Some puzzles just take longer to solve than others. This was a farm uncle's puzzle it took 30 years to solve.
The corn is peeking out of the ground in farm country that hasn't been flooded this spring. The first green spears have gained enough height to be eligible for cultivating. Of course, in this modern day, cultivators are no longer used much due to herbicides. But my generation of farm boys learned to tractor cultivate to eradicate the first weeds and grass that would invade cornfields.
First cultivating was a boring task as one had to be careful not to cover the young corn plants. I loved to "lay by" later in the year, which meant speeding through the 3-foot high corn.
But, it was young corn that my Uncle Reed had approached my cousin and me to cultivate on his farm. My uncle had suffered a back injury and was unable to climb into the tractor seat that year and so he contracted us to do the first cultivating.
Up until this time, my farm had always used a two-row corn planter. My uncle used a four-row planter. That was part of the cause of our mistake.
It was a bright, late spring day when my cousin and I eagerly climbed aboard our WD Allis Chalmers tractors, both equipped with two-row cultivators. We chugged over the hill to the 20-acre piece of planted corn that my uncle pointed us to. Any farmer worth his salt knows that you count your rows carefully before you start cultivating to make sure you follow the planter's path.
I assured my cousin that I had counted in 12 rows and we began down the rows.
A problem soon arose as one of us was continually covering corn plants and we seemed not to be able to follow the rows. One of us would be continually be climbing off the tractor seat and uncovering the covered up corn.
After plowing out a number of rows, we decided that something must be wrong with the settings of the cultivator and so we dug out wrenches to re-align it. Nothing seemed to work and one of us continued to bury corn plants.
We stopped at the end of the field and my cousin asked, "Are you sure you counted in 12 rows?"
I responded, "Of course I did! But just to satisfy you I'll go back and check."
Thirteen rows in was the result of my recount.
Finally we realized that the one of us who had the two center rows of the four-row planter was always right and the one on the outside row was constantly covering corn. The light bulb flashed and we re-fit the cultivators to their original settings and things were good. The only thing was that we had plowed out or covered about 20 rows of newly sprouted field corn.
If you were of my farm generation, you learned fast not to rankle your neighbors. You needed them. They borrowed you machinery and you borrowed them machinery. You helped them put up silage and they returned the favor by helping you put up silage.
The unspoken law was that you chose to "get along" and keep your mouth shut under almost any circumstance. My uncle had learned that lesson well.
My cousin and I never mentioned our cultivating snafu to our uncle. I guess we thought whatever corn was left would cover our tracks. We both grew to adulthood without my uncle ever uttering a word about that 20-acre piece of cornfield.
But, there came a day at a family member's funeral when my uncle came over to our lunch table after the service and sat down next to me. I wondered what he wanted?
"Johnny, I've been meaning to ask you, what ever happened to that cornfield over the hill? When we went to pick it there were a bunch of rows missing in the middle of the field. I just wondered how that happened."
This was 30 years after the mistake. I explained to him how we managed to deplete his yield by a good number of bushels.
One had to be careful in those days about alienating anyone, especially a farm neighbor or relative. My uncle's puzzle was solved after 30 years. Both Uncle Reed, my cousin Charlie and I felt better.
See you next time. Okay?