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.