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Fruits of the Earth

by Frederick Philip Grove
afterword by Rudy Wiebe

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small town & rural, non-classifiable
list price: $22.95
also available: eBook
category: Fiction
published: 2008
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First published in 1933, Fruits of the Earth has come to be regarded as a landmark in Canadian fiction, an unparalleled depiction of the ordeals endured by the early pioneers of the western prairies. In his portrait of Abe Spalding, Frederick Philip Grove captures the essence of the pioneering spirit: its single-minded strength, its nobility, and ultimately, its tragedy. A novel of broad scope and perception, Fruits of the Earth displays a dignity and stature rare in contemporary works of fiction.

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Abe made room under the spout by driving ahead.

“Here, Charlie,” he said, for the boy had climbed to the ground. “I want you to take a load to town. Can you do it?”

“Sure, daddy.”

“All right. There it is. Climb up.” And he helped him. “Had your dinner? To elevator one; the first from the crossing. Listen here. While you have the load, you walk the horses. When you drive up the incline, hold your lines tight. On the platform, let the man do the work. On the way home, you can trot half the way.”

The boy nodded and clicked his tongue.

Victor Lafontaine had been watching father and son. As Abe turned back to his load, the Frenchman caught his eye and smiled. “Nice kid,” he said.

Abe looked at his watch. “Fill Horanski’s tank. Then dinner.” And he, too, drove on, separated from Charlie only by a narrow strip; for half a mile the trails hardly diverged. Abe met the hayrack bringing the dinner for the crew. Mrs. Horanski stood, precariously balanced, among baskets of food and boilers of coffee. As she passed him, she nodded with a smile at Charlie who laughed proudly back at her.

Then, just as father and son reached the point where their trails divided sharply, the whistle of the engine blew, giving the signal to stop work. The shrill sound made Charlie jump; and smilingly he looked back at his father, waving his hand; then he disappeared from sight.

Two hours went by. Abe had had his lunch at home and was back in the field filling his tank.

Wheat, wheat, wheat ran from the spout.

Then, just as in the morning, Victor and his lads stared south.

Abe looked up at the old man’s face which he saw in three-quarter profile. He was conscious only of the sunlight playing in the snow-white bristles of the stubble of his beard. Incomprehensibly, a wave of fear invaded him, aroused by the puzzled expression on the man’s face. Again, as in the morning, Abe dropped to the ground and circled the engine.

On the trail from the yard a dust cloud was trailing along. It took Abe a second or so to make out, at the apex of the fan-shaped cloud, a man on horseback tearing along at a terrific speed. He was riding a draught-horse, which fact was betrayed by the lumbering though furious gallop. He had just crossed the pasture.

“He leapt the gate,” Victor said from behind Abe’s back.

Abe did not answer. Who could it be? Whence did he come? A dull and ever-increasing disquietude took hold of him.

Suddenly he recognized the rider. It was Bill Crane. He should have been back by this time. The horse he was riding was clearly doing its utmost; yet Bill was wildly lashing it with a long line.

Everybody in the whole field was aware of the rider’s approach; all work had slowed down.

Then, at a distance of a quarter of a mile, the horse stumbled in full career and fell, throwing the rider who rolled over two or three times, to leap up and to fall again, fighting for breath and reeling.

Abe veered on Lafontaine. “For God’s sake, shut that engine off!”

Victor jumped; the hum subsided into silence.

Bill had stopped, struggling for his voice. “Charlie!” he yelled. “Charlie’s got hurt.” Abe’s knees gave under him.

“Where? How?” he shouted.

“Hilmer’s bridge. Load went over him!” Bill was still staggering forward; apparently he had been hurt by his fall.

“Hurt?” Abe asked as if groping for a clue.

“Load went right over him.”

For a moment it looked as if Abe were going to ask more questions. Then he turned and ran for the lead team of his grain tank. Feverishly he unhooked one of the horses, a Percheron colt, and, gathering the long line into loops, vaulted on his back. Lashing the heavy horse into a gallop, he shot past the engine out on the trail.

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Contributor notes

Frederick Philip Grove was born Felix Paul Grove at Radomno in West Prussia (now a part of Poland) in 1879. Raised in Hamburg and educated at the University of Bonn and later at the University of Munich, he began his career as a poet and translator into German of many English and French writers, including Balzac, Flaubert, Gide, Swift, and Wilde. His first novel, Fanny Essler, appeared in 1905; his second, Maurermeister Ihle’s Haus (Mastermason Ihle’s House), in the following year. He left Germany in 1909 for the United States.

In 1912, under the new name of Frederick Philip Grove, he began teaching school in Manitoba, and continued in that profession until 1924.

Grove’s first book in English, Over Prairie Trails, is a sequence of seven sketches of his weekly trips through the Manitoba countryside. His first novel in English, Settlers of the Marsh, establishes the essentially tragic pattern of his fiction, the heroic pioneers who seek domestic and material happiness but seldom realize their goals.

Grove’s autobiography, In Search of Myself, begins with a fictitious account of his early life in Europe and moves on to a largely accurate presentation of his life in Canada.

In 1929 Grove left Manitoba to accept a job with a publishing firm in Ottawa. In 1931 he settled on a farm near Simcoe, Ontario, where he spent the final years of his life.

Frederick Philip Grove died in Simcoe, Ontario, in 1948.

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About the Authors

Frederick Philip Grove

Frederick Philip Grove was a Canadian author and translator best known for his fictional works exploring the Canadian west. Born in Germany as Felix Paul Greve, Grove emigrated to Canada as an adult following his imprisonment for fraud in 1903 and a self-imposed exile from Germany from 1904-1906. Settling in Manitoba, Grove formally changed his name and undertook a series of teaching positions in rural areas before devoting himself to writing full time starting in the early 1920s. Among Grove’s most memorable works are Fruits of the Earth, Settlers of the Marsh, and A Search for America. Grove died in Ontario in 1948 after suffering a stroke in 1946.

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