News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mike Lunsford

November 29, 2009

The Off Season: Prospecting in the fields of gold


The word “glean” dates back to the early 14th century and originally may have meant “he selects.” By late in that same period, the English were using the verb to literally mean “to gather grain left in the fields by reapers.” Of course, there are many Biblical references to the practice, the most obvious being the instance when Ruth caught Boaz’s eye as she gleaned his fields for grain. The Law of Moses forbade the corners of the fields to be harvested so they could be gleaned by those who needed it, and the practice is mentioned in both Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

So, who are the two of us to ignore Scripture and leave the corn to rot in the fields? It seems such a waste.

After a while in the field that day, we actually grew selective. At first, we picked up everything, even the ears whose hard, gold kernels were falling out like diseased teeth, even the ears that were less than half full or that held warped and oddly shaped rows of corn, as if the combine passed it by because it had no taste for imperfection. Eventually, we took only the best-beautiful, full ears — some nearly a foot long that otherwise would have gone to the field mice and mold.

We really have no good place to keep our corn once we pick it up, for it isn’t as simple as tossing it into a plastic trash can or cardboard box. Field corn needs to be dried — one reason why the roar of Artie’s grain bin dryers greets us each morning as we walk out to grab the newspaper or feed our begging cats. It is not, however, an unpleasant sound, for it signals another year gone, a harvest collected, and the return of clear, cold air from the north. If we leave our corn covered or wrapped in plastic for long, we’ll find it sopping wet. The tell-tale signs of rot and mold won’t be far behind.

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