It’s Thanksgiving Day, and the corn still stands in fields. My favorite farmer hopes to glean the rest by December, before the snow flies.
And when fear rises in me, I’m reminded:
I’m not the first Lee woman to look through the kitchen window to watch a Lee man working acres late in the season. I’m not the first Lee woman to quietly remind her children, as she tucks them in, to pray for their Daddy when storm-clouds roll in. I’m not the first Lee woman to link hands with her favorite farmer at this wooden table, to offer praise and Thanksgiving for the bounty.
The harvest has always come.
These are the women who’ve come before: Emma, Eunice and Joyce.
I’m the newest to be grafted in by marriage. Each of us had our favorite farmers who worked this same dirt: Ole and Milo, Paul and Scott.
Today, only Scott is left. And we don’t know if another will come behind. Looking out the windows on these partially shorn acres, I wonder: “Who will tend these fields when we’re gone?”
I dial Eunice, 95, and she answers the phone after the fifth ring. She lives in an assisted-living apartment now. Her husband Milo died four years ago, and last week, he would have turned 100 years old. (She celebrated with fresh flowers on the altar.) Milo was the second of the Lee men who turned this Earth, unearthed its bounty.
I ask Eunice, Could we drive up to visit on Friday morning? Then, the conversation immediately turns to weather and crops. For this is what farm wives do.
“How’s Scott doing?” she asks of her grandson. He’s the patriarch of this farm now, and this is his first harvest without his father, Paul, who died in January.
“Fine, Grandma, but we’ve got a lot of acres to go,” I tell her. “Gotta get it out before it snows.”
“I know how you feel,” she says, and as she speaks the fear in me dissolves again. “Now, we always wanted to get all the corn out by Thanksgiving, but you don’t worry. It will all work out. Always does.”
I cling to a voice of reassurance that comes from a Lee woman who watched her own favorite farmer bring in the crop for decades.
The harvest has always come.
Solace flows from voices past. I find another voice in the bottom of a dresser drawer.
Her words were on a postcard, written on Nov. 26, 1912 — exactly 97 years ago today.
The voice belongs to Emma, our pioneer. She knew first what I feel now. She was an American girl who fell in love with Ole, a young man who’d come to Iowa from Norway looking for work. He settled on this farm more than 100 years ago. And together, they raised kids and crops and eyes toward Home.
We found her words last month in a drawer. They were written on the back of a Thanksgiving postcard.
I hold in my hands these words written 97 harvests ago, and a lump rises in my throat again. Emma knew what it meant to feel this swelling in a heart for a Lee man who scrapes back Earth to scatter the seed.
“Nov. 26, 1912
how are you
We are all well
have about 3 days corn picking left.
… got much corn this year
Baby is a big girl now
Thanksgiving we are going to Le Hemmes for dinner.
Ole was Emma’s favorite farmer.
Milo was Eunice’s favorite farmer.
Paul was Joyce’s favorite farmer.
And Scott is mine.
They’ve combed through lazy Earth
and waited on the Lord
while a Lee woman
watched through a kitchen window.
God and Earth are our constants
in this changing of the guard
God is our hope that springs eternal here on these acres.
We know our farmers feel closest to God out there, as they paint brush strokes on God’s earthen canvas. And we feel it, too, like we’re brushing up against Heaven.
And for this, we bow low with thanks on this day of Thanksgiving and Praise.
For the harvest has always come.
Written as part of the High Calling Blogs Thanksgiving celebration.
PHOTOS: Front and back of Emma Lee’s Thanksgiving postcard, written 97 years ago today.