LONE TREE: A True Story of Murder in America's Heartland by Bruce Brown

LONE TREE: A True Story of Murder in America's Heartland

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Despite a title worthy of an episode of A Current Affair, Brown (Mountain in the Clouds, 1982) has written a remarkable book that vividly recounts the 1985 triple murder/ suicide that brought home the depth of the farming crisis in America's heartland. On December 9, 1985, an Iowa farmer named Dale Burr killed his wife, his banker, and a neighboring farmer before turning his shotgun on himself. Brown, himself a working farmer, uses the tragic events of that day as a means of examining the changes in the American farm family that have led to the near-disappearance of the family farm. Alternating between the present-day difficulties and historical successes of Burr's ancestors, as well as those of his victims, we come to understand the immigration and cross-continental migration that resulted in the settling of the farmlands of the Midwest and the manner in which families, front siblings to cousins, acquired their control of regions and methods of farming. ""Looking back over half a millennia at the farmers who had been sacrificed to enclosure,"" Brown writes, ""one gets the impression that our culture harvests its farmers, just as the farmer harvests his crops. Generation after generation they have been sown, nurtured for the strength they provide in their prime, and then sent down before the scythe of industrial society."" While tracing the history and transformation of the farming community, the author smoothly draws us into the life of Dale Burr. Incredibly, Burr comes across as more than a sympathetic figure: he seems a respected community leader dragged down by the undertow pulling upon America's family farmers. A dramatic and powerful account with a social message that cannot be ignored.

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1989
Publisher: Crown