"I was born," writes Chico author and photographer Doug Keister, "in a working class neighborhood in Lincoln, Nebraska on June 14th, 1948 and remained there for the first two decades of my life." His parents had three children, all boys.
"I'm a child of the heartland. The middle kid, born in the middle of the country, in the middle of the century." Thus the title of his forty-first book: "Heart-Land: Growing Up In The Middle Of Everything" ($8.99 in paperback from Doublewide Productions; also in Amazon Kindle format).
In nearly two dozen deftly-written chapters Keister recalls his life in "kiddom." By turns witty and poignant (and embellished just a bit here and there), the book highlights young Doug's unceasing curiosity (except for girls--ugh!) and will rekindle fond memories of that long-ago time when "Father Knows Best" reigned supreme.
The TV show "featured a Midwestern household composed of Jim and Margaret Anderson and their three children with pet names: Princess, Bud and Kitten. With the possible exception of Bud, everyone in the program was PERFECT. Our parents would sit us in front of the television hoping that somehow we'd absorb at least a smidgen of the Anderson family's aura, but alas, we did not." Good thing, though; otherwise young Doug wouldn't have explored explosives with his Gilbert Chemistry Set.
To this day Keister, the self-described "effervescent eccentric," loves "the smell of gasoline" because it meant getting away. "Nebraska is one of those states that is memorable for how long it takes to get through. There are few significant changes for its entire length, unless you count the different colors of grasshoppers splattered on your windshield."
Don't forget Jell-O, "the universal solvent. Midwest mothers fabricated a number of congealed concoctions using Jell-O as the base. These creations were used to surreptitiously transport vegetables into our developing bodies."
Chapters toward the end of the book introduce a sober reality--JFK's assassination was "the end of our childhood"--but also the "obsession with weather. ... Nebraska has real weather, often two or three seasons in the same day." Doug weathered his kidhood, and his book is a delightful look back.
Keister will be signing copies of "Heart-Land," and many of his other books, this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. at Lyon Books in Chico.