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So you like this country, stranger? Well, I wish you could have seen it
in the nineties when the land was new and we were raising wheat;
When the Valley of the Red was one great sea of fife and bluestem,
raising grain enough to furnish bread for all the world to eat.

It was nothing like this modern sort of farming with its turkeys,
and its sheep and hogs, and cows and hens, and beets and spuds, and hay.
It was something big and splendid like the swing and sweep of seasons.
Seems as if the Lord intended men to farm that grander way.

Those were the days of genuine thrashing - yes, I used to own a “steamer.”
Nothing like those modern tractors with their sharp, staccato bark.
Oh, to hear an engine chugging, and a blower’s hollow moaning.
And at dusk and dawn the whistles as they talked across the dark!

We’d start thrashing in September, when the lazy winds were sleeping,
and the air was still and balmy, and a purple haze was spread
over all the distant landscape. Evenings stillness brought the eerie
minor chant of far off blowers as the sun sank round and red.

Always liked to watch the bundle racks roll in beside the feeder.
And the ease with which the spikes would toss the heavy bundles in.
Where the band cutters could seize them - that was poetry of motion,
Then the growling concaves crunched them and away the chaff would spin.

Thrashed a quarter section daily; but in fields where straw was heavy,
or was damp, and we had failed to clear off all the shocks by night,
we would fire near-by straw pile; as the flames lit earth and heaven
we would finish with a flourish in a blaze of ruddy light.

Gone forever, those great straw fires, gone the blowers’ somber chanting
And the giant drive-belt’s humming and the rich, warm smell of grain.
It's the price we pay for progress, wheat no longer rules the Valley.
With its passing went a splendor we shall never see again.


from Songs of the Iron Men, released April 1, 2009
Words by Eva K. Anglesburg; Music by Christian Williams


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Christian Williams New York

Christian Williams is a self-taught musician, experimental composer, and visual artist. His passion for expression has led him to dabble in a wide variety of music styles, ranging from dark acoustic folk music inspired by the American prairie to abstract sound art utilizing acoustic loops and field recordings. ... more

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