Book Discovery: Post- Hole Digger by James Pope
Inspiring, heartfelt and based on real events, Post-Hole Digger depicts the true story of a simple Iowa farm boy and how he came to shoulder responsibilities and fulfill feats more suited for those years beyond his age. In this moving narrative, author James Pope shows readers the realities taking place every day on farms across the United States. At once, it shows the spirit of these youths who step up to the challenge, as well as the toll this formative experience takes on them.
Being called upon at such an early age is no easy feat. While it can be said to “build character,” at the same time, it shouldn’t be idealized or romanticized. Children do need to just be themselves, engaging in healthy play, developing at their own pace, and remaining innocent of the stresses faced by adults… for a time at least. Yet here readers will see youths whose childhoods have passed them by all too quickly, as playtime becomes a luxury that they and their families can’t afford. They mature quickly and become responsible mini-adults, ready to face the challenges farm life has in store for them. But it’s a hard life.
This narrative inspires by displaying people’s innate capability to rise up and meet what lies before them, even when they are so young. It also underscores the conditions faced by farming families across America, since they don’t just burden children with such tasks for the heck of it, no. It is because all hands are busy and they are all trying to make a living, all too often making it just by the skin of their teeth. But these pressures can become too much to bear, despite the iconic image of the stern and tough American farmer, a descendant of the steely cowboy archetype. Statistics show that America’s farmers are increasingly stressed, struggling and worse.
For the kids, it is another front in the severe deficit of play experienced by children in these times — whether it be farm work or homework, chores in the barn or hours in the classroom — the lack of time to just be kids does have an effect.
Farm life has never been easy. From the old stories and films to works such as Cormac McCarthy’s classics, life on the ranch, its struggles, rewards, and costs, have been enshrined in the American mythos. Now Pope gives his own contribution with the “Post-Hole Digger,” a moving memoir, a glimpse of the past that informs readers of how the “now” came to be. And perhaps what lies ahead.
Those with similar backgrounds and origins can have elements of their life on display. Or they can see what their predecessors went through. Longtime city-slickers and urbanites can gain a newfound appreciation of what it takes to till the land, grow the crops and tend to the flocks, all indispensable in fueling the nation in its entirety. Cities, towns, suburbs, all of these rely on the toil of farmers and their families. This is what Pope remembers and shares, his memories a bountiful harvest, like those an Iowa farm boy partook in all those years ago.
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Born March 25, 1937, Avoca, Iowa at home on a family farm. Attended a one-room country school for two years. At age fifteen upon the death of my father, I became a janitor of the Macedonia, Iowa Consolidated School. Age sixteen worked as a hired man on a farm for four years. After graduation, I joined the Navy and served twenty-seven years in submarines. After I retired from the Navy, went to work for a utility company as production controller supervisor of the computerized maintenance department. Starting out life in the "cash n' carry " world, where needs and savings were the law we lived by. At the age of sixty, after working all my able life, I just stopped going to work. I have a wonderful partner. She and I have been together for thirty-two years travelling the world extensively. I don't know if I am a writer or just a storyteller that can uniquely connect the dots.