The Steel Watchman


Over past the crooked tree, near a shallow slough,
A forgotten plow sits alone with rusted clevis and pin.
Parked there by the farmer, away from the summer’s sun
Abandoned – then forgotten, now just steel and tin.

This stoic farmhand, wedded to the soil,
Tills a prairie grass field, while the summer wind blows.
The steering wheel is corroded, cracked, locked and set on course
Just beyond worked field and furrows, a handy perch for crows.

                                               ©2017 Clarence Holm

On Display

It was a source of pride between farmers, demonstrating agriculture skills. The most obvious, the ability to plow a neat straight line was on display to all who passed by a farmer’s field. After church on Sunday, a few received advice on farming from helpful elders.

This farmer’s furrow
Plowed deep, straight as an arrow
For Sunday judgement

-Clarence Holm

What else is left?

Dad stretched the wire, full of double twisted barbs
Along the newly dried section line, where drain tiles run so deep.
Cud chewing cattle eyeing the sweet uncut clover
Guarded by the fence line, too high for cattle to leap.

Above the geese keep flying, historic wetlands gone.
Potholes once patrolled by rows of twisting sentries; Ash, Elm, and Oak,
No longer guarding fragile prairie life, no longer providing forest cover
Cut down, bulldozed, and covered by a brittle honeysuckle cloak.

Land once turned by a single bottom steel edged plow,
Farmer guided oxen powered cutting knives, that changed a prairie stage.
Working from sun-up to down, unknowingly ensuring the family’s doom.
Extracting a generation’s promise, for less than a living wage.

160 acres homesteads, bought by five years toil.
Advertised as paradise, with fertile land to secure.
Desperate Swedes and Germans, Russians and Norwegians too
Most ended up with nothing, except crumpled railroad brochures.

-Clarence Holm

When Pride Is All You Have

As dusk approaches in the rural Midwest, farmers grab their hats to go for a drive. “Gotta check the crops” my Grandpa would say as he drove slowly down the dusty gravel roads. It was a time tested tradition, a friendly competition to make sure you were the best.

Who had the staightest furrows, whose equipment was fastest, was under inspection… and judgement!

– Clarence Holm

Tractor furrows judged with a sociable squint,
Cast from trucks through window’s blueish tint.
Assessing neighbor’s and guaging the men,
Measuring their worth, checking at dawn and evening again

Pride is valued highly by those who worked the fields,
When no payments were given for all of their yields.
When what little you had was in your heart,
And effort and commitment held you apart.

Some men crack under the load
When fate filled them with forebode.
Dreaded thoughts of failure became all too real
As creditors brought accountants with no room for appeal

A man’s worth is more than a simple measure
Of one seasons work held hostage by some weather.
That’s why farmers work so hard each day,
To leave their best efforts on display.