In 1977, while studying journalism at the University of Iowa, Chris Baker gave his grandmother a tebook and asked her to write about her childhood. Years later, long after her death in 1990, he found the tattered yellow tebook. In twenty-nine handwritten pages, the woman he knew as Grandma Covert had recorded her younger life in rural Iowa between 1920 and 1929. Writing about herself from the ages of four to thirteen, Vetra Covert sent a simple message back to her grandson: That s just the way it was. Others had it worse. We got by. Captivated by this glimpse of a woman very different from the more formidable grandmother of his memory, Chris Baker reframed Vetra s journal to create a narrative of her childhood and a window into rural Iowa life in the 1920s. Transcribing her words into nine chapters that illuminate home, family, neighbors, school, and social life, he has composed a collection of candid, whimsical, sometimes ornery stories that will resonate with anyone who has ever tried to decipher the lives found in old letters and photos.Vetra s was t a romantic little-house-on-the-prairie childhood. She grew up with seven brothers and sisters (every new baby was a supprise ) in a dilapidated log cabin near a small town w vanished from the Iowa map. Two rooms up, two rooms down, plumbing, electricity, holes in the roof and floor so big you could of throwed a cat through them. Her father was a bootlegger-farmer who measured his corn yield in gallons, t bushels, a moonshiner occasionally harassed by federal agents. Although family stories w present him as a quaint old-timer, the reality of living with him was much starker.In his introduction to Vetra s recollections, Chris Baker reveals the harsh truths underlying her authentic, uncomplaining account. By horing her legacy, he discovered a newfound respect for her and for her family s ability to survive despite the devastating forces of poverty, isolation, and the looming Great Depression. Together he and his grandmother have created an enduring chapter in family history.
Vetra Covertwas born in 1916 in rural Davis County, Iowa. Wife, mother, homemaker, and consummate baker, she died in 1990 in Ottumwa, Iowa. Photographer, writer, and musicianChris Bakeris the author of In Retrospect: An Illustrated History of Wapello County, Iowa. He works in the fields of mediation and crime victim services.