The Other
"Farmer Boy"

Dateline: 19 March 2014

Charles Dudley Warner

Everyone knows about the Laura Ingalls Wilder book, Farmer Boy. It is a classic of American agrarian literature. But few people have heard of the other "farmer boy" book. It is titled, Being a Boy, and was written by Charles Dudley Warner in 1877.

I learned about Being a Boy when I was putting my Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners together. If you have a copy of the book, you will find several quotes in there from Charles Dudley Warner. My personal favorite in the book is found on page 68: "I think the agricultural society should offer a prize for the finest toad." I like that quote because I like toads for the good they do in a garden. Besides that, I was very pleased with the toad I drew next to the quote. I spent an inordinate amount of time drawing that toad, and getting a facial expression I was happy with. But I digress.

So, in researching Charles Dudley Warner I came upon Being a Boy. As I read it, I realized it is, to a very large degree, a chronicle of agrarian life in the early 1800s. Warner grew up on a farm in Charlemont, Massachusettes. He wrote from personal experience.

The town of Charlemont is in the northwestern part of the state and it happens to be where my step-father's father grew up. I told the sad story of Earl Murphy back in This Blog Post, and I posted this great old photo of Earl as a boy in Charlemont (but I digress once again)…

click to see enlarged view

Being a Boy is not written in the same style as Ingalls' Farmer Boy. Warner writes with a clever, wry wit. He doesn't romanticize. I like his style. It's a good read. Here is the very beginning of the book…

One of the best things in the world is to be a boy; it requires no experience, though it needs some practice to be a good one. The disadvantage of the position is that it does not last long enough; it is soon over; just as you get used to being a boy, you have to be something else with a good deal more work to do and not half so much fun. And yet every boy is anxious to be a man, and is very uneasy with the restrictions that are put upon him as a boy. Good fun as it is to yoke up the calves and play work, there is not a boy on a farm but would rather drive a yoke of oxen at real work. What a glorious feel ing it is, indeed, when a boy is for the first time given the long whip and permitted to drive the oxen, walking by their side, swinging the long lash, and shouting "Gee, Buck!" "Haw, Golden!" "Whoa, Bright!" and all the rest of that remarkable language, until he is red in the face, and all the neighbors for half a mile are aware that something unusual is going on. If I were a boy, I am not sure but I would rather drive the oxen than have a birthday.

I confess that I have not yet read the entire book, but what I have read thus far has been an interesting look back to a way of life that is now gone. You can download a free copy of Being a Boy to your Kindle At This Link. You can read a free online copy of the book At This Link. And you can listen to a free online reading of the book At This Link.


Sunnybrook Farm said...

Sounds good, his other works are also available on Gutenberg, one is about summer in a garden. I have never heard of him

Herrick Kimball said...

"Summer in a Garden" is an interesting read. It is where the various garden quotes in my book came from.

odiie said...

I used parts of this book while I was homeschooling my son. I loved it. I think he was too young to appreciate it as much as I did. Good reading. Thanks for the reminder, I'll have to look it up again.
From Glory Farm,

Rozy Lass said...

Have you ever read Ralph Moody's "Little Britches" series? Especially the fifth book called The Fields of Home chronicling the years he spent with his grandfather on the farm in Maine. We love those books!

Herrick Kimball said...

Rozy Lass—

Our family read some of the Little Britches books years ago. I blogged about one of them here:

Two Kinds of Men

But I'm not familiar with the fifth book that you've mentioned. It sounds like something I would like to read. Thanks.

Fiona said...

What luck I found your blog...I am now listening to "Being A Boy"

It seems to be really good so far and reminds me why always wanted to be a boy and it drove my Mother crazy!

Looking forward to more!

Sharon said...

Thank you, Mr. Kimball for this link! I'm always looking for things like this. There is an Hispanic boy in my Bible class who has asked me for books. The ones he wanted are popular, but trash. I ordered one and threw it away. Threw away a book! My daughter said even the teachers wouldn't allow them at school. Anyway, I set out to see and found several books by Jesse Stuart just on this wonderful "being a boy" subject. I told this boy wanting them they are somewhat old fashioned, but he didn't care, he wanted them anyway just to read. Good for him! Now, you have given me this gift. I will love reading it and sending it on, maybe to this little Hispanic boy who is eager to read. Thank you again.