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The town where I spent my boyhood is situated along a creek in a county named for the Isle of Guernsey (in the English Channel), which is named for a breed of cattle. Our home on the edge of town was about five minutes from Grandpa Rogers’s farm in the nearby rolling hills, a property that’d been in the family more than 100 years by the time I ran the hills and hollows. A place that still looms large in my memory and make-up.

Four Rogers brothers emigrated from England to Maryland in 1683. Nearly two centuries later our line of the Rogers clan traveled cross-country looking for farmland, finding it in the not-so-old state of Ohio. My Great Great Grandpa John Rogers was one of them. He stayed for a time in another community nearby, than purchased “The Farm” in 1853. Before the Civil War, his obituary says, he assisted runaway slaves along the underground railroad.

Lilburn, John’s son and my Great Grandpa, later worked The Farm along with his family until a heart attack took his life at the dinner table on Christmas Eve, 1917. Suddenly without a father to work The Farm my Grandpa Tom Rogers, then in the Eighth Grade, dropped out of school and began driving wagons for a living—and working The Farm. His two older brothers had by then moved away to pursue professional careers and never returned to farming. Grandpa stayed, bought their shares, worked The Farm, and at 33 years married Grandma. Dad was born and raised on The Farm.

When Dad and Mom got married he headed with her to the big city, her hometown, which is to say Small Town. But The Farm was never very far away, geographically or emotionally, especially while Grandpa and Grandma continued to live there.

So when I came along I all but grew up on The Farm. My first dollar came from putting up hay. Hot days of walking alongside slow-moving wagons picking up bales and tossing them on. When I got into high school and stronger we tossed the bales five rows high.

I’ve forked many a stall clean in the spring. Like most farm labor actually, it was satisfying work. I forked the straw-laden manure into a wheelbarrow, rolled the full load past the stanchions into the barnyard and up a precariously positioned plank. Over she went. The offload was fun, but it was more fun to come back into the stall, dig for my pocketknife, and carve a small notch into an old sideboard. I was a gunslinger keeping a morbid tally. The number of notches increased as a public testament to my prowess that speaks to this day.

The source of all this fertilizer was Grandpa’s Herefords, or what he called “White Faces.” Hereford’s get their name from Herefordshire, England, are reddish of body and feature white hair on their heads, neck fronts, and underbelly. Sometimes they have a white sock or two. Grandpa’s White Faces weren’t purebred, but they were polled, meaning their horns had been genetically bred from them. Some people prefer polled cattle because horns get in the way, damage farm stalls or fences, and can be dangerous even if accidentally. Grandpa’s herds were not huge, maybe 25, 30, 40 at the largest, but they were always there, required management and winter care, and provided a source of meat for the family. Best of all, they created timeless pictures of pastoral tranquility on long summer evenings. For a farmer, there’s nothing more relaxing than watching a herd of quietly grazing cattle.

Grandpa kept one breeding bull named “John.” Come to think of it, all the bulls year after year were named John and all were registered Hereford sires. To protect the genetic strength of the herd calves Grandpa would sell the older bull and buy a younger one every three or four years. I remember one John who was mean and had to wear a huge specially built metal mask on his face, which had eye covers that prevented him from seeing straight ahead unless he tilted his nose to the sky. Most of the bulls, though, and certainly the cows were quite docile, but then again we didn’t mess with the bull.

The Farm featured a continually changing menagerie of animal life. There were chickens, pigs, at times a pony or two, dogs, cats, and once in awhile sheep, goats, and maybe a horse.

I’ve never been a farmer, but in some sense I grew up one and I’m glad for it. Some of my fondest memories come from down on The Farm. It’s part of me warp and woof, imbedding in my DNA and worked into my cultural worldview. To this day driving through farm country, at home or abroad, remains a limitless source of simple pleasure.

I’ve always believed my farm roots helped me teach or preach, because the imagery of Scripture is built upon agricultural economies.

In my book, I had the best of both worlds, The Farm and Small Town.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


When I was a little eeper I was sent to visit my Grandma who lived across a big field from our house on the edge of Small Town. After a time I wandered downstairs to watch her work with what was even then an old-fashioned wringer washer. It’s the kind with actual rollers twisting and smashing the clothes out of and back into the wash or rinse water.

I was just over 4 years old, probably old enough to know better than to put my fingers on the clothes near the rollers. But of course I did so and, you guessed it, I didn’t let go in time. In a manner of seconds my arm was drawn into the rollers along with the clothes.

I guess I started yelling or crying or both because Grandma ran (make that flew) down the stairs to the rescue yelling or screaming or both louder than me. By then my arm was into the wringer almost up to my elbow. I remember her flipping a lever on the right side of the washer, which released the rollers and freed my arm.

This is one of my earliest vivid memories. I can see the washer, my bare arm, the wet clothes, and Grandma wearing white. I can see the basement steps, clothes hanging on a nearby line, and the old furnace. I can hear the washer and remember Grandma’s excitement. But I can’t remember being all that shaken myself, or in pain, just something between befuddled, scared, and Oh Yeah Man, That Was Cool.

I don’t remember either, but Mom does, that this happened when she was in the hospital with a newborn sister scheduled to come home the next day. She did and I’m told Grandma was still so worried my arm would be permanently damaged she didn’t have it in her to help care for a newborn. So another relative came to help and gave my sister her first bath. Meanwhile, I returned to boy-land, roaming wild and free and oblivious to the fact that a New Sheriff had arrived in my home.

You’d think this would be the end of the story, but it’s not. Years later in college I met this girl who’d grown up in the next state, West Virginia, two and one-half hours from me. We sort of got along well. Actually, we got along really well and still are after thirty-six plus years of marriage.

The amazing thing: when she was about 7 years old she also got her arm caught in a neighbor’s wringer washer. Unlike me, who bears no physical remembrance, she wears a small scar on her right hand pointer finger. This, we speculate, is because she rescued herself, pulling her arm back out of the rollers. Whoa, I doubt if I would’ve had the smarts or the moxie to do that. Good thing Grandma was upstairs.

So what are the odds that two kids who ran their arms through wringer washers would get together?

But who cares? We got together.

Years hence, like most people, we’ve been “run through the wringer” more than once by the vagaries and vicissitudes of life.

But who cares? We’re still together.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


I remember our first calculator. It was August 1974. We’d been married about two weeks. We were newly weds and newly minted teachers, so we purchased a calculator for about $35 to use in grading. I think it could add, subtract, multiply, and divide. That was it. Today you can get more than that in a plastic toy “computer” in a cereal box.

I also remember the first computer I ever met. I say “met” because to interact with Oz was a close encounter of the third kind. It was a room-sized unit at the University of Akron in the late 1970s.

I was in graduate school and we’d spend hours keypunching our programs onto 80 column IBM punch cards. We’d carefully check the cards for hole errors, put the cards in the correct order, and take the stack to the computer center across campus from where the keypunch machines were located. Then we’d wait, hold our breath, and wait some more in fear and growing anxiety for the “Job” to be returned through the great window to Oz.

Finally, usually the next day, we’d go back to pick up our Job. The worst thing in the world, the absolute worst, was to see folded computer paper—thin not thick—being handed through the window. A thin fold meant something was wrong in the program, some hole, maybe just one, that wasn’t punched correctly. The thin fold was an error statement, so you had to go back across campus to the punch machines, re-punch that one card—once you found it, which could take time—place it correctly in the stack, resubmit, and wait.

Punch cards were gold, your data set. I knew doctoral candidates whose entire dissertation research was punched on cards. Huge stacks they’d wrap in plastic and put in their freezers “in case the apartment burned down.” Better to lose everything they owned than to lose a year’s worth of research punched on those cards.

A couple of years later at the University of Cincinnati we’d progressed to terminals. No more punch cards. Now we stared at huge blinking cursors you can still see on computers in 1980s movies. FORTRAN, COBOL, BASIC, than later, software systems like SPSS, Statistical Package for Social Sciences, or SAS, Statistical Analysis Software. What made these terminals and software packages so much of an advance over the old punch cards is that when a Job went awry you discovered it fairly quickly and could make changes in the program stored on the computer. To my knowledge, no one put a terminal in a freezer.

While a doctoral student, I was hired by the Behavioral Sciences Laboratory (BSL), later the Institute for Policy Research. It was a survey research think tank located on campus. This was Cincinnati, so almost all staff members had German surnames: Oldendick, Kraus, Tuchfarber, Stuebing. I made friends, learned a lot, and made a few shekels to help pay our way.

It was here we met our first P.C. In retrospect it’s a funny memory. We literally, excitedly gathered in the hallway, about 5 of us, than walked to another room to see the new arrival. It was like going to see a new baby. Our new little one was an IBM P.C., jet black, bigger than our terminals, square, and unwieldly, took up the whole desktop.

We oohed and aahed, commented on how it looked just like its father, and said we thought it had a bright future ahead of it. It was powerful. I think it could run a little BASIC. It was 1981.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at

Then there’s Bill. He was a guy who lightened the load no matter what was going on. I don’t remember Bill’s last name. I knew it then, but it never mattered. Everyone in Small Town and far beyond simply knew him as “Bill.”

To put it bluntly but still kindly, Bill was the Small Town Drunk, very much like the fellow Andy Griffith regularly tossed into the Mayberry tank “to sleep it off.” This was back when the word “drunkard” or “drunk” was used and people knew what you were talking about.

As many people know from harsh experience there are “Mean Drunks” and there are “Happy Drunks.” Bill was a Happy Drunk. In fact, I’m ashamed to say it, but Bill was a Hilarious Drunk, partly because he was funny to begin with and when he got just a little sauced, which was about every other day, he’d let loose with gut-splitting comments about everything from presidents to preachers to people close by.

I recognize that Bill’s addiction is a sad thing and that it plagued him through the end of his life. So I don’t celebrate his inebriation. But as a character he was classic. He was the kind of guy that looked for ways to get out of work, yet everybody liked him. He told raucous stories but never mean-spirited ones. He loved baseball, had I don’t remember how many wives, kids, and grandkids, and thoroughly, infectiously enjoyed life. People, even hard cases, brightened whenever they got within twenty feet of him.

I smile as I remember Bill but am saddened by the fact that this fellow who possessed great charisma and a Reagan-like sunny disposition still found it necessary to fill the hole in his heart with what used to be called demon-rum.

Bill and I talked a few times about spiritual things. He knew I was in Christian college, knew what I believed, and could talk his own basic Christian-knowledge, yet he stopped short of embracing the Lord. He took this stance primarily, I think, because he thought he’d have to quit drinking. I told him it wasn’t about drinking—it was about the Lord—but still, he didn’t or couldn’t trust the idea he could come to Christ without first discarding his bottle.

I feel for Bill now even as I remember. I’m glad I knew Bill, but his life, to me, is one of those over which you write “What could have been.”


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


While I gained my earliest invaluable work experience on Grandpa’s farm, in the spring of my senior year it was time to try my wings. Beginning part-time in April and full-time the summer after I graduated from high school in 1970 I began working for Cashway (now Carter) Lumber Company. The company was located—still is—on  the edge of town and the experience turned out to pay much more than a paycheck. For the next four summers I helped work my way through college slinging lumber and doing inventory (counting each piece of molding in the bin) for two weeks each Christmas break.

I made good friends there. And, believe it or not, I thoroughly enjoyed the physical work the first two years “in the yard,” tossing lumber off boxcars and helping customers fill their orders.

The last two years our manager—“Mr. Horne” to his face and “the Boss” when he wasn’t around—moved me inside behind the counter. I’m not sure why he did this. To my recollection he never said. I do remember he and a couple of other fellows tried to persuade me to opt for a career in lumber, but by that time I was thinking education.

Behind the counter I met more customers and learned more about the human race. I came to understand that most people are pretty nice if you pay any attention to their needs.

I also learned that a few people are jerks no matter or in spite of what you may do for them. Actually, I eventually figured out the jerks are often insecure and unhappy with themselves, not with you, so they’re never satisfied and it’s a no-win situation. For them you Get In, Get Out, and Get Away as soon as you can. Still true with people I periodically meet today.

Four of us lined up behind the counter to receive-all-comers/customers. Saturdays were the most fun because it was non-stop, wall-to-wall all day. I was placed second from the end, Tom on my left, Sherman on my right. Tom was a bit older than me, but young, smart, and on the way up. He later ran the outfit.

Sherman, or “Sherm” as he was called, was maybe 110, or at least it appeared so to me, a college kid. Sherm was skinnier than a telephone, no flag, pole. He knew every builder in six counties and he wrote left-handed, slowly, with precision on our B.C. (Before Computers) order pads. I used to pride myself in how I could process three customers to his one—until I figured out that I was filling orders and he was serving people. Sherm taught me customer relations and he taught me the lumber company business.

True story: Middle-aged man walks in one day and says to me, “I want to build a garage.” I say, “O.K.” He looks at me, I look at him. Then I say, “What do you need?” He says, “I want to build a garage.” That’s it. That’s all he knew. He wanted to build a two-car free-standing garage, and he wanted to purchase everything from foundation up that he needed to get the job done—but he had no clue what materials were what or how much (in truckloads) he was talking about. Now I could sell product but build a garage? My salvation was Sherm. He leaned over and said, “Can I help?” For the next two hours the Sherman-ator and I (mostly writing down what Sherm said) filled this guy’s order, tallied one of my largest sales, and sent the guy away happy. Great Sherm story with a moral that lives on.

Customers can be funny. And we’re laughing with them not at them. Of course we are.

Lady says, “I want to buy a board.” I say, “OK, what kind?” She says, “I don’t know. My husband just told me to come buy some boards.”

Another poor faithful spouse says, “I want to buy 10, 8-foot boards.” I say, “What kind?” She says, “I don’t know. Are there different kinds of boards?”

Back in the day before Map Quest or GPS, directions were even more fun. Customer says, “Tell the truck to go 4 miles down Old Barn Road off Route 20, then turn at the big tree.” Or, “You count 3 red barns and 2 white ones and turn left. Can’t miss it.”

I say, “What’s the name of the road on which the delivery truck should turn?”

“I don’t know. It’s paved.”


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


We attended high school during the peak of the 1960s counter culture. Scholars have since described our high school years as some of the most socially volatile in American history.

The Counter Culture Movement, generally dated 1956-1974, reached its zenith between 1965-1972. Our high school years were 1966-1970.

We were part of the post-War Baby Boom, among some 70 million teenagers in the 1960s. This many youth, this relatively affluent, and this able to access education was something the country had never experienced before. We were post-Sputnik (1957) teens, the older generation’s hope for defeating the Soviets and “godless communism.”

We witnessed the Space Race. In 1963, our own Col. John Glenn, who we proudly noted grew up in a village not far from Small Town, became the first American to orbit the earth. By the time we got into high school we watched with the rest of the world while Apollo XI orbited and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon July 20, 1969. Months later during our senior year we watched in tense anticipation as the “successful failure” of Apollo XIII played out on national television April 11-17, 1970.

We watched the Civil Rights Movement change society forever. We got to see and hear one of the greatest speeches ever delivered, Martin Luther King’s Jr’s “I Have A Dream,” from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial August 28, 1963. We experienced the landmark passage of the Civil Rights Act, 1964, and the Voting Rights Act, 1965. We winced at pictures of violence during the Selma Marches and the Watts Riots in 1965. We grieved with the nation when MLK, Jr. was assassinated April 4, 1968 and RKF was assassinated June 5, 1968. In the midst of it all we learned to say “Black” instead of “Negro.”

Our years in high school were peak years, if peak is the right word, of the Viet Nam War. It was a difficult time not only for the American personnel lost—58,267 KIA, 303,644 WIA, 1,6711 MIA—but for our rapidly declining faith in the capacity of national leaders to tell the truth. We endured the back-to-back presidencies of Lyndon Baines Johnson and Richard Milhous Nixon, two of the most morally shallow men ever to occupy the White House.

The military “Draft” still existed, ending later in 1973. It was a lottery that determined the order in which people could be called up for military service based upon when their birth date had been chosen.

In 1971, my number was 138. My cousin’s was 365. Go figure. Up till that point in time anyone with a number as low as 138 was going to get called. I was in college by then and wanted to stay there. Ultimately, I wasn’t called because I benefited from Nixon’s “Vietnamization” program, his process of gradually pulling our troops out of Viet Nam while turning over to the South Viet Nam military the responsibility for the war.

Viet Nam dominated the news while we were in high school. And it got worse. Just before the end of our senior year, May 4, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of students on the Kent State University campus. In 13 seconds, 67 shots were fired, 4 students died, and 9 were wounded. This set off student protests across the nation forcing the closing of hundreds of college and university campuses and eventually influencing national politics.

A lot happened in those years that rank as stressful. Some things rank as silly. Mini-skirts, Go-Go boots, men’s hair getting longer by the week, wide collars, Nehru jackets, ever wider ties that eventually featured 5 inch wide bibs masquerading as ties, Afros, bell-bottom pants that got broader each year, Motown, Rock emerging from Rock and Roll.

Small Town escaped a lot of this, initially, but eventually change came calling.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at