Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Returning to the Farm: Flash from the Present

Many biographers of 'genius' have noticed a disproportionate number of their subjects having childhoods where they ran about on farms. What is it about a farm, and is there something about that experience that we should think about trying to recover?

This flash from the present was a child who grew up on a farm without electricity or running water (at least until she was 7 years old). From one standpoint it would seem that she would be intellectually and maybe even socially deprived. But the flipside of living in such isolation is that you also get in the practice of doing a lot of things for yourself.

She learned to drive at age seven and could fire rifles and ride quite well by age eight. When her family decided they wanted running water, they made their own windmills to get it out of the ground. Her dad made a solar-powered gadget (in 1937!) so they could have hot water. A cow was saved when her uterus was mended with a wine bottle and some stitches.

As city dwellers,specialized help seems to be just a phone call or email away, but are we becoming lost and woefully dependent? Who was this girl from a deprived childhood? This was Sandra Day O'Connor, who despite graduating at the top of her class at Stanford Law School, at one time found no California law firm willing to hire her (one firm offered her a job as a legal secretary). She became the first woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court of course, but also recently confessed, "At heart, I will always be a cowgirl."

Sandra Day O'Connor

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