It's hard to say, exactly, what's meant by the modern world, but Henry Buckberry never really hooked into it. Born before the First World War and the oldest boy in a family of thirteen kids, he left the open, rolling, potholed prairie of North Dakota in 1921 for the dark, dense, dangerous woods of northern Wisconsin, where he learned to fish, trap, hunt, lumberjack, and farm. Although he lived into the twenty-first century (the second volume of these stories, A Windfall Homestead, will inch us closer to the information super-highway), it could be said that Henry played hooky from the twentieth. With a few allowances for a little new technology, like the Model T, Henry's life represents the end phase of a rural folk culture that has its roots in the Neolithic. Through Henry's stories it's possible to see a long way into the past and then to turn the telescope around in order to put the present under an improvised microscope.
Henry didn't have an easy life, but he had a vivid life, a life amazingly free of boredom, aimlessness, or distraction, and his stories convey that vividness from beginning to end. Henry's son Charles Darwin Buckberry--also known as C.D. or Seedy Buckberry--interviewed Henry and arranged the stories in some sort of more or less working order. (Seedy insists he put those stories down with complete fidelity, although he refuses to take a lie-detector test or submit to a Minnesota Multi-Phasic Personality Inventory analysis.)
Henry's life, as conveyed here, is also a way to measure the intellectual bulimia (or is it the intellectual anorexia?) of present-day empire consumerism. Here is life before Wal-Mart. Here is life that lives in nature with intense and even fierce physicality. Here is life that sings.