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The Witness of Combines

The Witness of Combines

4.8 6
by Kent Meyers

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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


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.

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 fatherþa strong, quietly resolute man who provided the bulk of Meyers's moral educationþlooms 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.

Product Details

University of Minnesota Press
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Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

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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The Witness of Combines 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Im from Celestialclan!" She meows prouldy "what about you?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Hi Heatstorm!" She meows to her.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He padded in.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I saw the ad for this you posted in our camp, but I'm sorry, SandClan is an OPC (Original Pact Clan.) We interact with no other Clans than ourselves. We have our own gatherings. Really sorry SandClan, HorseClan, AshClan, NorthClan, & RainClan cannot be part of this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
... the also need to agree to pact clans