The Last Corn Game: A Short Story by cam
John Deere Corn Picker
This story is very close to the actual events of that day about 45 years ago when I was on the farm. Times have changed and I imagine most farmers are more safety conscious than we were back then....I hope so.
For those who have read my other short stories about my days on the farm with my friends, Rick and Rodney, I have a bit of sad news. I lost track of them after I left home and never talked with them again. Last week I found out that Rick died in 2012 at age 56. He was my best friend during my adolescent and early teen years.
The Last Corn Game
Three boys lay on top of the Yellow grain in the gravity bed wagon and watched the evening sky drain of color. Tom’s Dad was milking the cows and had put him in charge of unloading the last of the corn harvested that day.
Tom and two brothers, Rick and Rodney, were best friends and spent most of their time working and riding their ponies on the farm. They pushed their feet and legs deep into the corn, letting it tug them down a little ways before pulling them out and starting again. It was a game they liked to play as the grain ran out the door at the bottom of the wagon.
Gravity Bed Wagons
Tom’s dad called him to get more ground feed for the cows in the parlor. He and Rick climbed down, leaving ten year old Rodney to keep an eye on the wagon for the few minutes they would be gone. The younger boy continued playing the game with the corn while he waited for his brother and Tom to come back.
“Hey Rodney,” Tom called out when he and Rick returned. “How much corn is left in there?” The two older boys waited for Rodney’s report, but heard nothing. Tom climbed the wagon’s ladder and peered over the edge. Rodney was gone.
“Where’d he run off to?” said Rick.
“Maybe he got hungry and went home to eat supper,” said Tom.
“Or he’s in the barn with the ponies,” said Rick. The two watched the corn flow into a metal box on the ground. An auger inside a forty foot green tube that reminded Tom of a giant praying mantis carried the grain to the top of the bin and dropped it inside.
The sole of a small work boot appeared in the gap between the wagon’s sloping floor and door. Corn flowed around it like river water around a boulder. Seconds ticked away before Tom and Rick could comprehend what had happened.
“Rodney,” yelled Rick. The boot slipped through the opening, but stopped when a pant leg snagged on the bottom of the door. Rodney’s foot hung inches above the turning auger.
Both boys ran to the wagon. Rodney’s blue jeans ripped, and his leg slid farther out.
“Rodney, no!” yelled Rick. He pushed on his brother’s leg, trying to keep him from sliding more.
“The auger!” cried Tom. I’ll shut the tractor off. You go get my dad!” But Rick held onto Rodney’s foot and leg. “Go!” Tom pushed his friend and Rick stumbled backward. Tears streamed down his face from wide eyes held open by fear. Then he ran.
Grain Auger and Tractor
Tom climbed onto the tractor. Rodney’s leg slid again, and Tom turned the key. He fell to his knees beside the wagon, praying he had been in time. Rodney’s foot rested on top of the idle auger’s blade.
“Open the door!” His father’s words bounced off a wall of mental shock. Tom touched Rodney’s shoe. If I had taken just a second longer….
Rick pulled Tom aside and grabbed the wheel above the door with both hands. He turned it once, twice, again and again until the corn poured out up to his thighs. In the middle of the yellow flood were the flailing arms and legs of Rodney.
Tom’s dad scooped the boy up and laid him on a patch of grass. Corn dust mixed with sweat coated Rodney’s face and turned to a paste in his eyes. He coughed, sneezed and struggled for each breath.
“Rodney, what happened?” Rick knelt before his brother, tears still streaming down his face.
“I let the corn pull me down too far. “The more I kicked, the faster I sank, so I just stopped trying. I was hopin you would get back before I went under.”
“Rick,” said Tom’s Dad, “Go into the milk house and call your parents.” They gave Rodney water to wash the dust out of his mouth and throat and wiped the grime from his eyes, nose and face.
“I know it’s fun to sit on the wagon as it unloads,” said Tom’s dad. “But that was the last time we’ll do it on this farm. This could have turned out so much worse, and I won’t be tempting fate any further.”
A Big Pile of Corn....Grab A Shovel, Everybody
After Rodney had taken a few days to recover, the three boys were camping out in the hayloft. They sat on their sleeping bags in the dark while pigeons cooed in the rafters.
“I just wanna forget it ever happened,” said Rodney.
“Maybe after you pay us back,” said Rick.
“Pay you back?” said Rodney. “For what?”
“We had to shovel up all that corn we dumped on the ground to get you out of the wagon,” said Tom. The smiles on the older boys’ faces were lost on Rodney as he sat in the darkness.
“You’re gonna be real busy around here for a while,” said Rick.