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Rows of Corn

Copyright © 1995 by Robert Allbee

This article appeared in the February 1996 issue of M.E.N. Magazine

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Once, after having mowed the lawn, my grandfather told my dad at the dinner table in front of everyone that I would have made a good farmer. At the time, I remember feeling so proud that I could bust.

I had noticed him watching me mow earlier that day. He just stood on the porch and watched me mow our lawn. He and Grandma were visiting from Iowa. He didn't farm anymore but I was sure he remembered how.

I knew he was watching. I tried to cut straight rows and cut as much grass as the mower would on each pass. I knew he was watching.

The reason I remember it so well is that no one ever told me when I was doing a good job. My dad never told me he was proud of me for doing anything. He never patted me on the back and gave me that look. He never gave me a hug for something I had done well. Not once.

Now I can only imagine how many passes my grandfather made on a tractor in the fields that his father had given him, and his father's father before him, before he had to give up those fields and move to town.

You see, his only son left, as soon as he could, to join the Navy. Grandpa hung on for a while but it was only a matter of time. He had to give up his farm and move to town. He was never the same.

And I can also only imagine how many passes my father made in those same fields counting the rows of corn till the day would come that he could get away. And I know he was counting corn back then, 'cause at ten years old I was already counting rows of corn two thousand miles away from my grandfather's fields.

My father never climbed down from a dusty day on a tractor and was greeted by a pat on the back. He was never told that he was going to make a good farmer.

I can only imagine what it felt like sitting there at that dinner table in his own house, choking down some lousy food he had busted his ass for to feed his family and his parents visiting from Iowa, and have his dad say to him in front of everybody the one thing that he had always hoped that he would say about him. "Son, you're gonna be a good man."

Instead, he said it about some ten-year-old kid who had never plowed a row of corn in his life. r

Robert Allbee is a writer from Carmichael, California. This story appears in his chapbook, Digging in the Dirt: Street Poems and Other Stories. (Road Dog Publications, 2525 Garfield Ave., Carmichael, CA 95608; (916) 482-4027)

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