By KAREN PARKER | County Line Publisher

I was rummaging around on a dust-covered shelf in the office last week when I came across a book someone had dropped off at one time called “Home Regions of Wisconsin.”

Ah, just in time for our back-to-school issue, and just in time for an editor who has no column ideas.

I’m not certain which age group the book was destined for, but fifth or sixth grade is probably a good guess. According to the sticker on the inside cover, the book was the 305th acquired by Council Creek School of the Tomah School District.

Written in 1933, long before the age of iPads and laptops, it dates from an era when books were valuable commodities. The cover is loose at the hinges, implying that more than one student was at least interested enough to open the pages and possibly even read the book.

The book is written in the style of a textbook, with questions at the end of each chapter and ideas for further thought on the geography of Wisconsin, Most likely used as a text, it must have taken up a chunk of the school year to wade through its 214 pages.

It’s not a page-turner. Even back in 1933, the average grade-schooler would have found it a bit of a yawn.

But from the perspective of 2014, it’s rather interesting to see what educators thought the average elementary student ought to know about his or her home state.

In 1933, the Great Depression was still raging, and most families still lived in rural areas. Most kids probably never traveled beyond the county in which they had been born, and any knowledge they might have had about the world beyond their front doors was gleaned from books or perhaps movies.

Naturally, the chapters I turned to first were the areas of the states that most interested me. The Western Hill and Valley Region chapter compares and contrasts the owner of a ridge farm and one of a valley farm. Clearly the authors favor the ridge farms, of which they say, “Like all other ridge top farms, this farm has buildings that are kept in good repair.”

Really, “all” ridge farms? What about us valley folks? Have the authors stereotyped us as inveterate slobs, way below our ridge top neighbors in more than just elevation?

Furthermore, they tell us most children from the ridge do not attend school with their valley brethren, although they are never quite forthcoming about the reason for this segregation.

The kicker was a photo of a “typical” ridge farm in Green County. What? I know Green County, and Green County does not have a ridge one could fall off and get hurt. These are mere foothills compared with what we have here in Vernon and Monroe counties.

The writers do give a nod to the Kickapoo Valley. Alas, they it appears they never got farther north than Gays Mills. Perhaps they discovered what the rest of us have known forever: You can get here, but you can’t get out again.

Our authors spend quite a few pages on the farm economy of northern Wisconsin. Yes, there really was one in the 1930s. Known as the cutover area, it was sold by greedy timber companies to unsuspecting immigrants, who built log homes and tarpaper shacks and tried to make a living off the land. In short order, the thin soil blew away, and most farmers moved on or opened up resorts and entertained fishermen eager to fill their creels with the abundant fish of the northern lakes and streams.

In 1933, there was still a struggling farm economy, but that faded fast, as did the fern-packing houses. The what? Yes, according to the book, white settlers and Native Americans gathered ferns from the woods and shipped them to florists in Chicago and Milwaukee. I hope that doesn’t give anyone any ideas, or we may find ourselves in a fern gold rush.

The authors appear to lose interest when they cover the geography of Wisconsin cities. They mostly seem to sum it up as, “They are there. They have a lot of people, and some farmers on the outside edge grow fruits and vegetables to feed the city’s population.” Ho-hum.

It is nothing short of a snub to city folks. Ah, but the worm has turned, and today one cannot imagine a textbook that would put so much emphasis on Wisconsin’s rural life.

Come to think of it, it’s hard to imagine that today’s school would devote nearly as much time to the study of Wisconsin history or geography. If it’s not on the test, who cares? It’s a point of interest that these authors thought students ought to know more about their state.

In the closing paragraph, they write, “You have seen that Wisconsin has great variety. Many of our state’s problems are due to the differences in the regions of the state.”

Wow, some things never change. If anything, the state is even more divided now. Milwaukee is a war zone, while only a few hours away, most of us in the valley do not even lock our doors. Our legislators in Madison roll out the welcome mat for the mining industry while environmentalists shudder in despair. Native Americans suffer in poverty, drug and alcohol abuse and hopelessness while the wealthy lakeshore population revel in all of the luxury that money can buy.

This book, long forgotten, closes with some excellent advice.

“Even though we cannot all live and work in every region of Wisconsin, we can know and understand a great deal about other parts of the state. By such understanding, we can help plan those things necessary to the welfare and government of all of Wisconsin.”

Amen.