The Farm Story: A South Dakota Memoir Now Available
A story from the Heartlands, told from the heart.
Helen Ackley Johnson ( 1918-2004 ) grew up on a South Dakota farm in the years between the two World Wars. In this remarkable personal memoir, enhanced with black-and-white and color photographs by the author, she describes day-to-day farm activities at a time when the small family farm was still a widespread way of life in the United States.
Johnson's story is told in the new book, The Farm Story: A South Dakota Memoir, with vintage photos by
the author, now available on Amazon.com .
Black-and-white edition $12.99, deluxe color edition $27.00.
Helen Johnson initially published these words and images just for her family; she died in 2004. This book is published posthumously by Helen Johnson's daughter, Christine Leslie Johnson.
Johnson chronicles community customs, picnics, parties, and shared labor, and shows how the introduction of such inventions as the telephone and the radio changed her family's ties to the wider world. She tells us about the hard times-dust storms, fires-as well as the good:
I remember sitting on the cement steps by the back door at dusk after a hot, windy day, with a pail of warm water, soap, and a towel, and easing my tired, dusty feet.
The hot, relentless wind of the day had softened to a caressing breeze that dried my feet and took away the weariness.
I think those were the times when our family felt a closeness that no one had the time nor the inclination for during the desperate years of the drought. We would sit and talk, and the worries about whether we could keep going would be eased for a little while.
This is American history through a close-up lens: the story of one family's farm, and one child's growth to womanhood there. Helen Johnson was an "ordinary" person who left us this extraordinary document and photographs of everyday life on an American farm during decades of rapid and unprecedented change. It is a story of the Heartlands, told from the heart.
Johnson was well aware that family farming was a vanishing way of life, and she wanted to describe that life before it disappeared. "The Farm Story" is essential reading for anyone interested in Americana, South Dakota history, the evolution of farm technology in the 20th century, and anyone curious to know what life was really like back when farming was a central experience in the American psyche.
"The Farm Story" features an essay about the changing landscape of the American farm, written by Jorjet Harper, and an afterword by Christine Leslie Johnson.
Contact: Christine Leslie Johnson