The illusion that children and nature are innately all-good proves disastrous for many parents and explorers of the wide world. Not to say that every human isn’t made in the image and likeness of God or that nature isn’t brought into being by the hand of the Creator, but rather, that there is more peril in the story of our lives than simply avoiding stones in the road. Poisonous snakes are looking for someone to bite, especially the innocent and unwary.
My husband John and I had both lived mostly in cities. We were aware of the dangers of temptations and bad influences on unguarded souls. We both felt drawn to rural country life, so after we married, we took courage in our hands and moved back to the mid-west, central Illinois to be precise, and after a series of fortuitous events, we settled in the rural countryside. We bought a house and were blessed with many children.
Next, we went about the business of raising our kids as wholesomely as possible. For us, that meant staying close to God’s good Earth and learning the basics: how to develop a garden, raise chickens, handle bees and extract honey, and even manage a milk cow and make cheese. I tried to keep up with housework, homeschooling, and juggle the ever-growing cat and dog population. I couldn’t have managed it without an automatic washing machine, a drier, and a good stove. We may have had Amish tendencies, but I didn’t have the know-how or physical endurance to do all things well. I tried, and failed (the cheese—not so good) and tried again repeatedly. I eventually learned to make decent whole wheat bread and healthy homemade meals.
We did a lot of experimenting with new things: growing peanuts, drying herbs, and developing an orchard. It was a great way to raise kids. My children knew from early on how much work went into green beans, honey on toast, and that dab of butter on the broccoli. Not that any of my kids liked broccoli, at least, not at first. As we all learned, good eating habits take time, experience, and a personal desire to be healthy, well beyond the comfort zone.
Before my husband passed away, we decided to write a children’s book that celebrated the joy we found in our hard but blessed lifestyle. I wrote the storyline, and John started the pictures, but sadly, he passed away before the book was anywhere near being done. After his death, I couldn’t do anything with it—too painful to face.
After a few years, the story started haunting me. It was a piece of unfinished business that I believed John wanted to see completed, even though it wouldn’t have his pictures. Through a friend, I contacted a wonderful artist who visited my home, met the kids, ate a home-cooked meal with us, and quickly agreed to illustrate the story. John had called my fourth daughter Tally-Ho since she loved to run around the house on her pretend horse and occasionally whopped a Tally-Ho refrain. That was how the title The Adventures of Tally-Ho was born.
John and I had known, as we entered into parenthood, that dangers were lurking, ready to misinform our kids’ minds, distort God’s world, and corrupt our children’s souls. The Adventures of Tally-Ho was a reflection of our real-life struggle to challenge those horrors with goodness, hard work, natural beauty, the rhythm and discipline of seasons, and a host of life lessons that live in accordance with God’s true will.
As the years have passed and the kids have grown, I have not been able to keep up the garden, the bees, or the chickens. My daughters manage the garden now. Though I still help with canning and freezing the produce. My older sons usually raised the meant birds, but younger kids are taking over as necessary. Butchering day remains a family affair. The bees went wild, though my youngest son is interested in re-establishing a hive or two. I’ve given up on the loosey-goosey laying hens, and we have fewer dogs and cats, which is probably a good thing.
I taught my kids to cook and bake, using the healthiest, freshest ingredients possible, though we enjoy Casey’s pizza or take-out Chinese food for celebrations. We have always treated our animals with loving respect. Our land remains a gift to be cultivated according to our current means. So though much has changed, still, our spirit of stewardship remains, at the core, the same.
The real Tally-Ho is heading off to college next year, but thankfully, the imaginative story based on her childhood remains the bedrock for her interior life, which will hold true where ever life takes her.
The glory of children is not that they remain innocent forever, but that given the chance, they will grow up knowing the difference between a snake in the garden and the wonder of God’s love. There are dangers on the road, but there are also gardens to cultivate. May the imaginative spirit of Tall-Ho live forever.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 17 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
Make the most of life’s journey.
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