and foster a distinctively democratic American civilization. But from the start these noble intentions jostled up against people’s desire to have fun and make money, honestly or otherwise—not least because the fair had to pay for itself. In their effort to uplift rural life without going broke, the organizers of the Iowa State Fair debated the respectability of horse racing and gambling and struggled to find qualified livestock judges. Worried about the economic forces undermining rural families, they ran competitions to select the best babies and the “ideal” rural girl and boy while luring spectators with massive panoramas of earthquakes and fires, not to mention staged trainwrecks. In short, the Iowa State Fair has as much to tell us about human nature and American history as it does about growing corn.
The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896) is Sarah Orne Jewett's most popular book. In its elegantly constructed sketches, a worldly, anonymous writer spends the summer in a tiny Maine fishing village where she hopes to find peace and solitude. As she gains the acceptance and trust of her hosts, the community's power and complexity are slowly revealed. While its episodes portray the difficulty and loneliness of rural life, they also display its dignity and strength, particularly as expressed in the bonds between women: mothers, daughters, and friends.
This centennial edition contains a facsimile of the original text, thereby restoring the novel to Jewett's own version, which had been considerably altered in other published versions, plus four related stories. Further enhancing the importance of this volume is editor Sarah Way Sherman's introduction, which includes a sketch of Jewett's life and professional development, a commentary on textual accuracy, and a discussion of the book's themes and techiques as well as its historical context.
Winner of the third biennial Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize Robert Frank, Prize Judge
In Driftless, Danny Wilcox Frazier’s dramatic black-and-white photographs portray a changing Midwest of vanishing towns and transformed landscapes. As rural economies fail, people, resources, and services are migrating to the coasts and cities, as though the heart of America were being emptied. Frazier’s arresting photographs take us into Iowa’s abandoned places and illuminate the lives of those people who stay behind and continue to live there: young people at leisure, fishermen on the Mississippi, veterans on Memorial Day, Amish women playing cards, as well as more recent arrivals: Lubavitcher Hasidic Jews at prayer, Latinos at work in the fields. Frazier’s camera finds these newcomers while it also captures activities that seemingly have gone on forever: harvesting and hunting, celebrating and socializing, praying and surviving.
This collection of photographs is a portrait of contemporary rural Iowa, but it is also more that that. It shows what is happening in many rural and out-of-the-way communities all over the United States, where people find ways to get by in the wake of closing factories and the demise of family farms. Taken by a true insider who has lived in Iowa his entire life, Frazier’s photographs are rich in emotion and give expression to the hopes and desires of the people who remain, whose needs and wants are complicated by the economic realities remaking rural America. Poetic and dark but illuminated with flashes of insight, Frazier’s stunning images evoke the brilliance of Robert Frank’s The Americans.
Stephanie Mills Island Press, 2003 Library of Congress QH104.5.M47M56 2002 | Dewey Decimal 508.77
"In this book, I relate the pleasures, as well as the virtues and difficulties of a perhaps simpler than average North American life." So begins ecological thinker and writer Stephanie Mills's Epicurean Simplicity, a thoughtful paean to living, like Thoreau, a deliberate life.Mills's account of the simple life reaches deep into classical sources of pleasure -- good food, good health, good friends, and particularly the endless delights of the natural world. Her musings about the life she desires -- and the life she has created -- ultimately led her to the third century Greek philosopher Epicurus, whose philosophy was premised on the trustworthiness of the senses, a philosophy that Mills wholeheartedly embraces. While later centuries have come to associate Epicurus's name with hedonism, Mills discovered that he extolled simplicity and prudence as the surest means to pleasure, and his thinking offers an important philosophical touchstone for the book.As the author explains, one of the primary motivations for her pursuit of simplicity is her concern about the impacts of a consumerist lifestyle on the natural world. Mills touches on broad range of topics relating to that issue -- social justice, biological extinctions, the global economy, and also more personal aspects such as friendship, the process of country living, the joys of physical exertion, the challenges of a writer's life, and the natural history and seasonal delights of a life lived close to nature. An overarching theme is the destructiveness of consumerism, and how even a simple life affects a wide range of organisms and adds strain to the earth's systems. The author uses her own experience as an entry point to the discussion with a self-effacing humor and lyrical prose that bring big topics to a personal level.Epicurean Simplicity is beautifully crafted, fluid, inspiring, and enlightening, examining topics of critical importance that affect us all. It celebrates the pleasures, beauty, and fulfillment of a simple life, a goal being sought by Americans from all walks of life, from harried single parents to corporate CEOs. For fans of natural history or personal narrative, for those concerned about social justice and the environment, and for those who have come to know and love Stephanie Mills through her speaking and writing, Epicurean Simplicity is a rare treasure.
Carroll Engelhardt’s parents grew up in homes without electricity on farms without tractors and began farming in the same way. As a farm boy in northeastern Iowa, he thought that history happened only to important people in earlier times and more exotic places. After decades of teaching, he at last perceived that history happens to us all, and he began writing this book. Set within the thoughtfully presented contexts of the technological revolution in American agriculture, the Second World War, the Cold War, and the emerging culture of affluence, The Farm at Holstein Dip is both a loving coming-of-age memoir and an educational glimpse into rural and small-town life of the 1940s and 1950s.
Engelhardt writes about growing up in a spacious farmhouse where life was centered in the kitchen and frugality dictated that every purchase be weighed carefully. His chores grew up with him: he fed chickens and gathered eggs at age six, rode a horse on the hayfork at nine or ten, milked cows by hand at eleven, and hired out to other farmers to load bales in the field and work in the haymow at fifteen. The simple pleasures and predictable routines of a Saturday night at the movies in nearby Elkader, Pioneer Days on the 4th of July, Confirmation Sunday, class picnics, and baseball and basketball games play out against a background of rural decline, alternating economic uncertainty and prosperity, and Cold War anxiety—next to polio, he most feared Communist subversion and atomic blasts. The values and contradictions imparted by this evolving mix of international, national, and local cultures shaped his coming of age.
Engelhardt brings us into the world of his fourth-generation farm family, who lived by the family- and faith-based work ethic and concern for respectability they had inherited from their German and Norwegian ancestors. His writing has a particularly Iowa flavor, a style that needs no definition to those who live in the state. Readers will discover the appeal of his wry, humorous, and kind observations and appreciate his well-informed perspective on these transformative American decades.
To make a living here, one had to be capable, confident, clever and inventive, know a lot about survival, be able to fashion and repair tools, navigate a boat, fell a tree, treat a snakebite, make a meal from whatever was handy without asking too many questions about it, and get along with folks.
This fascinating and instructive book is the careful and unpretentious account of a man who was artful in all the skills needed to survive and raise a family in an area where most people would be lost or helpless. Smith’s story is an important record of a way of life beginning to disappear, a loss not fully yet realized. We are lucky to have a work that is both instructive and warm-hearted and that preserves so much hard-won knowledge.
In Growing Up in a Land Called Egypt: A Southern Illinois Family Biography,author Cleo Caraway fondly recalls how she and her siblings came of age on the family farm in the 1930s and 1940s. Like many others, the Caraways were affected by the economic hardships of the Great Depression, but Cleo’s parents strived to shelter her and her six siblings from the dire circumstances affecting the nation and their home and allowed them to bask in their idealistic existence. Her love for her family clearly shines from every page as she writes of a simpler time, before World War II divided the family.
Caraway revels in the life her family lived on a southern Illinois hilltop in Murphysboro township, marveling at the mix of commonplace and adventure she experienced in her childhood. She remembers her first day of school, walking three miles to the wondrous one-room building with her siblings; reminisces about strolling through the countryside with her mother, investigating the various plants and flowers, fruits and nuts; and recollects her fascination with the Indian relics she found buried near her home, a hobby she shared with her father. She also writes of seeing Gone with the Wind on the big screen at the Hippodrome in Murphysboro, of learning to sew dresses for her dolls, and of idyllic life on the farm—milking cows, hatching chicks, feeding pigs. Along with her personal memories Caraway includes interviews with neighbors and many fascinating photographs with detailed captions that make the images come alive.
A delightful follow-up to her father’s popular Foothold on a Hillside: Memories of a Southern Illinoisan,Caraway’s book is a pleasant change from the typical accounts of southern Illinois before, during, and after the Great Depression. Instead of hardscrabble grit, Growing Up in a Land Called Egypt offers a refreshingly different view of the period and is certain to be embraced by southern Illinois natives as well as anyone interested in the experiences of a rural family that thrived despite the difficult times. The author’s lighthearted prose, self-deprecating humor, and genuine affection for her family make reading this book a rich and memorable experience.
“I’ve never believed that living in one place means being one thing all the time, condemned like Minnie Pearl to wear the same hat for every performance. Life is more complicated than that.”
In this remarkable book of days, John Hildebrand charts the overlapping rings—home, town, countryside—of life in the Midwest. Like E. B. White, Hildebrand locates the humor and drama in ordinary life: church suppers, Friday night football, outdoor weddings, garden compost, family reunions, roadside memorials, camouflage clothing. In these wry, sharply observed essays, the Midwest isn’t The Land Time Forgot but a more complicated (and vastly more interesting) place where the good life awaits once we figure exactly out what it means. From his home range in northwestern Wisconsin, Hildebrand attempts to do just that by boiling down a calendar year to its rich marrow of weather, animals, family, home—in other words, all the things that matter.
Writer and photographer Gary Lantz has always felt most at home in what the Osage used to call the “heart stays” country—the southern edge of the Flint Hills tallgrass prairie in Oklahoma’s Osage County. It’s a place of grassy mounds with lots of rocks underfoot and clusters of crooked little oaks providing shade. It started young, his long-lasting love affair with a landscape that unnerves the uninitiated a little, mostly because it just seems so empty, and it has persisted through his entire life.
As proud grasslanders know, the prairie is biologically fulfilling, unique, and increasingly rare: biologists from the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy agree that a healthy prairie remains one of the most ecologically diverse and dynamic ecosystems on this planet—as well as one of the rarest left on earth. This landscape that once inspired rapturous exclamations from travelers headed west on horseback now mostly exists in fragments exiled from each other by cropland, cities, and interstate highways.
Historically, tallgrass prairie stretched from Canada to Texas, from central Kansas to Indiana. Now the last major expanse of tallgrass occurs in the Flint Hills, a verdant landscape extending in a north-south strip across eastern Kansas and into northern Oklahoma’s Osage County. In these essays, Gary Lantz brings the beautiful diversity of the prairie home to all of us.
It’s the 1960s. The Vietnam War is raging and protests are erupting across the United States. In many quarters, young people are dropping out of society, leaving their urban homes behind in an attempt to find a safe place to live on their own terms, to grow their own food, and to avoid a war they passionately decry. During this time, West Virginia becomes a haven for thousands of these homesteaders—or back-to-the-landers, as they are termed by some. Others call them hippies.
When the going got rough, many left. But a significant number remain to this day. Some were artisans when they arrived, while others adopted a craft that provided them with the cash necessary to survive. Hippie Homesteaders tells the story of this movement from the viewpoint of forty artisans and musicians who came to the state, lived on the land, and created successful careers with their craft. There’s the couple that made baskets coveted by the Smithsonian Institution’s Renwick Gallery. There’s the draft-dodger that fled to Canada and then became a premier furniture maker. There’s the Boston-born VISTA worker who started a quilting cooperative. And, there’s the immigrant Chinese potter who lived on a commune.
Along with these stories, Hippie Homesteaders examines the serendipitous timing of this influx and the community and economic support these crafters received from residents and state agencies in West Virginia. Without these young transplants, it’s possible there would be no Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia, the first statewide collection of fine arts and handcrafts in the nation, and no Mountain Stage, the weekly live musical program broadcast worldwide on National Public Radio since 1983. Forget what you know about West Virginia.
Hippie Homesteaders isn’t about coal or hillbillies or moonshine or poverty. It is the story of why West Virginia was—and still is—a kind of heaven to so many.
This chronologically selected anthology of fiction by eight Ohio women makes accessible a literary tradition that begins with lost aspects of frontier life in the 1830s depicted by contemporaries Julia L. Dumont and Pamilla W. Ball. It ends with Jessie Brown Pounds’s retrospective recreation of the Western Reserve’s frontier culture at the century’s close.
Arielle Greenberg’s I Live in the Country & other dirty poems exploits and undoes the stereotype of the “wholesome country life.” Here, the speaker moves to the country (“where the animals are”) in order to live a whole life, one in which she can live honestly and openly in a nonmonogamous marriage. Her book is a visceral, erotic celebration of the cornucopia of sexual pleasures to be had in that rural life—in the muck of a pasture in spring or behind the bins of whole-wheat pastry flour at the local co-op. Greenberg hauls out what has previously been stored under dark counters and labeled deviant—kink, fetish, and bondage—and moves it into the sunshine of sex-positivity and mutual consent. In doing so, she forges new literary territory—a feminist re-visioning of the Romantic pastoral poems of seduction. “I am trying to turn my eye toward joy,” she writes. “My heart toward bliss.”
Most studies of lesbian and gay history focus on urban environments. Yet gender and sexual diversity were anything but rare in nonmetropolitan areas in the first half of the twentieth century. Just Queer Folks explores the seldom-discussed history of same-sex intimacy and gender nonconformity in rural and small-town America during a period when the now familiar concepts of heterosexuality and homosexuality were just beginning to take shape.
Eschewing the notion that identity is always the best measure of what can be known about gender and sexuality, Colin R. Johnson argues instead for a queer historicist approach. In so doing, he uncovers a startlingly unruly rural past in which small-town eccentrics, "mannish" farm women, and cross-dressing Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees were often just queer folks so far as their neighbors were concerned. Written with wit and verve, Just Queer Folks upsets a whole host of contemporary commonplaces, including the notion that queer history is always urban history.
The Land Still Lives
Jerry Apps Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2019 Library of Congress S521.5.W6A66 2019 | Dewey Decimal 630.9775
“Apps is a man of ideas who is sensitive to the touch, the smells, and the feel of doing things by hand, today and a hundred years ago.”—from the foreword by Senator Gaylord Nelson
Originally published in 1970, The Land Still Lives is the first book by Wisconsin’s greatest rural philosopher, Jerry Apps. Written when he was still a young agriculture professor at the University of Wisconsin, The Land Still Lives was readers’ first introduction to Jerry’s farm in central Wisconsin, called Roshara, and the surrounding community of Skunk’s Hollow. This special 50th-anniversary edition features a new epilogue, in which Jerry revisits his philosophy of caring for the land so it in turn will care for us. This is vintage Apps, essential reading for Jerry’s legions of fans—and for all who, like Jerry, wish “to develop a relationship with nature and all its mystery and wonder.”
Early in the twentieth century, drawing upon the hundreds of letters written to his father by students who had emigrated to northeastern Iowa from Mecklenburg, in northeastern Germany, Johannes Gillhoff created the composite character of Juernjakob Swehn: the archetype of the upright, honest mensch who personified the German immigrant, on his way to a better life through ambition and hard work. Gillhoff's farmer-hero, planting and harvesting his Iowa acres, joking with his neighbors during the snowy winters, building a church with his own hands, proved so popular with the German public that a million copies of Jürnjakob Swehn der Amerikafahrer are in print. Now for the first time this wise and endearing book is available in English.
“First, let's talk about pigs,”Juernjakob Swehn writes from his farm in Iowa. “In America, pigs have a curly tail and talk in Low German so I can understand them.” Swehn builds a log house and makes a success of farming, marries a woman who's “a whole different nation that has its confidence from the inside,” raises a family, and becomes an elder in the Lutheran church. He recognizes his good fortune but acknowledges that memories of his village grow stronger every year, that “being homesick is the best thing that home can do for you …no power on earth holds on to you like your homeland.” It is this sense of home, both in Iowa and in Mecklenburg, that makes Juernjakob Swehn appeal to today's readers as much as he appealed to readers in 1916.
Jerry App’s farm stories open the barn door to understanding life in the country.
“Even with the all the hard work, we had more time (perhaps we took more time) to enjoy what was all around us: nights filled with starlight, days with clear blue skies and puffy clouds. Wonderful smells everywhere—fresh mown hay, wildflowers, and apple blossoms. Interesting sounds—the rumble of distant thunder, an owl calling in the woods, a flock of Canada geese winging over in the fall.”
In this paperback edition of a beloved Jerry Apps classic, the rural historian tells stories from his childhood days on a small central Wisconsin dairy farm in the 1930s and 1950s. From a January morning memory of pancakes piled high after chores, to a June day spent learning to ride a pony named Ginger, Jerry moves through the turn of the seasons and teaches gentle lessons about life on the farm. With recipes associated with each month and a new introduction exclusive to this 2nd edition, Living a Country Year celebrates the rhythms of rural life with warmth and humor.
In 1972, Dennis Parks, a young potter with a promising academic career ahead of him, decided to move to Tuscarora, a near-abandoned mining town in remote northeastern Nevada. Parks and his wife were attracted to Tuscarora's isolation and beautiful setting, and they believed that it might be a healthy environment in which to raise their two small sons. This is Parks' account of his family's life in Tuscarora, a tiny settlement whose population even forty years later numbers fewer than twenty permanent residents.
Parks created a pottery school that attracts students from around the world and developed for himself an international reputation as the creator of powerful, innovative works in clay. Meanwhile, he and his family had to master the skills required of those who choose to live in the back country--growing and hunting their own food, renovating or building from scratch the structures they needed for residences or studios, resolving conflicts with neighbors, inventing their own amusements. The transformation from middle-class urbanity to small-town simplicity is, as Parks reveals, a lurching and sometimes hilarious process, and the achievement of self-sufficiency is similarly fraught with unexpected challenges.
Looking for Hogeye
Roy Reed University of Arkansas Press, 1986 Library of Congress F419.H65R447 1986 | Dewey Decimal 976.714
In that always compelling yet simple style that has made Roy Reed one of the country’s foremost journalists, he shows us—as we share with him delightful moments and rich insights on the way to Hogeye—Southerners still different for being Southerners, and country Southerners who are even more so, pained by bruises and comforted by salves that are peculiarly their own.
“I hope that my city friends will not be upset to learn that this book is a little more sympathetic to the Arkansas hill people than it is to New Yorkers,” he says. “I have grown attached to cities over the years, but I am still, somewhere near my heart, a hillbilly. I have gone to a lot of trouble to remember that.”
This book is a special admission into those hills, to Vacation Bible School, tent meetings, sale barns, back roads and pool halls, to dog days in Hogeye.
To read Looking for Hogeye is to sit with Roy Reed on his wide front porch as he tells by the life he lives why, after Washington, London, and New York, he made his home in the north Arkansas hills, where he felt—as he puts it—”like Brer Rabbit reentering the briar patch.”
It is a visit not to be missed, and not to be forgotten.
Before the 1930s, landscapes of the American Southwest represented the migrant’s dream of a stable and bountiful homeland. Around the time of the Great Depression, however, the Southwest suddenly became integrated into a much larger economic and cultural system. Audrey Goodman examines how—since that time—these southwestern landscapes have come to reveal the resulting fragmentation of identity and community.
Through analyzing a variety of texts and images, Goodman illuminates the ways that modern forces such as militarization, environmental degradation, internal migration, and an increased border patrol presence have shattered the perception of a secure homeland in the Southwest. The deceptive natural beauty of the Southwest deserts shields a dark history of trauma and decimation that has remained as a shadow on the region’s psyche. The first to really synthesize such wide-ranging material about the effects of the atomic age in the Southwest, Goodman realizes the value of combined visual and verbal art and uses it to put forth her own original ideas about reconstructing a new sense of homeland.
Lost Homelands reminds us of the adversity and dislocation suffered by people of the Southwest by looking at the ways that artists, photographers, filmmakers, and writers have grappled with these problems for decades. In assessing the ruination of the region, however, Goodman argues that those same artists and writers have begun to reassemble a new sense of homeland from these fragments.
The characters within these fifteen stories are in one way or another staring into the abyss. While some are awaiting redemption, others are fully complicit in their own undoing.
We come upon them in the mountains of West Virginia, in the backyards of rural North Carolina, and at tourist traps along Route 66, where they smolder with hidden desires and struggle to resist the temptations that plague them.
A Melungeon woman has killed her abusive husband and drives by the home of her son’s new foster family, hoping to lure the boy back. An elderly couple witnesses the end-times and is forced to hunt monsters if they hope to survive. A young girl “tanning and manning” with her mother and aunt resists being indoctrinated by their ideas about men. A preacher’s daughter follows in the footsteps of her backsliding mother as she seduces a man who looks a lot like the devil.
A master of Appalachian dialect and colloquial speech, Monks writes prose that is dark, taut, and muscular, but also beguiling and playful. Monsters in Appalachia is a powerful work of fiction.
When Barbara Drake and her husband left Portland and moved to a small farm in western Oregon’s Yamhill Valley in the late 80’s, they saw it as a temporary relocation—they would return to the city eventually. But as the couple’s experiences on the farm multiplied—training herding dogs, enlisting a pair of traveling dowsers to help them find a good well, and stargazing in a singular nighttime darkness—they decide to hang on to their rural life as long as possible.
Barbara Drake articulates the lessons she’s learned from her long stint of country living in her new book, Morning Light. Replete with records of native wildflowers, an encounter with an elderly man who lived on her farm eighty years ago, and an old family recipe for wild blackberry pudding, Morning Light is an appreciation and exploration of the landscape of western Oregon, and readers will come to know it better through the book.
As entertaining and instructive as it is personal and reflective, Drake’s writing will resonate with anyone who has experienced a convergence of family history with natural history, considered their place in the historical continuum, or wondered if their lifestyle can be sustained with age. In a world where even “the country” is becoming increasingly citified, Morning Light reminds us why we should care for our rural landscapes—while we still can.
“Murphy Station is a well-told coming-of-age story. It conveys a deep sense of place, and articulates the everyday ways in which the etiquette of Jim Crow was learned and enacted, and eventually questioned and even challenged.”
—Jason Sokol, author of There Goes My Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights, 1945–1975
In the southern Georgia of 1950, Murphy Station is a community marked only by two country stores, two Baptist churches, and a graveyard. Farming is the way of life, and segregation is in full force. Welcome to Deep Dixie.
David Donovan is a young white boy growing up in Murphy Station where even the best farmers are cash poor, and those who work for them, usually blacks, are poorer still. In adult conversation, the main topics are weather, crops, and politics. Within the last category, it’s agreed that the main threats facing America are two: communism and integration. So far as young Dave knows, this isn’t unusual, but already there are changes afoot. In this richly detailed memoir, laced with both humor and tragedy, we see how those changes affect Dave in subtle but ultimately profound ways.
Coming of age in a world with the axiom “no boy a chicken, no man a coward,” Dave has the sorts of boyhood adventures common to the rural South: exploits with firearms, encounters with angry animals, challenges from friends, and a growing interest in girls. As he has these adventures, he also works in the field alongside black farmhands, some of whom teach him vital lessons about the realities of their lives—lessons that begin to challenge the prejudices and preconceptions of his time and place.
By the late 1950s the civil rights movement has become a major force in the South; yet, as David enters high school in 1960 the customs of segregation still hold sway, persisting even when he leaves for college. In his first year away from home, he witnesses the national trauma of the Kennedy assassination, which blunts the promises of Camelot. In Vietnam a few years later, he sees those promises collapse entirely. Returning in 1970 to a Murphy Station much changed from what it was twenty years earlier, David Donovan finds himself transformed as well.
David Donovan is the pseudonym of Terry Turner, professor emeritus of urology at the University of Virginia. He is the author of more than 120 basic science articles on male reproductive biology and of a previous book, Once a Warrior King: Memoirs of an Officer in Vietnam.
In 1970, Margaret Grundstein abandoned her graduate degree at Yale and followed her husband, an Indonesian prince and community activist, to a commune in the backwoods of Oregon. Together with ten friends and an ever-changing mix of strangers, they began to build their vision of utopia.
Naked in the Woods chronicles Grundstein’s shift from reluctant hippie to committed utopian—sacrificing phones, electricity, and running water to live on 160 acres of remote forest with nothing but a drafty cabin and each other. Grundstein, (whose husband left, seduced by “freer love”) faced tough choices. Could she make it as a single woman in man’s country? Did she still want to? How committed was she to her new life? Although she reveled in the shared transcendence of communal life deep in the natural world, disillusionment slowly eroded the dream. Brotherhood frayed when food became scarce. Rifts formed over land ownership. Dogma and reality clashed.
Many people, baby boomers and millennials alike, have romantic notions about the 1960s and 70s. Grundstein’s vivid account offers an unflinching, authentic portrait of this iconic and often misreported time in American history. Accompanied by a collection of distinctive photographs she took at the time, Naked in the Woods draws readers into a period of convulsive social change and raises timeless questions: how far must we venture to find the meaning we seek, and is it ever far out enough to escape our ingrained human nature?
Growing up on the family farm, Jerry Apps learned from a young age that water was precious. The farm had no running water, a windmill pumped drinking water for the small herd of cattle, and Jerry and his brothers hauled bucket after bucket of water for the family’s use. A weekly bath was considered sufficient. And when it rained, it was cause for celebration. Indeed, if ever the Apps boys complained about a rainy day spoiling their plans, their father admonished, "Never curse the rain," for the family’s very livelihood depended upon it.
In Never Curse the Rain, Jerry shares his memories of water, from its importance to his family’s crops and cattle to its many recreational uses—fishing trips, canoe journeys, and the simple pleasures of an afternoon spent dreaming in the haymow as rain patters on the barn roof. Water is still a touchstone in Jerry’s life, and he explores the ways he’s found it helpful in soothing a troubled mind or releasing creativity. He also discusses his concerns about the future of water and ensuring we always have enough. For, as Jerry writes, "Water is one of the most precious things on this planet, necessary for all life, and we must do everything we can to protect it."
One of the first things any visitor to Barbados notices is Barbadian youths wearing baseball caps and T-shirts sporting the logos of North American teams; and these days, one is more likely to find an American sitcom on television than a Caribbean program. The Parish behind God's Back describes the social fabric and everyday life of one rural parish on the island, St. Lucy, including its many links to the outside world. It is a contemporary ethnography of the local that takes into account the enormous influence of global factors such as tourism, television, foreign travel, and return migrants.
Written with students in mind, the book contains several unique features. Each chapter blends descriptions of Barbadian culture with comparisons to North America; throughout, the authors include tales of not only their own fieldwork experiences but those of their undergraduate students; and personal narratives are emphasized to engage interest in individuals.
This highly readable and thought-provoking account should appeal to general readers with an interest in the Caribbean as well as to students of anthropology.
George Gmelch is Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, Union College. Sharon Bohn Gmelch is Professor of Anthropology and Director of Women's Studies, Union College.
This is a true story of the struggle, survival, and ultimate success of a large black family in south Alabama who, in the middle decades of the 20th century, lifted themselves out of poverty to achieve the American dream of property ownership. Descended from slaves and sharecroppers in the Black Belt region, this family of hard-working parents and their thirteen children is mentored by its matriarch, Moa, the author’s beloved great grandmother, who passes on to the family, along with other cultural wealth, her recipe for moonshine.
Without rancor or blame, and even with occasional humor, The Pecan Orchard offers a window into the inequities between blacks and whites in a small southern town still emerging from Jim Crow attitudes.
Told in clean, straightforward prose, the story radiates the suffocating midday heat of summertime cotton fields and the biting winter wind sifting through porous shanty walls. It conveys the implicit shame in “Colored Only” restrooms, drinking fountains, and eating areas; the beaming satisfaction of a job well done recognized by others; the “yessum” manners required of southern society; and the joyful moments, shared memories, and loving bonds that sustain—and even raise—a proud family.
At the outset of the twentieth century the debut of the American picture postcard incited widespread enthusiasm for collecting and sending postcard art that lasted decades. In Picturing Illinois, John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle examine a diverse set of 200 vintage Illinois picture postcards revealing what locals considered captivating, compelling, and commemorable. They also interpret how individual messages impart the sender's personal perception of local geography and scenery. Jakle and Sculle follow the dialogue between urban Chicago and rural downstate, elucidating the postcard's significance in popular culture and the unique ways in which Illinoisans pictured their world.
Several stark premises have long prevailed in our approach to Russian history. It was commonly assumed that Russia had always labored under a highly centralized and autocratic imperial state. The responsibility for this lamentable state of affairs was ultimately assigned to the profoundly agrarian character of Russian society. The countryside, home to the overwhelming majority of the nation’s population, was considered a harsh world of cruel landowners and ignorant peasants, and a strong hand was required for such a crude society.
A number of significant conclusions flowed from this understanding. Deep and abiding social divisions obstructed the evolution of modernity, as experienced “naturally” in other parts of Europe, so there was no Renaissance or Reformation; merely a derivative Enlightenment; and only a distorted capitalism. And since only despotism could contain these volatile social forces, it followed that the 1917 Revolution was an inevitable explosion resulting from these intolerable contradictions—and so too were the blood-soaked realities of the Soviet regime that came after. In short, the sheer immensity of its provincial backwardness could explain almost everything negative about the course of Russian history.
This book undermines these preconceptions. Through her close study of the province of Nizhnii Novgorod in the nineteenth century, Catherine Evtuhov demonstrates how nearly everything we thought we knew about the dynamics of Russian
society was wrong. Instead of peasants ground down by poverty and ignorance, we find skilled farmers, talented artisans and craftsmen, and enterprising tradespeople. Instead of an exclusively centrally administered state, we discover effective and participatory local government. Instead of pervasive ignorance, we are shown a lively cultural scene and an active middle class. Instead of a defining Russian exceptionalism, we find a world recognizable to any historian of nineteenth-century Europe.
Drawing on a wide range of Russian social, environmental, economic, cultural, and intellectual history, and synthesizing it with deep archival research of the Nizhnii Novgorod province, Evtuhov overturns a simplistic view of the Russian past. Rooted in, but going well beyond, provincial affairs, her book challenges us with an entirely new perspective on Russia’s historical trajectory.
In Reclaiming the Rural: Essays on Literacy, Rhetoric,and Pedagogy, editors Kim Donehower, Charlotte Hogg,
and Eileen E. Schell bring together a diverse collection of essays that consider literacy, rhetoric, and pedagogy in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The essays move beyond the typical arguments for preserving, abandoning, or modernizing by analyzing how rural communities sustain themselves through literate action. The contributors explore the rhetorics of water disputes in the western United States, the histories and influences of religious rhetorics
in Mexico, agricultural and rural literacy curricula, the literacies of organizations such as 4-H and Academia de la Nueva Raza, and neoliberal rhetorics.
Central to these examinations are the rural populations themselves, which include indigenous peoples in the rural United States, Canada, and Mexico, as well as those of European or other backgrounds. The strength of the anthology lies in its multiple perspectives, various research sites, and the range of methodologies employed, including rhetorical analyses of economies and environments, media, and public spaces; classroom-based research; historical analysis and archival work; and qualitative research. The researchers engage the duality between the practices of everyday life in rural communities and the practices of reflecting on and making meaning.
Reclaiming the Rural reflects the continually changing, nuanced, context-dependent realities of rural life while acknowledging the complex histories, power struggles, and governmental actions that have affected and continue to affect the lives of rural citizens. This thought-provoking collection demonstrates the value in reclaiming the rural for scholarly and pedagogical analysis.
Raised on a small dairy farm in the Driftless Area in the mid-twentieth century, Gary Jones gets real about his rural roots. In this collection of interrelated stories, Jones writes with plainspoken warmth and irreverence about farm, family, and folks on the ridge. Readers will meet Gramp Jones, whose oversized overalls saved him from losing a chunk of flesh to an irate sow; the young one-room-school teacher who helped the kids make sled jumps at recess; Charlotte, the lawn-mowing sheep who once ended up in the living room; Victor the pig-cutter, who learned his trade from folk tradition rather than vet school; and other colorful characters of the ridge. Often humorous and occasionally touching, Jones’s essays paint a vivid picture that will entertain city and country folk alike.
For nearly twenty-five years, poet Baron Wormser and his family lived in a house in Maine with no electricity or running water. They grew much of their own food, carried water by hand, and read by the light of kerosene lamps. They considered themselves part of the “back to the land” movement, but their choice to live off the grid was neither statement nor protest: they simply had built their house too far from the road and could not afford to bring in power lines. Over the years, they settled in to a life that centered on what Thoreau called “the essential facts.” In this graceful meditation, Wormser similarly spurns ideology in favor of observation, exploration, and reflection. “When we look for one thread of motive,” he writes, “we are, in all likelihood, deceiving ourselves.” His refusal to be satisfied with the obvious explanation, the single thread of motive, makes him a keen and sympathetic observer of his neighbors and community, a perceptive reader of poetry and literature, and an honest and unselfconscious analyst of his own responses to the natural world. The result is a series of candid personal essays on community and isolation, nature, civilization, and poetry.
A photographic diary of a small Midwestern farm and the family who’ve made it their home
In Roshara Journal, father-and-son team Jerry and Steve Apps share the monthly happenings at their family’s farm in central Wisconsin. Featuring Steve’s stunning photos and fifty years of Jerry’s journal entries, Roshara Journal captures the changes—both from month to month and over the decades—on the landscape and farmstead.
The Apps family has owned Roshara since 1966. There they nurture a prairie restoration and pine plantation, maintain a large garden that feeds three generations, observe wildlife species by the dozens, and support a population of endangered butterflies. In documenting life on this piece of land, Jerry and Steve remind us how, despite the pace and challenges of modern life, the seasons continue to influence our lives in ways large and small. Jerry explains that his journal entries become much more than mere observations: "It seems that when I write about something—a bur oak tree, for example—that old tree becomes a part of me. . . . Writing takes me to a place that goes beyond observation and understanding, a place filled with feeling and meaning."
In the tradition of Bernd Heinrich in Maine, Barry Lopez in the Canadian Arctic, and Aldo Leopold just an hour down the road in Baraboo, Jerry and Steve Apps combine observation, experience, and reflection to tell a profound story about one place in the world.
Kim Donehower, Charlotte Hogg, and Eileen Schell Southern Illinois University Press, 2006 Library of Congress PE1405.U6D66 2007 | Dewey Decimal 808.0420711
Rural Literacies identifies the problems inherent in trying to understand rural literacy, addresses the lack of substantive research on literacy in rural areas, and reviews traditional misrepresentations of rural literacy.
This innovative volume frames debates over literacy in relation to larger social, political, and economic forces, such as the impact of the No Child Left Behind Act on rural schools and the effects of out-migration, globalization, and the loss of small family farms on rural communities.
Drawing upon traditional literacy and composition research and employing theory from education and sociology, the text engages compositionists in broader conversations regarding rural literacies. The authors share strategies that will help compositionists participate in pedagogies that are rooted in a richer understanding of rural literacies and work toward sustainability for all communities in a globalized age.
The sound of nineteenth-century women, once thought lost to us, is alive because ordinary women like Emily Hawley Gillespie gave voice to their thoughts in diaries. This condensed version of the 2,500-page journals of Emily Gillespie, faithfully written from 1858 to 1888, is a detailed account of rural Iowa life. More than this, it contains the reflections of a woman who dreamed of being a painter and writer and instead became a wife and a mother, a woman whose radical convictions were recorded in her diary, while publicly she conformed to the prescribed life of a Victorian pioneer woman. Through Emily's journals, readers are offered immediate and unmodified contact with settlers in Iowa one hundred years ago. A wealth of facts are included—what produce she harvested and preserved from her garden, how her husband tended his fields and what he raised, the challenges and rewards of family life.
Judy Lensink's skillful analysis shows the larger patterns in Emily Gillespie's life and provides keys that unlock the diary's secrets. Emily's life is revealed as a youth full of promise fading into middle and declining years of lost dreams and eventual tragedy, which caused her to write, "I have written many things in my journal, but the worst is a secret to be burried when I shall cease to be."
Linda Hussa University of Utah Press, 2002 Library of Congress F845.D84 2002 | Dewey Decimal 978.10082091734
In the lightly-populated northwestern corner of Nevada, a former geologist and rural schoolteacher, a published poet and ranch owner, and an artist and environmentalist make for an intriguing—perhaps even unlikely—trio of friends. In this evocative collection of personal essays, each offers her voice as a testament to the joys and struggles of creating a home and connecting to the land and the people who live there.
Stories of ranch hands and Ladies’ Clubs, raising chickens and raising children, pulling up roots and planting dreams tumble together in a mélange of lives lived well and thoughtfully. Sharing Fencelines is as much about art as it is about activism, as much about personal growth as it is about growing community. What these women offer us is the sweet taste of what is possible, and the blended harmony of their voices echoes across the mountains and washes and deserts, resonating in our own hearts, our own homes.
Carolyn Dufurrena’s "The Flying Heart Museum" pays homage to a layered landscape of unique individuals—not the least of which are her students, searching for themselves in the Nevada wilderness: "You know how your spirit betrays you when you’re not thinking to protect yourself. Jose has been dreaming, doodling away, and his pencil has discovered this flying heart, as big as the Puritan meetinghouse....He has drawn the log cabin around the heart, and labeled it. At recess I ask him, gently, 'So, Jose, what’s in there, in your Flying Heart Museum?'"
In "Shared Fencelines," Linda Hussa reveals the mystery of horses, the gift of water, and the serendipity of love: "My first hurt came from a horse when I tried to shinny up the feathered leg of our old gelding as I’d seen my brother and sister do. Twelve hundred pounds of him stepped on my bare foot. Mom carried her shrieking two-year-old to the house...she cut off the dangling nail saying Popeye didn’t mean to, he just didn’t notice my little foot. Then she cradled my face in her cool hands and said she hoped I would forgive him and we could be friends again."
"Fire Hall" by Sophie Sheppard paints a picture of a families and communities forged against the backdrop of a rugged, rural life: "Here, when there is a funeral, the whole town comes. First to arrive are the older women, vestiges of the Lake City Ladies Club that was disbanded a few years ago because most of the younger women have jobs and no longer stay at home. At the potluck funeral dinner everyone will file in together: the women unfamiliar in dresses ordered from catalogs, the mens' hatless foreheads glowing pale in contrast to the tan of their freshly shaven jaws, the younger people that I won’t recognize."
A Spell on the Water
Marjorie Kowalski Cole University of Michigan Press, 2011 Library of Congress PS3603.O429S64 2011 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
"I couldn't put it down."
In 1955, Mary and Jim Leader have the American dream: careers in medicine; a young and healthy family; and even a vacation home---a shabby resort far from bustling Chicago. But one hot afternoon changes everything. Mary, now a widow, must find a path out of her grief into a future for herself and five small children.
In Michigan to sell the resort, Mary sees seven hawks riding the storm winds over the lake. This place, she thinks, can heal them with its wild beauty, so she moves her family to the northern lakeshore.
But Mary has forgotten what it's like to live in a tiny rural community, where almost everyone has a stake in maintaining the status quo. Secrets are kept at great cost as Mary's children often struggle to raise themselves. A coming-of-age story for each member of the family, this is a novel of quiet heroism and the power of personal freedom.
Praise for Marjorie Kowalski Cole and her previous novel, Correcting the Landscape:
". . . her writing is simple, vivid and gorgeous."
". . . a remarkable new talent. Critics have lined up to praise the book."
"Cole's style is subtle but engrossing . . . It is quite a debut."
Tales from the Big Thicket
Francis Edward Abernethy University of North Texas Press, 2002 Library of Congress F392.H37T35 2002 | Dewey Decimal 976.4157
Abernethy presents the history and folklore of the Big Thicket and its people, including a collection of Alabama-Coushatta tales, a search for hidden Jayhawkers during the Civil War, a nineteenth-century travel account, and a family history of the legendary Hooks.
"First published in 1940 as part of the information-gathering effort of the TVA, the work examines Gorgas, Alabama, a predominantly white farming settlement. Hailed as the most intensive case study ever made in the South, the book provides a detailed portrait of southern rural life on the verge of extinction." —Florida Historical Quarterly
"One of the finest examples of the genre of the community survey. . . The book is remarkably free of special pleading. And every chapter is paced with fascinating data and insights. The University of Alabama Prss is to be congratulated for reissuing this splendid community study; the volume fits the description of a classic. And Clarence L. Mohr's introduction alone is worth the price of the volume." —Journal of Southwest Georgia History
From 2001 to 2006, Richard L. Cates Jr. interviewed senior members of more than 30 families living in and around Arena township, a small community in southern Wisconsin. He asked them about growing up in rural America and their connection to a way of life that is vanishing in the twenty-first century.
The result, Voices from the Heart of the Land, is a collection of reminiscences, observations, and opinions celebrating the stewardship of the land and the values of the stewards. Of course, as Cates points out, these are nothing less than “our core human values—integrity, commitment, responsibility, citizenship, self-determination, decency, kindness, love, and hope.”
A lifelong city dweller, Verena Andermatt Conley had long harbored romantic ideals about the natural world and dreamed of a wilderness retreat for herself and her husband, Tom. When a sizable tract of land along the Vermillion River on the edge of Minnesota's Boundary Waters - complete with two primitive log cabins - became available, they jumped at the chance to own a piece of paradise.The War against the Beavers is a wry and funny account of two people's ten-year apprenticeship in backwoods living, from their arrival as literal babes in the woods to their education in the ways of nature as they face plagues of insects, fungus, storms, and droughts, and embark on a lengthy campaign to eradicate a colony of beavers that threatens the peace and beauty of their forest refuge. It is only the coming of a mechanized and much more menacing threat - bulldozers and other heavy machinery clear-cutting the woods - that restores perspective to the obsessed cabin dwellers.
Begun as a series of stories told by Kenneth Grahame to his six-year-old son, The Wind in the Willows has become one of the most beloved works of children’s literature ever written. Now, in Seth Lerer's annotated edition, readers can enjoy a larger appreciation of the novel’s charms and serene narrative magic. Anyone who has read and loved The Wind in the Willows will want to own and cherish this beautiful gift edition. Those coming to the novel for the first time, or returning to it with their own children, will not find a better, more sensitive guide than Seth Lerer.
With a Southern Accent
Viola Goode Liddell University of Alabama Press, 1982 Library of Congress F326.L5 1982 | Dewey Decimal 976.120610922
Two generations of Alabamians will welcome the reappearance of this classic: those who loved it when it was published to national acclaim in 1948 and who have missed it during the many years it has been out of print, and those who have enjoyed Viola Goode Liddell’s follow-up success, A Place of Springs, and eagerly seek more from her pen.
A Book-of-the-Month Club selection when first published, With a Southern Accent belongs on the shelves of all those who have wearied of the labels and want to meet the people of yesterday’s South.