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A Good Day’s Work: An Iowa Farm in the Great Depression

Image of A Good Day's Work: An Iowa Farm in the Great Depression
Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
October 2016
Fred's Rating: 
Dwight W. Hoover
Total Pages: 
Ivan R. Dee

Dwight W. Hoover, emeritus professor of history and former director of the Center for Midwestern Studies at Ball State University, has also written three other books. This was a gift book.

The Amazon website for this hardcover book is

The home page has a brief summary (click on Read more). A more complete summary appears on the Front and Back Flaps, which, being more detailed, I give here:

“Despite sublime landscapes and bountiful harvests, farming is hard work and always has been. The Great Depression in rural America, which began in the 1920s and lasted until World War II, made it still harder. In a time of transition, when tractors were replacing horses and the family farm was giving way to the large, single-crop enterprise, the struggle to survive and modernize in a period of economic scarcity was especially sharp.

“These are the days Dwight W. Hoover recalls in A Good Day’s Work, his unvarnished memoir of the events of day-to-day life on an Iowa farm in the twenties and thirties. There he grew up in the midst of the depression’s fears and uncertainties. His detailed descriptions of daily work on his farm in each of the year’s four seasons form a fascinating if grim reminder of what it was like to be a child with adult responsibilities.

“Mr. Hoover shows just how much labor was required by the family farm, how the work resembled the organic farm of today, and why a farm built on this work ethic was so difficult to sustain. Descended from a long line of farmers, young Dwight learned agricultural methods that were derived from both family history and experience, and were fairly typical of time and place. He also recalls his agricultural education, both in school and in youth organizations of the 4-H Club and the Future Farmers of America,
and etches deft portraits of the people and events of his community.

“When Mr. Hoover finally had to decide on his future as a farmer, he chose to leave the farm rather than ‘carry it around on his back’ for the remainder of his days. He explains why that same decision was made by many other young people of his generation who moved from the farm to the city in search of a different life.

“A Good Day’s Work is a unique memoir that recalls the rough edges as well as the happy moments of rural life. It is an honest re-creation of a vanishing world."

Since I was born in 1940, I experienced only the tail end of the changes from horses to tractors, mainly by sitting next to my grandfather on Sunday afternoon drives to use Grandpa’s words, for me to see the changes in going from horses to tractors. Reading this book brought back to my mind the points that Grandpa, with great patience, made me aware of. I realized only in part back then the different skills that were needed for horse farming than from tractor farming. But what I recalled most vividly was the variety of animals that were part of the horse farmer and other livestock that disappeared when tractors and plant monoculture came to dominate.

Giving the views from a small boy as he grew into many more aspects of the two types of agriculture were done quite well by Mr. Hoover. Anyone from a small town, as I came from, who was taught by their Grandpa and others of his age about the changes underway should be able to understand why so many young men uncertain about becoming a farmer made the decision Mr. Hoover made. I rate this book at four stars.

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