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Over Here: 73 - Corn Festival

"Corn was not only the main item offered at the annual soirees; it was, to all intents and purposes, the only item!,'' writes Ron Pataky.

The annual corn festivals were big events each fall on the farm. Nearly two hundred people came from far and wide to the huge back yard gala. Part reunion, part Gypsy caravan, part political convention, and part Boy Scout Jamboree, it would last from about noon on the selected Saturday until well into the darkening evening - usually thinning out by 9 or so.

Occasionally, a stranger from Boise or Okefenokee or somewhere would come aboard, no doubt drawn to the lively scene by the wonderful country smell of boiling corn. He and the missus would be welcomed by all. ("No kidding! My Cousin Vernal was in Boise once, I think! Missouri, right?"). We had a giant copper cauldron, perhaps a full three feet across, that could easily hold a couple hundred ears of our best corn. (It should be pointed out that our "back yard" at the time ran from the house to the barn, a distance of perhaps 60 yards -- or somewhat larger than the patio space enjoyed by today's average home-dweller).

Grandpa and Grandma, like most farmers, were anything but social butterflies. Other than their regular Wednesday night "Singing Club," they rarely socialized at all. Folks usually would go "out" for a bite after church on Sunday; but to the average farm family, that was it! They made no secret of the fact that my Dad had been born in some sort of migrant hut in New Holstein, Wisconsin, that Uncle Christ had been born in an Alabama sharecropper's tent, and that Uncle Henry, the last of the Pataky litter, was the first of their boys to be born in an actual house, by then located amidst the relative hustle and bustle of Cleveland, Ohio. Not long after that, they'd managed to scrape together enough money for a down payment on the farm, where they would remain for the next fifty years, until a few years before their deaths. Even after they finally gave up both farming and the market, Uncle Christ continued to work the few dozen acres until he, too, approached his eighties.

Life, diet, and exercise must have been good to them. My pappy finally passed away at ninety-four years of age. Brother Christ waited a full year thereafter, at which time he, too, would die at ninety-four. Both of their parents lived well into their eighties. Only the youngest boy, Henry, would die earlier in life, in his sixties, as I recall.

Corn was not only the main item offered at the annual soirees; it was, to all intents and purposes, the only item! (Oh, a person might find some cottage cheese about, if he had a cheese-trained hound or something). This was not a barbecue, mind you. It wasn't a chicken wing-ding. Nor was it some sort of annual celebration-dance to honor unicorn ancestors who'd gone on before. What we had each fall was sweet corn. Lots and lots of sweet corn. Ears by the hundreds, still in the husks, for which there was no longer a thriving market. (By late September, everyone had excess corn and tomatoes by the bushels-full. Had we been furnished with addresses at the time, I feel confident we'd have gladly shipped them out postage paid to corn-destitute Aleuts. Maybe even Arabs!).


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