When a high school student, one of my least favorite duties in English class was the oral book report. First, I had to read a book. Second, I would have to write a paper summarizing what I read. Lastly, I was required to give a report on the book orally to the entire class.
To stand up before a crowd and to present the idea given in the book repulsed me. Rather than taking the risk of doing a poor job of the speaking assignment, I wrote a report knowing full well that my teacher would give me an average score. It was a small penalty that I was willing to accept. I regret now that I was comfortable with that arrangement.
Reading and writing have become an interest of mine now that my children are grown and I have the time to put into those activities. I cannot read a lot. Duty does still call on the farm, but I have made it a priority to read a few chapters of the Holy Bible daily. I have an office with several bookshelves that are heavy with volumes that have not been read yet.
So, despite the scarcity of time for extensive reading, I have incorporated reading a few pages each day with my morning routine. Recently, I have been able to peruse one of my mother’s antique books, The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman Jr., a historian who wrote for the Knickerbocker Magazine from 1847 till 1849. He related to his readers the sights and sounds and hardships he and others encountered as they made the trek overland to California.
The next book I read these past months is Shadow of the Almighty by Elizabeth Elliot. The author presents a selection the writings by her husband which chronicles his life. Missionary Jim Elliot lost his life in the early 1950s. His heart’s desire was to reach the Auca Indians in Ecuador with the Gospel of Christ.
The book I am now enjoying is entitled Land Our Fathers Plowed, compiled and edited by David B. Greenberg. This book holds original writings of folks who came to America and settled in the East, the South, the Midwest and the Far West.
It holds things that to me were mysteries, for example, the building of a log house from the virgin forest; chinking the inside of the cabin; specialized hints at how to successfully drive an ox cart; and how to make an ox yoke are all mentioned in the book. Other information includes the rubbing of salt and spice on hams and hanging them in the smoke house, sugar making, corn husking, and rope making. In regard to garden crops, one writer testifies that “fennel [is] for keeping old women awake in church time.”
It highlights tools used when logging as one clears land for farming, such as the axe, the handspikes, chains, the cant hook, the cross-cut saw. My own grandfather was a logger, as was his father. I learned things about their lives that I have never had the opportunity to ask about.
This book underscores the importance of the neighbor to the new settler and to the soul on a journey. Neighbors helped raise a house, ring the hogs, butcher hogs, bring in the harvest, offer refreshments and warmth to the winter traveler. Neighbors were vital friends.
And from a boy’s eye view of the farm there was work, work, and more work. A boy would clean the smoke house, carry water to the farmhouse, do hammer-and-chisel-chipping to carve out a deep well, and among other things, he would be responsible to wean a calf.
The selection of books that I have been privileged to read over this winter, are non-fiction. Fiction can be fun and fanciful, but this non-fiction opens up another time, another lifestyle and recounts a dependence on the Lord.
I hope my little “book report” piques your interest in reading or brings back fond memories for you. As summer activities present themselves, enrich your life by reading the truth in God’s Word and in the history of our great nation.