Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass

ISBN: 0156000520
ISBN 13: 9780156000529
By: Gary Paulsen Ruth Wright Paulsen

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About this book

Paulsen captures a vanishing way of life and offers a lyrical tribute to the american farm. “Paulsen’s prose is realistic and down-to-earth....Ruth Wright Paulsen’s paintings are an invitation to pause and imagine...a delight” (Christian Science Monitor). Illustrations by Ruth Wright Paulsen.

Reader's Thoughts

Nich Traverse

This book is beautiful. For anyone who loved listening to gramp tell stories about growing up on a little farm in the middle of nowhere, this book will make you smile...and cry.


"This horse had the name of Harold, because I had many years ago a son named Harold until they took him, the army took him and didn't give him back and his hair was this color of the horse. Is that something, to name a horse the same as a son?"So begins this wonderful tale of farm life. Author Gary Paulsen begins the book with this brief recollection of a horse named Harold in the quiet sigh of an old man's life. Using each season as a separate chapter, Paulsen describes the heck out of farming, out of family, out of the elements...he does so in a way that is always engaging. This isn't corporate farming, which has taken over most of the old family steads, but down-to-earth-horse-pulls-the-plow hard work. You farm to live, work to live, but pride comes with an axe.Prior to this book, I wasn't aware of Gary Paulsen, who has made his mark as a writer of adventure stories for children and teens. He writes the way one remembers, with knowledge gleaned from the stories told by the village elders. His words and phrases tie the reader back to the land, even if the reader has never stepped on such ground.Plowing. The first great music of summer. Plowing and watching the black dirt turn...while the seagulls float over the blade of the plow in the hundreds...The community uses horses for the heavy lifting. The dirt becomes black pudding when properly tilled. Grandmothers sit on porches and sew quilts. Families ride to church in old 1937 Fords. Months of back-breaking work gets wiped out by too many inches of rain or not enough rain. Young ones take temporary leaves from school so they can dig up potatoes to help support the family. Exhausted livestock doze off into barnsleep. Nothing comes easy, so a celebration like Christmas is something earned....carved toys of soft wood that looks like polished honey shaped in a team of horses with a bobsled.The text is accompanied by paintings from Ruth Wright Paulsen, pictures of cows and and crops and steeples bathed in Dutch lighting. Beautiful. The old man and his horse named Harold. His dead son. These were the hard men who fought the wars and tilled the land and never asked for handouts. Where have they gone?"My son will not farm nor his sons and the brush will take it back, the farm, all of it..."Book Season = Year Round (work never stops)


A beautifully poetic look at life on family farms when tractors were just starting to be used. Paulsen takes one on a journey through the seasons of life on the farm, the community of life, the joys and sorrows, and the work - oh my, the never-ending work. I found myself reading aloud in my head just to experience the way he uses words - the words truly convey the sense of life's rhythms.

Rick Jones

Lyrical AND hardbitten view of farmlife..Paulsen is able to capture the toughness of an existence that is now mostly gone. A good sensory experience, and his descriptions of the animals on a farm are spot on.


Beautifully written in the breathless and yet meandering rhythm of the seasonal cycles of farm life. The forward is my favorite part; I actually use it in my college Intro to Comp class as a study of a "perfect" narrative piece.


One of my favorite books of all time. A lyrical impression of the farming life of the late 1800s/early 1900s. Just beautiful. Have read this about three times.


sort of a two-note johhny sort of book, i.e. farming is constant labor and there are many beauties and tragedies in this labor, but pleasant enough. if not for the charm of thinking about how it's the same author as hatchet, i wouldn't care so much. but, given my current living situation, all v. topical.

Lynette Rambousek

Coming from a farm background I was able to associate to Paulsens discriptions of each season. Some of course before my time!

Lori Symmonds

A short, lyrical book. The introduction finds the author sitting with a very old man on a dead horse named Harold, as the old man tells him what Harold meant and talks about the farm that will be lost when he dies.

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