Looking for books to display, I frequently find books I keep to read. It is like my going to the garden and eating raspberries before I fill a basket for the neighbors. I have to like what I pass on. This is how I happened to bring home First Person Rural: Essays of a Sometime Farmer by Noel Perrin.
First Person Rural has been in the Thomas Ford Memorial Library book collection for 32 years. I have passed it over in weeding several times, keeping it because it is a nonfiction classic and because it has gone out just enough. Forgotten by most, a few people remember it along with other back-to-the-farm books popular in the 1960s and 1970s, such as Living the Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing and The Firefox Book and its sequels. These books explained how to build houses and barns, sow crops, harvest, raise livestock, and lead sane earth-friendly lives. By republishing articles that Perrin wrote for Vermont Life, Country Journal, and The New Yorker, First Person Rural added to this literature. Perrin told from experience how to build fences, buy a pickup truck, and make sugar from lower grades of maple syrup. In a lightly self-effacing manner, he often started by revealling all his mistakes and what he had to do to correct them. Then he told how to do it right.
While few of his urban and suburban readers would ever farm, they joyfully read Perrin's accounts. Why? I think he charmed them with his self-confidence. He was sure they would be interested - and they were. He also wrote clearly and personally. Nonfiction writers could learn much by examining his simple style.
It is over thirty or forty years since Perrin wrote these essays and some things have obviously changed about pickup trucks, taking firewood across state lines, the market prices for maple syrup, and the tenor of life in Vermont. I found some of these obvious changes added to my interest in his experiences. First Person Rural is old enough to now be history but still relevant as a handbook for living.
Perrin, Noel. First Person Rural: Essays of a Sometime Farmer. David R. Godine Publisher, 1978. ISBN 0879232323.