The sisters were squished in the front, and the assorted kids piled into the bed of the truck, with the aforementioned coolers. For obvious reasons, this is now illegal, but back then it was an acceptable way to pass a lazy summer day, and keep a lot of kids occupied. My memory of that day is distilled to one long, flat stretch of road. The driver hit the gas, and we flew down that road, the wind whipping our hair into our eyes and dust flying everywhere, as we laughed at each other, raising our hands into the air to feel the wind fly through our fingers. Except for me. I did not participate in the finger waving because I was hanging on for dear life, trying to calculate my trajectory should we hit a bump the wrong way. I’m not called Chicken for no reason.
We came upon a corn field, and I guess the sisters decided corn was as good a dinner as anything, so the driver swerved to the gravel. The kids all piled out and into the fields, like well-trained soldiers. We grabbed as much corn as we could carry and ran back to the truck. The whole operation took about five minutes. Then we squealed back out, onto the blacktop, and headed for home, where the ill-gotten gains were husked, cooked, and gleefully consumed, under the watchful eye of Aunt Dot. Aunt Dot was the Aunt of the Sisters. She made the biggest chocolate chip cookies in the history of the universe, and she accused everyone of stealing and cheating at cards. Aunt Dot was a sore loser at cards but we didn’t hold it against her. When you live in the company of a giant cookie architect, you forgive a few things. Plus, given the corn thievery, it’s possible that her paranoia was justified.
I’m not sure why the sisters thought stealing corn was acceptable behavior. Maybe they assumed that the farmer wouldn’t have planted his corn so close to the road if he didn’t count on a certain percentage of his harvest being heisted. Or, maybe, they thought the farmer should have built a fence if he didn’t want to share. More likely, after the White Russians (or Vodka and 7 if the Sisters were dieting), they thought it was funny.
For me, at an impressionable almost-eight years, corn was a gateway vegetable. I assumed everyone’s garden was up for grabs. I wandered the neighborhood vegetable patches, helping myself to radishes, rhubarb, cucumbers and whatever else looked edible in its raw state. I began hanging out with the wrong crowd, and moved on to night raids. On crisp fall evenings, when we were supposedly having a sleepover, we infiltrated the neighboring apple orchard. Then we went home, made popcorn, and got out the Ouija board. We stayed up ’til well past midnight, chomping apples, throwing popcorn, and talking about kissing. Just a normal Saturday night in the life of a seasoned produce thief.
This behavior continued until I was about 12 and determined, for myself, that stealing is wrong. The attack dogs in Lucarelli’s Orchard may have played a part in my sudden streak of conscience. Not that I ever actually saw an attack dog in Lucarelli’s Orchard, but that didn’t matter. We knew they were there.
Hello World, I’m Chicken! I’m a recovering produce thief. (Welcome Chicken).
These days, I buy my vegetables at the farmers market. Or Whole Foods. Basically, I’ll shop wherever there are no rumors of attack dogs.
|Corn begging to be stolen|