Silver Queen

051100036-01-silver-queen-corn_xlg_sqlI 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.

**Luke 14:5


I’ll Fly Away


In Piedmont, the dead lie in community on a hillside overlooking the bypass.

I suspect that once this was a quiet, peaceful plot, a good country mile north of town.  The cemetery is carved out of the mid slope of a ridge on one end of the valley, a silent sentinel over the table-flat land which terminates at Rattlesnake Mountain to the east.  Some years ago, the State Department of Transportation dissected row crop and pasture of the valley floor into four lanes of modern travel convenience.

The traffic has never been what I would describe as “heavy” on any of my trips through the area.  I imagine a Yankee or even a southern urbanite would contest my use of the word “traffic” in describing the number of vehicles that frequent this stretch of road. 

Never-the-less, those who await The Shout* must do so to the vibration of Harley pipes and Jake brakes; the irregular rattle and hum of travelers bound for Cedartown or Gadsden.

Some glad morning a trumpet will sound (like the voice of the Archangel), and the Dead in Christ shall rise, flying east over four lanes unrecognizable to those long-departed.  This stretch of highway could be could be Anytown, Alabama for those of us among the living.  The old “downtown” is a few blocks away, no longer hindering efficient travel.  No cause or incentive for the sojourner to explore the charms or character of Piedmont — everything a traveler needs is on the bypass.

What a vision the resurrected will behold.  Rising to escape their earthly confines, they must first clear Autozone.  It is a short runway, to be sure, but manageable to those who have so long waited for the day.  Lift-off accomplished, the rest of the homogenized New South will come into view.  Fast-food choices in abundance:  Jack’s, McDonalds, Taco Bell, and Huddle House (the Hardees is closed now, a tomb unto itself).  Since there will be no more sickness, the CVS/pharmacy will not even merit a glance.  Further along, no need to stop-off at Mapco for the convenience of a Café Xpress, even though it is quite a bargain if you have the Rewards Card.  No hovering required over the Farmers & Merchants ATM – a free-standing cash machine that apparently doesn’t even merit an adjacent bank building.  As they gain altitude, The Countryside Inn will come into view along the faded macadam on the right – only a few years old but so cheaply built that snoring can be heard from the next room (trust me on that).

As their ascent quickens to their appointed meeting in the air, the view will gradually fade into hues of blue from Weiss Lake to the north and a thousand shades of green and gray from lush fields and forests that paint the mountains and valleys of northeast Alabama.  From this higher altitude, it might just look a little like their ultimate destination.


*1 Thessalonians 4:17