When the corn is high as an elephant’s eye

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, July 5, 2023

By Bonnie Brown

“Oh, what a beautiful mornin’!” These lyrics and music are from Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein from the 1943 movie “Oklahoma.”

Although the song has been sung many times by noted artists including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, James Taylor, and Hugh Jackman, I dare say that you have probably heard more farmers than singers use words from this song “When the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, And it looks like it’s climbing clear up to the sky!”

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I can remember hearing this expression after I had moved to Mississippi, and I thought it was just a local saying. But after my husband Tom and I married and we began to garden, it took on some importance.

The corn should be tall around July 4th. Which makes corn on the cob a holiday food favorite at celebrations across the nation.

Our first garden was accomplished with a hoe, a rake, and a weed trimmer because we planted our garden at our friend Helen Wetherbee’s small parcel of land near her home. Helen passed away recently which was a reminder of her kindness and encouragement over our gardening efforts. I think our garden produced some squash along with a few cucumbers, and perhaps a few twigs of poison ivy.

Our efforts at gardening weren’t a total failure, which encouraged our next efforts after we moved into our home on Woodson Ridge Road. We had about 11 acres which had produced soybeans prior to our moving in so we knew things would grow there. So did lots of kudzu! We set out tomato plants, planted peas, potatoes, and corn.

The tomatoes did well and our neighbor, Mr. Walker Downs, stopped by to check on our progress. He was impressed and even quipped that our plants were growing faster than his.
We were so pleased to have his endorsement of our efforts, that Tom graciously bought me a rototiller tractor for Mother’s Day.

What woman doesn’t want a rototiller tractor for Mother’s Day? Well, this one did, and it made life easier. Of course, the ye olde hoe also came into play but the tractor was a big hit.

I was eager to see if our corn was going to be “as high as an elephant’s eye” come Fourth of July. If it was written for a musical and the farmers took it as a given that the corn would be ready to eat, I was counting on it.

To be honest, I don’t actually remember if we had corn from our garden that first Fourth of July on Woodson Ridge, but I do know that our garden was a lot of work and produced a lot of delicious vegetables and fruits for our family.
We had strawberries and our younger son Jeff announced that he was going to build his house where the strawberry patch was and live there close to us when he grew up. Well, that didn’t come to fruition. We sold the house in 2007 but had given up raising a garden some time before that. I had to convince my husband that we could find food in stores.

Dennis married in 1997 and moved to Jackson shortly afterwards. Jeff married in 2003 and didn’t build the house he promised. But I will say that I think both boys missed our place on Woodson Ridge.

It was a wonderful place for them to grow up, and we loved it there. But life moves on and we are all a little more scattered than I’d like. I’m going to be checking the corn around here to see if it’s as tall as an elephant’s eye. You do the same.

Write to Bonnie Brown at bspbrown@outlook.com