By Brett Milam
Rick Houser, born and bred in Clermont County, has, like the crops he tended to in his youth, been cultivated for decades, yielding his second book, “Memories Are from the Heart.”
This new offering follows in the footsteps of Houser’s 2016 book, “There Are Places I Remember.” His first book was more about his nascent years growing up in the county, while this second one aimed for capturing his youth.
Both books are a way of ensuring the past endures into the present for future generations.
Houser’s brother Ben was the storyteller in the family, but never translated those stories to print before he died in 2011.
“So I decided I was going to capture the memories and if my kids wanna read them, they can. And if my grandchildren ever have a question, they have reference material,” Houser said.
Houser said he’s the trifecta: a Baby Boomer, someone who grew up on a farm and still lives in the country. And part of the goal behind the books, too, is to also capture those Baby Boomer years.
“If you can write and put the person behind the wheel, you’ve done something and that’s what I’m trying to do,” he said. “I just wrote for my own entertainment to start with and then for my kids to see.”
The books, like much of Houser’s life, were a family affair: his daughter, Meghan, handled the proofreading and his son, Brendan, did the photography.
“I try to talk the way I would have in the fields. I’m a gunna. Ya’ll. Stuff like that. That’s just the way it was. Men in the field didn’t worry about proper etiquette too damn much. They just didn’t,” Houser said.
Houser was raised rural on a farm on Fruit Ridge Road between Moscow and Felicity, or as Houser said, “dead center of nowhere.”
“I write a lot about Fruit Ridge,” Houser said. “That was the base for where I grew up. I was born in that house, raised in that house, got married and set up housekeeping in that house. We were there until dad finally sold it.”
Houser referred to the old days as a simpler time; not that the new world of today is bad…it’s just different, he said.
“I grew up in an area where everybody watched out for everybody. All our neighbors knew us and we knew them,” he said.
Houser said things move quickly these days.
“Even in the country,” he said. “Look at the farming: A big tractor back then might’ve pulled two plows across the field; now they pull 10.
Growing up in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the Houser family crop was tobacco, Houser said, otherwise known as a “13-month-a-year job,” he added.
“I thought I was going to be a farmer the day I was born,” Houser said. “It was always my goal. I had my first crop of tobacco when I was seven. I begged for it.”
As the youngest, anything Houser’s sister, Peg, and brother, Ben – his second parents, he said – did was right, and he wanted to be like them on the farm. They raised tobacco, so he wanted to as well.
“It’s all labor intensive. Dirty. Goddernit it’s dirty,” he said. “Yet, somewhere in December or January, you go to Ripley or Maysville, stand in a cold warehouse and eventually walk home with a check. The only good day of the year. But that was our cash crop…that’s what put the food on the table. It was the family crop.”
It’s the kind of crop that sticks with you because it stains you, Houser said. And causes pain later in life: Houser takes hip injections now from all the work on the farms.
At one time, Houser had a 1,000 acre farm. Nowadays, he still raises a room-sized garden – just enough to “get dirt in his shoes,” he said. Rather than raise a large garden, Houser said he’d rather talk about what he did.
“I’m coming close to my retirement,” Houser, who is 68, said. “And I manage retirement homes. I have for 36 years now. The next generation has decided I’m too slow.”
Houser said he’s not staying home; he enjoys people and getting around the county.
“I gotta say, my life has been enjoyable and I want to continue it to be,” he said
What he writes, Houser said he wants it to be enjoyable, not a history class.
“The old expression is, ‘You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been,'” he said. “There’s a degree of truth in that. I think people are interested; it’s history. What was my memories are becoming more history.”
“Memories Are from the Heart,” was published through Xlibris and is available through their site: https://www.xlibris.com/Bookstore/ or on Amazon.