Corn Picking 1956 — Afternoon Break [Food Poem by Tom Hennen]

I needed a heavy canvas jacket riding the cold red tractor, air
an ice cube on bare skin. Blue sky over the aspen grove I drove
through on the way back to the field, throttle wide open, the
empty wagon I pulled hitting all the bumps on the dirt road. In
the high branches of the aspens little explosions now and then
sent leaves tumbling and spinning like coins tossed into the air.
The two-row, tractor-mounted corn-picker was waiting at the
end of the corn rows, the wagon behind it heaped so high with
ears of corn their yellow could be seen a mile away. My father,
who ran the picker, was already sitting on the ground, leaning
back against the big rear wheel of the tractor. In that spot out
of the wind we ate ham sandwiches and doughnuts, and drank
hot coffee from a clear Mason jar wrapped in newspaper to
keep it warm. The autumn day had spilled the color gold every-
where: aspen, cornstalks, ears of corn piled high, coffee mixed
with fresh cream, the fur of my dog, Boots, who was sharing
our food. And when my father and I spoke, joking with the
happy dog, we did not know it then, but even the words that
we carelessly dropped were left to shine forever on the bottom
of the clear, cold afternoon.

From the Writer’s Almanac

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