Out there, you can almost hear the sun rise when you wake up in the morning. It is so peaceful and…huge. Open space is mostly what’s between you and your closest neighbor. You can start off pretty slow as long as you don’t have any livestock. It’s not like there’s not plenty to do, because there is. But you can go along at your own place. Eventually, though, you get up to speed.
It’s really busy in the spring, and even more so in the fall. The times I remember best are the summers. I remember wearing sun friendly tan cotton pants and heavy work boots. Farmers don’t really wear Levi’s. They are too dark and heavy. I remember walking endless soybean rows, pulling Jimson weed and Chickweed, Buttonweed and Creeping Jenny, Thistle and Clover. I remember the smell of the black soil, the fresh smell of the earth. I remember always hearing the same old jokes, that somehow still seemed funny. I remember, at eleven always, breaking for lunches we’d bring in brown bags, sitting under shade trees while listening to Paul Harvey from the radio inside the truck.
There was no traffic. Ever. You could see neighbors approaching a mile away. Even if you were a few rows into the sweet corn, you could see the dust they would kick up high above, rolling along the gravel roads. One summer, my uncle and I shoveled a mile long gravel road off the back of one of the pickups -my favorite- a beat up, rusty, old Aqua stickshift Chevy Cheyenne. That was the first vehicle I ever learned to drive. It was a loud monster V-8 stump puller. It was when I was thirteen. It was when I fell in love with pickup trucks. I got pretty good, pretty quick, because I had to. My uncle was counting on me to follow him all the way Hinsdale as he drove the little Massey-Fergusson tractor up the frontage roads so we could start tearing down some of the old buildings on our first farm. I remember being excited and scared, thinking we were gonna get pulled over. It was the first time I was ever in control of anything. It was when my world seemed to begin. It’s funny how certain things can be so small and yet so vivid in the mind, more than twenty years later on down the line.
The very best days of the entire summer I can recall like they were yesterday. In late midsummer, I remember how cool and dark it was in the early morning, walking in the tall dense rows, snapping off the fat, wet ears, and filling up burlap bags until they were heavy and wet with the freshest sweet corn in Illinois. We’d drag the bags out of the field and pour them into the pickup until there was no more room in the bed, and then we’d try to beat the sunrise up to Hinsdale, to sell the delicious stuff out of the back of the truck in baker’s dozens, neatly packed in IGA grocery bags, for two dollars each.
We’d sit there, on the tail gate or in lawn chairs, on the farthest corner of our own land, right off the busiest intersection, and nearly everybody pulled off and stopped.
We always had a few sample ears of corn roasting, buttered, in the husk, too, on a little smoky Joe. We’d sell those for seventy-five cents apiece. We probably ate a ton of buttery, grilled white-yellow corn listening to the drone of bumble bees buzzing in the background as Harry Carray called the Cubs games, during that week.
We made good, honest, quick cash money and hardly did a lick of work all day. That was always the high point of the summer. I had no worries, and no responsibilities. Looking back, it seems like a long, long, long time ago, and... I don’t think I ever felt that content since.