In Praise of Maize

Explore the Unknown!

For August 12, 2020

Please share this missive with your friends & neighbors.

Hi WN@TL Fans,

On Saturday afternoon my daughter Claire (15) and my son Will (13) trundled into the van and headed out on a road trip.  The general idea is a clockwise tour roughly along the arc of the old Route 66 to LA, then up California 1 and then US 101 to Seattle, and back on US 12 and US 2, eventually succumbing to the siren appeal of I-94 for the super-slab slide back home.  It is a kind of Travels with Charley, but in the opposite direction, and with two standard kids and no standard poodle.  There are significant other differences that I’ll let the reader fill in.

Claire is approaching 16 and has her learner’s permit, so she is doing some of the driving.  Will is 13 and is driving his iPad, headsets set to ‘oblivious.’

A remarkable thing happens when a kid drives:  she starts talking to you, commenting on the lay of the land, asking questions about what she sees as the miles roll by.  Some of those questions are about crops and livestock.  The crop of the most intrigue has been corn.  Down through Illinois where it stands 8, 9, 10 foot high; across Missouri and into Kansas, where beef cattle and cornfields flicker by; through the (corn-dependent) meat-packing towns of Liberal, Kansas (beef) and Guymon, Oklahoma (pork); into the Texas panhandle with center-pivot-irrigated corn, grain sorghum, oil pumps, and electricity-generating windmills all in one field; and into New Mexico with feedlots where corn fattens cattle grazed on chaparral.

But it’s here at Mesa Verde in the southwestern corner of Colorado where corn comes to the fore.  Here at 8,000 feet the ancient culture of corn helps explain the ancient cultures of humans who have lived on this breathtaking space in the sky for at least 2,000 years.  Here, even in a place with scant rainfall and scantier soil, corn has been vital not only for subsistence but also for essence, as I read today on the trail:

So let us sing in praise of maize.  Here are four WN@TL talks on the extraordinary grain the bears ears on stalks.



It’s a little after 10 pm Mountain Time here at campsite 30 at Mesa Verde National Park. Claire’s got the campfire going now, and soon it’ll be time for the corn that pops on summer nights. Shaken, not stirred, with butter and salt.This, too, goes way back—and I hope it will go way forward.

I hope to see you sometime soon once we can resume Wednesday Nite @ The Lab.

Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H

UW-Madison:  5.8 million owners, one pretty good public land-grant teaching, research and extension university.
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