Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE ONE-ROOM SCHOOLHOUSE by Jim Heynen

THE ONE-ROOM SCHOOLHOUSE

Stories about the Boys

By Jim Heynen

Pub Date: June 3rd, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41786-9
Publisher: Knopf

 The essence of American boys' practicality, perversity, and sweetness memorably captured in a hundred brief, reverberant tales of farm life, some reprinted from an earlier collection by poet Heynen (You Know What is Right, 1985). Divided into six parts, Heynen's stories catalogue the daily brutality and beauty that shape the character of ``the boys,'' five or so brothers and their friends roaming on their fathers' (``the men's'') hog and corn farms in some unspecified midwestern state. They help birth calves--saving the life of a heifer and her calf by cutting up a second unborn calf in utero and removing it, piece by piece, to free the first--and rescue dogs, whose tails they chop off in an effort to make the motley pups acceptable to their fathers. They steal a watermelon from a town woman's garden (``Gotcha'') and blame the man who sneaks up on them and turns them in: ``Good people don't crawl on their hands and knees through the tomatoes to catch boys stealing.'' In ``Dancing with Chickens,'' they sneak into the coops in the early morning and clap softly until the chickens start to follow the beat; then the boys dance with the chickens until ``they got dizzy or heard someone coming. They didn't want anyone to see them doing this. Dancing with chickens was the only dancing the boys ever did. How would someone watching know...they weren't just following?'' And in ``The Grandfather,'' the boys shoot a mourning dove whose cooing is preventing their well-loved cancer-stricken grandfather from resting and ``brought the dead bird inside and held it up for their grandfather. They extended their arms toward him, each of them holding part of the birds' wings between his fingers, so he could see that this gift was from all of them.'' The boys form a perfect chorus of cruelty and kindness--and Heynen is a Hemingway of farm life. Exquisite.