Robert Richter

Robert RichterRobert Richter is a semi-retired dryland wheat farmer in southwestern Nebraska, where he lives with his wife on the remnants of a family homestead. His essays and stories have appeared in Bloomsbury Review, Prairie Schooner, and other magazines and anthologies. In 2000, Richter won the Master Writer Award for his non-fiction from The Nebraska Arts Council.

Books for the Backwaters Press by Robert Richter

Homefield: Sonata in Rural Voice Homefield: Sonata in Rural Voice, by Robert Richter

Author: Richard Richter
Format: Paperback, 254 pages
ISBN: 0967714923
Published: January 2001

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Awards for Homefield: Sonata in Rural Voice

The Nebraska Book Award for Cover Design/Illustration 2001

Critical Praise for Richard Richter’s Homefield: Sonata in Rural Voice

Robert Richter has been a past recipient of the Master Writer Award for non-fiction from the Nebraska Arts Council. If the prose in Homefield is any indication of his ability as wordsmith, he certainly deserved that award. Richter’s sonata is a harmonic blend of disparate voices telling a story that is more truth than fiction. The characters are richly layered, powerful, and authentic.

Cal Parsons is a country boy turned radical protestor, on again off again college student, and political refugee. A self-described draft dodger and road tramp, he returns to his rural Nebraska roots. His anti-establishment, anti-war rage has died out. Cal takes comfort in the simple familiarity of open fields, the west wind, and azure sky. He finds shelter on the farm where his aging Uncle Karl and Aunt Martha labor endlessly at tasks city folks could not imagine. And, sadly, he finally finds love in the person of an old friend’s wife.

Karl, in his 70’s, can quietly and capably outwork any 20-year old. He has grown his hair and beard long in stoic protest of injustices everywhere. Karl’s battered hands are his history, the time tellers of his life, and his mind a living instruction manual for all things mechanical. Martha has been his short, round helpmate through life, staunch advocate of family and life traditions. She cooks, takes pride in their home, raises a huge garden, cans fruits and vegetables, and keeps Karl’s life on an even keel.

Buckwheat Van Anders has been Cal’s friend and blood brother since boyhood. Even as a crippled veteran of Vietnam, Buckwheat’s voice is powerful and he has more going for him than most. All Cal’s old friends since childhood lend their voices to the Homefield sonata, but Buckwheat’s profanely honest philosophy was a stand out.

The truths told in Homefield brought smiles and laughter, but also made my stomach hurt and my heart ache. Dying farm towns. An endlessly floundering agricultural economy. Horror and wounds that never really heal despite the passages of time. Loving and making love. Hunkering down and riding out rough times. Death and sorrow. It’s all within the pages of this book, detailed in Mr. Richter’s skillful prose.

Recommended reading for adults and mature adolescents. This was a beautiful story, well written.
Laurel JohnsonMidwest Book Review

Excerpt from Homefield: Sonata in Rural Voice

Prelude:
I found myself dealing real estate in Mazatlan when I received the news about Uncle Karl, and I realized that for a long time this was what I’d been waiting for: a reason to return. It was the final chance of returning, too, because now even the family ties to the place were all but gone–all gone but mine. How tight or complex those ties were, I still didn’t know, but they were there and I was headed for the High Plains. Again.

I knew that standing at the mouth of the family grave would inspire memories, images and incidents like requiem hymns, and I would have to sing them. I knew that I would walk the edge of open fields, feeling the wind carry a chorus of familiar voices-the sideline lyrics at ball games with someone telling his version of the story again, or one of Buckwheat’s gusty, blustery solos long gone over a cold beer and a view of the river valley, or even my own voice in journal notes of family refrain written down and left behind so long ago. Fragments of that harmony had always been in the wind no matter where I tried to lose them, the haunting ballad of living on the land never reaching a last verse. I knew it never would be settled history until I stood in that prairie wind and went through all the verses again. So I was going back.

I packed and caught the last bus north that night, and even that act brought on the first memories. It had never taken me long to get moving because I always traveled light. My baggage had never been physical, my destination never in doubt. I was going back again for some kind of rest and reassurance, just like the previous trip fifteen years before, and that’s where it all begins for me—April 1975, standing thumb out at the side of the Interstate in an alien wind, headed in-country.

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