When Timothy Wahl was growing up on a dairy farm in Allegany County , NY, Town of Andover , going to Andover Central School, doing the chores and playing games in Elm Valley, few would have thought that some day his recollections and observations of life would end up in a book. Tim himself might not have thought that anyone would be interested. As a youngster he was often unsure of himself, a mediocre student, a skinny kid who didn’t excel in sports. He also suffered from dizzy spells. By the time his high school years were ending, Tim had an active interest in sports broadcasting. But his physical and emotional problems were overwhelming and the kid with low self-esteem tried to commit suicide.
Timothy Wahl’s “Hard Times in the Country” , subtitled “Ramblings of a Hayseed”, is filled with painful experiences. But it also contains hilarious scenes of rural life in New York’s Southern Tier in the 1950’s and 60’s, and profiles of local people, that make the book a durable chronicle of its time and place.
“Getting served illegally at Frank’s [Bar and Restaurant] was a rite of passage. Those who succeeded earned a place of high esteem. They got asked by others to buy themsix-packs. Billy Joe and Johann, who were husky and had mature faces, managed to get served at 14. Me, I was like one of Mom’s platitudes, “He who hesitates is lost.” Inother words, I got a bit shaky when my turn at the cusp of manliness came, at fifteen in my case. Even then, I let Grandpa do the honors of ordering my drink. “Give Timmy a Genny,” he said.”
— from “Hard Times in the Country”
Tim would find his way to maturity. His father would sell off the dairy herd, but his brother Billy Joe earned an agriculture degree from SUNY Morrisville and renewed the traditional family business. Tim did go on to college and earned a degree from the University of Iowa. He now teaches English as a Second Language, is a consultant on distance learning and will be participating in the Beijing International Book Fair in September. Tim gives much of the credit for his recovery and later success to his vocational rehabilitation teachers and today’s VESID program in New York State.
Tim Wahl joins Bill Jaker on OFF THE PAGE to share stories of growing up on the farm, adolescent adjustment and writing about one’s life.