“Never Curse the Rain,” Wisconsin farm author Jerry Apps’ latest book, is about a farm boy’s reflections on water. Apps grew up on a farm in the Central Sands region in the 1930s and 1940s.
“When I was a kid growing up on a farm in Waushara County, I have memories of not having enough rain,” he says. “I’m old enough to remember that. We had dust storms in the 1930s and drought. Even when the wind stopped blowing, it was still exceedingly dry. In those days, a weekly bath was considered sufficient.”
Apps says his family had a windmill, and they pumped their water.
“When the windmill stopped turning, the livestock had no water,” he says. “I remember the pitiful sound of cattle bellowing. That was my first memory, and the sounds cows make all night long without water is just awful. We went to a neighbor who had a gasoline engine powering his pump. He had water. So we hitched a team up and took milk cans down there and filled them up with water.
“Shortly after that, my dad bought a used gasoline engine so we would have water when the wind stopped blowing,” he notes. That was in 1938.
NEW BOOK: "Never Curse the Rain" is the third book in the Wisconsin Historical Society's series on rural-life memories by Jerry Apps.
In his book, Apps also talks about putting up loose hay.
“There were no balers back then,” he recalls. “We put the hay up with horses. On a rainy day in late June, we would crawl up in the barn. 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.”
Rain was often a cause for celebration, Apps continues. “Our family’s livelihood and survival depended on the rain, and many of the activities I enjoyed doing as a boy — like fishing, canoeing and puddle jumping — involved rain,” he says.
“My dad died at age 93,” Apps says. “One way of mourning him, I sat by one of our two ponds. One day it was raining, and it was quite beautiful. As the raindrops fell, it created a circle that got larger and larger and then disappeared. Each one of us tries to make a little circle in life.”
In his book, Apps talks about what people need to do so the world continues to have a ready supply of fresh, clean water.
“Native Americans see water as spiritual. It’s important for Americans to see water as what we need to do today so it will be available for seven generations from now,” he explains. “Most of us take water for granted. We need to take action to assure we will have the water we have today not one or two generations out, but for seven generations.”
Author of more than 50 books
Apps has written more than 50 books about rural life in the past 30 years. A professor emeritus in ag at University of Wisconsin-Madison, he has been featured in three PBS documentaries, including the Emmy Award-winning “Farm Winter With Jerry Apps.” All three documentaries have been broadcast on PBS in 48 states.
On March 8, a fourth documentary will air on Wisconsin Public Television interviewing Apps about his book “Never Curse the Rain.” Check local listings for times.
“Never Curse the Rain” is the third book in the Wisconsin Historical Society’s series on rural-life memories by Apps. The series includes “The Quiet Season: Remembering Country Winters,” and “Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist’s Memoir.”
“Whispers and Shadows is all about the need to take care of the land,” Apps says. “If we’re going to take care of the land, you have to have water. Water is a big issue as drought hits some areas and floods hit others. 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.”
To order a DVD or one of his books, visit jerryapps.com, or call the Wisconsin Historical Society at 608-264-6465.