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The River Warren and the Struggling Farmer
The alarm clock sounds every morning at five o'clock, not a Sony or any other form of electrical device, but the sounds of the roosters crowing and horses scurrying around the dew filled pasture eagerly awaiting their morning grain. One can hardly ignore crashing and banging sounds that the hogs make as they lift their feeder covers with their noses and bounce them up and down to alert their owner he is late for breakfast again. As the farmer stumbles out of bed, he is greeted by tantalizing aroma of fresh coffee and his wife's award winning biscuits. He quickly throws on a pair of pants and heads to the table with his shirt halfway unbuttoned and his boots untied. He quickly scarves down his breakfast and is out the door ready for another day of work, with out so as thank you to his wife for meal that she was up at four o'clock to prepare.
For most Americans a life like this only exits in their memories of Little House on the Prairie, and it is hard for them to imagine what it would be like if they had to do so much as squeeze their own orange juice. But for the average family of the early nineteenth century it was a way of life. There were no supermarkets or grocery stores where food could be easily purchased. The choices were easy, farm or starve! For the most part people choice to farm.
Means and methods of farming have changed greatly in the last hundred years. The small time farmers are a thing of the past. Every year many farms are going under do to a fall crop market. The price of equipment and farmland has also increased a great deal, and the market is far from keeping up. If this does not change the supermarkets may not have a produce section. A hundred years ago this would problem would never been for seen.
Back then means of farming were very difficult and each member of the family played an important role if the farm was going to survive. The women would always arise about an hour before the men and get breakfast started.
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After breakfast the long hard day would begin. First all of the animals would have to be fed. While the animals were feeding the harnesses would be placed on the horses which was no easy task while they were eating. After the horses had stuffed themselves with all the hay they could eat the plows were hooked up to the harnesses headed for the fields. As the day goes on the heat from sun causes the farmers shirt to drip with sweat and all he can taste is the dry dirt the horses kick up with every step. Through it all he the word quit never enters his mind because he knows that this forty-acre crop is all he has to support his family for the next year.
Once the ground has been plowed it is now time to plant the crop. This choir is done by all. All of the members of the family grab a stick in one hand and a can of seed in the other head out to the field. The process is easy but very time consuming. First you make a small whole in the earth every foot or so. Then one seed is placed in every whole. Water has to packed form a near by creek or well and poured on the newly planted seed. This was the hardest task of all by far. Two buckets were places on the end of a long poll and then draped over the back of who ever was responsible for supplying the water to the field. The buckets with the yoke would weigh over a hundred pounds. After many trips back and forth to the field the wooden poll would ware sores in ones back. Watering the crops is done when the crops are harvested all the way up until the harvest.
After months of hard work it was finally time for the long awaited harvest. Just like planting, the harvest required everyone's help. All of the crops were harvested by hand. While one person was cutting the wheat another was gathering and bundling all the wheat together. As one would handle the wheat he or she could feel the ends of the stems pierce their arms like a hundred little needles going into them at one time. When the harvest was over the farmers were at the mercy of the market and all they could for that they would be able to off all of their bills and buy seed for the next year. All they could look forward to was another year of the same old hard work.
Every new day seems to bring a whole variety of obstacles, whether it be lack of rain and dying crops or the fear of losing the whole harvest to insects. Farming is nothing more than a gamble, although modern technology has advanced the farming process tremendously and work is done almost ten times faster than before. The gamble is still a large part of the trade. Farming in a way is a great form of religion. Every year farmers exercise great faith that their seeds will grow. In the story The River Warren Kent Meyers relates Biblical figures to some of the characters in his story. He talks about the great faith and changes that many of the characters go through. In the novel Luke Crandall learns more about himself and one can see the changes that he experiences. Farming as well has experienced many great changes.
In the early 1920's farming went through a great technological advancement. Different equipment such as bean and wheat harvesters were introduced, which made harvesting crops less painful and time consuming. With the introduction of a variety of new farm implements and tractors farming became a very new game. Farmers are now able to do work that use to take weeks in only a day or to. Irrigating that use to be back breaking work is now done with a flip of a switch. Pivots play an important role in irrigating crops for today farmers. A pivot is a large sprinkler system that walks around the field dropping water on the crops. These large pivots are mechanically run by wells that pump water out if the aquifer and can water over three hundred acres in less than twenty-four hours. Before the introduction of the pivot the task of irrigating this much land may have taken two farmers over four hours. Now this can be done by the flip of a switch.
Although producing and tending to crops is a lot easier, the stresses and problems are still there. All throughout the 1980's and early 90's the farm industry was booming and many farmers became very successful. In the last five years the prices of crops have dropped and so have the number of farmers in the United States. The decline in crop prices is a result of foreign trade. The U.S has been importing a lot of their wheat that is produced in here in United States from Canada. Wheat is one of the major crops that U.S farmers depend on for a great deal of their income. But other countries such as Canada have cut back their trade with the U.S. This new trade policy has greatly affected the American farmers. These trade policies that the government has adopted have had long lasting affects on the small time farming operations.
Farming is no longer a family run operation any more but it has turned into a multi million dollar industry. The small time farmers are now looking for new jobs because they are forced to file for bankruptcy because they were unable to pay back their loans to run their operations. This was caused by the falling prices in the mid 90's. The Farms that were thriving have now gone under.
Farmers are producing more crops than they ever have before. This increase in production has greatly reduced the demand for these products. The farmers aren't the only ones affected by the foreign trade. The companies that produce farm implements and tractors have also been affected. The farmers are barely surviving and they are unable to spend the money to buy the new expensive farm equipment. This decrease in farmer spending has caused corporations such as International and John Deer to experience great losses. The companies that produce the center pivots have also noticed a decrease in sales.
There are many things that have brought about the great change in farming today, but they affect us all in one way or another. Over the last hundred years we have gone from a basic way of life to a cutthroat industry that will ruin very many families. These are families that have worked hard to build what they have and all that they had has been ripped away from because they are unable to predict the decisions that the government will make. It is important to remember what this country was built on and that was hard work. We must not punish those live by this policy.
The River Warren has a strong correlation with the life of today's farmer. It seems that a lot of farmers are just struggle to get through life. They feel that their lives are insignificant and that they have little affect on society. Jeff and Luke also seemed to be in struggle with life and many of the other characters in the novel as well. It was like they couldn't ever get ahead and they were always fighting to keep up with life. The characters seemed to live very insignificant lives from a reader's point of view. Many people don't care much about the life of a farmer and don't fully understand the uphill battle they are fighting. They are not looking for a free ride but for an opportunity to do what they know and love.