The Reaper and the Great Harvest

Corn crop, 1963
Lake County, South Dakota (photo by Herman Richter)

The Reaper and the Great Harvest

the crashing sounds
the pounding shakes
the whirling turns

the big band iron
of the John Deere engine
distinctive as Buddy Rich

coupled to a neighbor’s shelling rig
shared in a 5-way deal
that got everybody’s crop

planted, cultivated, picked,
shelled, and trucked
to the cooperative elevator

for the trains and distant markets
for the check to repay the bankers
for the credit to farm again another year

for the never certain prosperity of survival
for this pastoral liberty near the edges of agrarian disaster
not hailed-out, bankrupt, or carried to a mortuary


Excerpted from Contradiction by Michael Boer, a collection of poetry, prose, and photographs, coming this winter.

In the 1960s, our farm house had stacks of magazines like Dakota Farmer, Farm Journal, Look, Popular Mechanics, Successful Farming, and Wallaces Farmer, plus a couple of local daily newspapers (which arrived from my mother’s parents a day or so after their original delivery), and a thin tabloid from the NFO. Dinner was served at high noon. After eating a big meal, my father would spend 15-minutes flat on his back on the kitchen linoleum, usually to take a nap, but sometimes to read one of those publications if his kids would leave him alone.

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