getting an earful

I was with my folks at a Promise City Friday morning coffee session several years ago when Leck Tuttle brought in two ears of corn. If you, too, grew up on a heartland farm, you know the ceremony that followed by heart.

The corn was passed from one work-roughened hand to the next as expert eyes calculated the maturity level and estimated the approximate harvest time. The exact location of the sample set was verified–which farm, which field, which side of the rock road, which seed stock–and comparables offered by current and former farmers who catalogued crop progress on auto-pilot, simply driving to and from their homes.

I was talking with David Cobb (yes, I had ventured over to “the men’s table” that morning) when the ears reached him. Our folks were best friends when we were growing up, and we each spent many hours at the other’s home. He still considers my mother his “other mom” and [with Mary Jane’s help, I’m guessing 😉 ] regularly sends flowers and a note telling her so. The feeling is mutual, I can assure you.

At this particular coffee conference, it wasn’t roses he and I discussed, but the amazing design of the corn plant. I thought I knew the story of these stalks, as they were imprinted in my brain from birth. I’ve helped plant the seeds, weeded the rows (not very happily, I might add), been lost for a few scary minutes when the tassels topped my head and eaten my share of the sweet variety. I even used them as bribery with a group of Centerville Community College football players in the late 1960s…a little incentive to get those giant guys to drive the 20 miles west.

But David explained how each element of the plant worked in concert with each other–the roots spreading to maximize the moisture and the pith carrying it upward, then wicking it through the stabilizing woody ring and into the concentric circles of milky kernels in a model of perfect distribution. So simple; so strategic.

Those particular ears traveled back to Colorado with me, becoming brunch for the squirrels in Al’s back yard. And, I must say, I think I saw bigger grins than usual on their tiny, whiskered faces as they chowed down.

Then again, that just might have been my Iowa pride.

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