Book Report: Growing Up in the Ozarks by John E. Hult (2001)

I loved this book. It’s a collection of stories about growing up just southeast of Springfield, Missouri, in the 1930s. The author moves with his family to a small homestead called Bethany Homestead with his family of 7. His father’s a Lutheran minister and a frequent missionary to Africa who really wants to return, but he serves as pastor to a number of churches in the United States. This leaves the wife and her children (10 by the time the book ends) on the little farm, which has some crops and a large orchard not to mention some cattle to tend to. The second oldest boy, John takes an active role in the household.

It’s a strange other country, the past. While some of the landmarks are familiar, the culture is different. For example, the author took a year off between finishing school and deciding whether to pursue further education. Not between high school and college, not between his undergrad years and going onto medical school. Between 8th grade and high school. During this year, his father is preaching in Nebraska and his brother is in high school already, so the 13 year old boy is effectively the man of the house, working outside the home for some extra income and taking care of chores and helping his mother tend the 8 siblings at home. 13! He also recounts travelling to the upper peninsula of Michigan to visit his father (who’s preaching afar again) and, instead of riding in a single Packard laden with his 9 siblings and mother, stays over an extra couple of days in Michigan and hitchhikes home.

I wondered if this sort of collection of stories would fly were I or a peer try to write it about our youths in the 1970s and 1980s, whether they would be interesting enough to draw any attention from seekers of esoterica 50 years from now. You know what? They just might. Some of my stories sound outlandish among my cohort now, only 30 years beyond their occurence. Perhaps in another 30 years they will be exotic enjoyments for readers. If anyone reads in 2040.

At any rate, I liked the book so much I’ll keep my eyes out for the others written by Hult and his immediate family. Also, last night, I returned to the used book store where I bought this book and bought six other memoirs in the same vein from different authors from the Ozarks.

Books mentioned in this review: