Almost two years ago in this post I shared my love of Willa Cather’s My Ántonia. I hoped it would be the first of a few posts in which I would share a paragraph or so from the book. Following is the passage I’d planned to put up next; various events slowed down that project, not the least of which has been the disappearance of my copy. But I eventually borrowed one from the library. (Sad to say, my branch, though it is the most used in our whole county system, doesn’t own a hard copy. I’m sure they did at one time; it must have been someone who’d never read it who decided to discard it.)
I leafed through half the novel to find this part that I have been keeping in mind, and in many places I wanted to stop a while and visit with Ántonia and my other friends whom I seem to have been missing all these months. My sojourns with them are my only experience of Nebraska, and I don’t know much about corn otherwise, either.
July came on with that breathless, brilliant heat which makes the plains of Kansas and Nebraska the best corn country in the world. It seemed as if we could hear the corn growing in the night; under the stars one caught a faint crackling in the dewy, heavy-odored cornfields where the feathered stalks stood so juicy and green. If all the great plain from the Missouri to the Rocky Mountains had been under glass, and the heat regulated by a thermometer, it could not have been better for the yellow tassels that were ripening and fertilizing each other day by day.
The cornfields were far apart in those times, with miles of wild grazing land between. It took a clear, meditative eye like my grandfather’s to foresee that they would enlarge and multiply until they would be, not the Shimerdas’ cornfields, or Mr. Bushy’s, but the world’s cornfields; that their yield would be one of the great economic facts, like the wheat crop of Russia, which underlie all the activities of men, in peace or war.
-Willa Cather, in My Ántonia