The Witness of Combines


When Kent Meyers was sixteen, his 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 and reflects on families, farms, and rural life in the Midwest.
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Witness Of Combines

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When Kent Meyers was sixteen, his 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 and reflects on families, farms, and rural life in the Midwest.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Wind, weeds and worries are the lot of the small farmer, and this memoir of a Minnesota childhood doesn't glamorize the details. Meyers baled hay, pitched silage, welded machinery, fed cattle, cleaned chicken coops, shoveled oats, and thought that a town kid who could claim to have as many chores as a farm kid was, in playground parlance, a Retard. Meyers, now (safely?) a writing teacher at Black Hills State University and author of The River Warren, was one of nine children of overworked parents. His mother, who had lost a lung to TB, canned hundreds of quarts of her own produce every year, and outlived his father, who died when Meyers was 16. These essays pay tribute to his parents' diligence, honesty, and selflessness. They also affirm the compensation of farm life--neighborhood solidarity in the face of calamity, children and parents getting to know one another as they work side by side, and the intimate connection to the physical world. Fortunately, his own material breathes life into these oft-exalted themes. He writes tenderly of the fleeting beauty of baby chicks, wryly of getting stuck in a snowdrift or of hurrying to sweep flies off the porch just before company arrived. The generally earnest tone may not win everyone over, but unhurried browsers should find healthy pickings in this little garden. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Meyer here reminisces about growing up on a 200-acre farm in the southern Minnesota prairie during the 1960s and 1970s, depicting a youth filled with curiosity and fascination about his world. He describes his experiences with prairie geography, planting, harvesting, machinery, livestock, chickens, plowing, floods, snow, flies, birds, silage, the values of hard work, home life, and the joys and disappointments of those years. He was 16 when his father died, leaving him to run the farm, along with his mother and eight siblings. But his father looms large in his stories as a mentor and teacher who shaped his love of farming and his attitudes toward nature and people. One can sense his sadness when the farm is sold and when he revisits the dilapidated site some years later under the new owner, who does not farm. Meyers is an author and writing teacher whose storytelling skills will captivate all readers as he recollects farming and rural life in Minnesota. Recommended for agriculture and rural sociology collections.--Irwin Weintraub, Rutgers Univ. Lib., New Brunswick, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
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├ża strong, quietly resolute man who provided the bulk of Meyers's moral education├żlooms 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 andrespect 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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816631056
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1998
  • Pages: 229
  • Sales rank: 1,476,168
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Kent Meyers

KENT MEYERS is the author of The RiverWarren, The Light in the Crossing, and Witness of Combines. He lives in Spearfish, South Dakota, where he teaches at Black Hills State University.
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