By Rachel M. Anderson, Freelance Writer
(Lakeville, Minn.) – Gordon W. Fredrickson of Lakeville, Minn., may have retired from his job as an English teacher long ago, but once a teacher always a teacher. These days he spends what seems like every waking moment either writing about Minnesota’s farming history, or sharing his farming experiences with others.
He travels throughout the state putting on performances at schools, festivals and historical societies, and he has a lot of material to share. Fredrickson has now either authored or co-authored 11 published books about farming in Minnesota during the 1950s. He has several more titles in the works.
His latest title, released in Aug. 2013, just in time for the Minnesota State Fair, is A Farm Country Harvest: A Story of Threshing in 1950 (Beaver’s Pond Press, Aug. 2013, $36). It is a story and picture book he co-authored with his wife, fellow farming enthusiast Nancy A. Fredrickson. The illustrations were drawn and painted by Minnesota artist Robert Williams, who has lived most of his life on a farm in South Central Minnesota. Williams says rural scenes, like those in this book, are his favorite to paint.
The book, which is divided into three parts, begins with Fredrickson’s dedication to the men, women and children who worked the fields in past harvests, and to all the farmers of today whose crops will continue to provide food for our nation and the world.
Part one: A Farm Country Harvest: A Story of Threshing in 1950, is a children’s story narrated by 10-year-old Jimmy Carlson. In it he describes the work that needs to be done on the farm. It’s harvest time and the threshing machine is coming today.
The tale begins with the kids helping get the grain ready for the harvest. Then, as the men are actually harvesting the grain, the women are busy cooking lunch and then dinner. Meantime, one of the neighbor kids is planning a not-so-nice surprise. What’s going to happen? Readers can’t help but chuckle when they find out. Like ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” the story is written with rhyming couplet throughout.
Part Two: A Farm Country Harvest: Photographs of Past Harvests, features a collection of old photographs of people threshing in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The photos are accompanied by captions and explanations of the various steps in the harvesting process.
Nancy Fredrickson says she really enjoyed gathering all the images. “It was so much fun working on this project with Gordy,” she says. “I got to meet a lot of people, hear a lot of stories and see some really interesting pictures.”
There are more than 100 historic photos in the book. Some depict farming activities on the Fredrickson family farm when Gordon was a boy. Others were provided by historical societies and people the Fredricksons know. There are photos from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota in the book.
Part Three: A Farm Country Harvest: Annual Celebrations of Harvest Heritage, includes a list of all the different threshing festivals held throughout Minnesota, and features photos from several of them.
A Farm Country Harvest is the 5th book in the “Farm Country Tales” collection. The other books in the series include A Farm Country Christmas Eve, A Farm Country Halloween, A Farm Country Thanksgiving and A Farm Country Picnic. All five books are about life on a Minnesota farm and told through the eyes of 10-year-old Jimmy Carlson, a character Fredrickson says is based on himself as a boy.
“I have plans for 20 books in the series in all,” says Fredrickson, who adds that the next title will be A Farm Country Silo Filling. It is scheduled for release in 2015.
Fredrickson’s other published books include If I Were a Farmer: Nancy’s Adventure, If I Were a Farmer: Field Work, If I Were a Farmer: Tommy’s Adventure and What I Saw on the Farm.
“My goal with each of my books is threefold,” says Fredrickson. “I am trying to capture Farm Heritage, Farm Pride and Agricultural Literacy. It is my hope that through a combination of the stories and performances I do, I will be able to help people understand more about their food and where it comes from.”
In his review, retired farmer and current threshing machine restoration enthusiast Ron Lund offers Fredrickson very high praise for his work. “The 1950s fictional story is perfect. I loved it. I laughed as I read it and remembered doing those things during threshing as a boy,” he says.
“Gordon Fredrickson has put together a book that is sure to be treasured by anyone who remembers when harvesting was done with threshing machines. A Farm Country Harvest is a three-part book that will attract the attention of all ages...Readers will find a wealth of information about people and the machines responsible for reaping the harvests in another era,” says Carolyn Van Loh, farm wife, retired English teacher, and freelance writer for The Land and River Valley Extra, Westbrook, Minn.
“You are a good storyteller,” adds Ron Larson, a retired steam operator and current old-iron enthusiast from Lakeville, Minn.
A Farm Country Harvest and all of Fredrickson’s other books are available for purchase at historical society stores throughout Minnesota, as well as online at www.gordonfredrickson.com.
About the Authors
Gordon W. Fredrickson and Nancy A. Fredrickson grew up within six miles of each other in Scott County, Minn. Nancy lived in the small town of New Market, where even though the population was under 200, many businesses managed to scrape out a good living during the hard times in the 1940s and 1950s.
Two service stations, a general store, a butcher shop, taverns, a feed store, a farm produce store, a hardware store, a bank, and a post office served the townspeople and the surrounding farm communities, which included the small dairy farm where Gordon was raised by his parents and his two older sisters.
Even though Nancy was a “town kid” and Gordon was a “farm kid,” their collaboration on a book about harvesting grain in 1950 is part of a natural progression of their lives together. The farming in their blood surfaced early in their marriage, during Gordon’s first teaching job at Chokio-Alberta High School in western Minnesota.
Because the area offered no jobs for Nancy, they decided to buy 160 aces where they could raise cattle, hogs, and grain. Because Gordon worked days and often stayed late after school directing plays, Nancy handled the chores during the week. She raised calves, fed cattle, and farrowed hogs, and she eagerly learned to manage a large garden, bake homemade bread, and drive a tractor so she could help with the fieldwork. This farm experience reconnected both of them to their shared rural roots and even today gives them a common inspiration as they produce books about farm heritage.
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