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coverThe rhythm of rural life during the 1950s and 1960s comes alive through the eyes of a Grundy County, Iowa, boy who grew up to become a newspaper journalist and farm editor. An idle pastime of BATTING ROCKS OVER THE BARN or his experiences in a one-room country school or a third-grade debate over whose fathers had the best brand of farm tractors are told in this eclectic collection of some of Lawn Griffiths’ most popular “Rural at Random” weekly farm columns in the Waterloo Courier during the 1970s.

The award-winning writer tells about driving calves to spring pasture, the mayhem of scattering rats after hog houses were moved, transferring pullets into hen houses in the fall and the death of a beloved blacksmith who was always ready to weld broken machinery parts. He tells of the drudgery of baling hay, the job of cutting corn for silage, and cows tormented by flies in the summertime. Griffiths captures the seasons on the farm from oat seeding in the spring to pulling cockleburs from corn fields in the summer to making the long first day of summer a chore-free “Kids Day.” He tells how his father taught teens from town how to properly rake hay and how some came back at night to raid his watermelon patch. There’s the account how Griffiths’ twin brother earned his pilot’s license, then took farmers to the skies to see their farms from above. That and more in a collection of stories of another time on Midwest farms.



Tempe resident publishes book on Iowa upbringing

By Eric Smith, Tribune

People can grow up in a variety of different places. Some come of age in big cities while others come from small, rural towns in the countryside.

Tempe resident Lawn Griffiths is from the latter, growing up in Des Moines, Iowa. A life-long writer and storyteller, Griffiths worked in newspapers for roughly 40 years writing hundreds of columns. Recently, he took 72 of those columns and published them in a book, “Batting Rocks Over the Barn, an Iowa Farm Boy’s Odyssey.”

“I took 72 of the best columns I thought were more storytelling, nostalgia, reminiscences and put them together in a format that talks about the livestock areas, the seasons too,” Griffiths said.

Griffiths picked up his love for telling stories from his parents and it soon became a passion.

“My mother was a great storyteller and so was my father … we’d sit around the dinner table and talk, and talk, and talk about stories,” he said. “So I became a pretty good storyteller.”

Growing up in the country, Griffiths called it “timeless.” He attended a little country school of 14 students, occasionally riding his pony to school and leant a hand on the farm pulling weeds and tending livestock.

“My dad was real strict about making sure we got up in the morning and milked the cows,” Griffiths said. “I was milking about 22 cows every morning before I would go to school.”

It was in high school, though, that Griffiths truly began to flourish as a writer. But at one point it did cause him some trouble. In high school, Griffiths wrote a column criticizing the school board, leading the principal and superintendent to pull him out of class and give him a good tongue lashing. It never took Griffiths’ heart out of writing, though.

After high school, where Griffiths graduated as valedictorian, he moved on to Iowa State University and entered the journalism program, writing in Cadence, the quarterly campus magazine.

When he graduated from Iowa State, Griffiths spent time in the Peace Corps in South America where he continued writing, only this time in Spanish. He was also drafted into the military in 1968 during the Vietnam War, spending his military tenure in Louisiana and, post military, went on to earn his master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.

But home beckoned and he returned to Iowa, writing for the Waterloo Courier in Waterloo, Iowa, where he spent many years until coming to Arizona to work at the Tempe Daily News, which eventually morphed into the East Valley Tribune.

“I had some really great years,” Griffiths said. “I interviewed Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama … I had some really great years in newspapers … I had about 40 years in daily papers altogether.”

With so many years dedicated to the written word, Griffiths decided to put some of his works into a book, once again focusing on nostalgia and his years spent as a youth in the Iowa countryside.

“I decided that as I was going to move out of the farm stuff that I had enough feedback from that community that loved my column,” he said “I got so much feedback that people said, ‘You ought to do something with your columns,”… I just sat on it for 30 years until deciding to do something.”

With the book now published and available in local bookstores or online at, and, Griffiths has time to look back and truly remember and adore the times he had from his upbringing all the way to now.

“It’s been a good life,” Griffiths said. “I’m particularly pleased I got this book because I dedicated it to my parents, they’re both gone now, they would have just so adored it. My mother was a good reader of my columns every week in the paper. It was good.”