Prairie Wolves in Print: Breathing in the Fullness of Time

reviewed by Sandra McBride

Breathing in the Fullness of Time
by William Kloefkorn
231 pp.  |  University of Nebraska Press, 2009  |  $23

book cover of Breathing in the Fullness of TimeAnyone who spends more than five minutes with William Kloefkorn will know he tells stories, and tells them well. I have known him for nearly three decades as student, colleague and friend. I have heard, and enjoyed, many of Kloefkorn’s stories, so it was a great pleasure to read Breathing in the Fullness of Time, the fourth volume of his memoir.

Kloefkorn covers a full measure of time from boyhood on, but mainly concentrates on the years between the moment he decided to quit college football and 1997. In the course of this movement through time and space, Kloefkorn tells stories to suit nearly every taste. He describes his college-aged self as “inherently meditative,” and it’s clear in these pages that his nature has not changed. One of the loveliest, most lyrical sections describes an idyllic side trip with his brother John during the annual Loup River expedition. They found a small stream leading into a lush meadow so seductive that John, “in a selfless attempt to put an end to time, removed the watch from his left wrist and dropped it into the water.” This momentary stay of time not only works for the two brothers, it also works for the reader.  We are as beguiled by the reverie as they, and the same slap of the main channel that rouses them, rouses us.

If your preference runs to tall tales, you’ll relish Chapter 10, where Kloefkorn takes the reader to North Platte to witness a hog-calling contest. Those with only passing acquaintance with Kloefkorn may know of his champion status, but you cannot know how deeply satisfying his victory was until you read his telling of it.

If you enjoy reading what writers have to say about writing, you’ll find that here, too. As a writing teacher, I enjoyed the passage about Bill’s time as a poet-in-residence with fourth graders. After a lively process of tying two unlikely words together (bathtub and pony) to make a collaborative poem, he set them to work on their own creations. His satisfaction comes through in this line: “And I can still hear the lovely rustling of paper as they smoothed the blank sheets on their desks and began to write.” I, too, find few sounds lovelier.

Kloefkorn is not a straight-line kind of storyteller, and he moves back and forth in time easily. It is in the interweaving of stories, and in their repetitions, that the reader begins to understand the fullness of time that Kloefkorn inhales and exhales in this book. It is beautifully meditative, often funny, and well worth your attention.