Little Heathens

Hard Times and High Spirits on An Iowa Farm During the Great Depression
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Little Heathens
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I tell of a time, a place, and a way of life long gone. For many years I have had the urge to describe that treasure trove, lest it vanish forever. So, partly in response to the basic human instinct to share feelings and experiences, and partly for the sheer joy and excitement of it all, I report on my early life. It was quite a romp. So begins Mildred Kalish's story of growing up on her grandparents' Iowa farm during the depths of the Great Depression. With her father banished from the household for mysterious transgressions, five-year-old Mildred and her family could easily have been overwhelmed by the challenge of simply trying to survive. This, however, is not a tale of suffering. Kalish counts herself among the lucky of that era. She had caring grandparents who possessed--and valiantly tried to impose--all the pioneer virtues of their forebears, teachers who inspired and befriended her, and a barnyard full of animals ready to be tamed and loved. She and her siblings and their cousins from the farm across the way played as hard as they worked, running barefoot through the fields, as free and wild as they dared. Filled with recipes and how-tos for everything from catching and skinning a rabbit to preparing homemade skin and hair beautifiers, apple cream pie, and the world's best head cheese (start by scrubbing the head of the pig until it is pink and clean), Little Heathens portrays a world of hardship and hard work tempered by simple rewards. There was the unsurpassed flavor of tender new dandelion greens harvested as soon as the snow melted; the taste of crystal clear marble-sized balls of honey robbed from a bumblebee nest; the sweet smell from the body of a lamb sleeping on sun-warmed grass; and the magical quality of oat shocking under the light of a full harvest moon. Little Heathens offers a loving but realistic portrait of a "hearty-handshake Methodist" family that gave its members a remarkable legacy of kinship, kindness, and remembered pleasures. Recounted in a luminous narrative filled with tenderness and humor, Kalish's memoir of her childhood shows how the right stuff can make even the bleakest of times seem like "quite a romp."
Authors: Kalish, Mildred Armstrong
Title: Little heathens
hard times and high spirits on an Iowa farm during the Great Depression
Publisher: New York : Bantam Books, 2007.
Characteristics: x, 292 p. :,ill. ;,22 cm.
Contents: 1: The family
Great-Grandpa Jonathan
Aunt Belle
2: Building character
Oral influences
Literary influences
Religious influences
Farm food
An especially pleasant chore
Water windmill
Milking and other nightly chores
Wash day
3: Fall/Winter
Country school: Monroe Number 6
Box social
Gathering nuts
Gathering wood
Winter is Icumen in, Lhude sing Goddamm!
Town school: Garrison
4: Spring/Summer
Leisure time
Spring in Yankee Grove
May baskets
Animal tales
Raccoons and other critters.
Local Note: 1 6 8 29 33 53 109 122 133 143 148 153 172 173 175 182 188 198 203 211 216 222 231 244 264 272 276
ISBN: 9780553804959
Statement of Responsibility: Mildred Armstrong Kalish
Subject Headings: Iowa Social life and customs 20th century. Benton County (Iowa) Biography. Benton County (Iowa) Rural conditions. Rural families Iowa Benton County. New Deal, 1933-1939 Iowa Benton County. Depressions 1929 Iowa Benton County. Benton County (Iowa) Social life and customs 20th century. Farm life Iowa Benton County History 20th century. Kalish, Mildred Armstrong Family. Kalish, Mildred Armstrong Childhood and youth.
Topical Term: Rural families
New Deal, 1933-1939
Farm life
LCCN: 2006032730
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Nov 20, 2012
  • prairiegal rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I loved this book. Although I many generations removed from farm life, I was surprised at how many aspects of her life were part of the total culture of the time. I went back and took notes on everything from recipes to remedies.


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