An Educational Experience
On a fox chase, the lead dog heads the pack, and often pays a fearsome price. Such a dog is metaphor for people who step forth, when times get rough, into harm's way. Follow the life and times of a rural, Southern-Indiana family, with roots that reach back before the American Revolution, through the Civil War, and on to and through the Great Depression (1929-1941). From Chapter 5 on, the story spans the years from 1920 to 1944.
Eudora Welty has written that all novels are about family. This one tells of a farm family the 20th Century had left behind. On their path to a new state of affairs, they endure primitive lives, best illustrated by a rancid outdoor toilet, a stone's throw from the home on their 80-acre farm. Yet with the coming of rural electricity in 1940, homes turn on lights. Gone are coal-oil lamps and Saturday night baths in a rain tub, hidden away in the kitchen near the wood-fired stove, with doors locked.
Stella, wife and mother, is a former librarian who had grown up in a small town and known better times. On the farm, with the help of her children, after long effort and frustration along the way, she finally persuades husband Stanford to arrange for needed improvements in their lives. Finally, with lighting and indoor plumbing enabled by electricity, family members begin to live better lives as electric pumps bring in water from deep wells into kitchens and bathrooms. Like all mothers, Stella is the glue that holds the family together, through good times and bad.
Early chapters tell of Stanford's father, Walter, his odyssey through the Civil War, and Stanford's coming of age in 1900. In 1920 he persuades Stella to marry him, and they begin a family. With the coming of WWII, Jacob and two older brothers are drawn into the war. One would not return.