GOOD LAND by Bruce Bair


My Life as a Farm Boy
Email this review


 This collection of mostly short, often nastily revealing pieces by journalist Bair on his childhood on a 4,000-acre wheat farm in Kansas reflects poorly on farm life and the midwestern character. Bair's father, Harold, inherited the farm in Goodland, Kans., from his father, Ferdinand Fernando Bair, who'd founded it in 1920. The domineering, mean-spirited Harold is the inescapable focus here, in spite of Bair's frequent poetical asides on such things as the meadowlark and his paean to John Deere tractors. Before Bair was even in his teens, Harold viewed him as ``labor unused'' and ``put his ass to work.'' He was never good enough, of course, or fast enough at any chore. On at least one occasion. ``discipline'' was a beating that left Bair and his older brother Clark ``bruised from ankles to mid-back.'' Bair escaped the farm, first by going off to college, then by serving stints in the army and the Peace Corps. He spent time as a wanderer and drug dealer before finally settling into marriage. No matter what he did, though, Harold repeatedly pulled him back. At 32, ``still busy trying to please my father,'' he would return yet again to grow sugar beets for the now highly successful Harold. Bair seems to have inherited, if not his father's temperament, at least his insensitivity: He claims to have met his ``not beautiful'' wife, Kris, by proclaiming in a bar, ``I need a girl. . . . And from then on I could not really pry her from me.'' There are some bits of interest here regarding farming methodology, animal husbandry, the indelicate nature of life and sex on a working farm. But given the cruel nature of Bair's father, growing up on a farm never sounded so miserable.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1997
ISBN: 1-883642-34-5
Page count: 189pp
Publisher: Steerforth
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1997