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'Limping through Life' with Jerry Apps

Author Jerry Apps as a young boy on his family's farm near Wild Rose

Polio was epidemic in the United States starting in 1916. By the 1930s, quarantines and school closings were common, as isolation was one of the only ways to fight the disease. The Salk vaccine was not available until 1955. In that year, Wisconsin's Fox River Valley had more polio cases per capita than anywhere in the United States. Celebrated rural historian Jerry Apps was one of Wisconsin's cases. He was 12 years old.

"Pa didn't say anything. He just stood there with his red-checked wool cap in his hand and a sorrowful look on his face — the kind of look he got when one of his best cows died," Apps recalls of the day a doctor first told his parents that their son had polio.

Apps' Most Personal Book Yet

The cover of "Limping through Life: A Farm Boy's Polio Memoir"
In his most personal book to date, 'Limping through Life: A Farm Boy's Polio Memoir,' the Wisconsin Historical Society Press author discusses the many adjustments and challenges he faced — and met — after that diagnosis. Apps reveals how polio affected him physically and emotionally, how it profoundly influenced his education, military service and family life, and set him on the path to becoming a professional writer. He also shares the stories of the teachers, friends and family who helped him to first see beyond, and then rise above, the disease that tried to take him down.

About the Author

Jerry Apps has been a rural historian and environmental writer for more than 40 years. His rural life story became the subject of a new Wisconsin Public Television documentary, Jerry Apps: A Farm Story, which is airing on Public Broadcasting Stations nationwide in 2013. He has published fiction and nonfiction books on many topics, including "Old Farm," "Garden Wisdom," "Horse-Drawn Days," "Ringlingville USA" and "Casper Jaggi: Master Swiss Cheese Maker" for the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. Jerry and his wife Ruth divide their time between their home in Madison and their farm, Roshara, west of Wild Rose.

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:: Posted March 28, 2013

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