Minnesota’s history is littered with tales of hardship and struggles for survival. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. But where do the tough live…in the great hay-making state of Minnesota. Weather, sorrow, and physical labor all contribute to the struggle of life on the farm.
Each account of life on the farm is blanketed with pride, without ever mentioning the word. “Make hay while the sun shines.” (pg.9) Dark clouds are always just beyond the horizon.
Every family moved to Minnesota with one common goal in mind. This goal was to have a home, a family, and a farm. Life on the farm was not easy; if Andrew Peterson was still living, he would attest to that.
Peterson was a man of religion and land. He emigrated to the United States of America from Sweden; who came here with nothing but a dream and a prayer. After five years of life as a hired hand in Iowa, Peterson was given the opportunity to purchase land in Carver County, Minnesota. The land he purchased was nothing but Mother Nature’s most beautiful green. Unbeknownst to Peterson, it would take him 20 years to carve out the farm land he desired. How daunting this seems, as his tools were elbow grease, an axe, and a scythe. Peterson had a lot of work to do and a small time frame to do it in.
Haying was not his cash crop but he needed it to feed the team of oxen, which in time was replaced by horses, then by modern day tractor. Most of his labor was expended on haying rather than his wheat and apple crops. War was on the horizon, in more than one direction.
On one end of the spectrum civil war had broken out between the north and the south over the issue of slavery. Not having a strong opinion and wanting to continue to farm his land had Peterson indifferent to the situation. On the other end of the spectrum, Dakota Indians where outraged by how the American government was treating them. This issue was concerning to Peterson because it was on his back door and not going away. Peterson and the family he had acquired within the few previous years were ready to flee. In doing so he was forced to stop working in the fields for fear of being attacked by natives. “Over the course of his long life on the farm, Peterson experienced almost every hardship known to farmers.
He survived the grasshopper plague of August 1876, when 'the air was so full of them that when you looked at the sun it was as if it was snowing.’”(pg42.) The grasshoppers reappeared in July of 1877. “In 1878 ‘hail stones as large as goose eggs’ hit his farm. During one July rainstorm in 1879 it poured all night leaving water, ‘standing on the meadows’ and the hay floating around the fields.
” (pg43.) Peterson is considered to be one of the first Minnesotans and a pioneer. He calling this state home before it was even a state, having settled when it was only a territory. He is well-known for his involvement in the development of apple trees able to withstand the harsh climate changes of the state. Knowing about his accomplishments and understanding the endurance needed to produce a profitable farm at this time period inspires individuals to be more cavalier like, myself included. Danger is no stranger to a farm.
Within the pages of this book it tells tale of numerous deaths. The story of Larry Hoffbeck chills the body the most. Not only had the Hoffbeck family lost their father, but also a brother on the same land, in the same area of two totally different farm-related accidents. Working on a farm you must always remember that you’re only one mistake away from disaster. The use of this descriptive style of writing by Steven Hoffbeck sends shivers to the tips of hair on the back of the neck.
“He was lying on the highest part of the ground beneath the machine when fifteen hundred pounds of steel.