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A Chronicle of Five Farm Families

Steven R. Hoffbeck

Publication Year: 2000

The Haymakers is an epic—the history of man’s struggle with nature as well as man’s struggle against machines. It relates the story of farmers and their obligations to their families, to the animals they fed, and to the land they tended. But The Haymakers is also an elegy—to a way of life fast disappearing from our landscape. In the most heartfelt essays, Hoffbeck chronicles his own family’s struggle to hold onto their family farm and his personal struggle in deciding to leave farming for another way of life. Hoffbeck also seeks to document and preserve the commonplace methods of haymaking, information about haying that might otherwise be lost to posterity. He describes the tools and the methods of haymaking as well as the relentless demands of the farm. Using diaries, agricultural guidebooks and personal interviews, the folkways of cutting, raking, and harvesting hay have been recorded in these chapters. In the end, this book is not so much about agricultural history as it is about family history, personal history—how farm families survive, even persevere.

Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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p. vii

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pp. 3-17

We always kept track of close calls on the farm. It was Dad’s way of teaching us to be careful. Once, when I was still too young to remember, the combine caught his shirttail in a moving belt. Because he was strong and the shirt was cotton, it ripped and he wasn’t hurt, but what if it had been thick denim? Mom took a picture as a reminder of how close he had...

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2. "Hope and a Future"

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pp. 19-48

In the summer of 1862, Andrew Peterson was caught amid three wars. Farthest away was the Civil War, in which Americans fought Americans; at that time the fighting was no closer than Tennessee. The Dakota War, on the other hand, came perilously near. That August, Dakota Indians stormed pioneer settlements along the nearby Minnesota River. What if the Indians advanced into Carver County...

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A Yorker’s Sojourn in Minnesota

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pp. 49-76

In the coldest part of January 1883, Oliver Perry Kysor kept having dreams, dreams he couldn’t shake. He had visions of his father’s farm near the high headland in New York, the place called Kysor Hill ever since his family arrived there from Vermont in 1832.1, That hill had been the center of his life since Perry, as he was known, was three years old. His father, Charles, had taught him and his five brothers...

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Farming Forever

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pp. 77-108

In June 1924, Gilbert Marthaler had Just turned ten years old, but already he had learned to be cautious on the farm, to keep his eyes open for danger lurking. His caution was born partly of his own experiences but was due also to warnings from his parents and stories they told of things that had happened to others in the vicinity of their farm in Stearns...

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Tradition and Change

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pp. 109-138

I've liked round barns since the first time I saw one at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont. Over a period of years after that, I gathered information about round barns in the Upper Midwest for a short article I eventually published in North Dakota Horizons in 1995. While I was working on the project, I happened to mention it to Cal Lee. Cal was a six-foot-five, blond, Norwegian church-basketball teammate...

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Blue Silos on the Prairie

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pp. 139-172

My brother Larry always wanted to be a carpenter, to work with wood-cutting it, crafting it, shaping it into cabinets, bookshelves, even buildings. Woodworking was his joy, and he wanted it to be his livelihood. Although he was the oldest, he hadn’t been groomed to assume control of the farm on that distant day when our dad would retire. There were five more boys—me, then Jeffrey, Dana, Chris, and...

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pp. 173-180

What pattern exists on these open prairies has been imposed on the land by farmers. They planted corn in straight rows, cut and raked their clover in windrows. When they graded gravel roads, they laid them out into a gridwork of one-mile squares. Those who baled their hay stacked it in patterns on the hayracks so that the greatest number of bales could be transported without sliding off Haymakers...

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pp. 183-185

I am very grateful to those I interviewed, who gave of their time and memories, for this project would not be possible without them. My uncles Francis Hoflbeck, Vernon Hoflbeck, Norman Hofieck, and Laverne Dahmes taught me much about hay and about my father. Gilbert Marthaler graciously told me of his experiences at Meire Grove. Doug Rongen, Art Rongen, and Marlys Rongen Lee...


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pp. 187-197


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pp. 199-207


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pp. 209-212

E-ISBN-13: 9780873517362
E-ISBN-10: 0873517369
Print-ISBN-13: 9780873513951
Print-ISBN-10: 0873513959

Page Count: 223
Illustrations: 50 illustrations
Publication Year: 2000

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 864844875
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Haymakers

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Subject Headings

  • Hay -- Harvesting -- Minnesota -- History.
  • Farmers -- Minnesota -- History.
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