Stories From the Round Barn
Told in the inimitable, animated voice of Jacqueline Dougan Jackson, Stories From The Round Barn is an affecting addition to the canon of the American memoir of rural life. Using stories, anecdotes, history and even veterinary science, Jackson braids together a series of dramatic fragments and episodes to vividly recreate life on the Dougan dairy farm.
-- Northwestern University Press

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All stories ©1997, Jacqueline Dougan Jackson

Carol Bly, author of Letters From the Country

"What I love in Jackson's energetic narrative is that she shows us functional people who know their own feelings. They love one another and their Wisconsin farm life. They practice kindness and openly despise sadism. Family members talk to each other about things that matter. Like any story-telling American I try to keep clear of both the cynical patter of our sitcoms and self-centered bleating of so much contemporary literature. What a joy to come across Jackson's cheerful, serious, funny, visceral scenes!! When I finished reading Stories from the Round Barn I said to myself, 'Yes, I had almost forgotten. Our species is capable of joy and imagination and decency. And here's a handbook for us.'"

Ben Logan, author of The Land Remembers

"Storytelling at its best - a careful capturing of details, letting the reader 'see' what is happening... A basic theme is celebrated here - how the everyday 'warts and all' interaction between wise adult and wonderfully curious child creates the most important education of all."

Richard Peck, author of The Last Safe Place on Earth

"An ingeniously devised round barn encircles the lives of an ordinary, extraordinary American family living through times that echo our own. The book casts a wide net and wants reading aloud in classrooms to encourage the young to gather their own family stories, while there's time."

From The Publishers Weekly

In 1906, the stalwart, deaf, one-time minister, W. J. Dougan, founded the Dougan Guernsey Farm Dairy in Wisconsin. Although his neighbors were skeptical, he kept with it until his death some 40 years later. In this memoir, rich in human warmth and rural detail, his granddaughter describes the kind, life-wise man who dominated her past. Grampa Dougan could be pedantic but also laugh "until his eyes disappear." The story of how as a young man he asked God for some direction is charming. Deciphering the letters "PC" in the clouds, he decided it meant "Preach Christ" but after going to college and becoming a minister, he loses his hearing and asks again. He receives the same empyreal answer, but this time he decides it means, and always meant, "Plant Corn." Jackson follows the Depression and WWII decades as Grampa and Grama develop their farm and children alike. She speaks of the essentials of farm life, of detassling corn, dehorning calves, churning butter and how to milk a cow (a perfect introduction for city folk), and includes a sweet, wholly fitting chapter on her own sexual awakening. Jackson chose to write of her past as a present-tense third-person narrative, which can be difficult to sustain, but she manages to carry it off with aplomb. When he'd founded the farm, Dougan painted his concrete silo with five "Aims of This Farm." The last aim was "Life as Well as a Living." In this heartfelt memoir, Jackson makes us see just what he meant.

From Kirkus Reviews, 1997 Copyright , Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Delicately filigreed vignettes of a Wisconsin farm life from children's-book author Jackson. In 1906, when his hearing failed, Jackson's grandfather abandoned his ministry and bought a dairy farm. By 1907, he was delivering milk, the bottles stoppered with a cap imprinted "W.J. Dougan, The Babies' Milkman." He was a conscientious farmer who ran a tight and good ship, experimented intelligently, and treated his employees with respect. He prospered. Jackson grew up on the spread, and here she paints its days. There are profiles of farmhands, loony and saintlike and otherwise; conjurings of the odor, light, and aura of tucked-away places on the farm--a dim passageway between cow barn and side building, secret venues in the big house where Jackson could pick away at the wallpaper unseen. Many of the 47 short chapters recount everyday events: milking and detasseling and delivery runs in the dead of night, Grampa's first tax return (it set him back 13 cents), the ebb and flow of depression years and boom times, and the kind of stuff that stays fixed in a young mind (a rail-walking hobo cut in half by a train). And there are not a few episodes written with startling beauty; in one, she tells of an early infatuation, her first, with a young fellow working at the farm. It was during WW II, he enlisted, and his plane went down over Europe. A green star was placed by the MIA's name on the church honor roll. Years later Jackson finds the honor roll in a storeroom of the church, presses a gold star ("the kind her piano teacher used to put on a piece when it was finished") of ultimate sacrifice atop the green one and closes the man's short life. Elegant and polished. Jackson finds little gems in the muck and toil of farming life.