CRUNCHING GRAVEL: Growing Up in the Thirties by Robert Peters

CRUNCHING GRAVEL: Growing Up in the Thirties

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An affecting memoir of a Depression boyhood in rural Minnesota, when farms had no electricity or indoor plumbing and when farmboys like Peters ""crunched gravel"" on unpaved roads to get to school. Now a poet, and a professor at Univ. of Cal./Irvine, Peters follows the cycle of a single year here, chronicling a life where at age 12 he milked the cow after school and helped slaughter her yearling calf as well as pigs and chickens, while his father made money on a W.P.A. road-paving gang and his mother baked bread with government flour and made clothing, sheets, and towels from flour sacks. Peters starts with winter, a season of ice-fishing, ice-harvesting, and a hand-hewn Christmas tree with real candles. The brutal cold kills a nearby farmer who falls asleep on his front porch while waiting for a friend with the house key. In spring, Peters delivers the pig of numerous piglets and the cow of a single calf. His mother miscarries in her fifth month: his father plows the field behind a hired team, and the whole family plants crops for summer/fall eating and canning. In ""an ugly, brown"" suit cadged from Welfare, Peters attends his grammar-school graduation ceremony. Berrying and crop-harvesting fill his summer days when he's not caddying at the local golf course. In the fall, he helps winterize the house and outbuildings, participates in the gelding of the bull calf, develops a crush on a remarkable high-school teacher, and decides to become a writer. A commemoration of a nearly lost American agrarian life that, in hauntingly stark prose, reveals the human condition behind the convulsions of formal history.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1988
Publisher: Mercury--dist. by Kampmann (9 East 40 St., New York, NY 10016)