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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Amaizin’ Valley

The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye. And it looks like it’s climbin’ right up to the sky. (Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma)

Independence Day, 2010. The Valley skies are leaden and spit on us as we’re outward bound. Independence, indeed. Mother Nature grips our weather and summer with the handsScarecrow Gladys of Rosy the Riveter. Each July Fourth the Grand Old Republic marks another milestone. Number 234 today. But Gladys and I are out in the Valley to check another benchmark. It is midpoint in the growing season and we have ridden here to see if  “the corn is knee high by the Fourth of July.”

2010 has yet to see any summer, and if there is any knee high corn in the Valley, it’ll be found in the Werkhoven cornfields. They are the first to put seed in the ground every year, and try as I may, I have yet to sow mine before theirs is seeded. We stop opposite the parking lot at Swiss Hall for our measurement. I pose Gladys in the corn like she’s a scarecrow. Knee high? Well, up to her axels anyway….

In June one summer years ago our family took a road trip—a pilgrimage, actually—to Dyersville, Iowa, to visit the movie set of The Field of Dreams, the Field of Dreams cornfield of Don Lansing. Now in the midwest, the cornbelt of the Nation, corn grows prodigiously. I’ve heard it said on hot days you can stand in a cornfield and hear the corn grow, hear it squeak as it climbs skyward. I don’t remember any of Don Lansing’s corn squeaking when we were there, but I do know I was disappointed when I discovered in those final days of June the corn was only waist high--if that. In the Kevin Costner movie, the ghosts of old ball players materialize from the rows of corn, play their ballgames, return into the stalks and disappear as if the field swallowed them up. It was my plan to videotape daughter Marika doing the same, striding into the rows until she too disappeared among the cornstalks. Disappear in waist high corn? I had to use the “fade” mode on the camera to make her fade away.

Just across the road from Werkhovens’ corn is Decks’ field. The Decks farm to a different drum: the last to plant, the last to cut. Last is leastWerkhovens’ corn had sprouted a half foot before Decks even plowed their field and prepared it for planting. Their cornfield looks like a green crewcut. Half the corn in my corn patch nearly matches that of Werkhovens’, a week or so younger. The other half is more like Decks’: planted a month later because the garden was too wet to “farm.”

I return now to our purpose in the Valley this morning, the Fourth of July, 2010: is the corn knee high yet? I’ll let you judge for yourself.You be the judge

And though it’s no Oklahoma cornfield I’m standing in, do those legs and knees look a bit elephantine to you?

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