Available Now! The Beginner’s Cow: Memories of a Volga German from Kansas

Loren Schmidtberger

$9.99$19.95

At the age of seven, Loren Schmidtberger was assigned to a beginner’s cow—the gentlest cow in the herd and the easiest for a child just beginning to milk. As he learned to milk with the help of the cow, he also learned the art of living from the unforgiving reality of the Dust Bowl years tempered by the steadfast resilience of his Volga German community. Now he offers us those memories in stories told with wry humor and gentle grace.

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Description

At the age of seven, Loren Schmidtberger was assigned to a beginner’s cow—the gentlest cow in the herd and the easiest for a child just beginning to milk. As he learned to milk with the help of the cow, he also learned the art of living from the unforgiving reality of the Dust Bowl years tempered by the steadfast resilience of his Volga German community.

After he left the family’s isolated Kansas farm and throughout his teaching career, Schmidtberger’s life was filled with ever-present memories of family and community. Now he offers us those memories in stories told with wry humor and gentle grace. These tales span the decades with a clear-eyed gaze, reflecting a cultural legacy that laid the foundation for a life well-lived, and illustrating the deep cultural changes between America in the 1930s and the America we know today.

 

Check out a recent interview with Loren!

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Part 1: Early Memories, and a Dose of Local History
Fick-door-y
The Land
Memories of My Father
Drought, Dust Storms, Depression
Regeneration
Mother’s Story
Tools of the Trade: An Inventory of Stock Phrases
Suitably Open to Suggestions
Postmarks
Crime and Punishment
Grandmother’s Ghost
Sound Advice
Grandfather’s Business Ventures
Flowers I Remember

Part 2: Grade School Years
Bilingual Cows
Warm Beds and Oddly Chosen Names
The Complicated Nomenclature of Dining
Der Gayla Barrich (The Yellow Hill)
Homework and Short-Lived Rebellions
The Pecking Order
Penance on the Prairie
Old White Face
Smoke Enders
When Communists Invaded Our Farm
828: Two Longs and a Short
The Food Chain: Two Perspectives
Separation
Changing Styles
St.Boniface Church in Vincent, Kansas

Part 3: Hays Junior-Senior High School
Remembering Pearl Harbor
A Dictionary, a Pen, and Our First Christmas Tree
Licenses—Poetic and Otherwise
Welcome Back
Happiness—A Tilting Point
Language Bias
Gastrocycles
A Vision Envisioned
It’s in the Basket

Part 4: The Halls of Saint Fidelis
Could Anything Be Finer?
Along the Way to Adulthood
Nobody’s Perfect
A Foolish Decision
Bombs Bursting in Err
Thrown for a Loop
My Letter Home
Left at the Altar

Part 5: College and the Army
Bullets and Bumpers
A Very Short History of All the Rescuing I Did
Push-Ups
You’re Not in Kansas Anymore
My Security Blanket, Parts One and Two
A Salute to Colonel Curtis
My American Dream

Part 6: Graduate School, Teaching at Saint Peter’s College, Married Life
My First Day on the Job
Overnight in Ohio: A Conversation about Race
The Things People Say
Swimming with the Current
The Betrothal
Lions and Hearts: An Old English Memory
Dog-Eared Pages, and Other Important Points in the Narrative
Heavens Above
The Faculty Lounge
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Remembrance of Things Obsolete
My Unruly Moment
Consulting Emily Post
A Lie
Off to School They Went
Town and Country

Part 7: The Senior Years, and the End of an Era
Georgine: An Elegy
Alvie
What’s In a Name?
Two Good-Byes
My Brother’s Dictionary
At Half Mast
Staying Connected

Part 8: Life Today
The Good Old Days
Fleeting Disappointment
Going My Way: The Life I Could’ve Had
All in the Family Circle: A Father of Six Ponders Gay Marriage
Seeing Isn’t Believing
Baseball, Boxing, Opera, Whatever
Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick
Why I Am Not Running for President
Blackberries
Smoke Detectors on the Debt Ceiling
Celebrating Memorial Day
Rain

Part 9: Thoughts, Scattered and Otherwise, on Literature, Verve, and Verse
In Praise of Anne Bradstreet, 1612–72
The Long and Short of It
“I Could Not See to See”
“Honey, It’s Time to Leave”
The End of the World—for Marvin
The Jolly Song

Afterword: The Fine Print, Historically Speaking, and Further Reading

About the Author

Authors

Loren Schmidtberger born in 1928 and raised on a farm near Victoria, Kansas. He attended St. Fidelis Minor Seminary in Herman, Pennsylvania, before earning his BA from Fort Hays Kansas State University and his PhD from Fordham University.

Dr. Schmidtberger taught at Saint Peter’s University in New Jersey for fifty-one years, specializing in American literature, especially the works of William Faulkner. He was appointed the Will and Ariel Durant Professor of Humanities in 1991. He is currently Professor Emeritus of English at Saint Peter’s University.

Reviews

This collection of essays recounting a disappearing way of life is a remarkable primary source about the life of one Volga German family in Kansas during the twentieth century. Scholars and general readers alike will enjoy the images, vignettes, and lessons of life as well as gain a greater understanding of the nation’s cultural developments since the 1930s.
 —Petra Dewitt, author of Degrees of Allegiance: Harassment and Loyalty in Missouri’s German-American Community during World War I

Loren Schmidtberger's engaging essays take the reader on a lifetime journey, from his youth on the isolated prairies of central Kansas to the ultra-connected urban world of the twenty-first century. Schmidtberger’s parents, the heirs of Volga German immigrants, raised him in a German-speaking household amid the trials and tribulations of the Great Depression and dust storms. His insights on family, Catholicism, marriage, life and death, and social change in post–World War II America are rooted in Kansas soil and transported to the East Coast. This is an engaging, highly readable work, one that is encapsulated in Schmidtberger’s quote from Montaigne: “I speak the truth, not so much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little more as I grow older.”
—James Sherow, Kansas State University, managing editor,  Kansas History: Journal of the Central Plains

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