Our pursuit of success vs. our boys

Jim VanDerPol

By Jim Van Der Pol, Kerkhoven, Minnesota — We are not doing so well with our boys. I know this because I used to be one. Statistics says that boys are twice as likely as girls to suffer and die from physical abuse. They are four times as likely as girls to commit suicide. Learning disabled boys outnumber girls, two-to-one.

Simple observation tells us that most boys reach manhood able to express one emotion only, that being anger. Half of all marriages fail, and in far too many of those failed marriages, the man walks away from the children. Our incarceration rates are now approaching seven per thousand of population, up from a mere one per thousand just 30 years ago. The large majority of prisoners are male. Prison building is our other growth industry along with the construction of suburban McMansions. We have a big problem. Continue reading “Our pursuit of success vs. our boys”

Where farmers and oil connect

Cows on pasture

By David Kline, Fredricksburg, Ohio — The past week I have been mulling 1874 sketches of two farms in Sangamon County, Illinois.

Maurice Telleen, founder and editor emeritus of Draft Horse Journal, sent them to me along with these words, “When I bought these two prints last April in Springfield, Illinois, my thought at the time was that Now and Then…or The Dream and The Reality comparison might be interesting to the readers. Downstate Illinois being what it is…it is possible that one of these places is a wheat field from end to end and the other a cornfield with a hog factory in the middle. The dreams that the 1874 pictures show us involve a lot of people, livestock, and activity. What do you suppose those same two pieces of ground show you now? Not many people and possibly no livestock. At any rate, I still haven’t figured out how to use them to tell the story of the depopulation of rural areas.” Continue reading “Where farmers and oil connect”

Musing on Dad’s mistakes

Jim VanDerPol

By Jim Van Der Pol, Kerkhoven, Minnesota — I was raised to farming. Most of my “indoctrination” was carried out by my father. He truly believed that he who could farm certainly would, and that others would just have to be satisfied with a lesser lot in life. When I was a little boy, three or four perhaps, the instructions given for locating me were to “find Jake and look down.” The barn my parents built to replace the one that blew down on our former farm a few miles down my road still bears my three-year old footprints in the concrete.

Dad is gone. So is Mother now, and I have been amazed at how very intimidating it has been to find myself in the predicament of being the oldest, at least in that my generation is the oldest. The idea that I am or ought to be speaking from experience is confusing. How did I get so far so fast? My confusion is worsened by the knowledge that I do not in any sense “know” what my parents knew, even though all of us are, or were, farmers. Continue reading “Musing on Dad’s mistakes”