It’s a treat whenever my friend Sandy, a farmer's wife, can get away from the joys of retirement long enough to squeeze me in for lunch at Café Royal in New Castle.
I love to hear about her life on the farm, about her horses, her granddaughter Carly, about Mike, her farmer husband, a retired school-bus-driver.
Even though unlike me, Sandy is tall and blond, beautiful and inspiring, sometimes I think in other ways we were separated at birth. We can talk for an hour without taking a breath and it feels like five minutes.
Yesterday she brought me a treat: a bag brimming with a dozen beautiful ears of yellow sweet corn, crisp and tender, delicious and perfect. Once we finished lunch, I rushed off toward work while she got an iced-tea refill. I had forgotten her request: Remind her not to forget to get the corn out of her vehicle.
Back at the newspaper office, I noticed someone pulled in beside me at about the same moment I did. It was Sandy with the forgotten sweet corn! I put the cobs in the seat beside me so that I didn’t forget them again once I got home.
The funny thing was, I couldn’t forget about that corn. Instead, I thought of little else.
Corn reminds me of my dad. Some joke about Indiana corn with a slogan that cajoles, “There’s more than corn in Indiana.” Or people say they live in the middle of a cornfield as though that’s a bad or boring thing.
When I told Brian last night I planned to devote my next blog to corn, he groaned, adding that only I would write about something as corny as, well, corn. He suggested a two-part series: Corn and Beans.
This morning on the way to work, I stopped along the road near Shenandoah High School for some photos of corn growing in the field. I looked closely at that healthy stand of Hoosier gold and I saw, in my mind's eye, my dad. So many things change but corn and my dad take me back. Back home. OK, back home again.
I think of that particular gold color, ears of field corn in the fall that are the exact shade of a school bus. And how the buses are back in action and that too, reminds me of him as much as do the corn stalks standing so straight and uniform in the morning sun and dew.
Then I realized with a start that my father has been gone for 25 years this summer. How can that be? He’d had advanced Alzheimer’s disease for a while but still, the July he passed, his death came as a shock, as death always does.
His natural habitat was our big, old barn. He was many things: A beef, corn and soybean farmer, a school-bus driver for 32 years, an artist, an inventor, a guy who could figure out how to fix anything, a seller of Lincoln Arc Welders on the side, and a repairman for dairy refrigeration operations besides. He could play a violin, roller skate with the best of them, shoot a basketball, kill you at croquet. He could, in my mind, do anything. He was king of his little slice of rural kingdom.
But for today, I think of my father the farmer and how we would drive around the country roads to check on the crops, and in those moments, and many others, how I knew to my core how much I loved our farm, and how lucky I was to be that farmer’s daughter.
So Sandy and Mike Moore: thanks for the beautiful ears of corn. And Dad: thanks for the memories.
I’ll be passing through Union County tomorrow. I may have to leave the house early. I may have to take the back roads to get there. Just so I can watch the corn grow.