Joanne Faries
Dorsal winner

Nothing signaled summertime better than small sweet kernel rows slathered in butter. As kids we’d argue over whether it was better to eat an ear of corn like a typewriter, back and forth, back and forth, almost to the point where you could hear your own head give a ding at the end of each row. Or chomp haphazardly in a spiral. We’d gross each other out too. “Tommy, look.” I’d smile at my brother with corn smushed in my teeth.  

I loved corn, cornbread, corn tortillas, popcorn, and our fields of corn. “Dad, is it a bumper crop this year? Can I ride out with you today for the survey?”   

He’d glance at my mother who’d give a small nod and then would say, “Looks like you’re free from house chores. Get your hat, Sissy.” I’d comply and happily pile into the truck prepared to jounce along the back roads. He’d halt and we’d jump out, stride into the fields, and ascertain the compactness of the crop.   

Dad spoke as he brushed back the corn, “See, it feels cooler. You want the stalks so tall they block the sun.” Then he’d pluck an ear, pull back the tassels, and point out the even rows and the perfection of our corn. I hugged him, in awe of my Dad and nature.   

Years passed. Tommy and I took over the business when Mom and Dad retired to Florida. I switched allegiance to green beans, whole wheat bread, flour tortillas, and cashews, and detested never ending green – fields and John Deere farm equipment. We sold corn now for fuel products. No one cared about golden ears  or sweetness.   

Even worse, the bigger moneymaker aspect was the cornfield maze. Tommy plowed it out one year to amuse the neighbors. We held a small harvest party, drank cider, and listened to everyone howl as they stumbled through it. Each year, word-of-mouth brought more people and we soon wore costumes and charged for the event. I chose to be a witch. It grew pathetic.   

I hated the strangers with their stylish boots, their drunken laughter, their disregard for property, and their need for fall harvest amusement. They’d drive in from the city in their BMWs, make comments about country yokels, and demand entertainment. I could hear them. “This maze is lame.”    

This year I plowed the maze. I booked a huge corporate event, even bothered to provide a keg and wine. Tipsy from their white wine spritzers, people wandered the maze. The accounting department, secretarial pool, and management followed each other. “Hey, what is this? There’s no way out.”    

“Yeah, you’re right,” I said aloud and poured a tall cup from my cauldron, secret ingredient – fermented corn.

First published: November, 2008
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