Making Hay

In the preface to the 1997 edition of his 1986 book Making Hay Verlyn Klinkenborg reminisces:

When I think of Making Hay, I think mainly of two things. I think of sitting in that small white room, learning to write, learning to attend to the specific gravity of words, to the wave-like energy that pulses through sentences, its rhythms shoaling and deepening, always in flux. And I think of driving along a gravel road in northwestern Iowa, learning to breathe again. The road marked a north/south crest in the landscape, like the edge of a moraine. Out the passenger window, to the east, Iowa held itself steady, level, a succession of townships receding in strict perspective toward the counties where I had grown up. But out the driver's-side window, the earth crumpled and fell away into a shallow river valley and climbed again. I was driving across what passes for upland in northwestern Iowa—not the Grant Wood hills, the erotic mounds and protuberances of eastern Iowa, but a rising shelf of soils upon which farmers wait, exposed, for the weather blowing in from the arid spaces to the west where cornfields turn to prarie and prarie turns to badlands and rimrock. A thunderstorm had just crowded past, and the air had been scoured clean. Water stood in the road, but the sun was already burning in a blue sky. The time was early June. The scent was of alfalfa.

The poetic language continues throughout Making Hay, a deceptively simple book about a deceptively simple concept: cutting and drying and storing plants to feed animals. There are gritty moments of farm life, as in the Chapter 6 explanation of what it means to "heifer" a steer. There are comic moments, as when city boy Verlyn gets a flat tire on the tractor he's driving. And there are rhapsodic moments, as in Chapter 12 when the author is riding out to the field on the fender of a tractor driven by his uncle Elmore Jack Klinkenborg:

The day ascends into beauty. For some reason the first line of a George Herbert poem comes to mind: "Rise Heart, thy Lord is risen." The eastern sun has not warmed this field. Cool, dense air, dark in shadow, clings to it. A slender fringe of unmowed grass skirts the fenceline and catches the wind in its heads. Beyond the shaded field, the landscape lies open to light like a body of water. A pickup skims along the gravel road that borders the field on the norht, for a moment raising a rattle of stones and a tail of lucent dust. Two miles to the northwest lies Everon's place, and Janelle and Louie's to the northwest farther still. Due west two miles sits Edna, a hamlet. Beneath my seat, a great tire turns like a waterwheel, churning dew into light. From under the oaks of the grove I see penumbral country all around.

(cf. What We Know (2006-08-15), Full Moon Metaphors (2007-10-29), Verlyn Klinkenborg (2008-07-11), Let It Snow (2008-07-25), Abject Reptile (2008-07-29), Rural Life (2009-08-26), ...) - ^z - 2009-11-04