July 5, 2005 – Knee-High By 4th of July

I don’t know where the saying came from that advises corn should be knee-high by the 4th of July. Maybe it was from northern Minnesota where I grew up and you were lucky enough to get a corn crop, maybe it is just a catchy, rhyming phrase that was valid before hybrid vigor. Around these parts, you’d be awfully worried if the corn was only knee-high, no matter how tall you were.
Martin as a measuring stick.
Where’s Waldo? (a.k.a. Martin)

We’ve had requests for some of Claire’s writings from Writer’s Workshop Camp. Here is a short piece tangentially related to agriculture. She has spent the most time and e-mail on a fantasy piece, yet unfinished, but this one will have to do for now.
It is entitled “The Wheat of Gold” inspired by two paintings in the University gallery.

The cattle were softly lowing, like some soft lullaby in the bright nighttime moonlight. Softly singing in the dark, lulling the little ones to sleep as they were comforted by a soothing, restful sound. Continuing through the night till the last had fallen into a deep nighttime doze.
But Marianne was not asleep. She was out under the full, intense silver moon. The golden crop of wheat had to be harvested before the rain came, but when the wheat was yet in its prime.
She continued working along with her husband to help tie the bundles of wheat scattered along the grassy field like stars across the sky. Shining up with a luminescent glow from above and below Marianne. The gold below, and diamonds above.
They had made a lot of progress, in the few short days they had been working. About half the hay was standing elevated above the flowing green grass, tall and strong, like the sturdy little house that had lived in since they were married, ten years ago. It stood out against the bright moonlight and just setting her eyes on the wheat made her swell with pride and she was gratified for the wonderful hard working husband she had.
The next morning Fredrick woke up in the early hours of the morning. He looked over at his peacefully sleeping wife and then got out of bed. Today they were going to have help for the final push to finish the wheat. The farmers in the area had this unspoken agreement that whenever one needed help with something they’d help. It was a wonderful little system and worked very nicely.
Fredrick peeked in the loft and saw his children, three boys and two girls, sleeping calmly with looks of tranquility and serenity on their faces. His oldest was nine, and the youngest still under a year, and sleeping in the room with Marianne. They had six children. There were originally two sets of twins but three years ago, Patrick who was at the time six, got lost in the fatal, waving grasses of the Kansas prairie. They found his body numerous days later, several miles from the settlement. It had been a heart breaking experience and he was so grateful he hadn’t lost more then one.
That afternoon, they were almost done with the hay, thanks to the neighbors and friends who had turned out to help. Marianne had never worked so hard in her life. There was barely any time to cook dinner. But no one seemed to care much what it tasted like, although they all said it was the finest they’d ever had in a long time. Suddenly she saw a dark shadow spread across the field next to the grove of cool green arching trees they were working near. She quickly looked up to find the source of the shadow. What she saw chilled her to the core. Her very soul was shivering even though the hot sticky sweat was pouring off her body droplets at a time. Huge black and gray clouds were churning with a decisiveness that no one could comprehend. The last time she had seen clouds like that was when she was visiting her aunt before she was married, and her aunt taught one thing she never forgot. The signs of a tornado.
As she thought of this, the wind picked up and she could feel the gusts of hair whipping through her hair and skirt as if they wanted to tear her up and leave her barren and disheveled.
She found Fredrick. He was the only one who could console her at times like these. As she got there, he was standing there, solemnly looking up at the sky. “There’s a tornado coming,” she shouted at him over the blustery gusts of wind. He answered inaudibly and she couldn’t hear him, but she could read his lips. He knew too. “Go get the children in the cellar,” he said. This time audibly. She ran toward the house and got the kids. She explained to them as she grabbed their little hands and lead them to the cellar. Then, once they were safe, she went and got baby Kate and took her to the basement.
She grabbed some food out of the once cozy kitchen that was now shaking with the force of the wind. By the time she reached the cellar, all of the men and women who had been helping her were in there safe. She got in and securely latched the trapdoor and waited.
An hour later, it was safe. Fredrick heaved himself out of the cellar and stared around at the vast emptiness before him. It was gone. It was all gone. The house, the barn, the fields were destroyed. They said their farewells to their friends, and then walked around the landscape that was once a beautiful haven to them. They could find nothing. They went to the fields. And in the middle, was one beautiful, heavenly, golden bundle of wheat. They walked up to it and started crying. And then sobbing, and through the tears, they knew nothing could tear them apart and as long as they had each other, they had everything. He put his arms around his wife and kids and they just stood there, for a long time.

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