Do they still have this category on 4-H membership forms? Rural non-farm. That was the box I had to check when I joined up. In fact, I must’ve checked it twice, once for the Equestrian Cadets, where one of the world’s absolute Sheroes led a group of horseless kids, letting us ‘lease’ (for a dollar a year), a horse from the riding school her family operated, and again for the Maple Leaf 4-H Club, which was open to all the 4-Hish subject areas and offered me the chance to learn about baking apple muffins (which I fed to the horses on their birthdays), and how to build birdhouses.
So my rural roots planted themselves firmly, and though I know 82% of the U.S. population (52% worldwide) now live in urban areas, that means 18% don’t, and we have stories too. Even stories that urban people might find intriguing, from worlds and circumstances foreign to them. These are the stories I like to find, and to share.
Since the ones I’m putting on paper are taking so long, I’ll share thoughts on a couple that I’ve read recently instead.
Summer of Silk Moths by Margaret Willey, won a Green Earth Book Award, and that recognition helped me continue reading beyond the slightly slow beginning. Cuz you know, sometimes this rural world spins slower than the urban chaos, and in the long run, I think that’s a great thing. I didn’t like the cover, either, I have to admit, in its pastels, though they probably ‘fit’ the fuzzy nature of silk moth wings. What I did like–plenty, actually. First and foremost, I suppose, I love that the viewpoint character does real work, like hauling around lumber to build fences and overlooks at the new nature center (yes, this place also qualifies as rural non-farm). I love the contrast of this standard ‘male’ work with Pete’s artistic nature, and the contrast of the brash city girl he learns to soften, while learning to soften toward her. I also love that Pete is ‘doing’ science, exploring the unexpected world of night-flying creatures. Are these things relevant to story-line or writing technique? Yes! The work one contributes to the world presents its own prism for understanding many of life’s mysteries. And since we operate—consciously sometimes, subliminally other times—on metaphorical levels, one’s work offers opportunity for tuning a reader to new instruments. Of course, the metamorphosis of moths is clearly at work here, with two people, in their different ways, unfolding from their cocoons.
Dairy Queen, Catherine Gilbert Murdoch, attracted me initially because of the bold black and white design on the cover, and I was hooked into the story from the get-go with the fittingly bold narrator’s voice as well. D.J. gets to do real FARM work too, actually being the one to run the family dairy while her father is injured and her older brothers away. She has responsibilities, and she has competencies, and these things provide her the strength to experiment with her unconventional passion: football. Yes, there’s the quiver of romance here, but not from some simpering lipsticked cheerleader. So for anyone looking to see some ‘country’ reflections in their fiction, or with a yen for that fragrant world out beyond suburbia, I say grab a haybale and sit down to a great read.