Over the past decade, I’ve encouraged you to take pictures of the town where you live, your truck, your church, workplace and home. These scenes may seem dull today, but 100 (or even 50) years from now, someone might be going over your shots with a magnifying glass, learning a bit of how people lived back in 2011.
Now I’m shifting gears. A picture tells a thousand words, but a thousand words can tell a pretty good story, too. In other words, start writing! You don’t have to be Shakespeare to tell the story of your life; you don’t have to have a master’s degree in English to create a lasting memory for your children and grandchildren.
Recently, I had the opportunity to read the memoirs of a man born and raised on an Iowa farm. Printed at the local copy shop and bound with a plastic spiral, this book won’t show up on the New York Times bestseller list. It was not elegantly written but it was true and genuine. It read as though the writer were sitting across the room, spinning a tale. And that was the very great beauty of it.
After reading his book, I feel I know the man and his family. Certainly I have a clearer understanding of what it was like to grow up on a farm in Iowa in the 1950s. How “neighboring” worked, how rural roads were maintained and how farms were operated on a shoestring. These homespun first-person memoirs – and I’ve read more than a few over the years – pulse with immediacy and authenticity. When you read of a 16-year-old’s decision to abandon home and take off for the Dakotas, chasing a rumor of work to be had there, you gain sudden clarity about life in that era.
Where to start? At the beginning. Focus on a momentous event in your life, or that of your family. Start with the impact of the Depression or war. With the Dust Bowl or the arrival of electrification or indoor plumbing. With Dad’s first tractor, or the first tractor you drove. Doesn’t matter how you tell the story; just make sure it gets told. For those who come later, the write stuff is pure gold. FC