In prose as deceptively featureless as the land of which he writes, Goodland native Bruce Bair returns to his childhood home, a four-thousand acre diversified farm in Good Land: My Life as a Farm Boy. At times blackly humorous – his chapter on the woes of the one-room schoolhouse is horrifyingly funny; at times offensively crude – his father seems only to speak in expletives, this memoir gives new meaning to the word unsentimental.
Life with father Harold, a self-proclaimed “doer” who viewed his sons as cheap farm labor, was anything but idyllic as mindless farm drudgery, verbal abuse, and even the occasional belting left their marks on young Bruce. From a boyhood spend on John Deere Rs pulling oneways in the dusty fields, Bair escapes the farm for college, a stint in the Peace Corps, and involvement with drugs. Again and again, though, the demands of his workaholic father and the farm prove inescapable, and Bair returns to the fields, this time in relative comfort with a John Deere 8960.
Despite the harshness of his childhood and his continued ambivalence towards his father, Bair still loves the peculiar beauty of the High Plains and the rewards of the farming life; the reader, too, will appreciate this honest account of family and farming.
The author’s sister, Julene Bair, recently published Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning which explores her own experiences on the Bair Farm as did her earlier work One Degree West: Reflections of a Plainsdaughter.