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The Land of Milk and Uncle Honey

The Land of Milk and Uncle Honey: Memories from the Farm of My Youth

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    The Land of Milk and Uncle Honey
    Book Description:

    "The river was in God's hands, the cows in ours." So passed the days on Indian Farm, a dairy operation on 700 acres of rich Illinois bottomland. In this collection, Alan Guebert and his daughter-editor Mary Grace Foxwell recall Guebert's years on the land working as part of that all-consuming collaborative effort known as the family farm. Here are Guebert's tireless parents, measuring the year not in months but in seasons for sewing, haying, and doing the books; Jackie the farmhand, needing ninety minutes to do sixty minutes' work and cussing the entire time; Hoard the dairyman, sore fingers wrapped in electrician's tape, sharing wine and the prettiest Christmas tree ever; and the unflappable Uncle Honey, spreading mayhem via mistreated machinery, flipped wagons, and the careless union of diesel fuel and fire. Guebert's heartfelt and humorous reminiscences depict the hard labor and simple pleasures to be found in ennobling work, and show that in life, as in farming, Uncle Honey had it right with his succinct philosophy for overcoming adversity: "the secret's not to stop."

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09748-5
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. 1-14)

    The Farm and Food File began one drizzly winter night almost forty-five years ago when, elbow-deep into pulling wet-as-rags corn stalks out of a five-bottom plow, I looked into the low, starless sky and muttered to myself, “There’s got to be something better than this.”

    What that might be I hadn’t a clue—which, also, was why I was attempting to plow mud that night in 1978. A year before, I had confessed to a dean at the University of Illinois that I didn’t have a lot of motivation to complete my degree. I think I said something as thoughtfully...

    (pp. 15-30)

    Somewhere in my parents’ home exists a photograph of them standing stiffly on either side of my oldest brother, Rich, in front of a flaming yellow, full-bloom forsythia bush outside the big, brick Lutheran church of my youth.

    My mother, I think I’m remembering this correctly, wears a stylish dress she likely made herself and a round, white hat that, if turned upside down and used as a bucket, could easily hold a half-gallon of wild raspberries. Dad wears his Sunday uniform: suit, tie, and easy smile.

    The occasion for the photo is telegraphed by what Rich wears. Dark trouser...

    (pp. 31-72)

    On the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth, the beginning of summer marked the kick-off of a season of great food. Like Roman soldiers of yore, we, the small legion of family farm workers—my Uncle Honey, father, mother, four brothers, sister, and I—worked at eating so we could eat into the ever-ending work on the farm’s 720 acres and 100 Holsteins.

    That meant the kitchen crew—my mother, sister, and we boys still too short to reach a tractor’s clutch pedal—worked harder than the field crew. Five meals a day, six days a week was always...

    (pp. 73-104)

    The glowing orange tops of two nearby maples are the first clear announcement that change, despite the day’s drilling heat and shirt-soaking humidity, is coming. Their colorful blast is echoed in the growing number of yellowing leaves dancing about my black walnut trees.

    It’s not yet Labor Day but September can’t wait; it’s already captured part of August’s last week and some of my interest.

    I should have seen it coming days earlier when red silage wagons suddenly appeared in a neighbor’s farmlot. Silage wagons are a sure sign that September is near.

    At least they were on the southern...

    (pp. 105-126)

    The gray gloom of December has arrived again and so, too, have the memories of a boyhood on a southern Illinois dairy farm. Most of the warm recollections, however, are of cold cows, cold hands, cold feet, and old machinery.

    Jackie, the farm’s main field hand, dreaded winter. A small, wiry man who wore a perpetual tan from a lifetime spent in the sun, Jackie was a frozen piece of leather from mid-October to Easter.

    Each morning at six, Jackie arrived at the dairy barn stiffened by layer upon layer of cotton, wool, and rubber. A half hour of hot...

    (pp. 127-134)

    While we’re on the subject of memories worth preserving, I’d be grateful to share a few of mine. Not of me, but of this book’s author.

    After several years of working as a staff editor and freelance writer for various magazines, Dad challenged himself to begin writing a weekly column, The Farm and Food File, because he saw a gaping hole in traditional newspaper journalism. No other nationally syndicated columnist focused on the nexus of food, farming, farm policy, and politics; rather, popular columnists at the time tended to focus on just one of these (often polarizing) issues. Long before...

  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 135-136)