Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published October 01, 2012, 11:25 AM

Fall poetry in farm country

Fall is upon us. It seems hard to believe, but the row crop season harvest could be over before the end of October, depending on whether we start getting badly needed rain. Forgive me for not writing a “drought of 2013” story until we know whether it’s rained before freeze-up.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Fall is upon us. It seems hard to believe, but the row crop season harvest could be over before the end of October, depending on whether we start getting badly needed rain. Forgive me for not writing a “drought of 2013” story until we know whether it’s rained before freeze-up.

For those of you who have been suffering with Canada goose depredation, I have been more than sympathetic. I’ve taken action on your behalf.

I picked up a license early and pursued some early goose action in LaMoure County, N.D. There were plenty of the honkers around. My hunting friend said he had talked to a modest-sized farmer in the area who had lost $10,000 to these birds in his soybean crop in the past year. I don’t know what his losses are in 2012, but I have to give the North Dakota Game and Fish Department kudos for making a statement with these limits.

Early-season hunting is finished now. The 15-bird-per-day limit was nearly double the previous year’s limit, and the message from the department is that it is trying to help farmers cope with a sudden expansion of the so-called “local” geese. The limits are now back to three per day for the regular season, which includes out-of-staters.

When I talk to farmers in the region, I typically ask about whether they hunt birds. Most don’t. I have learned that it’s either because they spend sufficient time outdoors in their cropping season and pursue other hobbies, or hunting (birds, especially) doesn’t work out with their harvest and fall fieldwork schedule.

Me? I have been hunting birds most of my life. It’s a chance to go walking in rural areas, renewing friendships with farmers and ranchers whom I’ve met outside of my writing world. I mostly go to the places I’ve gone for years, on land I’ve revisited in dry, wet and moderate times. I often am with my son, now in his mid-20s, who has been seeing these same places since he was 11.

After shooting some geese in the morning, we went to Stutsman County, N.D., for the grouse opener.

We didn’t see a bird, but we had a great day out there, watching hunting dog Barnum look for birds, and Bailey, now 14 years old (100 in dog years), as he pretended to hunt. Seeing old Bailey struggle where he once flew across the land reminded us that we have so many seasons in this life. I remember a conversation with another Stutsman County farmer recently, who talked about the number of crops in a life.

For those of you who are hunters, or know one, I would like to recommend you pick up a book or two at your favorite outlet — poetry.

It’s by Tim Murphy of Fargo, N.D., a former farm financier, and one of the finest poets you’ll read. Last fall, Murphy published two books —“Mortal Stakes/Faint Thunder” and “Hunter’s Log.” They’re both great, and would make a good Christmas (or Thanksgiving) gift for a friend, or to yourself.

This isn’t namby-pamby stuff. There are references to Murphy’s struggles with spirituality, alcoholic over-indulgence, clerical sexual abuse and homosexuality. Beyond some serious pain, Murphy reveals overarching and universal joys, including his love for his fourth dog, Feeney. My compliments to the Lewis & Clark Fort Mandan Foundation’s Dakota Institute Press for publishing these books. Both are $19.95 in hard copy and $14.95 in paperback. Go to www.FortMandan.com for information.

One final note: If you see a hunter this fall, tell him or her something about how you farm. More importantly, tell them why. That’s where the poetry is.

Tags: