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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Apr 17, 2009

Grandson Graham was here for a four-day visit last week. He lives in a small town about three hours away so his trips here are limited to a few times a year. At age 11, he is a typical boy who likes sports, computer games, and is generally, a really good kid. Of course, I am biased and make no apology for it.

Each time here, Graham seems to want to know more about farming. He is a friend to every animal, large or small, be it cat or cow. I am pleased with a boy who leaves the computer behind and wants to be outside where the activity is. We were hauling more corn and it was time to move the sweep auger from the empty bin.

First, we had to equip Graham with a cap from the ethanol plant, as he had to be dressed for the part and wear the official farm uniform. An adjustment to the cap’s back and he was ready for a day of hauling acorn.

Graham tagged along as the auger was removed and reinstalled. Being a good listener, I gave Graham a running commentary on why we were doing this. Graham listens attentively, which makes it fun for me to explain the details of a sweep auger.

We started the sweep auger and Graham watched as it went to work. Once the routine set in, then I explained more to Graham about the storing and moving of corn. I picked up a handful of kernels and showed him how the kernels were damaged every time we moved them starting with the combine. He listened while I explained chaff, fines and moisture.

Then the truck was full and he wanted to get in the cab for one of his several trips to deliver the corn to the ethanol plant. As we climbed out of the bin, I asked Graham, “Isn’t growing corn fun?” Graham gave one of his characteristic shrug of his shoulders, which I interpreted as meaning he had not decided that yet.

As he and my son pulled away in the semi, I wondered, “Is this what my life is all about? A handful of corn?”

In some ways, yes, it is. Corn is the main commodity here. The corn bushels outnumber the soybean bushels by over six times. We spend a lot of time figuring out how to grow the most corn for the least amount of money. We also want to deliver the best corn which is why it is dried and stored and yes, checked a handful at a time looking for broken kernels, damaged tips and fines.

On a day-to-day basis, which becomes year-by-year, corn is the centerpiece of what we do. I do enjoy being a corn grower and as a corn grower, occasionally I get to show a boy a handful of corn and tell him about what it means. Then, best of all, a boy like Graham understands what it means to have something to care about and pursue it to the best of his ability whether it’s driving a tractor or sitting at a desk.

As I watched the semi make its left turn from our driveway to the gravel road to deliver the corn, I felt like Graham had held up a mirror and I was looking at my reflection. Until I had explained to Graham a few intricacies of corn production, I had not realized how much of my life I had devoted to it.

If Graham was willing to listen, I could have gone on a lot more. Maybe that is why he shrugged his shoulders when I asked him about growing corn being fun. He did not want to encourage me as he had heard enough, because he also heard my lecture on air brakes and why semis cannot move right away once the engine has started after sitting still for a while. He had heard enough for today. I suppose he wanted to save something for the next visit. Why would you want to learn everything at age 11?

When Graham left for home, he had his cap from the ethanol plant with him.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net

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