I’ve noticed that there have been a lot of corn/cornfield references in my writing recently, and I thought it appropriate that I gave it a proper tribute.
I live in the Southwest, and corn is not a big part of my life anymore. But it used to be. The cycle of my midwestern summers followed the growth of the corn: when I arrived in May, it would only be about a foot tall. It was still growing because it had been planted at the beginning of the rainy season, which ends a few weeks into June. While we slipped in thick mud trying, too early, to play baseball in the empty lot, the corn soaked its leaves and struggled to sap nutrients from the flooded soils. We were movie watching, fort building, puddle jumping, mud sculpting hooligans until the corn was at least a foot and a half high.
And then there would be sun! The corn grew rapidly, and consequently the days moved at the same pace. Each day of running, swimming, sweating, and sun bathing seemed to add an inch to the stalks. We never wanted to go to bed because we knew that the corn would keep growing without us while we slept.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Knee high by the 4th of July.” This of course didn’t apply to our own knees, which had been lost in the corn weeks before, but really only to those of the farmers. Regardless, “knee-high” decided whether it would be a successful crop, and worthwhile to tend to the plants through the summer- a turning point, in other words, for the farmers. And thusly, so was the 4th of July a turning point for us. It was the pinnacle of summer adventures; the apex of the swing, the furthest date from both the end and the start of school years. Afterwards, it was a slow countdown until the drudgery began anew. And everyone was there, and we would cycle through every activity in a furious storm of baseball and King of the Raft and various imaginary games. It was a day of calculated enjoyment, because “knee high” meant the corn would continue to grow, and soon it would be over.
And after knee high…. Some kids have McDonalds playplaces or their Dad’s scrap yards to get lost in: we had the cornfields. Pseudo-adventures were played out for hours inside the stalks, and man did it take forever to bike around the perimeter! There were anacondas in there, and as the corn grew above our heads it began to hide lions and bears and then dinosaurs in its midst. We hunted them, ran from them, were swallowed by them, each as they appeared with the new, bright green ears.
And finally it would be the end of July, and up goes the misspelled “Sweet Cron” sign at the end of the lane. It was time to eat the corn. The first Sunday dinner after harvest is the last big event we would have before I flew back to the desert. From our numbers we would form a team of highly specialized shuckers, and Uncle Pete would place a bucket filed with corn on the picnic table and the trash bin on the ground nearby. We’d shuck them dutifully, revealing the gold and trashing the stringy coats. And dinner would be the best yet, even though eating your height in corn became more difficult each year. It was the best because it might be the last, and you’re out of time to try to cram in one more adventure. We would simply enjoy the night, relaxed, content with our achievements in the past few months and the sweet, sweet cron in our bellies.
When I left, I would fly over felled stalks in crisscross patterns. The corn was gone, and so was I. I wouldn’t know which fields would lie fallow or which would be planted with potatoes or soy while I was gone, because my life was no longer correlated with the fields. Only with the corn.