Journal Entry 081210: CornFest 2010

Saturday night was our CornFest #4. We had about 60 people (counting babies) in our house in Midland to eat fresh sweet corn. It’s become an important tradition for our family and for many of our friends. The freshly-picked corn is wonderful, and watching a room full of people gnawing away on bright yellow ears is a fun spectacle.

But there is more.

We do this, in part, to honor to Cyndi’s family who grew this corn on their farms in northeast New Mexico, and show them we value their lives. It is also homage to Cyndi’s Grandfather, Forrest Atchley, who passed away in 1999, who was a larger-than-life patriarch in every sense of the word. Even as we are preparing corn at our house in Midland I still picture Forrest standing proudly beside his pick-up, the bed filled with fresh corn, his heart full and face grinning as dozens of family and neighbors gather around to shuck the husks from the ears, cook the corn in a giant black cast-iron pot, and serve it to everyone.

But the most important reason we do this is for the relationships. I doubt we’d go to this much effort just for food, but feeding relationships is a different matter.

Each year shucking the corn is a big part of our tradition. We don’t do any of it ahead of time, but save it all for our guests. This year I loaded up the ears in my gray yard cart and hauled it around to our side yard under the porch. As guests arrived at our house they were invited to shuck a few ears … not, as many suspected, to earn their dinner, but rather to share in the experience. For many this is their first time to handle corn in this way, and we didn’t want anyone to miss the opportunity. At first the shucking operation was random and chaotic, but eventually my organizational-wizard friends, Paul and Joe, had it moving like a rehearsed assembly line.

We also cooked hamburgers. When I say “we,” I mean that Cyndi spent the afternoon grinding wheat and baking fresh buns for the hamburgers, and my friend Mark stood next to the hot grill and cooked all the hamburger patties and hotdogs, while I walked around with a full heart and big grin in true patriarchal fashion. I guess I learned a lot as Forrest’s grandson-in-law.

We had a lot more young families this year, which means we had a lot of babies and young children. In fact, they set up baby camp in our hallway, stacking diaper bags and blankets along the south wall. It was fun to see the kids running around playing with each other, and then later, seeing them with corn kernels pasted to their noses and cheeks.

We also had a lot of grandparent-aged families, which of course make up our own peer group, friends we’ve grown up with and known since we were all having babies of our own.

It occurred to me later that I should have made arrangements for the older crowd to hold the babies and give the younger moms and dads a break. It probably would’ve made both groups happy.

The next morning at church Paul said, “You and Cyndi do way too much work for all the rest of us.” (It was an interesting comment from the hardest working man I know, who is famous for giving his time and efforts to other people.) It reminded me of a conversation from the movie Jeremiah Johnson …

Bear Claw: “You’ve come far, Pilgrim.”

Jeremiah Johnson: “Feels like far.”

Bear Claw: “Were it worth the trouble?”

Jeremiah Johnson: “What trouble?”

Sometimes we go a long way to make and keep relationships, but it doesn’t seem that much trouble. It doesn’t feel that far.

I don’t know if having a houseful of people over to eat corn is a lot of trouble, but I know it isn’t too much. Our friends are the weight and glory of our lives, and the only way to sustain and grow relationships is to feed them. We would be so much poorer if they didn’t come over often. We are surrounded by families, young and old, who love us and love God, and they are one of the biggest means of grace for us. How would we know God apart from the relationships he has given us?


Ode to Sweet Corn, by Garrison Keillor

As we travel along on our earthly path
Through this beautiful world God has made
Tramping along at a stately pace
Like elephants on parade.
We discover the pleasure of grass and sun
And music and light and talk
And the joy when a day of hard work is done
And you've cleared five acres of rocks.
The joy as you climb in your bed at night
The joy of the brand-new morn
But of all these pleasures the greatest delight
Is a supper of fresh sweet corn.

O that fresh sweet corn that the Lord sent down
So we know how heaven will be,
No grief, no tears, just the young golden ears
Plenty for you and for me.
Though the road be hard and deep is the night
And the future we cannot see
Take my hand, dear Lord, and I'll be all right
If you'll save a few ears for me.


Photos from CornFest 2010:

Photos from the original CornFest, at the Tramperous Ranch, in Union County, New Mexico:



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