Among the Corn Rows by Hamlin Garland
A corn-field in July is a sultry place. The soil is hot
and dry; the wind comes across the lazily murmuring
leaves laden with a warm, sickening smell drawn from the
rapidly growing, broad-flung banners of the corn. The
sun, nearly vertical, drops a flood of dazzling light upon
the field over which the cool shadows run, only to make
the heat seem the more intense.
Julia Peterson, faint with hunger, was toiling back
and forth between the corn-rows, holding the handles of
the double-shovel corn plow, while her little brother Otto
rode the steaming horse. Her heart was full of bitterness,
her face flushed with heat, and her muscles aching with
fatigue. The heat grew terrible. The corn came to her
shoulders, and not a breath seemed to reach her, while
the sun, nearing the noon mark, lay pitilessly upon her
shoulders, protected only by a calico dress. The dust rose
under her feet, and as she was wet with perspiration it
soiled her till with a woman's instinctive cleanliness, she
shuddered. Her head throbbed dangerously. What matter
to her that the king bird flitted jovially from the maple
to catch a wandering blue bottle fly, that the robin was
feeding her young, that the bobolink was singing. All
these things, if she saw them, only threw her bondage
to labor into greater relief.
Across the field, in another patch of corn, she could
see her father—a big, gruff-voiced, wide-bearded Norwegian—at
work also with a plow. The corn must be
plowed, and so she toiled on, the tears dropping from the
shadow of the ugly sun-bonnet she wore. Her shoes,
coarse and square-toed, chafed her feet; her hands, large
and strong, were browned, or, more properly, burnt, on
the backs by the sun. The horse's harness "creak-cracked"
as he swung steadily and patiently forward,
the moisture pouring from his hide, his nostrils distended.
The field bordered on a road, and on the other side
of the road ran a river—a broad, clear, shallow expanse
at that point—and the eyes of the girl gazed longingly at
the pond and the cool shadow each time that she turned
at the fence.