By Robert Louis Peters
No nostalgic story of the nice previous days, Robert Peters’s reminiscences of his youth vividly evoke the melancholy on a hardscrabble farm close to Eagle River: Dad using the Vilas County aid truck, Lars the Swede freezing to loss of life on his porch, the embarassment of commencement in a go well with from welfare. The tough efforts to place fish and potatoes and blueberries at the desk are punctuated through occasional pleasures: the Memorial Day get together, swimming at Perch Lake, the county reasonable with Mother’s prizes for jam and the unique delights of the midway. Peters’s clear-eyed memoir finds a poet’s eye for wealthy and stark element even as a boy of twelve.
“Peters misses not anything, from the main points of the town’s Fourth of July party to the reason and influence of a tender cousin’s suicide to the calibrations of racism towards Indians that was once so appropriate then. It is an engaging, unsentimental examine a section of our past.”—Margaret E. Guthrie, New York instances publication Review
“It’s not likely that the other modern poet and pupil as unusual has risen from relatively so humble beginnings as Robert Peters. Born and raised through semiliterate mom and dad on a subsistence farm in northeastern Wisconsin, Peters lived harrowingly on the subject of the eventual stuff of his poetry—the dependency of people on animal lives, the inexplicable and traditional heroism and baseness of individuals dealing with severe stipulations, the urgency of actual desire. . . . Sterling adolescence memoirs.”—Booklist
“Robert Peters has written a memoir exemplary simply because he insists at the particular, at the own and the local. it's also tremendously pleasurable to learn, and it truly is one of the such a lot real bills of formative years and formative years I know—a Wisconsin David Copperfield!”—Thom Gunn
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Extra resources for Crunching Gravel: A Wisconsin Boyhood in the Thirties
There were no hints that you could mix colors or try for shading and nuance. If this Christmas ran true, by afternoon the books would be tossed into our toy boxes, seldom to be fingered again. Then Dad surprised me with an air rifle, a gift I didn't want, and showed me how to insert a bullet and squeeze the trigger. "We'll shoot a hen for supper," he said. Killing the Hen Old Crip danced on spurless legs, making deep-maw proprietary sounds. Once the hens were eating corn and chortling, he fed himself, keeping a wary eye on us.
I plunged the bird into boiling water. The feathers loosened immediately and smelled like rancid rags. Then came the singeing and butchering. Mom planned an early supper, complete with blueberry pie, from berries picked the previous summer. The afternoon was lazy. Margie and I skied for an hour, returning to a kitchen fragrant with delicious steam. The yellow dumpling dough, rich with hen fat, was nearly ready. Dad was napping. " Dad decided to milk Lady early, before supper, so that we could enjoy a long evening.
We arrived in time for the first excavations of ice blocks, rectangular shapes formed by augers and saws. By inserting a special saw, resembling a crosscut with large teeth, one man worked along the cut, eventually freeing a block, which was then loaded onto an iceboat - a sledge converted to a sleigh by means of strategically placed tire irons. The blocks, all roughly three by six feet, would be halved and quartered later for storing in sawdust. Uncle Pete and Dad did the sawing. Frenchyand Jim, with some help from me, pushed the heavy blocks onto the iceboat.