If you want to see the landscape of hell painted prettily on a farmland horizon, watch a field of corn on fire. It is hellish enough, in my view, to see corn fields stretching away in every direction from sea to shining sea with no houses, barns, trees, fences, grazing animals or any other sign of human habitation in sight. But when a curtain of fire is rushing across this land of the free and home of the brave, the effect is quite as terrifying as watching a big slice of the Great Plains suddenly disappear before the onslaught of a dust storm. Nothing in my experience prepared me for the field of corn on fire that I came upon in my travels. It was just awesome. I pulled off the road and deliberated on whether there was anything I could do. I had fought plenty of grass and wheat stubble fires and knew the best weapon of defense was a wet gunny sack, or rather a whole bunch of people thrashing out the flames with wet gunny sacks, but this fire was at least 15 feet high and way too hot to get close enough for hand fighting. Fire trucks were arriving from all over however, and farmers with big tractors and disks were rumbling in ahead of the blaze to rip up wide swaths of soil in the standing corn to stop its advance. Fortunately, this was Ohio, where the fields were relatively small and where the wind was not blowing hard enough to whip up a forest-sized blaze. The fire was contained in an hour or so. In this year of drought, together with fields of hundreds, even thousands, of almost unbroken acres of tinder dry cornstalks, the situation is especially dangerous. The National Weather Service has issued its Red Flag Warning meaning “extreme fire danger” for various parts of the cornbelt, particularly west of the Mississippi. Some eleven major corn fires were recorded in Iowa in 2011, and the Weather Service is worrying that the situation is much graver this year. Read on over at Gene’s blog The Contrary Farmer.
|Gene Logsdon is the author of, most recently, A Sanctuary of Trees: Beech Nuts, Birdsongs, Baseball Bats, and Benedictions|