Driftless Area Author Launches Memoir This Month

What: Book Launch & Signing
When: 4 p.m. Nov. 7
Where: Platteville Public Library, 225 W. Main St., (608) 348-7441
What: Book Talk & Signing
When: 3 p.m. Nov. 14
Where: Brewer Public Library, 325 N. Central Ave., Richland Center, (608) 647-6444

These days, Wisconsin’s Driftless Area is celebrated — and much photographed — for its nooks, crannies, and sweeping rural vistas. But for families scratching out a farm between the rocks and ridges in the mid-20th century, Driftless life was lived with more heart, humor, and hardscrabble than pretty pictures might imply.
“Wind was a fact of life during my boyhood on our ridge farm,” writes author Gary Jones in his new Wisconsin Historical Society Press memoir, “Ridge Stories: Herding Hens, Powdering Pigs, and Other Recollections from a Boyhood in the Driftless” (paperback $20), which gets real about rural life in the windy southwest Wisconsin hills. “Sometimes when I crossed the road between our house and the barn, I considered putting rocks in my pockets for ballast.”
From free-range chickens and farm forecasts to the art of cursing like a farm wife, Jones shares a collection of interrelated, plainspoken essays about his family’s small dairy farm and the folks on the ridge. Among them, readers will meet Gramp Jones, whose oversized overalls saved him from losing a chunk of flesh to an irate sow; the young one-room-school teacher who helped the kids make sled jumps at recess; Victor the pig cutter; and Charlotte, a lawn-mowing sheep who once ended up in the living room.
Jones has written professionally as a freelancer since the 1970s, publishing in the Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee Magazine and several Door County publications. He taught high school English for many years and in retirement has taught college composition courses at UW-Platteville. Raised on a farm on the ridge near Richland Center, he and his wife divide their time between Door County and Platteville.
Reviewer, fellow rural life memoirist, and celebrated Wisconsin storyteller Jerry Apps admires Jones’ honest look at mid-century farm life. “‘Ridge Stories’ takes me back to my own years growing up on a farm…when we learned how to make the most of small pleasures and make do when times are tough.”