By their corn, shall ye know them.
We uplanders have long depended on corn to feed us, to provide a better mood, to feed our stock. We keep a mule for the sole purpose of helping raise it something to eat.
We got up in the morning and made gravy with corn meal, ate cornbread two more times a day and had mush for dessert. Both liberals and conservatives love corn.
But it is decision time for those of us with the farm gene in our double helix. Actually, some mountain helixes aren’t double, and actually corn should have already been planted.
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But spring demands that we decide what kind of corn to plant and that decision advertises just who we are.
Does a Kentucky hill farmer become progressive and move on with his corn? For generations, Hickory King was good enough. It was not so sweet and would last forever and was good at the mill. You could save the seed and cheat Mr. DeKalb. But for ros’n ears, Hickory King had its shortcomings. Two days after you picked it it got hard and tough, politician-like.
So modernism set in, and wanting sweet stuff is part of modern and, one by one, farmers abandoned tradition and switched to Silver Queen, sweeter, and you didn’t have to run to the house to boil it before it toughened.
You put it in a churn with salt water and put rags over the churn and have all winter what many mountain people love and what some of us can’t understand how anybody could eat it.
Along about Jimmy Carter, people who had always stuck with white were willing to try yellow, and they started coming out with fancy new hybrid corn seed, and the race was on. All the really cool people try to plant the latest corn sensation. There was Kandy Korn for us a few years, then there was Peaches and Cream, a biracial one-and-doner for me. It’s like sweet and sour sauce. Make up your mind.
Now the avant garde corn is Honey Select (or is it Honey Delight, or Honey Deluxe? It’s Honey Something).
This stuff costs about $20 a pound for the seed. But gnaw a couple of rows and soon you will attack that ear like a beaver. It is wonderfully sweet, and you can shuck it, stick it in a bag and freeze it and months later it tastes like you just picked it. If you have good bags.
Remember that time they caught that prisoner sneaking two cases of beer and several bottles of liquor into the prison in Martin County, all in a single plastic bag, which caused us to wonder if we were buying the right plastic bags.
But now my little field is hooked on a plant for which you have to buy seed from Fortune 500 farmers, and which will soon be supplanted by something sweeter and more expensive.
But I must go now and tote a poke of Honey Select to the mill and hope the sugars don’t clog up the millstones.
Reach Larry Webster, a Pikeville attorney, at firstname.lastname@example.org.