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The Witness of Combines

1998
Author:

Kent Meyers

The Witness of Combines

An exciting new writer looks at rural life and coming of age.

When Kent Meyers’s father died of a stroke, there was corn to plant, cattle to feed, and a farm to maintain. 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.

The Witness of Combines is written with simple, poetic dignity and a savvy for the land that can only come from having been raised up in it with eyes wide open.

Sam Shepard, author of Fool for Love

When Kent Meyers was sixteen years old, 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.

Meyers tells the story of growing up 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 around whom these memories revolve. After his father’s death, Meyers fills his shoes out of necessity and respect. In doing so, he discovers that his father was a great teacher and that he himself is no longer a boy but a man. Perhaps the most moving passages of The Witness of Combines acknowledge 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 emotional moments in a testament to his father, the family bond, and the value of hard work.

Meyers’s perspective on life in the Midwest elegantly weaves daily farm life with his coming of age story, drawing readers from all walks of life into this brave and poignant work.

“Meyers tells stories with precision and joy. He understands how the rhythms of the land bind farmers, give them hope and purpose.” Linda Hasselstrom, author of Land Circle

side bar quote:
“The Witness of Combines is written with simple, poetic dignity and a savvy for the land that can only come from having been raised up in it with eyes wide open.” Sam Shepard,
author of Fool for Love

ISBN 0-8166-3104-2 Paper $16.95
248 pages 5 x 8 August
Translation inquiries: University of Minnesota Press

Awards

Winner of the 1998 Friends of American Writers Literary Award

Winner of a 1998 Minnesota Book Award for Memoir

The Witness of Combines

Kent Meyers grew up on a small farm in southern Minnesota and attended the University of Minnesota, Morris. He currently teaches writing at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota. He is the author of a novel, The River Warren (1998).

The Witness of Combines

The Witness of Combines is written with simple, poetic dignity and a savvy for the land that can only come from having been raised up in it with eyes wide open.

Sam Shepard, author of Fool for Love

Meyers tells stories with precision and joy. He understands how the rhythms of the land bind farmers, give them hope and purpose.

Linda Hasselstrom, author of Land Circle

His memories of childhood remind one of the writing of E. B. White, another practical man who wrote many essays about the economies of daily life. In The Witness of Combines we observe Meyers as he discards chaff from wheat yet also learns to live side by side with others.

Los Angeles Times Book Review

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

Meyers is an author whose storytelling skills will captivate all readers as he recollects farming and rural life in Minnesota.

Library Journal

Meyers’ language is always compelling, rising as it does from the pulpit, from books and folk, and from the land itself. The Witness of Combines is indeed a requiem, but it is also a gift-to readers who have lost their sense of place or who have never had the good luck to have one. And it is a warning, as Meyers sees support withdrawn-by financial institutions that insist on profit at the expense of the environment, by communities who have lost their respect for their culture and land, and especially by the churches that must, in Meyers’ words, ‘move beyond the simple tragedy of environmental and communial degradation, the tragedy that not only mere individual lives, but all life, life itself, may be harmed by our existence.

The Georgia Review

A joy to read.

Rapid City Journal

This is an unforgettable book, a memoir of dignity, beauty and life. In its intimacy and in its telling it is superbly vivid and elegant.

ForeWord Magazine

Perceptive and lyrical, The Witness of Combines neatly illustrates the dual nature of his formidable talent. Meyers writes with a clarity and lyricism that’s at times stunning. His beautifully crafted memoir is a book no less than a lifetime in the making.

Des Moines Register

Wind, weeds, and worries are the lot of the small farmer, and this memoir of a Minnesota childhood doesn’t glamorize the details. 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. 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 the company arrived. Browsers should find healthy pickings in this little garden.

Publishers Weekly

The Witness of Combines is without doubt the best farm memoir I’ve read since Ben Logan’s ‘The Land Remembers’ blew everyone away back in the early 1970s.

Dave Wood’s Book Report

These lyrical pages could be variously described as memoir, regional history, short story, essay, or prose poetry. They are all of those things. And this collection of 23 chapters has an overall impact that is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. The Witness of Combines is something far more than personal reminiscence, more than a nostalgic look at a way of life that is passing into history.

Minnesota History

His dedication to the land, the family farming life, and commitment to chronicling it all is what makes The Witness of Combines a worthy book.

The Land Stewardship Letter

This is a book I highly recommend. It is a book about one family, about rural Minnesota, and a parable about life anywhere at the same time.

Family Forum

The Witness of Combines

CONTENTS

Preface

The Witness of Combines
Windbreak
Straightening the Hammermill
Chickens
My Mother’s Silence
The Conversation of the Roses
My Grandmother’s Bones
Old Waters
Rafting
Rocks, Roots, and Weeds
How Joel and I Almost Became Mountain Men
Night Grove
Dragline
The Eye, Taken to Eternity
Working
Slow Flies
Frozen Silage
Stuck
A Constellation of Cockleburs
Black Snow
Birds Against the Glass
The Night Trucks
Selling the Parts
Going Back