More stories from the farm
By DARCY DOUGHERTY MAULSBY
MILFORD – Something as routine as helping with harvest or as profound as welcoming a new grandchild into the world touch nearly every farm family’s life.
Yet few people take the time to write down their perspectives on those events.
Not Karen Schwaller.
Her latest book, “I Married a City Boy: The Life and Times of an Iowa Farm Family,” is filled with stories and insights designed to entertain, inspire and provide a realistic understanding of the life of Midwestern farm families.
“These stories started as columns for Farm News,” said Schwaller, who farms with her husband, Dave, in the Milford area. “I selected the ones that hit readers’ funny bones or touched their hearts.”
The 200-page, non-fiction book is a follow-up to her popular 2013 book, “a farm wife’s and mother’s perspective on the things that made us laugh, cry, think and even grow up in every possible way on the farm,” Schwaller said. “A farm is a great teacher of life, joy and loss, and the lessons learned there cannot be found in any textbook; they can only be experienced.”
True stories inspired by real life
Schwaller’s latest book, “I Married a City Boy,” explains how her husband took a somewhat non-traditional route to his farming career. While his family lived on a farm when he was a young child, they moved to town, and Dave Schwaller became a “city boy” by second grade.
But he never lost his love for the land.
By his freshman year of high school, he got a job as a hired hand on a farm south of Milford. He later pursued a full-time career as a farmer. Both he and his wife are grateful for the opportunity to raise their family on the farm.
“The stories in my latest book are inspired by our daily life and came from my Farm News columns that received the most positive feedback,” said Schwaller, whose writing reveals the profound in the commonplace, such as lessons that can be learned from a simple corn stalk. “I wrote it to be a book that will stay within the heart of a reader for years.”
Many of the stories include the Schwaller’s three grown children, Emily, Doug and Dustin, who all work in agriculture.
There are humorous, bittersweet memories of the home barber chair as Schwaller’s sons were growing up. Other writings reflect Schwaller’s thoughts about a mother’s courage and two poignant pieces focused on her married daughter’s future as she prepared for motherhood for the first time.
“I felt this message of a mother’s love is what any mother would want to say to her daughter in this situation,” Schwaller said.
Heart-felt stories are interspersed with humorous tales, as well as honest insights into the struggles farm families face.
“Of Pigs and Beauty” was inspired by a request for Schwaller to emcee the swine show at the county fair and ended up as an essay on how women view themselves. “That’s No Bull” is one those “can’t make this stuff up” stories about the time a bull got his head stuck in a tree trunk on the farm and the lessons learned for this unforgettable experience.
“It’s all about life on the farm and the conversations that take place,” Schwaller said. “It’s stuff people can relate to.”
The stories in “I Married a City Boy” also reflect a lifetime of ag experience. Schwaller started writing columns just for fun and has kept telling new stories for more than 25 years.
“Writing is both fun and frustrating,” Schwaller said. “Some columns might take me 30 minutes to write, while others take a week or a month.”
Writing is worth the effort, since she senses a larger calling.
“There’s so much misinformation today about agriculture and farmers,” she said. “I want to help people understand farm families and get a sense of how all-consuming it is for the people who live it and love it.”
Schwaller also hopes her books leave a legacy that records what life was like on an Iowa farm in the late 20th century and early 21st century.
“Someday in the future, life as we know it today will be part of the past, and farming will have changed,” Schwaller said. “My books show what farming was like at this point in history and how families experienced life on the farm.”
Schwaller’s “I Married a City Boy” book is available for $14 on Amazon.com, the pharmacy in Milford and by ordering directly from Schwaller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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