This week I welcome Carol Bodensteiner to my blog. Her book, full of wonderful memories written in a way that makes you feel as if you are living them with her, is Growing up Country: Memories of a Iowa Farm Girl.
Hello and welcome, I’m happy to have you here.
Thanks for having me visit, Audra. It’s a pleasure to chat with someone who shares my country interests.
Having raised and butchered chickens, rabbits, and goats for the table, as well as milking dairy goats, I definitely have an appreciation for the work involved and memories you share in this wonderful book.
Speaking of memories, what inspired you to share your memories with everyone?
My mother was my greatest inspiration. She kept saying, ‘ You’re a writer. You can write our stories.’ My mother was persistent and it didn’t matter to her that I was a business writer, not a creative writer. You could do what she wanted sooner or later, but you were going to do it.
I haven’t had the chance to read the entire book yet, so I don’t know if you covered this in there, but what made your parents decide to leave the farm for town?
Good question and it’s not covered in the book. My folks started on the farm in 1945 as WWII was winding down, buying tractors and other equipment as they got the money and as the equipment became available after the war. By the early 1970s, all that equipment needed to be replaced. Since they were in their 60s by then, they didn’t want to make that big investment without time to recoup it. Also, honestly, Mom was tired of milking the cows. She told Dad she’d do it for another year and then he’d have to find someone else to milk with him. That sealed the decision.
What years does the story span? 19?? to when?
The events roughly cover the years from when I was 8 until I was 12 years old. Okay, if I have to be nailed down, that’s 1956-1960.
I noticed, you didn’t have pets in the house, do you now that you are older?
My husband was also raised on a farm and his family didn’t allow pets in the house either. Before I married him, I had a Siamese cat named Bubba, and he got her as part of the marriage deal. But when Bubba passed on, he put his foot down on any more animals in the house. I’m okay with that because we travel a lot.
Your book is filled with wonderful and vivid memories, but which one stands out the most to you?
Each chapter centers around a specific farm memory, whether it’s learning to drive the tractor or selling 4-H radishes or getting my fingers smashed in the door. But, a couple of memories are the kind most families have – stories that get told again and again. One of those was losing all the money I’d scrimped and saved in a futile effort to win a teddy bear at a carnival game. I learned my lesson. I haven’t spent a dime on one of those games since!
I think many of us wasted hard saved money on carnival games as children. Now I watch my own do the same thing. It seems like a lesson that must learned on ones own, because they didn’t believe me. 🙂
What did you love the most about growing up on a farm with cows, pigs, and dairy cows?
And chickens. Can’t forget the chickens! There are so many things I loved – the connection to the land, working with the animals, being so close with my family. I got very lucky in the family department. Dad, in particular, didn’t say it very often, but we kids always knew we were loved.
Yes, can’t forget the chickens! Best eggs in the world are those laid on your own place.
What did you dislike the most?
By the time I was a teenager, I remember not liking to roll over a field of hay bales so they’d dry. I didn’t rebel at the amount of work. We were farm kids. We worked hard. That was that.
What do you miss the most?
I had the best of farm life as a child and have been fortunate to stay involved with agriculture and dairy farming, in particular, throughout my career in public relations and marketing. So the only thing to miss is my parents and a sister who have passed on.
Do you farm now? Why or why not?
My husband and I live on an acreage so I have the opportunity for wide open spaces and room too roam and a big vegetable garden. We don’t have livestock, but that suits our lifestyle now.
Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know and wasn’t covered in the book?
To hear me yak now you’d never know it, but I was painfully shy and self-conscious in high school and college. I think it had to do with spending seven years as the only one in my class in our one-room country school.
What kind of future did you dream about for yourself when you were little?
I always assumed I’d be a teacher. Housewife, teacher, nurse – Those were jobs I knew a girl could do. So I got my degree in teaching and then went in other directions. It didn’t realize it at the time, but my parents and farm life prepared me to do and be whatever I set my mind to. Work hard, apply yourself, you can do it. Like writing my memoir. I’d never done anything like that before, but what a great adventure this has been.
If you could go back and talk to your younger-self on that farm, what you say to your younger-self?
I always wanted a pony and I begged Dad relentlessly to get me one. He never did. I’d tell my younger self to say to him, “Dad, I’ll buy that pony with my own money if you won’t get one for me!” That might not work either, but it’s worth a try.
If there was one thing you wished you could have had as child and didn’t get, what would it be?
Other than the pony? I always wanted one of those gas stations that was on several levels with ramps for the cars to run up and down and garages and parking garages. I thought those were the coolest thing!
They are cool 🙂
Is there anything else you would like to say?
I feel incredibly lucky to have ‘grown up country,’ and I’m delighted my stories trigger childhood memories for everyone who reads them – whether they grew up on a farm or not. Farm life is in my blood and it won’t let go. My work in progress is a novel set in rural Iowa during WWI. Stay tuned!
I will be watching for it!
Thank you so much for stopping by, it was lovely to have you and your wonderful book on my blog.
It’s been fun walking down memory lane with you and your readers, Audra. Thanks for hosting me today!
Buy Growing Up Country today and let Carol take you on a trip through time filled with wonderful memories. Click here to buy from Amazon
Carol Bodensteiner was born (1948) in Maquoketa, Iowa, and raised on a family dairy farm in eastern Iowa. In her memoir Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl, Bodensteiner preserves in words for generations to follow this natural, deeply textured way of life that has been nearly lost in our country. After graduating from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in speech and English education, Bodensteiner joined the American Soybean Association where she spent three years as editor of Soybean Digest magazine. Subsequently, Bodensteiner spent 23 years as public relations advisor to clients at two agencies. For 10 years, she was the president of CMF&Z Public Relations, one of the Midwest s largest business-to-business public relations firms. Since 1999, she has worked as an independent consultant. Currently she consults with agribusiness and higher education clients and teaches writing at Drake University. Bodensteiner has been a contributing author for various publications in her career, including Public Relations Review and Public Relations Quarterly. In addition to writing for professional journals, Carol has written essays published in The Iowan magazine and The Des Moines Register and aired on Public Radio.