. . . acres and acres of it, 800 pages to be exact, of rural Iowa before and just after WW I--the progress of Alfred ""Free"" Alfredson, from the marriage of mother Ada and father Alfred (of immigrant Frisian stock) to Free's seventeenth year and Ada's death. Manfred, as evident in his many other products (Eden Prairie, 1968, is the nearest relative to this), has the compulsion, once the plow-trip digs into sites and characters, to detail every event, talk, or beard-scratch as far as the eye can see--which is a powerful distance in Ioway. Manfred works for precision; he can follow a lead horse around a plowed strip and swing the reader right along with the team. His farmers, unless taking a break with butt-busters about sex or upturned privies, are hard-working, God-abiding, close-to-the-earth folk who accept inevitables--birthing, dying, and the small farmer's cycle of borrowing, then losing or winning with the crop. Watching Ada breed and nurse or watching Free grow up--working, inventing things, struggling through a church school, learning about country matters--it's like watching the grass grow, even and unaccented, yet somehow as impressive as the prairie, all salt and sweat and earth-rooted.