Skip to main content



All Over Creation

Read a Review

in the beginning

It starts with the earth. How can it not? Imagine the planet like a
split peach, whose pit forms the core, whose flesh its mantle, and
whose fuzzy skin its crust-no, that doesn't do justice to the
crust, which is, after all, where all of life takes place. The
earth's crust must be more like the rind of the orange, thicker and
more durable, quite unlike the thin skin of a bruisable peach. Or
is it? Funny, how you never think to wonder.

On one small section of that crust-small, that is, by global or
geologic measure-in Power County, Idaho, where the mighty Snake
River carved out its valley and where volcanic ash enriched the
soil with minerals vital to its tilth, there stretched a vast tract
of land known as Fuller Farms.

Vast, by human scale. Vast, relative to other farmers' holdings in
the region, like the Quinns' place down the road. And as for the
description, "land belonging," well that's a condition measured in
human time, too. But for one quick blip in the 5 billion years of
life on this earth, that three thousand acres of potato-producing
topsoil and debatably the slender cone of the planet that burned
below, right down to the rigid center of its core, belonged to my
father, Lloyd Fuller.

It used to be the best topsoil around. Used to be feet of it,
thick, loamy. There's less of it now. But still, imagine you are a
seed-of an apple, or a melon, or even the pit of a peach-spit from
the lips of one of Lloyd's crossbred grandchildren, arcing through
the air and falling to earth, where you are ground into the soil,
under a heel, to rest and overwinter. Months pass, and it is cold
and dark. Then slowly, slowly, spring creeps in, the sun tickles
the earth awake again, its warmth thaws the soil, and your coat,
which has protected you from the winter frosts, now begins to
crack. Oh, so tentatively you send a threadlike root to plumb the
ground below, while overhead your pale shoot pushes up through the
sedentary mineral elements (the silt, the sand, the clay), through
the teeming community of microfauna (bacteria and fungi, the algae
and the nematodes), past curious macrofauna (blind moles, furry
voles, and soft, squirming earthworms). This is life in the Root
Zone, nudging your tendril toward the warmth of the sunny sun

And then imagine the triumphant moment when you crack the crumbly
crust, poke your wan and wobbling plumule head through the surface
and start to unfurl-imagine, from your low and puny perspective,
how vast Lloyd Fuller's acreage must look to you now.

Of course, during most of his tenure and the decades that followed,
these three thousand acres were given over primarily to the
planting of potatoes, which means that you, being a random
seedling, a volunteer, an accidental fruit, will most likely be
uprooted. Just as you turn your face into the rays and start to
respire, maybe even spread out a leaf or two and get down to the
business of photosynthesizing-grrrrrip, weeded right out of there.
Sayonara, baby.

That's what it felt like when I was growing up, like I was a random
fruit in a field of genetically identical potatoes. Burbanks-that's
what people planted. Centuries of cross-pollination, human
migration, plant mutation, and a little bit of backyard luck had
resulted in the pride of Idaho, the world's best baker, the Russet
Burbank. From one side of the state to the other spread a glorious
monoculture of these large, white, long-bodied tubers with rough,
reticulated skin, high in solids content with a mealy texture when
cooked and a pleasing potatoey flavor.

Honestly, I never liked potatoes much. I preferred rice, a taste I
inherited from my mother, Momoko, and which, in a state of spuds,
was tantamount to treason. Momoko used to make me rice balls, the
size of fingerlings, to take to school in my lunch box. Lloyd
called them "Tokyo tubers"-this was his idea of a joke-and when I
was a little girl, I thought it was pretty funny, too. I used to
look forward to lunchtime, opening my plastic Barbie box, where,
nestled next to a slice of meat loaf or ham, I'd find the two
little o-musubi sitting neatly side by side. They tasted faintly
salty, like Momoko's small hands. If the other kids thought my
lunch was queer, they didn't say much, because Lloyd Fuller had
more acres, and thus more potatoes, than almost any other farmer in
Power County, and I was Yummy, his only child.

No one said much either when Lloyd brought my mom home from Japan
after the war, at least not to his face. Just that she was the
cutest thing they had ever seen, so delicate and fragile looking,
like a china doll, and how was she ever going to handle the work of
running a farm? But she did. Lloyd had inherited five hundred
acres, adjacent to the Quinns' place and up from where the Snake
River was dammed, and he and Momoko rolled up their sleeves and
went to work. People used to smile, call them Mutt and Jeff,
because Lloyd was one of the tallest men in Power County and Momoko
bought her work clothes in the little boys' department at Sears.
You can imagine the two of them, standing in the fields, side by
side, Lloyd as tall as a runner bean stalk and Momoko barely coming
up to his buckle. Dressed in jeans turned up at the cuff and
hanging from her shoulders by suspenders, she looked like Lloyd's
son instead of his wife. The son they never had. After twelve years
of trying, they had me instead-named me Yumi, only nobody in
Liberty Falls could say it right. Yummy, yummy, yummy, I got love
in my tummy. People said I was the apple of Lloyd's eye, the pride
of his heart, until I went rotten.

As it turned out, Momoko was a born gardener, or, as Cassie Quinn's
mom used to put it, "She may be yeller, but her thumb sure is
green." Maybe this was meant to be a compliment, and we all took it
that way. Over the years Momoko's kitchen garden grew into a
vegetative wonder, and she planted varieties of fruits and flowers
that no one had ever seen before in Power County. I remember her
whispering to her pea vines as they curled their way up her
trellises: "Gambatte ne, tané-chan!" "Be strong, my little
seedling!" People drove for miles to see her Oriental ornamentals
and Asian creepers. Their massy inflorescence burst into bloom in
the spring and stayed that way throughout summer and deep into the
fall. It was truly exotic.

Momoko must have been proud of Fuller Farms, in the early days.
Lloyd surely was. In the first years of their marriage, they
battled droughts and early freezes, mildews and viruses and
parasites, and a host of pests that nobody could imagine why God
had even bothered to create:

Seedcorn maggots, leatherjackets, and millipedes.

Thrips and leafhoppers.

False cinch bugs, blister beetles, and two-spotted spider

Hornworms, wireworms, white grubs, and green peach aphids, not to
mention corky ringspot...

And, most dreadful of all, the rapacious Colorado potato

All these creatures were dealt with, and thank God for

"Insect infestations are one of the greatest threats to the
production of high-quality tubers," Lloyd used to say in the
introduction to the speech that he gave every year to the Young
Potato Growers of Idaho. "It is crucial to plan the applications of
pesticides to harmonize with seasonable cultural practices."

"Seasonable cultural practices"-how he liked the sound of that! I
remember him practicing the phrase, standing in front of the mirror
in the bathroom, and when I stood there and looked at my
reflection, I would practice saying it, too. Fuller Farms seemed
living proof to us all that with the cooperation of God and
science, and the diligent application of seasonable cultural
practices, man could work in harmony with nature to create a
relationship of perfect symbiotic mutualism. The first five hundred
acres had grown to a holding of three thousand by the time I turned

That was 1974, the year Nixon resigned, the year Patty Hearst was
kidnapped and Evel Knievel attempted his historic leap across the
Snake River Canyon on a rocket-powered motorcycle. But most
important of all, it was the year of the Nine-Dollar Potato.

Consider the economics. Year after year you teeter along in a
stable 'tater market, breaking even at $3.50 per hundred pounds of
premium grade. When the price goes up to $4.00, you make a little,
when it goes down to $3.00, you lose a little, but generally you
fall in the balance and scrape by. Then, out of the blue, nature
blesses you by cursing others. She sends an early frost to Maine,
too much rain to California-1974 was certainly an odd year for
weather, everywhere except Idaho. The failure of the nation's
crops, combined with the explosive demand for french fries created
by the burgeoning fast-food market, resulted in a potato shortage
that sent prices rocketing into the clear blue heavens. Across the
country, housewives who paid $1.29 for a ten-pound bag last year
were now paying $2.39, and all of this translated into an
unheard-of, unbelievable bonanza, the $9.00 per hundredweight that
made my father a rich, albeit flabbergasted, farmer.

So there was Lloyd, in his prime, a Depression-born agriculturalist
exercising pride in his new capitalist muscle. And who gives a
flying fuck what happened after that? That's what you would have
thought anyway, if you were me, on a predawn winter morning in
1974, stuffing your clothes and diary into your father's army
duffel, lifting the keys to his pickup truck from the hook in the
kitchen, and creeping down the porch stairs, out into the frigid
night, careful not to slam the door behind you.

Excerpted from ALL OVER CREATION © Copyright 2003 by Ruth
Ozeki. Reprinted with permission byPenguin, a division of Penguin
Group (USA). All rights reserved.


All Over Creation
by by Ruth Ozeki

  • Genres: Fiction
  • paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • ISBN-10: 0142003891
  • ISBN-13: 9780142003893