Thursday, February 25, 2010

Corn Cutters

"Boys," Mat says, "It was a hot day. There wasn't a breeze anywhere in that bottom that would have moved a cobweb. It was punishing." He is telling Elton and Andy.
It was a long time ago. Mat was only a boy yet, though he was nearly grown. His Uncle Jack hired him to help chop out a field of tall corn in a creek bottom. It was hot and still, and the heat stood close around them as they worked. They felt they needed to tiptoe to get enough air.
Mat thought he could not stand it any longer, and then he stood it a little longer, and they reached the end of the row.
"Let's go sink ourselves in the creek," Jack said.
They did. They hung their sweated clothes on the willows in the sun to dry, and sank themselves in the cool stream up to their noses. It was a good hole, deep and shady, with the sound of the riffles above and below, and a kingfisher flying in and seeing them and flying away. All the afternoon when they got too hot, they went there.
"Well sir," Mat says, "it made that hard day good. I thought of all the times I'd worked in that field, hurrying to get through, to get to a better place, and it had been there all the time. I can't say I've always lived by what I learned that day -- I wish I had -- but I've never forgot."
"What?" Andy says.
"That it was there all the time."
"Redemption, " Mat says, and laughs. "A little flowing stream."
-Wendell Berry, from Remembering


Schmutzie said...

Passage reminds me of the summers of my youth.

In listening to the podcast of the first chapter of Remembering this morning, I was struck by this ..

"...for as he looked upon that destroyed place which once had been his home, he realized that even as he mourned it he could not remember it as it was. He could find in his spirit no vision of anything it ever was, that it ever might be again. For he himself had been diminished. He himself was disformed and naked. A mere physical quantity, its existence verifiable by an ache."

Memories can be damned powerful.

Added to the list of books I need to read. Thanks.

Remembering: Chapter 1

switters said...

It gets too existential towards the end for my taste, and he loses Andy a little bit at that point, but the flashbacks are nothing short of precious. I firmly believe "Andy" is Wendell, for the most part. If you're at all interested in learning about all those folks he's remembering, check out A Place On Earth. Heartbreaking.

And, I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Amish are laughing at us.

Schmutzie said...

As the economist was reading the stats about the shrinking number of family farms, the growing size of farms, and the output numbers in his monotonous way,...unlike Andy's daydreaming of thought bubbles and green fish, I found those statistics pretty fascinating. 5.4 million farms became 2.7 million farms in just 25 years? I found that really sad.

Keifus said...

Fun fact: we're down to about an acre of arable land per capita in this country. (Presumably some could be reclaimed, though probably not a hell of a lot--not sure how they count it.) Averaged out, that's about a good-sized suburban plot for every family, which could feed you if you're really creative, have modern technology, and nothing goes wrong any season.

Thank god we've got everything riding on monoculture corn, hey?