I wander through the rows of countless corn stalks listening to the long, thin leaves whisper to me as they wave in the warm evening breeze. I can hear the voices warning me to stay out. But, I love my corn, and what was once just corn, is now much, much more.
My family planted corn for generations. I grew up knowing the soil, knowing the seed, and knowing planting and harvesting. Corn is our life blood, as it is for almost everyone else—even though they don’t realize it. Corn is in more products than people even begin to think about. Corn is used in the diapers to pad children’s bottoms, in the baby food to feed them, the crayons they color with, and even in the paper they color on. It’s in the grain for our livestock and the food we eat. Everything from aspirin and antibiotics to beer and whiskey; chocolates to gum to glue to paints, carpet, and soap has corn in it. Corn is everywhere—in everything. Corn is a part of everyone.
Yup, corn is all I know. I care for my corn. I love it, nurture it, and raise it to maturity. Some say I spend too much time alone on the farm and that I need to get out once in a while, but I can’t just ignore the crop, especially now. My corn needs me.
I stop and run my hand down the husk of one very fat ear. It’s warm and plump as a baby. Slowly, I slide my thumb into the silk blanketing the tubby ear, gently parting the hairs hoping to see the smiling kernels inside. A leaf slaps my hand, and I freeze in place. The field goes silent for a moment, and then the tassels shake in alarm and the chatter picks up again, louder, sending a warning through the field. I peel back the hairs just enough to get a peek at the top of the ear. The stalks stiffen and more leaves smack my hand. Again, I stop what I’m doing. I can wait a couple minutes for things to settle down.
I let out a long sigh. My poor corn. Genetically modified genes had infected it. I was never told how, really, but I reckon the wind did it. Some officials showed up, I think maybe they were from the government, and said I couldn’t harvest the crop. They wanted to run tests. No one ever said what exactly happened to my corn, but I caught a glimpse of a paper with equations and “species jump” and “mutation” scribbled as notes. I thought they would destroy the entire crop, but, to my surprise, they said no and that they would “handle it.” I remember one very pale fellow with a map that showed my crop circled in red. There were lots of circles on the map—all with different colors, but mine was the only red one.
One night, along about 3 a.m., the government sent in this fancy helicopter with super bright lights. At least I think it was a helicopter. It was odd to see, I’ll tell ya. It just hovered, never making a sound, shining the lights all over the corn. The next day, the crop was still there, but it was actually greener. I still don’t know what they did, and no one is talking, but I got to keep my crop. Some agents even showed up, dressed all fancy in expensive black suits to explain how I was to proceed with the harvest when the time was right. They would monitor it. I was to stay out of the field until notified.
But, I love my corn.
I purse my lips and bite the insides, almost afraid to look at my lovelies again. I must look, though. I must know. I rip open the husk, strands of silk bursting into the breeze, and I stare at the rows on the ears. Little eyeless faces grin at me. Snapping the ear from the stalk, I quickly shove it under my flannel shirt. After a couple nervous glances, I head back to the house, cradling the ear gingerly in my arm. The planting may be a disappointment this spring if I don’t try to save some of my crop.
I hear the long, thin leaves whisper to me as I scurry home hunkered over my fugitive ear of corn. I will save them, one ear at a time.