Growing up in my post-World War II world, our family always had a garden. It was a logical way to keep the expenses down for our energetic family of seven.
Even as children, we knew Dad didn’t make much money. He worked hard at his white-color job. He left early and arrived home in time for the staple supper Mom always had waiting for him and the five of us ornery kids, although I think I was easily the best behaved of the bunch.
Mom worked hard, too, without a paycheck. Like most women of the era, she was a professional homemaker. She was at home all day, and during the summer months so were her five children.
She trusted us to roam the neighborhood as long as we checked in from time to time. Cell phones and texting weren’t even bad ideas then.
When Dad arrived home, the tempo changed. If my two brothers and I weren’t playing baseball, we, along with our two sisters, piled into the 1947 two-door, cream-colored Chevy, and headed to the garden two miles away. The land around our suburban home was too small to support a substantial garden.
A friend of Dad’s allowed us to use a portion of his property to garden. We planted, hoed, weeded and watched the crops grow. We cared for potatoes, green beans, radishes, carrots, peppers, and my favorite, sweet corn.
Like a kid on Christmas morning, I couldn’t wait for the corn to ripen. Every trip to the garden I would squeeze the ears to see if they were filling out. When the tassels turned from blonde to brown, I knew the corn was close to being ready.
I loved the smell of corn, stalks and ears alike. Dad showed us how to carefully peel back the husks for a peek to confirm that the ears were ripe. For me, there was something special about the sharp sound of Dad yanking the corn free from its mother stalk. We took turns carrying the plump ears to the wheelbarrow at the end of the rows.
We loaded the car trunk with our golden treasure and headed home. We all helped husk the tender ears. We worked as fast as we could, knowing full well that the quicker we got the corn cleaned, the sooner we could enjoy it.
We ate some, and we froze some. By we, I mean my mother of course. Cooking the corn in the pressure cooker always unnerved me. I guess I was fearful of its scary hissing sound. Thankfully, my wife now just cooks the corn in a kettle on the stove.
Mom ran the cooked corncobs down a wooden corn cutter. The yellowy kernels and sweet juice dripped into a marbled blue and white porcelain bowl. We helped fill the Tupperware containers, and once they cooled ushered them downstairs to the freezer.
Having sweet creamed corn in the middle of winter was a special treat. Still, it couldn’t compare to holding a freshly buttered and salted ear and crunching those tasty rows of kernels.
The ripening corn crop did have one drawback, however. When we were done harvesting and freezing the Iowa Chief, we knew it was time to start school.
Years later, here we are again near summer’s end. School is set to begin or already has. The tender sweet corn is already in the freezer, although it’s now Incredible, not Iowa Chief.
Sipping my morning coffee, I watch the school buses pass by the house. At my age, it’s the sweetest part of summer.
This column appeared in the Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012
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