Sunday, August 15, 2010

Growing by the Road

I drove to Modesto last weekend.  My cousin is in the hospital there, and I went down to see him.  The Kaiser hospital in Modesto is just off Kiernan Road, which is a freeway exit, so it was easy to find.  Going in on Kiernan, I passed a serious corn field - I think it was somebody's experimental agricultural station.  Talk about the corn as high as an elephant's eye - this field was right up there. 

I mentally noted it - I like corn and think the plants are handsome - and then drove on to my hospital visit, which was about as much fun as such visits ever are.  Leaving, I drove past the cornfield again without taking much notice.  But, climbing up the freeway on-ramp to go home, I saw - feral corn.  Not "wild corn" like the stuff they grow in Mexico - escapes from the agricultural station.  They were growing out of the landscaping by the on-ramp, and they were about 3-4 feet high; their tassels were waving in the breeze.  I was charmed, and I still am.


  1. Our last year at Iowa, we lived in a farm house about 5 miles out of town, in the very gently rolling corn and soybean growing country. Most of the family farms (and houses) had been abandoned (and bought up by the "survivors" or corporate outfits), and the fields were still being planted, albeit by "non-resident" workers. The fields around us were put to corn and soybeans, and other things (which I can't recall). The corn began to grow in the Spring, slowly. Then the unendurable Summer months began, with most days above 90 degrees (accompanied by 95% humidity. Thunderstorms were frequent and impressive (though brief). By mid-August the corn stalks were at least 12 feet high. You could literally get lost inside the stands. Remember the scene in North by Northwest, where Carry Grant tries to escape by hiding from a crop-duster by running through a dry cornfield?

    Anyway, what the heck is "feral" corn?

  2. Feral corn is corn that grew there because the seeds blew there, or (probably) were deposited by birds - as opposed to corn that somebody planted there on purpose. I seriously doubt that anyone planted 3 or 5 corn plants on the on-ramp embankment on purpose.

    I've never seen North by Northwest, but I've driven by the field north of Bakersfield where they filmed that scene ;-) When we went by the corn wasn't there (it was December or January). The level of corn you describe is pretty close to what was in the experimental fields a mile or so away from the on-ramp.