"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The waving wheat

It's not white yet, but it's turning...wheat in a field near Union City today. Looks like a bumper crop.

 “Behold, the fields are white unto harvest.”
I think He must have been talking about the prettiest crop I know--wheat.
You don’t have to be in Oklahoma long to realize how wheat graces the landscape for three seasons of the year.
It’s not by accident that the state song poetically sums up the crop’s impact on Oklahoma: “The waving wheat sure smells sweet when the wind comes right behind the rain.....”
I don’t know of another crop that compares. I’ve lived in Iowa, and the tasseled ears of corn undulating over the hills is beautiful--for one season. Some crops are occasionally pleasing to the eye--peanuts, soybeans,  alfalfa. 
Wheat is different.
In late fall and winter, it provides a green lawn accent to much of Oklahoma--standing bright and fresh and rich against the bare branches of the trees.
A favorite place of mine is a wheat field along Interstate 35 just north of the Cimarron River. In the early mornings in late winter and early spring, mist rises and envelops the highway and scenery, except for the bluffs along the south bank. But in between the trees, cut by creek banks and the river, is this wheat field that often draws a herd of deer, peacefully grazing just before the sun comes up.
In those first few months of the crop, up through early spring, you’ll also see the fields punctuated with grazing cattle, and the red and white Herefords sprinkled over the green pastures are especially picturesque.
Then as spring deepens into summer, the wheat heads out, and becomes a waving grain, rippled by the Oklahoma wind. The green softens a little, but as the crop blankets our rolling countryside, it seems to flow across the terraces and fields, pushed by breezes. It gives texture to the land, even as the nearby trees bud out and take on a brighter green.
With summer at hand, and the rest of the foliage turning verdant, the wheat changes, gradually, sporadically, unevenly, to light green, golden brown, yellow, almost white. 
As the Oklahoma wind brushes over the tops of the rich grain, it seems to move like the surface of the ocean. From a hilltop, you can trace the path of the air across the fields. 
In winter, it gave beauty to the drab landscape with its pastoral green accent, emphasized by the backdrop of dark branches. In spring and summer, those same branches, now deep green themselves, accent the rich, honey blond and gold of the adjacent wheat fields.
With harvest, the giant bugs of combines and trucks, often working late into moonlit nights, cut swaths through the crop that has defined much of Oklahoma’s year. The crop provides much more than just economic sustenance to our people. Its beauty sustains our spirit.
“Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain.” 


Near Tuttle


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