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Township Roads: Cold Weather Reading

Fri, Jan 24th, 2003
Posted in Columnists

It was too cold, in my opinion, to work outside for long this weekend. The boys and I managed to stay warm for a couple hours while we split firewood. Im sure we could have kept warm all afternoon had we been splitting with axes and a sledgehammer, but we were using a borrowed gasoline-powered splitter. The guy standing in one place running the hydraulic ram has the toughest job staying warm. The other workers get to lift, carry and otherwise exercise their feet and limbs. It is a classic case of the two-edged ax. On one hand, we could have split wood all afternoon with an ax and stayed warm. On the other hand, we split a lot of wood in two hours with the splitter and then we quit to get in where it was warm to watch football. Although there may have been considerable value in the additional exercise, the wood burns the same and my back feels better today. Splitting more wood was an optional amount of work that could wait for a warmer day.On the dairy farm where I grew up, there was little of that optional work. When there was work to be done outside, it had to be done no matter how cold it was. It probably got done a bit faster and our definition of optional work got a little broader, but we had to get it done. After the work was done, I found a lot of satisfaction in settling down with some of the reading material that came into our house.Readers Digest was one of my reading diversions. The articles covered diverse subjects that were often strange and exciting to me. They were also fairly short to match my limited attention span. There was always time to read the Digest. If my time was short, I could page through and read the jokes at the end of each article. With a little more time I could improve my mind with It Pays to Improve Your Word Power. The feature articles had to wait until after chores were done for the day.Life magazine was still full-sized. The attraction to Life was the photography. I dont recall reading much from Life other than the captions. Despite all the pictures, or maybe because of them, I think I may have learned more about the world from Life magazine than from any other media source. The Saturday Evening Post was another one of my favorites. I enjoyed the Post for its abundant cartoons. I read the cartoons first and then went back looking for interesting articles. I believe that it was the Post where I read the story, "Failsafe". It was a story about nuclear disaster that fit right in with what was going on in the world. Although I was young and didnt understand it all, it was enough to scare me for years to come. Hoards Dairyman was always fun. As I was interested in dairy cattle, I found it had some features that meant something to me. There were a few good cartoons as well. Hoards had a sense of history to it that provided an interesting perspective. It seemed to have respect for the way we did things on our farm while still promoting more modern ways. I still read it now and I dont think it has changed too much in that regard.We all looked forward to The Farmer. It had a fun page for kids with a connect-the-dots puzzle I could do in my head. There was a short quiz for which I could usually answer a couple questions. The rest of the magazine had a diverse selection of articles on every aspect of farming in the Midwest. It could keep me occupied for a long time.When the magazines were all finished and the good books had been read again, I often returned to the old standby, the World Book of Knowledge. I thought that encyclopedias contained all the information in the entire world and it all fit right there in just twenty-four books on the shelf in the living room. It took me a while to figure out that there were things I knew that I couldnt find in the encyclopedia. The encyclopedia was the perfect short-attention-span reading material. Every page revealed several new topics, some I read, some I did not. I still remember the satisfying feeling of those heavy leather-bound books in my hands. Now, our family encyclopedia is contained on a disk and can only be read with the computer. The disk is updated every year for about thirty dollars, so it is better than the old bound version in that respect, but I still miss the feel of that book in my hand.I look forward to warm weather in the spring and the chance to work outside comfortably. Of course, there probably will be days that are too hot, too humid, too mosquito-laden, or too sunny to work outside. Then I can retreat to a comfortable house and my favorite reading material.

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