We were on our way home from family in central Minnesota late Easter Sunday afternoon. Rather than taking the race tracks that Interstates 94 and 35 would have been with everyone returning home, I chose a two lane state highway that would take us 150 miles south to Interstate 90 in southern Minnesota.
Instead of driving almost bumper to bumper at 70 plus MPH, we would be driving around 57 MPH on a lesser traveled road. That allowed us to watch our surroundings as we drove south.
Farmers in central Minnesota along the road we traveled plant their crops in rolling fields that are between trees, sloughs, and marshes. That keeps the fields from having square corners or getting large in size.
Center pivot irrigation systems told us that the soil was light in nature but there was water available below the surface.
As we got into southern Minnesota, the fields got large, rectangular, flat, and black, what every farmer admires and envies.
We were in my pickup and I have a GPS device that can play stored recorded music through my FM radio. I have loaded it with 667 of my favorite songs that it chooses randomly.
As we were driving into the beginning of southern Minnesota, the song “The Field Behind the Plow” by Stan Rogers came on the radio.
Stan Rogers was a Canadian folksinger who died tragically in a fire on a commercial airliner at the Cincinnati, Ohio airport in 1983.
Rogers wrote his songs about Canada starting with the maritime provinces of eastern Canada.
His later songs moved westward and were about the plains provinces when he wrote “The Field Behind the Plow.”
Farming is still farming whether in the prairie provinces of Canada, or central Minnesota, southern Minnesota or at home in northern Iowa.
Rogers’ “The Field Behind the Plow” tells about the long hours driving a tractor.
He sings, “And hear the tractor’s steady roar, O you can’t stop now. There’s a quarter section more or less to go.”
There is no stopping because “there’s victory in quarter mile.”
Rogers understands farming is not necessarily an easy life.
He tells about a neighbor named Kuzyk who quit because, “The heartache, hail and hoppers got him down. He gave it up and went to town.”
He sings of the farming’s stress when “And Emmett Pierce, the other day took a heart attack and died at 42. You could see it comin’ on, ‘cuz he worked as hard as you.”
Rogers’ “The Field Behind the Plow” was on his album Northwest Passage released in 1981 so it was likely written in the 1970s.
For a song written around forty years ago, “The Field Behind the Plow” rings true with today’s low commodity prices in the lines, “And if the harvest’s any good, the money might just cover all the loans. You’ve mortgaged all you own.”
We were admiring the fertile, black fields on a beautiful Easter Sunday late afternoon, only days away from being worked up and planted.
Then we heard Rogers sing, “And watch the field behind the plow turn to straight dark rows. Put another season’s promise in the ground.”
Those lines appear once in the middle of the song and then he sings it twice at the end.
What better way to describe the approaching planting season as we “put another season’s promise in the ground.”
It happens every spring.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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