by Rick Mansfield
This is a tale of two farmers. Both hillbillies at heart. Both farmers by hobby. Let’s call them Tom and Eric. Both went to local schools. Grew up and got married. Made a living. Paid taxes. And farmed.
Now Eric went on to accumulate college degrees like some people collect old cars. Tom was sharp enough to learn enough in far less time. Eric got through his schooling with persistence and hiring tutors as needed. Tom got through with charm and maybe a bit more intelligence.
Tom and Eric both farmed. Grew various crops. Married good women who canned and cooked. Played in the dirt as time allowed.
That brings us to this year. Eric planted a field of sweet corn. Tom did not. Eric dug and hoed; weeded and watered. Tom fished.
Eric put up fence to keep the deer out. Then more fence to keep out groundhogs. Eric is currently enjoying the bees in the corn tassels. Watching them gather pollen. Listening to them hum. Tom is watching the river roll by. Tom listens to bluegrass; including a granddaughter playing the ukulele.
In a couple of weeks, Eric will hopefully harvest some sweet corn. That is, if he builds some electric fence to keep out the raccoons. And it works. Then, maybe, some corn!
Tom is already eating fresh sweet corn. He took an afternoon, drove down to the boot-hill and spent roughly what Eric has spent on half his seed. Forget fertilizer. Sprinklers. Hoses. And fencing.
Tom has sweet corn in his freezer. Tom has been eating sweet corn for more than a week. Eric is on his second sprinkler for the season.
One might believe Tom more clever than Eric. Clever is good. Greek playwright Euripides believed even the “bold are helpless without cleverness.” Cleverness is an enviable trait. Always has been. Cleverness might explain why Tom completed school so much more quickly than Eric.
Society has long favored a wit. An intellect. Those of clever behaviors. We seek their council. Select them as our leaders. Solicit their advice. Too often model our activities after their habits and traditions.
In literature and cinema, cleverness is frequently at center stage. At times through the voice of the protagonist; at others told via the antagonist. The call of the hero; the cry of the villain.
Back to the two farmers. Please remember, farming is just a sideline. Both made their livelihoods through other non-agrarian pursuits. But farming was in their blood. As was the love of fresh produce. Fresh produce like the sweet corn recently acquired and currently being eaten by Tom. And his family. And his friends.
It has been said “To be kind to one another is more important than being clever.” The great silent-era comedian Charlie Chaplin believed “More than cleverness, we need kindness.”
Tom was eating sweet corn. As was his family. As were his friends. Eric, Tom’s friend, was eating sweet corn as well. Tom was a fan of Euripides and Chaplin’s thinking. A further aspect of Tom’s cleverness. And kindness. Thanks for joining us!