With the advent of technology and ceaseless innovation, it is quite difficult to imagine what life is like without looking through the screen of smartphones and computers. What do people of the past do to pass time? What occupies their everyday lives?
Author Lawn Griffiths takes readers from the hustle and bustle of the modern world to the nostalgic years of the 1950s and 1960s. Growing up in a farm in Grundy County, Iowa, which was owned by his family for more than 160 years, Griffiths is no stranger to hard labor. Herding calves to spring pastures, transferring pullets into hen houses and driving tractors are only some of the things he experienced.
A finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016, Batting Rocks Over the Barn is a mosaic of experiences, adventures, and lessons seen through the eyes of a farm boy. Griffiths recalls the drudgery of baling hay, the morning rush brought by milking cows before the arrival of the school bus, and the joy of harvesting asparagus along country roads. He tells readers about the challenges he encountered while teaching freshly hired town kids how to rake alfalfa into wind-rows and the chaos of moving hog houses. He also shares unforgettable anecdotes, such as the time when his twin brother tried floating down a raging creek in a bath tub, and how a cow tank took part in the junior-senior prom on the theme of “Moon River.”
Told with candor and colorful commentary, Batting Rocks Over the Barn is an engaging and enlightening read that guides readers through the struggles and pleasures of farming. It also imparts to them a host of valuable lessons and insights gleaned from a bygone era where the slow-paced rural life allowed people to savor every moment they spend in the company of nature.
"My father believed all children had work potential, no matter how young they were. Play was okay for town kids..."
Twin boys, Lincoln and Lawn (based on family name) Griffiths, grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa. Their father assigned his children farm chores as soon as they could carry a pail of feed or a basket for collecting eggs. Nowadays government safety officials would have something to say about four-year-olds riding a board between the tractor and slowly lumbering cultivator. As weeds were dug under and clods of dirt tossed up, the boys unburied tiny corn plants. Of course, that was back in the 1950s. Eventually, Lawn Griffiths earned a college degree in journalism and was hired by a Waterloo newspaper as the farm editor. This book contains seventy-two short stories written in James Herriot-style about Midwestern farm life during that era. First published as a newspaper column, his "Rural at Random" reminiscences ran for over eight years.
The book’s title and cover recount a story about Lawn hitting a home run every time with a flat stick that sailed rocks mightily over the barn roof. Within the 136-page book are memories, such as his mother’s drinking cup made from a large can and the grease guns that created a mess when blocked zerk fittings spat goo everywhere. Some stories are grouped by season, such as baling summer hay versus straw or breaking up winter ice in watering troughs. Others are about cows; milking adventures, gates, and wire fencing. Some refer to people: his twin brother who flew neighbors over their fields to pay for flying time, the work ethics of hundreds of hired hands employed a day or years on the farm, and the town blacksmith whose priority was getting his neighbors’ equipment up and running.
Baby boomers and farm kids will enjoy every word. Literary folk will marvel at the poetical style, complete with alliteration, which entertained a generation of newspaper readers.
“An enjoyable account of growing up in rural America and the 50s and 60s. Lawn Griffiths paints colorful stories about the fun and not- so-fun chores facing families living on the farm. . . . The stories gives one an appreciation for the real source of our food. Story after story captures the hardships and drudgery of farming as remembered by the writer years later.”
—Anonymous, Barnes & Noble customer
“An inviting nostalgia permeates this collection of newspaper columns based upon the author’s experiences growing up on an Iowa farm more than 50 years ago. The title alone resonate with anyone who ever grabbed a flat stick and a handful of rocks and sent those rocks humming over a rooftop for imaginary game-winning home runs.”
“Griffiths demonstrates a reporter’s keen power of observation and a poet’s skill with language in this collection of memories of rural Iowa farm life in the middle of the last century. His words resurrect a way of life lost in this century. For all its gritty reality, the world Griffiths recounts from his own childhood experience is richer and more humane than today’s era of cost-efficient agribusiness, particularly regarding treatment of animals.”
—Ken Moe, Amazon customer
Lawn Griffiths grew up in a Grundy County farm where batting rocks over the barn had been an idle pastime. He later became a newspaper journalist and farm editor—a career that lasted for forty years. He had a popular weekly farm column, “Rural at Random,” in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (then called Waterloo Daily Courier) during the 1970s. Griffiths has also won 80 writing and community service awards. One of them was the 2008 Arizona Interfaith Movement Golden Rule Media Award.
Walk behind a shed, stroll through a back grove, hike along fences or pasture creeks, or drive into a field for the first time in the spring. It’s evident that nature has delicately erased much of last year’s remains of man and his work there. Last year’s leaves, weeds and foliage lie pasted together like papier-mâché, held together by nature’s glues and still pressed against the ground, even though gone is the icy weight that crushed against the wet earth.
Anyone who has ever struggled to put some words together from his soul has whittled a wistful phrase or two about trains. The mystique and charm surrounding the railroad compare only to that of the river. Residents along either avenue of distant travel have been spellbound by the kinetics, the unceasing force that barrels through the countryside—and then is suddenly gone.
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