Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ray's Reviews: When Boppa Was a Boy by Kurt D. Thelen

 "When Boppa Was a Boy" by Kurt D. Thelen (PublishAmerica, $24.95) is an unusual self-published paperback book that consists primarily of the author's recollections of his life growing up on a farm in Westphalia.

 In today's computerized world, that may sound like a boring book of little interest to anybody, but Thelen really makes it work.

 He notes in his brief preface: "The book is a historical anecdotal accounting of life on a typical Michigan dairy farm during the 1960's... told from the perspective of a grade-school-aged boy growing up in a rural setting".

 The first of almost 30 short recollections describes an unusual situation, where his mother is going after a pesky squirrel - with a .22 caliber rifle. 

 When the squirrel flees, his mother, a crack-shot, follows, taking Thelen's older sister and baby along for the ride - in the family car. She was seven months pregnant at the time!

 Thelen describes numerous typical day-to-day experiences of life on a midwestern dairy farm; his recollections are always quite interesting.

 He focuses on a wide variety of memorable situations, involving rabbits, cows and other assorted critters. Thelen delves into challenging realities of dairy farm life in the 1960's and the importance of family and friends. 

 The anecdotes get funnier as the entertaining book goes on. The author offers many fond anecdotes of different and sometimes unexpected ways that he had fun.

 He also notes the importance of performing necessary tedious tasks, such as milking cows twice daily.

  His daughter, Kelsey D. Thelen, a schoolteacher in Holland MI, did the small interior illustrations of pop-eyed characters in their farm settings. They are quite basic, but fit well with the overall retrospective.

 This is an entertaining, fascinating look at an important era of agriculture and farming from a unique perspective, when life was considerably less complicated.

 Thelen, forever a farmer at heart, still lives in Westphalia. He is a professor in Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University. His email address is thelenk3@msu.edu.
 Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed Michigan books and crime novels regularly since 1987.

Find this book and other great Michigan titles
at the Curious Book Shop, an independent 
book shop in East Lansing, founded in 1969.

Curious Book Shop
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, Michigan

This review was published by the Lansing State Journal on September 16, 2013.

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