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Hard Scrabble

Item: #
6047 BOOK
Book Author:
Jon Graves

Hard Scrabble Observation on a Patch of Land In 1960, at the age of 40 and after many years wondering the globe, Texas-born writer John Graves bought a worn-out patch of land in the hills south of Fort Worth. It began as something of a retreat and became a life-long attachment. This book, published in 1974, is a humorously thoughtful description of how this new landowner becomes equally owned by the land he has settled on. Not a long book, it reads at a leisurely pace, as Graves traces the history of the land, once fertile and grass-covered. He tells what he knows of the numerous tribes of Native Americans who once lived on it, including the fierce Comanches. Then he characterizes the first settlers, who knew next to nothing about land stewardship and cared less, exhausting it with poor farming techniques, overgrazing, and a single-crop economy--cotton. We learn of the toll taken in depleted soil, diminished flood control, and the spread of cedar and scrub brush across former prairie. And we learn of the descendants of these early settlers, diminished by reduced circumstances, some of them making a living by cutting down cedar brakes into fence posts. Having established the history of the land, Graves takes us on a tour of his farm, which he calls Hard Scrabble, describing in turn the fields and streams, the plant and animal life, the weather. Then he describes the long, slow process of reclaiming what he can of his 400 acres, clearing the land, building a house, barn, and other outbuildings, learning stone masonry and carpentry as he goes. In connection with this subject, there is a discourse on the industriousness and workmanship of Mexican laborers, all of them illegal, who help him with building, fencing, and fighting back the growth of unwanted brush and cedar. On the subject of animal husbandry, he tells of raising cattle and goats. And in the investment of himself in all of these he ruminates on how they transform him and root this former world-traveler more firmly into a rural frame of mind. 271 pp Native American Seed recommends this Seven Story Sequence: Knowing what happened in the past is essential to make meaningful, lasting changes to the future. Read this series in order. Learn what has occurred over the course of human history that got us to where we are right now. Learn to better understand where we may be going from here. 1) 1491 2) Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America 3) One Vast Winters Count 4) The Worst Hard Time 5) Hard Scrabble 6) Ishmael 7) A Short History of Progress