That fall feeling was in the air. The smell of corn husks and leaves. The chill that makes you pull your coat closed. Maybe I was 8 or 9 years old.
Often I’d sit on top of the warm pile of corn, with the lights shining down and the loud roar of the monstrous drying machine above me. There was a gaping hole next to me where the corn was taken down, and then up into the unknown. It was shaken and carried up those long augers and into a bin where it was dried.
Breathing in that grainy smell was somehow soothing. There was a shimmer of corn dust hanging in the air, as the last of the sun’s orange glow lingered in the western sky. One would rarely find me without a cat on my lap. One hand on the kitty, picking up some corn and letting it run between my fingers like a waterfall down. At times laying on the bed of grain and letting it mold around me.
The youngest of six on a large farm. Everyone else was busy. My Dad and brothers were driving trucks and combines. My sisters were doing grown-up sister things. The one closest in age, was probably being creative on canvases in her bedroom.
Tonight evoked some memories. I’ve ridden with my brother countless times on the combine, but it’s been a while. As I climbed in, the orange in the western sky was still on display. As we settled in, the stalks were eaten up, the ears tumbled and were tossed about until they had to surrender. The corn dust billowed up and around the warm cab. The snow of this week was sunken down low. The lights near my brother were multi-colored, telling him a wealth of information about his labor. A labor he has enjoyed for almost all of his 70 years. The lights in front of us shone as bright as daylight.
We spotted a few places where deer had laid down or made footprints in the snow between the perfectly straight rows. Rows he had planted in the Spring were now ready for harvest. The hum of the combine’s immense motor was so intense we had to speak very loudly to one another. A comment about the corn yield, our sons and daughters, his grandchildren, or a call on the two-way from fellow workers kept coming. We had a pleasant banter about so many things, with barely a lull.
Occasionally the grain cart drove next to us. The hired hand knew when to get a load. He would go to fill up the semi nearby. The semi was driven to the farm a few miles away to dry the corn. The process has run as a well-oiled clock for so many years. It’s so natural to my brother.
This brother almost died many years ago, shortly after we lost my sister Audrey. The farm accident was terrifying. But my eyes witnessed the horror a few minutes after it happened. There were many months in and out of hospitals. Wondering if he would live, and what his life would be like if he did. Maybe that’s why there’s a connection between this youngest and oldest sibling. Although it’s never talked about, it is felt.
He still loves the land. He is one with the springtime and harvest. He watches the crops in the summer like a father overlooking his children. When he began these yearly cycles with his dad as a little boy, it became part of his being. I went on to other things in life, and he has continued to be part of the earth and land. It’s what he loves.
As I climbed down the steps of the combine tonight, I noticed the stars. After a long week of early November snow, wind and cold, the twinkling band was on display. The black expanse was dotted with tiny specks of hope.
Plodding through some snow and mud to get back to my car, I was reminded of the fall smell as a child. It will always remain a part of me too. A certain corner of my heart will always be reserved for the country and land.
I know God has been with us in the past, and will be in the future.
The hymn, “Great is thy Faithfulness” has some beautiful lyrics which come to mind…
“Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
join with all nature in manifold witness,
to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love!”