by The Don
A quick reflection on youth in a flat,rural space where dreams of something bigger abound.
|I grew up in the middle of nowhere, or, more precisely, in the middle of the largest cornfields in the world. For miles and miles, as far as the eye could see, punctuated by stripes of poorly maintained gravel roads, corn. And beans. But not much else. I didn't understand it at the time, that the big agribusiness companies had made it impossible to grow anything else, that corn and beans, beans and corn, were the only crops there were. As I grew up, I worked in the fields, walking beans to pull out the weeds that survived the chemicals, and walking through cornfields, destined for seed, to cut down the corn that didn't fit with the rest, too small, too tall, too unusual. Hot days in the Midwest sun, staring down from the cobalt sky on the utterly flat land, humidity steaming off the corn leaves sharp enough to cut, pure hell, but money for teens who couldn't really make money in any other way. I suppose that migrant worker do these jobs now, but in those days, it was still us gangly white kids marching the fields, factory workers on a long, green line.
I always remember, though, that I wanted to get out of there. I longed for the road. I drove down deserted highways, Freebird blaring in the car speakers, dreaming that this time, this very time, I would be driving down this road for the last time, leaving the town in the middle of nowhere behind. Leaving. Never to return. If I leave here tomorrow, I'd think, I'd never come back to live, things just couldn't be the same. Curving through the broad ramps connecting the US highways, one leading to New York in the east, and California in the west, Minnesota to the north and Texas to the south, I could feel the distance, the breadth of the vast land under the starry sky, stretching down the asphalt ribbon, calling me, calling me to turn the wheel and point the car, north, south, east or west. The west and the South fascinated me . . . I'd wonder what the San Fernando valley looked like just then, or the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast of Florida. They called me, and I knew, in the very core of my being, that I'd answer, that the little cradle of central Iowa would someday give me up and allow me to live. Escape from the land of corn and beans, no longer to walk those rows, to feel the sun beat down in the middle of a field, to relegate this and a thousand other things to memory, things to be left behind, and a world to be discovered, somewhere, down the highway.