sunshine falls in silver
bars through rafters, lighting
the dark interior
The abandoned barn on Pleasant Plain Road still shelters life. When I approach, a fox the color of field corn dashes from under a wagon into a hole beneath the broken floor boards. The old barn, its red paint fading to a blush, has been slowly collapsing for years. The roof sags like a swayback cow. Most of the cedar shake shingles are missing. Inside, sunshine falls in silver bars through the rafters, lighting the dark interior. Everything slants -- doors, windows, walls, posts, beams. Crow's hybrid corn signs lie higgledy-piggledy on the floor, the only spot of color against the worn-out wood.
Crow's, Dekalb, Pioneer, Garst, Northrup -- during the growing season, these eye-catching signs march along the highway at the end of corn rows to advertise demonstration plantings of hybrid seed. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 95 percent of our corn acreage is planted to hybrid corn, which produces at least 20 percent more corn on 25 percent fewer acres than in 1930 when hybrid corn seed became widely available. Of course, nearly all of the large-scale hybrid field corn is destined to be used as livestock feed, a long journey from corn's beginnings as open-pollinated Indian maize, grown for human consumption.