Telling a fascinating personal story that isn’t TMI by Jonni Rose Lukenbill
What is Too Much Information (TMI)? How do you entice readers with fascinating details without drenching them in the sweat of your personal angst?
These are stories of growing up in ever-changing environments. Not only living in three different towns within 16 years but also in a time of lightning-fast political, economic and technological change...
Farmer’s daughter, city savvy! Part One
Born in the wilds of southeastern Lake County, Illinois, I was brought up to be tough, resilient, independent, versatile, and smart. Whining was not allowed in my family nor in the greater community in general.
A farm community encompasses hardy folk who are not slowed down by injury or weather disasters. It only makes them more determined to work . The goals in my way-back community were usually straight forward: have healthier more sturdy livestock, bigger crop production, pay the bills, keep the tractors in running order, have big strapping children who can carry on the chores as soon as they were big enough.
Humor was present in the form of self-deprecating wit and sarcasm often aimed at government officials that butted into farm business.
Education was not a priority although there was a sense of pride among the parents of a high school graduate who went on to agricultural or teaching college. Again, simple goals.
There was no option to become a writer or an artistic person of any type. This was considered frivolous; how could creative pursuits possibly lead to the realization of the aforementioned goals?
Childless couples were looked upon with pity and a tinge of sadness that they had no one with which to share their legacy. It was not unusual for families to succeed in having eight or even a dozen kids.
People tended to drop in on one another of a Sunday afternoon, sometimes without invitation, to chew the fat about the new farming equipment coming out; or a new sewing fabric store in a nearby metropolitan area (before Walmart & JoAnn); and how Sears Roebuck had a new mail order catalog just out.
Now, understand, that this was a very different time and the division of labor by gender was not only accepted but preferred by many. Occasionally you would get a daughter who loved doing the spring planting on the old red Farmall tractor or the sons (as in my family) who tolerated their mom teaching them how to mend a button or darn their socks. These aberrations were looked upon as a way to create even hardier, more versatile human stock.
The dads and brothers usually worked the farms and factories and the moms stayed home. My mom was the exception. She was a telephone operator in the next town. She grew the garden crops, “put them up” for the winter with the help of my sisters and worked a forty-hour week besides.
The kids that got away after high school either made it or didn’t but seldom ever came back home to beg a roof over their head. Once you left the fold you either made your fortune or were too ashamed to come back, hat in hand. This was looked upon as character building; but, also had a place in the community’s success. If someone came back to beg, they were considered a drain on the family and farm society in general.
Kids sometimes stagnated in the farm life and grew with resentment. Frustrations were played out in petty crime that was soon grown out of or scared straight by a local law enforcement officer who was often a member of the same religious organization. Community pride.
Other than those occasional teen frustration episodes, family troubles were usually kept inside the family boundaries. Alcohol dependence, abusive perpetrations, brutal disfunctions were kept tightly under wraps. These problems at that time, in that place, were kept darkly quiet and secreted away within the walls of the farmhouse.
We left the farm and moved into town when I was around seven years old; but only a few miles (spittin’ distance) from the farm we left. I felt as if I were a part of that same farm community as many of the farm families went to the same town church on Sundays and some of the farm kids attended the parochial school that I had transferred to after leaving the country school.
Even after we left the farm, I continued to observe that same sarcasm, resilience and wit as I did when living the farm life. But town was different in so many ways. Next time.
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