April 19 • 03:00 PM

Grange aimed to educate farmers

August 22, 2007
Audrey Terry Dodson sent me a book to read and return called, "Sky Time in Gray's River'' by Robert Michael Pyle, who is a nature writer. On the back of the book jacket he is described as one who has found his true place and offers reassurance that ours might be just around the corner. "Bob Pyle's quiet, accurate, sensual writing is perfectly suited to the sec-retive beauty of the rainy riverlands where he lives'' writes author Ursula K. LaGuinn. Gray's River is a small town in lower Washington State, near the Columbia River.

I love going with him on his hikes or canoe rides and observing the many birds, butterflies, trees and every other aspect of nature.

Pyle also mentions being a member of the Grange organization. I haven't heard of any Grange organization around here in years. He spoke of it as once a radical farmers' league, which arose in 1867 to resist the all-powerful shippers and railroads. The Patrons of Husbandry has since shrunk along with the family farm, which is true here. What were once wheat, oat, barley and cornfields are now subdivisions or huge, non-farmhouse looking homes. I get lonesome for the mooing of cows or neighing of horses.

I vaguely remember going to Grange meetings with my parents but nothing of their ritual. I consulted my encyclopedia for more information. It agreed with Robert Pyle that it was founded in 1867 by Oliver Hudson Kelley, a government clerk. He had toured the South for the Bureau of Agriculture and found the farmers poor, discouraged and ignorant. He believed a fraternal order would attract members and give farmers a chance to learn modern farming methods. By 1875 there were 850,000 members and more than 21,000 Granges. Many local Granges built their own halls which served as recreation centers for farm communities. I have friends that used to live on Grange Hall Road near Ortonville.

Pyle once served as Lecturer, supposing to provide a "literary program.'' He took the office seriously and read a bit of poetry and good rural writing. He then was elected as Gatekeeper which he preferred because a favorite British butterfly goes by the name and because he got to hold the staff with an owl on top. His role was limited to standing at the opening of the meeting, closing the front door, and reciting "I hereby close this outer gate with faith, hope, and charity, and will guard it with fidelity.'' He also had an old beauty-parlor chair instead of the theater seats all the others occupied.

I have not quite finished the book so, if you will excuse me I will now do so. Ta-ta 'til next time.

— Country Cousin

Gertie is an Almont native and historian. She has been writing a local column for us for over 30 years. You'll enjoy her friendly and colorful style of writing.
Castle Creek
04 - 19 - 19
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