It’s early February, it’s been cold here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge…not Chicago or Moscow cold…but for us thin-blooded Southerners it’s been damn cold. It’s warmer today but that’s because it is raining to beat the band or to beat my metal roof. Despite the elements, thanks to my son-in-law’s mother, I’m thinking about cornfields. A bit early in the season to be thinking about cornfields but my thoughts tell me Kimberly’s memories of cornfields are a little different from mine…maybe.
Kimberly, Justin’s mother, posted a cornfield meme extolling the joys of running and playing in the cornfields of her youth and the memories they elicit. I’m happy for Kimberly and her memories…mine are different and not the least bit warm and fuzzy.
I tend to lump cornfields and hayfields together…except I don’t eat hay. Corn I love…in any form including liquid and I’m not speaking of corn syrup. Sorry, the train went off the rails for a moment.
I remember corn and hayfields as places to stay away from if possible. It was impossible for me to stay away from them, it was part of the job…or just part of my childhood. There was always a lot of work associated with them both and to this day I break out in hives when I see square bales drying in a hayfield.
I associate corn and hayfields with loneliness, extreme heat, humidity, stinging bugs and venomous snakes. You’ve never been hot and sweaty like cornfield or hayfield hot. Drowning in your own sweat hot. You’ve never been scared like flipping a hay bale over and finding a moccasin scared, the wrong end of the snake bound up in the bale. You’ve never been scared like plowing a cornfield near the bottoms and having a black snake fall out of a tree and land on your shoulder scared. You’ve never been stung like stepping into a yellow jacket’s nest stung…wherever, it really doesn’t have to be in a cornfield or hayfield.
As scary or painful as those examples were, I associate corn and hayfields most with loneliness. You’ve never been lonely until being set out on the river bottoms, watching the old Chevy flatbed disappear. Hoe in hand, a paper bag lunch of Vienna sausages and soda crackers, a jar of water wrapped in newspaper to keep it cool, knowing you are going to be there ALL DAY LONG, ALONE. Alone with only your thoughts, your fears, the heat and humidity, the stinging bugs and the reptiles. Endless rows of corn, thousands of miles long. All day until you saw that old Chevy flatbed coming back to get you. Hoping, as the thunderheads built on the other side of the river, that that old truck would get there before the thunderstorms and the lightning they would bring.
I do have good memories too, not about playing in the cornfields or hayfields, but the aftermath. Laughing with my Uncle James, Mike and Rusty…after the hayin’ day was done. Playing football in the fields and scratching yourself to death if you fell in the stubble. Watching the sweat fall from my grandmother’s brow as she cut sweet corn to cream or turn into soup mix. Eating that first roastin’ ear of the season. Maybe tastin’ just a touch of corn likker.
Thanks, Kimberly…thanks for triggering a bright and warm memory on a drab, gray day.
For more of Don Miller’s writings, you may find him at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM