The Crops Look Good
When Margaret Williamson left her family’s rural Wisconsin farm to work in Minneapolis in 1923, her mother, Olava, wrote regularly with updates about daily activities: laundry, bread baking, plowing, planting, and harvesting the crops. Sometimes she enclosed a note from seven- year- old Helen, who reported on school and shenanigans and how she longed to see Margaret again. So begins decades of stories about a family at once singular— with personal joys and challenges— and broadly representative of the countless small farms that dotted the midwestern landscape in the early twentieth century. As Margaret’s niece Sara DeLuca weaves together family tales gleaned from letters and conversations, we learn of births and deaths, of innovations like the automobile, radio, and telephone that drew rural communities together, and of national and international events that brought home stone- hard truths. Depression- era farmers struggled to keep their land and feed their livestock; many failed. During wartime, this family made do just like everyone else. The tale that emerges is one of fierce devotion to family and work, of a changing landscape as smaller farms became part of conglomerates, and of the comforting daily rhythms of life shared with those who know us best. Poet and writer Sara DeLuca grew up on a dairy and sheep farm near the Williamson “homeplace” in Polk County, Wisconsin. She is the author of the memoir Dancing the Cows Home and the poetry collection Shearing Time.