When Kent Meyers's father died of a stroke, there was corn to plant, cattle to feed, and a farm to maintain. Here, in a fresh and vibrant voice, Meyers recounts the wake of his father's death when he was sixteen and reflects on families, farms, and rural life in the Midwest.Meyers tells the story of his life on the farm, from the joys of playing in the hayloft as a boy to the steady pattern of chores. He describes the power of winter prairie winds, the excitement of building a fort in the woods, and the self-respect that comes from canning 120 quarts of tomatoes grown on your own land.Meyers's father is the central figure that these memories revolve around. After his father's death, Meyers fills his shoes out of necessity, practicality, and respect. In doing so, he discovers that his father was a great teacher and that he is no longer a boy but a man. Perhaps the most moving passages in The Witness of Combines are filled with the simultaneous sadness and pride of growing up in response to death. Meyers recalls planting and harvesting the last crop, selling the family farm, and other stirring moments in a testament to his father, the family bond, and the value of hard work.
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(230mm x 126mm x 18mm)
University of Minnesota Press
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
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US Kirkus Review »
Two dozen beautifully crafted essays about the author's formative years on a southern Minnesota farm explore with deft grace "what it meant to love a place and lose it." When Meyers was 16, his father died and the family sold their farm. These lyrical, perceptive essays explore that "double loss." Though he hasn't farmed since, Meyers (who teaches writing at Black Hills State University in South Dakota) was inexorably shaped by the close-knit world of family, work, and land he knew as a boy, and by the harsh winters and wide, open prairies of Minnesota. He writes affectionately of his upbringing in a large family, but his father - a strong, quietly resolute man who provided the bulk of Meyers's moral education - looms largest in his memory. Work is the means by which Meyers got to know him: "We didn't sit down and have heart-to-heart talks. We fed cattle. We dug post holes." Meyers's great talent is his ability to look beyond the repetitious hardship and small disasters of farm life to find greater significance and meaning. In "Straightening the Hammermill," he explains both the mechanics and the "mythic stature" of a particularly essential piece of machinery; in "Old Waters," he describes how the backbreaking ritual of clearing rocks from the fields each spring led to an interest in glaciers and, eventually, an understanding of how the long march of geological time formed the land and the people who work it. Whether exploring the mythical components of prairie landscapes, tornadoes, and the night sky, or deconstructing the unwritten rules of community that allow his neighbors to help with the last harvest after his father's death, Meyers writes with a sober reverence and respect for his subjects and for language. Deeply felt, strikingly perceptive, and stunningly written, The Witness of Combines resonates with the wisdom and insight of a work no less than a lifetime in the making. (Kirkus Reviews)
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