Friday, January 30, 2009

Andy Catlett: Early Travels


Wendell Berry's book, Andy Catlett: Early Travels reminded me of Nathan Coulter because of its brevity and because it covered such a short period - approximately one week in the life of nine-year-old Andy.

But this book is a bit lighter in tone than Nathan Coulter. Andy is allowed - for the first time - to ride alone on the bus to his Catlett grandparents' home the week after Christmas in 1943. After a few days there, his other grandfather, Mat Feltner, drives over to pick Andy up and take him to spend a few days at the Feltner home in Port William. The difference in the two households is noted and described, and like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Berry can describe meals and food well enough to make one hungry.

Mostly, though, Berry, through the voice of Andy's reminiscences, dwells on the details of domestic life in a slower time and easier place. He writes:

"Though the Feltner house was far more modern in its appliances than that of my Catlett grandparents, the same household economy of home production and diligent thrift prevailed there also. Everything that the place could provide, it did provide, and in abundance. Like Grandma Catlett, Granny Feltner still made her own lye soap for the washing of dishes and clothes.
"I often think now of that old economy, which was essentially the same from a farm household that was fairly well-to-do, like that of Granny and Granddaddy Feltner, to the household of Dick Watson and Aunt Sarah Jane, which would be classified as poor. For many years now that way of living has been scorned, and over the last forty or fifty years it has nearly disappeared. Even so, there was nothing wrong with it. It was an economy directly founded on the land, on the power of the sun, on thrift and skill, and on the people's competence to take care of themselves. They had become dependent, to some extent, on manufactured goods, but as long as they stayed on their farms and made use of the great knowledge that they possessed, they could have survived foreseeable calamities that their less resourceful descendants could not survive."

The great appeal for me is the glimpse into farm home and family life Andy shares as he spends an enjoyable week with his grandparents. And it makes me think about the kind of memories I want to give my grandchildren as they grow up.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Amy @ Hope Is the word said...

This sounds like a good short introduction to Berry and some of his philosophy. Thanks for a great review!

8:07 AM  

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