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Saturday, Sep. 20, 2014

You harvest, I'll plant

Posted Friday, October 21, 2011, at 10:13 AM

Field trip to Gorrell Farms. (Marcia Gorrell/Democrat-News)
As a child, harvest meant painting pumpkins, trying on Halloween costumes and watching my mother fill glass vases with Pottery Barn-grown leaves.

She placed decorative cornstalks from the local nursery near the front door. We pulled pumpkins off vines at an Illinois farm, and we longed for gourmet carmel apples to appear in the grocer's case.

Harvest labor never lasted more than an afternoon of raking leaves, which didn't seem like work. Each pile came with a belly-flop that left leaves poking out of my ponytail or an autumn-toned bruise acquired from a shallow heap. When the chore was complete and the jumping enjoyed, we stuffed the leaves in pumpkin-style trash bags and left them on the front porch as decoration.

In school we learned mixed messages about the Indians and pilgrim's sharing a harvest at the first Thanksgiving. Among the muddle, someone may have mentioned crops while we scribble cornucopias with crayons and fashioned Indian-feather hats with construction paper. Yes, they tried to teach the suburban kids about "harvest." And until this year, I would have argued I understood it.

Funny how a few months away from home can change your entire outlook. As someone who had never heard the word "combine" until moving to Marshall, quashing my harvest misconceptions has been like explaining the true meaning of Christmas to an atheist.

I've required show-and-tell, a tutor and field trips to comprehend any of it.

Summer changed to autumn, I earned a "good effort check" for attempting to understand the county fair. Just when I thought I had rural life down, Democrat-News ag reporter and my self-appointed tutor, Marcia Gorrell, left the office to work in the fields. With the vacant desk beside me, I struggled to understand the time commitment of harvest.

Then suddenly, one of the cornfields I'd grown accustomed to seeing vanished from the side of Highway 240. Instead of conversing with my tutor from across my desk, she'd text me from the field about "corn fines" and "elevators." When I said I didn't understand, she brought the corn fines to show-and-tell, and I hung the Ziplock bag behind my desk.

When Marcia said she spent the afternoon driving corn to load in the elevator, I imagined a glass structure filled with buttery kernels and traveling up several floors in a chlorine-smelling hotel foyer. Marcia corrected this delusion. I rode in her semi to the large concrete cylinders behind The Marshall Democrat-News. I'd passed those structures dozens of time on my way to and from the Marshall Police Department, but I never would have described the cold concrete as an elevator.

A few weeks before, Marcia's husband, Keith, took me for a ride in the Gorrell Farms combine. I'd heard the machine described as a "comb." I didn't untangle those knots, until I rode in the front seat. While riding, Keith explained the GPS tracks types of soil and the fertility of the crops. Until then, I thought Garmin had designed the devices to "recalculate" suburbanites through the highways and stoplights of the city. While navigating from one side of St. Louis to another, I never dreamed farmers in the middle of the state used the technology for science rather than convenience.

While harvest may be about the final stage of agricultural growth, somehow I think my rural education has just begun to sprout. So even though local farmers can slow down once the crops are plucked from the ground, I'm still working. Maybe by planting season, I'll complete my own harvest.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

delusion, not dellusion

-- Posted by Lirtydittlelies on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 8:17 AM

I have no dog in this fight, but I guess I don't understand how correcting one's spelling in a professional piece of writing on a professional newspaper website is somehow critiquing the author personally.

No matter how wonderful the piece of writing (and I did very much enjoy it, by the way), when there are editorial mistakes, the power of the piece is diminished somewhat.

When I point out an editorial issue (as I have done from time to time), it is not because I do not "possess the skills necessary to comprehend and appreciate a good personal profile," nor is it because I am intending to belittle the author; it is because I expect professional writers to write professionally.

-- Posted by imaloony on Wed, Oct 26, 2011, at 2:57 PM

We appreciate it when readers point out errors. We aim to be correct, but things do go awry. When they do, we're interested in getting them fixed asap. Some people are nice about it. Some aren't. I don't worry too much about snarling critiquers, so long as we get the info, but of course we appreciate more those who are polite about it.

-- Posted by Eric Crump on Wed, Oct 26, 2011, at 3:39 PM

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Maggie Menderski graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri in May 2011. The St. Louis native began working as a staff writer for the Democrat-News shortly after. In her Out of Ink blog, she (typically) muses about the differences between rural and suburban life.
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