Ira Brooker, MN

Premium Writer

Ira started his first writing gig days after graduating high school, launching a movie review column in his small-town newspaper. Since then he’s written in just about every capacity imaginable, from features in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Time Out Chicago, and Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine to fiction in outlets like Pseudopod, No Sleep, and Hypertext to business copy for major retailers. He earned an English degree at the University of Minnesota and an MFA from Columbia College Chicago. He lives and works in St. Paul, Minnesota.

As a StoryTerrace writer, Ira interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know him better by reading his autobiographical anecdote below.

Welcome to the Machines

The machines arrive each morning before seven. Their cacophony of beeps, clanks and belches is the first thing I hear upon waking. In the next room, my son hears them too. At 19 months, patience is far from his greatest virtue, but in this case he seems to have made peace with waiting. He knows he’ll be with the machines soon.

My son is a city kid. I still can’t get my head around that. I grew up in the woods, in the middle of the deep dark forest in the hilly country of Western Wisconsin. Our nearest neighbors lived nearly a mile away across a cornfield. Our only bathroom was a wooden outhouse handcrafted by my father. Our rare visitors had to maneuver a quarter-mile of rutted driveway interrupted by a fast-flowing creek.

My son can hear the crackling speaker of the Wendy’s drive-thru from his backyard. He negotiates city buses as easily as any urban warrior. And every day he watches the machines. I take him by the hand and walk him to the corner to watch men in yellow helmets tear up a major thoroughfare using equipment half the size of our house. Soon they’ll have built a state-of-the-art light rail system that stops just outside our door.

My son is enthralled by this. The focus he puts on these earth-movers and hole-diggers is so intense that I suspect he could operate one from memory if he only had the size and strength. I recall being similarly rapt when I was a kid, but it was the relative nothingness of sumac groves and babbling brooks that held me in thrall.

I’ve lived in cities for years, but still think of myself as a country boy. My wife is similar, coming from a sleepy town of 1,000 people. For us, the Big City was a far-off place of wonder and danger. For our boy, small towns and farmscapes will be the exotic outposts. Will he dread visits to his grandparents’ homes, where the nights are silent and there’s no Target right up the street? Will he dismiss country folk as backwards yokels? Will he gag every time we drive past a manure-coated cornfield? Only time will tell. For now, all I can do is offer my son my halting guidance through an urban jungle I can barely navigate myself. And keep watching the machines.

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