Wisconsin Historical Society Press
Never Curse the Rain: A Farm Boy's Reflections on Water
By Jerry Apps
160 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 E-book edition also availableBuy
Growing up on the family farm, Jerry Apps learned from a young age that water was precious. The farm had no running water, a windmill pumped drinking water for the small herd of cattle, and Jerry and his brothers hauled bucket after bucket of water for the family's use. A weekly bath was considered sufficient. And when it rained, it was cause for celebration. Indeed, if ever the Apps boys complained about a rainy day spoiling their plans, their father admonished, "Never curse the rain," for the family's very livelihood depended upon it.
Jerry shares his memories of water, from its importance to crops and cattle to its many recreational uses -- fishing trips, canoe journeys, and the simple pleasures of an afternoon spent dreaming in the haymow as the rain patters on a barn roof. Water is still a touchstone in Jerry's life, and he explores the ways he has found it helpful in soothing troubled mind or releasing creativity. He also discusses his concerns about the future of water and ensuring we always have enough. For, as Jerry writes, "Water is one of the most precious things on this planet, necessary for all life, and we must do everything we can to protect it."
Read a short excerpt from Jerry's rainy day memories by clicking "Sample Chapter" above!
This book is one of a trio of Jerry Apps farm memoirs, which include The Quiet Season: Remembering Country Winters and Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist's Memoir. All three have inspired Wisconsin Public Television documentaries, available for sale, along with many more Jerry Apps titles on our Society Press Jerry Apps webpage.
To request a media review copy, to interview the author, or for more information, contact the Society Press marketing office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jerry Apps is professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than twenty-five books, many of them on rural history and country life. Jerry's nonfiction books include "Every Farm Tells a Story," "Living a Country Year," "When Chores Were Done," "Humor from the Country," "Country Ways and Country Days," "Ringlingville USA," "Horse-Drawn Days: A Century of Farming with Horses" and "Barns of Wisconsin." He has written two books for young readers, "Tents, Tigers and the Ringling Brothers" and "Casper Jaggi: Master Swiss Cheese Maker," and the novels "The Travels of Increase Joseph" and "In a Pickle: A Family Farm Story." He received the 2007 Major Achievement Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers and the 2007 Notable Wisconsin Author Award from the Wisconsin Library Association. Jerry was born and raised on a small farm in Waushara County, Wisconsin, about two miles from the land that is the subject of "Old Farm." He and his family have owned their farm, Roshara, since 1966, and he and his wife, Ruth, continue to live there part time. Once a small dairy farm, the property is now a tree farm with an ongoing prairie renovation. Check out his latest book, "Never Curse the Rain: A Farm Boy's Reflection on Water". Discover more books by Jerry Apps on the Jerry Apps author page!
For more information on author, storyteller and historian Jerry Apps, please visit:
And check out his blog, which covers his thoughts on everything from his books to environmental subjects to his personal life and much more at: www.jerryapps.com/blog
Listen to Jerry Apps talk about "Never Curse the Rain" in our book trailers here!
An Interview with Jerry Apps,
author of Never Curse the Rain: A Farm Boy's Reflections on Water
PRESS: Why did you decide to write and publish “Never Curse the Rain?”
I had recently published Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist's Memoir, which is about the importance of the land, why we should cherish it, respect it and take care of it for future generations. It seemed only natural to follow "Whispers and Shadows" with a book about water and how our lives are entwined and dependent on fresh, clean water.
PRESS: Water flows throughout the stories you tell in this book – what makes water such a nostalgic element?
As farm boy, and as a part-time farmer today, I have long known stories associated with water, stories that go back to my days growing up on a sandy, never-enough-rain farm in Waushara County, Wisconsin -- wonderful tales of swimming in the evening after a hot day of making hay, or going fishing in a leaky wooden boat and more recent stories of dry weather and dead, recently planted trees at Roshara, my tree farm.
PRESS: Why should someone not from a farming background read this book?
It matters not what our backgrounds are, whether we grew up on a farm, or in a major urban center—water is critical for everyone’s existence.
PRESS: How can this book serve as a guide to Wisconsin history? American history?
Wisconsin history, American history, global history all have, in one way or another, water as a major theme. This book is a snippet of my history with water, written so that my history may encourage others to discuss their relationships to water and to share their water stories.
PRESS: How can this book increase our understanding of shared water experiences and values, and how they are the same, and how they are different, from other parts of the country?
All people, no matter where they live, should be concerned about water. We in the Upper Midwest are blessed in having a bountiful supply, especially with the Great Lakes as our northern border. But even so, those who live in the sand country of central Wisconsin have long known about water shortages and what that means for farming and for recreation. People living in other parts of the country, especially the Southwest, have experienced severe water shortages in recent years. Same in other parts of the country. Our need to understand, appreciate, and protect water is becoming even more important, no matter where we live in the world.
PRESS: Writing a book is a deeply personal experience. How has writing “Never Curse the Rain” been a personal experience for you?
Writing this book has helped me to realize how important water has been in my life and how important it continues to be today. It is so easy to take water for granted—it’s at our peril when we do. This perspective has been reinforced for me with writing this book.
PRESS: OK, we have to ask, Have you ever cursed the rain?
My father, a long time farmer, said to my brothers and me when we complained—we had our mouths washed out with soap if we cursed—about a rainy day. He reminded us that our crops would not grow without rain and Ma’s garden would fail. I complained about walking to school on a rainy day—no rides, we always walked. If we’d planned an outdoor picnic and it rained—we complained. Later in life, when I wilderness-tent camped and my tent leaked, I complained.
Rain, too much of it, at the wrong place and the wrong time, can lead to complaints.
I remember, during basic training in the army; we hiked for five miles along a muddy trail at an army base in Virginia, in a steady, miserable, rain. I complained. Everyone complained.
So, I've never cursed it but, yes, I have complained about it from time to time!
PRESS: Why do you focus on stories in your writing?
I am a firm believer in the power of the story, no matter if I am writing fiction or non-fiction. Stories, for me, are a way of not only informing people (in this book the importance of water in our lives), but they can entertain, and at a deeper level, can grab people’s emotions. Also, by writing stories, it is my hope that by example, my stories will trigger people’s memories so they will write their stories -- memories of what water has meant to them and to their families over the years.
An Excerpt from:
Never Curse the Rain: A Farm Boy's Reflections on Water
On rainy days in the midst of haying season, work in the hayfield came to a halt. After we finished the morning chores and turned the cows out to pasture, we would crawl up into the haymow, where the freshly cut hay was stored. There we would rest on the hay that smelled of sweet clover and alfalfa and listen to the drumming of the raindrops on the barn roof. We’d listen to Pa’s stories of rainy days he remembered. We enjoyed a day of rest and celebrated the rain, for our sandy farm never had enough.