DREAM REAPER by Craig Canine


A Story of Modern Agriculture
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 Canine, a magazine writer and descendant of Iowa farmers, writes a surprisingly lively and suspenseful account of two Kansans who invent and attempt to successfully market an innovative farm combine. Interspersed with episodes tracing the history of modern agricultural technology, Canine tells the still-unfolding story of two cousins, an inventor and an entrepreneur, who, against enormous odds, try to interest the major farm-implement companies in their ``Bi-Rotor'' combine, dubbed ``Whitey.'' But they have a long row to hoe. Mark Underwood, the inventor, has spent the better part of 15 years scavenging for parts in junkyards and neglecting his family to reinvent the combinewhich cuts, threshes, and separates grain from chaffand increase its efficiency. His cousin, Ralph Lagergren, has quit a secure sales job to market the machine. One of the few people privy to their endeavor, Canine follows their odyssey for four years as they crisscross Kansas, fishing for investors and demonstrating Whitey before skeptical industry representatives, all the while tinkering with the machine's 30,000- odd components. Paralleling their escapades, Canine presents portraits of earlier inventors and innovators, such as Cyrus McCormick and Obed Hussey, who competed to manufacture, patent, and market their reaping machines in the early 19th century; Hiram Moore, who invented the earliest horse-drawn combine; and Henry Ford, who sold 100,000 ``Fordson'' tractors in two years, only to be overtaken by International Harvester's ``Farmall'' in 1924. While the cousins are not as successful as their forebears (at least by book's end), Canine makes it clear they belong to that continuum of inventors from off the farm, whose innovations fundamentally transformed modern society. While Canine sometimes dwells too lovingly on the nuts and bolts, this is less a story of a machine and far more an insightful look at the creative mind. (35 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-41272-7
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1995