Harvesting Silver Queen

I grew up in the country and have always had a deep love for all things country.  After living in the big city of Fayetteville, NC for nearly nine years, God allowed me to buy a house in the country a couple of years ago.  And so, this time of year, you’ll often find me sitting on the front porch in my rockin’ chair, staring out across the fields.  Today, they were an unreal shade of green that took me back to my childhood…

When my brother and I were about eight and seven years old, respectively, we used to long for school to get out so that we could spend the summer sleeping in and playing.  Our short-term kid-memory never seemed to remember that after three days of summer break, we’d be bored and ready to kill each other.  We looked forward to the summers and coveted every minute of our play time.  So, imagine our total frustration when Daddy walked into our bedrooms before dawn (it seemed) a few days into summer break to drag us out to the farm to work…  Oh, what Parental Sin!  At the time, it seemed like such an injustice.  But today, I remember those to be some of the greatest days of my life.

Several years ago, as an English major at Methodist College, I was invited to eat supper with some published authors that were coming to speak at the school.  During the meal, one of them asked me what I write and I began to share with her about what I was writing at the time…  I was writing about ideas and theories and all sorts of highly cerebral and academic topics.  (College makes you write about those things.)  She leaned back, considered my words, and said, “Darlin’ have you tried writing about where you’re from?”  I blinked several times, stuttered a few times, and finally just sat and stared at her, speechless (which you can tell is rare).  That night, I went home and wrote a poem that has become one of my favorites.  It was the first poem I ever had published.  And today, staring at the indescribably green Johnston County fields, I decided to share it with you…

Harvesting Silver Queen

 

The only place my dad would rather be

than the pulpit was in the field

with “Mr. Jack,” the paunchy, work-worn

farmer who sat in the third pew

of our small country church

every Sunday morning and Wednesday night.

 

Early on hot, heavy summer mornings,

Daddy would drag my brother and me,

lazy and complaining, out to Mr. Jack’s

farm, where I’d sit, barefoot beneath

the tailgate of his red pick-up,

shucking and silking ear after ear of corn—

Silver Queen mostly.

 

In front of that hundred-year-old,

unpainted wood house, dozens

of chickens and cats witnessing—

Mr. Jack’s wife would sit

on her rusty, ancient rocker,

her cane against her lame knee,

supervise, swat mosquitoes, and holler

at the chickens that nibbled

from the bushel baskets.

 

Quick and efficient on her strong leg,

Miz Eva cooked homegrown vegetables—

field peas, butter beans, okra—

all seasoned with country ham.

She made the sweetest iced tea,

the most perfect, golden cornbread,

for anyone who stopped in her kitchen.

 

An hour after dark, the adults at the table,

we children sat in rush-bottomed chairs

that scratched our bare, sunburned legs

covered with mosquito bites,

dots of Absorbine Junior.

We held our plates on our laps,

and tried to keep our eyes open

long enough to eat.

About Sarah Salter

Comments

  1. Wow Sarah, what a lovely poem!

    There truly is nothing better than living in the country, of spending your evenings rocking on your own front porch, staring at the fields (or in my case, trees). I mourn city people. They have no idea what they’re missing.

  2. Barbara says:

    Well there you go.. You can take the girl out of the county, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.. LOL… Been there too.. Fun… Like the poem..But do you have to talk about ALL the good food. Makes me hungry.

  3. My memory banks have just been re-opened and flooded with the joys and care-free days of my childhood. The hours spent running through the fields of cotton, hay, grains, the scent of the onion crops, feeling the soft, powdery dirt between my bare toes. Hearing the old cow bell my mother rang from the back door when it was time to come in for dinner. (Never ignore the cow bell! Or else!) And the comfort of being safe and free to be a child.

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    How cool, BJ! I didn’t realize how much we had in common! :)

  5. Nancy P says:

    Love it! I have great memories of visiting my aunt & uncle on the farm.

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Nancy, when I’m back up there in August, we’ll all have to compare our “country” stories! :)

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