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At Age Nine, I Found Out That a Cornfield Was Not Really a Cornfield

Updated on October 20, 2017
kenneth avery profile image

I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.

A cornfield. Photo taken Aug. 22, 2014.
A cornfield. Photo taken Aug. 22, 2014. | Source

It was hard, boring, hot, and needless labor. In my eyes. That was as far as me at age, nine, ever looked past myself to see if someone else needed me or if I might help them. Okay, I am glad to come clean. At age nine, I was pretty much a selfish clod. The reasons are simple, but going into "that" area would interfere with this topic: Hoeing Corn.

I wish that I could be selfish enough (right now) to take the silent credit for this work, but I would be made to look like a total liar. So with great joy, I give credit to this hub for my good friend, Fiddleman, a fellow hubber, whom I read (with great excitement) his hub: "A Pole of Wood," and I found myself reliving my years of poverty. You might note that I didn't use the term: Extreme Poverty. My dad worked as a sharecropper. My mom raised me and took care of our rented homes. My sister married early, so that left me and mama in the house everyday until my dad got home from the fields or from some odd job that the neighborhood hired him to do.

Let me be philosophical. And if you will just pretend that you are in my head at age nine, you will understand my logic without any problem. When I was nine, I thought a lot about how things in life are measured in degrees--temperature, liking a favorite car, hound dog, or shotgun. Not every person will like things a hundred percent. Some will. I put this application into thinking about dreads and how I measured them in things like: getting up at sunrise (for school); sweeping the floors for mama; and even tying my shoes--these were all small dreads. The "Mother of All Dreads" came that fateful day in late June when my dad would look at me a certain way and that look caused severe dread to hit my heart like a hatchet and I knew it was time to grab our hoes, sharpen their edges and hoe the corn. That, friends, city and country, IS pure, unadulterated dread.

I had rather take a whipping with dad's razor strap than spend a long, hot summer day in the broiling sun hoeing out the weeds in daddy's corn that he was growing to help us have a living. The major part of the crops that he raised was for our lady landlord, Mrs. Verta Dobbs, a resident of Hamilton, Ala., in the New Hope Community on highway 29 north set in a picturesque place in northwest Alabama. God's country is what people called it. This community had so many trees of various types that the human eye couldn't count them. The land was so fertile that farmers (who lived there) always had great harvests in the fall. So did my dad. Even if me, my mom, and a couple of unemployed guys: Ray Clark and Johnny Hall, both neighborhood guys with giving hearts. They helped round-out the hoeing task to make our cornfield the cleanest field on highway 29.

How my dad would set this task into motion would be my mama taking a row of corn that was equal in length with me just so she could watch out for me for sneaking away back home. I did that a few times and lived to pay for it with my red back end with dad's razor strap. Johnny and Ray would take the next two rows and dad manning the outside row and in three day's hoeing, the field was weed-free. Fact: this, my friends, was in 1960 and long before the weed-eater was even thought of.

I will tell you that if you are reading this very hub from someone looking on the outside of hoeing out the corn, then you haven't learned much. It looks very easy for someone like my parents, Johnny and Ray, for they were old hands (as it were) at planting, hoeing, and pulling corn and cotton--and the reason why was Mrs. Dobbs did not have that much cash to spend on sparkling equipment. But she did spend some cash on Ray and Johnny for their hire and she paid my dad when the corn harvest was reaped and sold.

You, if you are a first-time manual farm laborer, you take the hoe handle and check out the areas between each corn stalk. Your job (like ours) was to completely and yet so gently cut down the weeds that thought that they would settle there for homes before we got into action. My dad and mom were great at hoeing corn and cotton. Ray and Johnny were decent work hands. Now do you see the degrees of things in life that I was telling you about?

I was always stand over the bottom of the row(s) where I was working. And friends, when you stand in one position for so long--although it is not but a few minutes, your back will ache and hurt before the end of your row is finished ridding the corn of its weeds. Many times I have stepped out to see just how far my corn row lacked in me getting a cool drink of water that mama always made in a Mason jar and she would always put ice in it that she made in aluminum ice trays that were filled with water and put into the refrigerator's freezer.

Fact: even when I finished my first row of hoeing out the corn, my break was always measured somehow by my dad's keen mind that he had for organizing and managing farm-related tasks. At dinner (you city dwellers called it "lunch"), we would walk (slowly in my case) back to our house for sitting down and eating a good dinner that my mama had prepared the night before our corn hoeing day began. We would enjoy a bologna sandwich with mayonnaise; a bowl or two of field peas and potatoes and a pone (you city dwellers call it "cake") of cornbread. Throw in some sweet tea, and you had a rural dinner fit for the Royalty of England.

Dinner usually lasted for an hour--that included eating and taking time to "cool," as my dad said. Then it was back to the cornfield. I can tell you this right here and now: I cherished each moment that God had made for us to have a time for eating and a time for cooling. He (God) thought of everything. Including me having another task: making sure that the edge of my hoe was kept sharp as a razor. That was my dad's advice. How did he know that my hoe was dull? Every so often he would stop his hoeing and look at my work and see if I had been cutting the weeds cleanly or not. He was a stickler for doing a good job.

Seemingly, those hot afternoons after dinner when we were hoeing the corn put me into the mind of a "Rehearsal for Hell," for how the sun was on our backs and faces. I would joke to my mom and say: Am I working in Purgatory and Hell being my final locale?" She didn't laugh that much. Neither did I. You see? I did go to church a whole lot when my parents and I would load up on Sunday mornings and join the residents of the New Hope Community to listen to a Rev. Booker Tice who had a knack for preaching in love rather than beating me with a stick for you see? I had not come to Jesus yet and Tice knew it. Now I appreciate his patience.

I didn't bring up my analogy of the hot cornfield being a few days Purgatory or maybe an eternity in Hell, for Rev. Tice and his wife, Flourie, who ate dinner with us occasionally, was not one to condemn the young, foolish people such as I was at the time. In fact, he grinned a bit when I told him about how I thought a hot cornfield (to me) represented Purgatory or eternity in Hell. Then he would scratch his head and softly reply, "but ain't you glad that what you are saying ain't true?"

Now many years later, I haven't forgotten the hoeing out of the weeds in daddy's cornfield and how this everyday-event took on more to me than just a few days of manual work. I began to read more and more about life after I was to leave one day and how I should take responsibility to make preparations for that "One Way Trip of All Trips."

This hub came from when I was nine. A mere 12 years later, this 21-year-old guy made the necessary preparations for that trip Rev. Tice would talk to me about more than one time.

All of this due to my time that I worked in one of my daddy's cornfield and what that cornfield eventually taught me about my life.

© 2017 Kenneth Avery

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    • kenneth avery profile image
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      Kenneth Avery 4 weeks ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Elijah:

      No doubt you have learned from the soil up and have learned excellence in your lifestyle.

      My compliments to you.

      Take care.

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 4 weeks ago from Washington DC

      Neither would I, Kenneth, they were the stepping stones which allowed me to become "the natureboy" able to live ecologically, economically or both as I am presently.

    • kenneth avery profile image
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      Kenneth Avery 4 weeks ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hello, Elijah,

      I agree with you. The heat, the sweat, the sweat bees, ants, were certainly no fun for those like you and me when it came to manual labor in the rural part of the country.

      But looking back, I wouldn't trade my memories of those days for precious metals or cash.

      Take care.

    • kenneth avery profile image
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      Kenneth Avery 4 weeks ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, RoadMonkey,

      You are right. Everyone worked. Everyone contributed. Such an amazing, character-building way of life.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 4 weeks ago from Washington DC

      If the endless burning hell was a fact rather than a metaphor of civilization's endless burning lust for more and more "creature comforts" I WOULD AGREE WITH YOU that hoeing corn is seemingly a "back barking" job and the sun our preparation for Purgatory before entering hell's fire.

      I was a north Louisiana country boy who did some hoeing of both cotton and corn in the burning sun. Neither is fun.

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 4 weeks ago

      I don't know of any 9 year olds that would enjoy 3 days of hoeing in a hot field. But in a rural family, especially, it's important that everyone contributes to putting food on the table.