Pale Harvest

Inside the cab of their most powerful tractor he turned the old corn stubble from spent gold to scallops of deep brown one narrow strip at a time. The plow dug deeper than the disc and churned the roots and soil upward. He was an alchemist working in reverse, preparing the soil for the spring, and he imposed his will upon the field.

— from Pale Harvest by Braden Hepner, 2014

This is the only book I have ever read that captures my husband’s dairy farm life so perfectly. This is not the dairy farming of years ago; this is farming with big machinery, milking 100+ cows in a milking parlor, spending long hours in a cab tractor in the field when it’s planting or harvest time. This book takes place in Utah, so the land is different from our Wisconsin home, but nonetheless I couldn’t believe how accurate Mr. Hepner was concerning dairy farming.

Not only that, the main character of the book (a young man) is the meditating, introspective sort, like me! So it felt like reading a book that synthesized myself and my husband. If it weren’t for that, I would have put the book down because of the bad language and because of one horrible character who likes to talk in speeches about his terrible, anti-Christian beliefs. There was some redemption in the book, but it was ambivalent, more closely aligned with the environment than with actual souls.

Still, the writing was very poetic, the main character quite sympathetic, and the setting beautiful. The above quote does a nice job on the concept of plowing.

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2 thoughts on “Pale Harvest”

  1. Looks like a good book. Putting it on my “to be read” list. I was just thinking I wanted to read some more books with Western settings, as I process my own experience. I got “O Pioneers” out of the library but haven’t read it yet. I looked up some lists but it seemed like most of the suggestions were for what I think of as very masculine books.

    1. Yes, this book is definitely about the rural West as it is today. “O Pioneers” is a great book about how pioneers lived those early years of settling the West. If you’re interested in Native American lit, there’s a lot of that which pertains to the West, and man’s connection to the land. I can’t think of a book off-hand, but “Smoke Signals” is one of my favorite movies.

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