Ear corn brought back childhood memories

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“It’s time for a whole new season!” my sister yelped with delight. “Hurry up, get dressed warm and the show will begin!”

Being the kid sister gave me the prerogative of learning from all sorts of influences as long as I followed directions. We stood in the middle of the old hog barn, a slatted corn crib running through the entire length of it.

Big imaginations

Debi’s eyes lit up with the beauty of all that ear corn, newly picked and put up. I saw the same thing she was seeing, but she always seemed to have a vision I just didn’t quite possess. First, it was a grocery store, each ear and its stray, crisply dried husk put in to play.

The husks we were to save, because that would be our money. The ear corn could be a can of peaches, or a jar of honey, a rare and wonderful bottle of tasty orange juice, even a box of crayons or oil paints. With all the ‘money’ we had just come into, we could buy anything we wanted.

A few days or weeks later, that endlessly tall corn crib could be our post office. I was to be Miss Margaret Magillicutty, coming to pick up my mail. I was a poor, sad, old woman until the postmaster found a special letter, lost or maybe even purposefully hidden for all these many years, and my life would suddenly and magically change.

I learned the joy of imagination, and along with that I soaked up the thrill of watching my sister light up when I nailed the part she so aptly described for me to play. Debi was the writer, director and producer.

Playing along

All I had to do was show up and do as she asked, with gusto.

I had a vague realization how hard our Dad had worked to pick that corn. One day that has stayed in my memory so clearly involved the old corn picker. Dad pulled the wagons of ear corn up to the elevator parked beside the old hog barn, got off that open tractor seat and began walking to the house.

He did not look or even walk like my Dad. I was scared of this fellow and yelled for Mom. His face was black as ash, his gait wobbly. He could barely make it in to the house.

He started splashing cold water on his face, then had to lie down on the floor. This just couldn’t be the happy guy who barely took time to come in to the house during corn-picking season.

I learned later he was battling heat stroke, harvesting in the autumn of what had been a brutally dry, hot year. His face was not just ashen, but black with the dirt of the job.

Many memories

The next chapter of my memory is filled with our first experience in shelled corn in gravity wagons, and the construction of grain bins.

A conversation at a lovely family wedding earlier this year with one of my dad’s respected peers, Chuck Bender, recalled the fading memory of ear corn put up in round cribs.

As he said to me, it was a beautiful bit of country roadside artwork, fading as the progression of agriculture marches on.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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