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Easy Harvests

There are no easy harvests.

There are good harvests, occasionally even bountiful harvests, and disappointing harvests. There are harvests that translate into profit and those that evaporate into losses so large that only a fool would ever harrow another field, plant another seed. There are long harvests, short harvests, early harvests, and late harvests, but there are no easy harvests.

I am reminded of this truth as the rain beats the roof and the windows of my house like artillery shells. On three sides I am neighbored by picked-over cotton fields, the skinny stalks naked but for the occasional misshapen boll that somehow avoided the maul of the cotton picker rumbling over it weeks before. If these fields were all there were, their emptiness would be comforting, a soothing reminder of the cycle of the seasons, but a few miles away there are other fields, still full, still waiting. And it just keeps raining.

The rain, though, it must be said, hasn’t been the only thing delaying the gathering of a crop that, at its peak, brought out the hopefulness in my family’s farmers. First, it was the hurricane that blustered its way across Georgia, arriving at these fields with enough residual wind to rip the bolls from the grip of the stiff brown calyxes that held them like cupped palms.

Then it was equipment problems: bad bearings, worn spindle bushings. And now it is the rain. Once it stops – whenever that is – it may take a week or more for the land to dry out enough to hold up the 70,000-pound cotton picker.

There are no easy harvests.

In 1979 Hurricane David arrived just at the moment the corn was ready to be picked. Acres of tall earth-colored shocks were flattened. We, all of us, spent days walking down each row, lifting each stalk, breaking off each fully-matured ear of corn that would have been wasted had we not, and tossing all of them into piles that we would later transfer to the bed of the worn-out pick-up truck I had driven as a senior in high school.

When all the stalks had been picked clean like roadkill, we stood in front of the combine, its header raised like big yellow teeth opened around a gaping mouth where gears ground so loudly that the diesel motor, usually deafening, was little more than a hum. One by one we tossed the ears into the darkness, underhand like pitching a softball. One by one the ears disappeared and then reappeared, stripped of the hard gold kernels, out the other end as though the combine was defecating.

High above us, the kernels poured into the hopper and slowly, slowly, slowly the piles that we had made, the fruits of the labors not just of our post-hurricane days, but of all the days since the first bright green sprouts had split the crusty earth, grew smaller and smaller until there was nothing left to throw.

There are no easy harvests.

Somewhere along the way we got the idea that reaping was easier than sowing. That once the seed was planted, the idea expressed, the introductions made, all the hard work was over. We forgot or simply dismissed the idea that in every attempt to build, to create, to discover there must be toil. In every effort toward growth there will be opposition.

We denigrate ourselves and all who have come before us when we focus our attention on eliminating the struggle.

There are no easy harvests.

Copyright 2018

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