I met Ezra when I was driving past his home on the river road. In a meadow an old cow lazily chewed its cud. Incidentally, I have always been fascinated by cows and I will explain this obsession in a later blog.
For the moment, please put the image of Ezra’s cow to one side and concentrate on his fields of corn. Ezra’s corn was very well known. I had heard that it was the sweetest corn in the town of Brant Lake, perhaps even in the entire North Country, and, since I love corn even more than cows, I pulled over and engaged Ezra in conversation.
He really knew his corn; went to lectures on corn, read books on corn, popped corn and studied the fabric of the fiber. Ezra’s only problem was the crows that devoured the newly planted seed. Ezra called these crows Fearless Feathered Flyers. They gathered on top of his satellite dish and swept onto the field, undaunted by the supposedly ferocious scarecrow who stood in the corn.
But, as a gourmand, Ezra’s main concern was that his corn be fresh. In the middle of our conversation Ezra dashed into his home then ran back to the corn and, without explanation, picked six ears and repeated the hundred yard dash to his house. Returning, he apologized for what might have been termed rather eccentric behavior. ”Sorry, Dan. The water was boiling and I had to put the corn in the pot. I husked the cobs on my way in. That’s the only way to have really fresh corn! You pick the corn as soon as the water boils.”
Then, crestfallen, he shared a minor corn tragedy.
“Last year was a fabulous year for corn. I grew over 500 bushels. I sold some to the summer folk, canned some, pickled the little guys but I still had too many left in the field. So I did something I had never done before. I sold some to the grocery store in Chestertown. They promised me they would buy as much as I could grow.”
“’This is the freshest corn I’ve ever seen,’ the manager said. I thought I finally had a market for my corn and a couple days later I loaded up the truck and drove back to the market. You won’t believe what I saw.”
Ezra caught his breath.
”I walked into that store, past a case where Mr. Perdue puts his chicken, and found the vegetable section. There was my corn. Three days old and still sitting in the bin. Can you imagine?”
Ezra shook his head in disbelief.
”If that’s not bad enough, right in the middle of the bushel, sticking into a good ear of corn, was the sign, ‘FRESH CORN, JUST PICKED!’”
”I started yelling and the manager came running over.
“‘What’s wrong,’ he asked.
“Can you imagine? Asking me what’s wrong! Well, I gave him an earful– and it wasn’t of corn.
“How can you say the corn is just picked? It’s three days old.
“The manager told me to hush up.”
”Who’s going to know, Ezra. It still tastes pretty good. I had some for dinner last night. Anyway, your name is not on the corn.”
Ezra’s face turned bright red and the bristles of his beard seemed to stand on end.
”I left town as quick as my truck could go. I wouldn’t sell him another ear. No sir, my name wasn’t on that corn but I sure knew it wasn’t fresh. When I got home I dumped the corn in the pasture for the cow. I have the happiest cow in Brant Lake!”
So that’s how I met Ezra The Corn Man who grew corn and believed in both perfection and personal integrity—a prized and often unusual set of values in today’s world.
And from Ezra I also concluded that life should always be fresh. It is not good to deal in leftovers.
What a wonderful kernel of wisdom.