Monday, July 18, 2016

My Dad's Memoirs

My dad, Amos Yoder, was with us the past two summers and spent much of his time sitting on the couch and writing his life story, longhand, on notebook paper and the backs of old advertisements for urine-odor removers.

I couldn't find any shots of him writing his book, but here are two photos of him doing other things. We writers go a bit crazier if we don't do anything but write, you know.

He wrote about life as an Amish boy on an Oklahoma farm and how he was called away when World War II came.  What he thought would be a year of Civilian Public Service turned into five.  After that came two years in Paraguay, teaching, college, marriage, a family, and more teaching and farming.

I told Dad I’d take care of getting his writing into a book.

Emily spent many hours typing it all up, then I spent many more hours formatting, proofreading, finding a printer, and taking all the steps on the path from handwritten pages to finished book.

That path is a lot longer and steeper than it looks, starting off, but if it’s the right route for you, you will find people and websites to hold your hand and help you over the rough places and through the blackberry vines.

This week, I finished that project.

I was tempted at times to make the book into my image instead of Dad’s, or to make it more interesting, or to shape the events into how I would tell them, or what I wished they would have been at the time.  But I knew that would destroy the integrity of the telling and the authenticity of the book, so the only edits I made were to standardize the spellings and clarify the date of one event.

The title is Dad’s as well—A Chirp From the Grass Roots--and the cover was based on his ideas.  My friend Ellen Gerig supplied the photo. It's about 200 pages long.

So these are his words, about his life, told in his way.

Dad will be 100 years old in November, God willing.  Later this week he’ll be in Oklahoma at a reunion for his sister’s family.  The book will be available there and he’ll see it for the first time.

In August—God willing, again—Dad will be in Oregon.  I’d like to have a book signing event for anyone who’s interested in meeting him and getting a book.  Not a big splash, since if you read his book you’ll see his horror of making too big a fuss about things, but just an opportunity for people to stop by and get a glimpse of history.

Because really, he is a piece of history.  Think of everything that’s happened and been invented in the last 100 years, from the Korean War to the Depression to Elvis and Scotch tape and floppy disks—he watched it all.  He was ten years old when Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic.

If you’d like a physical copy of A Chirp From the Grass Roots, they will be $8 each and available from me.  Email me at for details.

You can also get an ebook on Amazon.  Right here.


  1. When I learned that my grandfather did not believe the reports of man landing on the moon I was initially shocked - never heard of that before! Hey! this event was momentous for us young people. After I stopped to think what he has seen in his lifetime, I became more sympathetic and understanding of his refusal to believe this report. After all, he was born in 1900: horse carriages were not common, no airplanes; trains were the fastest mode of travel; no rural electricity; farming was done with horses...and you say man but one on the moon??! that is a stretch. Oh! yes - there were preachers back in the 1960s that said God would never allow man to land on the moon...

    Wonder if we will ever doubt events like he did?

    Yes, you dad witnessed a LOT of changes.

  2. The Baritone8/31/2016 10:06 PM

    That picture of your dad reading Calvin & Hobbes has to be one of the neatest you've ever posted. I love it!