Born In the Illinois Cornfields

Book Summary

by Alvin Decker

Born In the Illinois Cornfields"Born in the Illinois Cornfields" is a non-fiction book about a young boy growing up during the Depression on an Illinois farm. The author paints vivid pictures in your head of what it was like to use an outhouse, milk the cows and work the cornfields with "real horse power."

You hear the sounds of a farm coming to life in the early morning—the roosters crowing, the birds chattering, the cattle calling, the horses horsing around. Getting up and getting going was an exciting time of day. The memorable smells—the barn on a zero-degree day, a newly plowed field, a fresh summer shower, the warning of a skunk, honeysuckle and the many blossoms people on a farm learn to distinguish. The indelible sights of the changing seasons, from the white of winter to the green of spring the gold of summer to the brilliant colors of fall; beautiful sunrises and sunsets; migrating birds in their formations; softly falling snow. The book brings back memories of days past and recreates those days for those who didn't live through them.

"This is a wonderful nonfiction book about a young boy growing up during the Depression on an Illinois farm. The author paints vivid pictures in your head of what it was like to use an outhouse, milk the cows and work the cornfields with 'real horse power.' The book is a delight to read for it recalls the youthful energy that we can all remember. I laughed out loud many times during the book, thinking 'there is no way that could happen in today's society.' I was often reminded of the adventures of Huck Finn on the Mississippi but instead it was that adventures Alvin Decker on an Illinois farmstead."

- Patricia Eathington

The Author: Alvin Decker

Alvin Decker has lived all of his life in Champaign County, Illinois, near the town of Philo, except for two stretches in the service, at the end of World War II and during the Korean War. He graduated from St. Thomas parochial school and Philo Public High School. He worked on the family farm until he was twenty-one, then worked as a painter, roofer and mechanic before establishing his own farm.

He married his wife Ethel in 1955, and they have seven children. Although he turned his farm over to his two sons in 1988, he still helps at planting and harvest. A life-long member of St. Thomas Catholic Church, he has served on many school and church committees and has also served as township trustee and supervisor, county chairman of ASCS and chairman of the legislative committee of the Farm Bureau.

Read an Excerpt

I grew up on an Illinois farm during the time of the Great Depression. As I think back to my earliest years, I see them through a child's eyes, and I remember especially the fun and excitement of holidays. These were days that stand out during a time when life on the farm offered little to celebrate. Christmas was by far the best holiday because its magic lasted far longer than a day.

Excitement built during those dark December evenings when the children in my family decorated the house for Christmas. We pasted strips of paper together to make chains which we hung on the windows and doors. We always had a crib scene, including a manger, animals, and shepherds. The folks usually managed to have a tree of some kind, which we decorated with popcorn strings we had strung with needle and thread. We added paper chains, red berries, and some candle wax. Since there were several of us kids, we could do a lot of decorating to be ready for Christmas.

When we weren't decorating, we made all kinds of candy—fudge, caramels, divinity, taffy, and a mixture of my favorite fruit candy. We also made popcorn balls and many kinds of cookies. This is the way we spent many winter evenings leading up to Christmas. Every Christmas, even when I was sent to bed, I intended to stay awake to hear the arrival of Old Saint Nick, but I always fell asleep.

At four o'clock on Christmas morning, we rushed downstairs to find our names on the gifts. We would each get an orange, some much-needed clothing, and a toy.