There’s a smell to corn once it’s tasseled, and it’s a smell that reminds me of my childhood and of my college years and of my right now raising kids years. I grew up at a camp, and I always remember corn in the field nearby. Every year. Once or twice we went out in it, but never very far – I never needed horror stories – a field that big, lines of tall whispering corn, a brother or boy cousin to taunt me…I would much rather be on the dikes or tucking myself into a hidden passage.
In college, corn was a thing to be studied, to be documented, to be known. (I majored in ag ed for my undergrad years.) It symbolized agriculture, farming, rural life. Knowing how it was raised, what fertilizing program worked best, which livestock digested it in what ways – these were all things that I was out to know and to master.
After college, having given up on teaching high school students (perhaps more appropriately said, having given up on myself), I started working for one of the largest John Deere dealers in the nation. There, corn became something to be planted, to be grown, to be harvested. We were at its mercy (and the mercy of the weather), and I started hating it, little by little.
How did the corn crop do? Did the extra rain – or the lack of it – ruin it for the guys in the southern part of the state? While soybeans and wheat were also important, corn seemed to be the important crop. (I might have it all wrong. It might not really be the important crop. Maybe it just seemed more important than it was.)
And now, five years out from that job at the big green dealer, I find I am enjoying the corn. Somehow, the walls of green around me are comforting. They’re a benchmark of summer, the smell of my childhood memories, symbol of what I want out of life.