Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


July 31, 2012

RANDOM THOUGHTS: The strange sex life of corn

CROSSVILLE — This year corn is newsworthy because of its effect on the economy but now is always the time of year when corn fills the minds of those who love  corn on the cob fresh from the field. When I was a child as soon as I had enough teeth I looked forward to meals of what my family called ‘roastanears.’

Gripping that ear of corn slathered with butter with two hands was not  easy but worth the effort. Eventually corn holders came on the market and it was an easier and much less messy way to hold the corn while munching on row after row of kernels.

After frozen foods became a way of life fewer generations had any idea of the journey that naked ear all wrapped in plastic went through from the field to freezer to table. They never experienced the effort it took to shuck the tough husk to expose the golden ear of corn cushioned in a mass of corn silk threads which had to be carefully removed. All the history of an ear of corn’s life was gone.

I have seen many fields of corn but never did I connect sex with corn until last week when I saw this sentence “It is now corn-sex season across the Midwest, and everything is not going well.” It appeared in a short article discussing the effect of high temperatures on this year’s corn crop.

Tennessee’s corn is suffering from the high temperatures and various degrees of drought conditions from normal to abnormally dry in the east. In the western part of the state it is moderate to severe drought. The ratings for Tennessee’s corn crop are: very poor 25%, poor 30%, fair, 27%, good 17% and excellent 1%.

But back to corn-sex. In his book Omnivore’s Dilemma, author, naturalist and gardener Michael Pollen describes the strange sex life of corn. The female sex organs are hidden within the tough husk and the only way to get to them is by the silk thread that extends from the husk. First a grain of pollen must fall on the very tip of the thread and then move down six or seven inches through a tiny tube which takes several hours. If the journey to pollinate is successful it results in a single kernel! This act is repeated more than eight hundred times before there is a complete ear.  For a bushel of corn the number is about eighty thousand times. 

Those astonishing figures will come to mind whenever I pass a field of corn. Since those early days when my new teeth were strong enough to make quick work of ‘roastanears,’ time has taken its toll on those teeth and now I have only happy memories as I eat my corn off the cob!

Text Only
  • Lion and the Lamb: A promised land?

    Back in biblical times there was a group of people who believed that God had promised them a segment of land on this planet that would be theirs forever. Who could have known back then that this ancient promise and territorial justification would be used by their descendants today to claim the same segment of land?

    July 29, 2014

  • We the People: Bring back the American dream

    Our economy continues to expand. The stock market is at record levels, yet many ask why so many of us are struggling?  Barely half of us believe the American dream is attainable.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014