I spent my entire Sunday morning (and part of the afternoon) in my little cornfield, hoeing weeds between the stalks. I have eight rows of Silver Queen*, and it is just beginning to tassel. The weeds were about knee-high, the product of a wet July and too little free time.
My church friends will say that I should have been observing the Sabbath, but I feel sure my ox was in the ditch.**
If my calculations are correct, that’s 2400 square feet of hoeing — about 4.5 hours in the July Alabama sun.
I couldn’t help but think of my dad, a man who worked hard all week and would invariably find some labor-intensive project to do on the weekend. He was 50 when he died, and I remember asking him a few months before “Dad, don’t you think maybe you should slow down a little now that you’re 50?”
He laughed at that. Now, at 51, I laugh too. And I understand.
A man can do some quality thinking with sweat dripping off my nose. He can’t otherwise get down to the heart of the matter — the essence of the reality of his life — sitting in an office or in some passive, leisurely pursuit. Sometimes you have to empty your mind to get down to the bottom of the well.
And in those times when your ox really is in the ditch, a lot of sweat and a little thinking is about all you have left to try and get him out.
*Silver Queen is a variety of white kernel corn, considered by many Southerners to be the best for human consumption. I have a poet friend who once wrote some verse about it that was quite sensual. He cautioned me about sharing it with women, as if a forester couldn’t possibly grasp the concept of a metaphor.