I worked out on the knob
Till I was near eighteen,
Toiling among the rock
That were sprinkled on our farm
Or driving in the cows
That we kept enclosed
By some boards we stretched across
Where the hillside jutted close.
For Daddy Jim was up at light
And kept the place so clean,
It was a truly sparkling sight
White against the valley's green.
We were took most every day,
I mean the boys that is,
When the sun was slanting far away
To hoe the field of corn that was
Just beside the rocky spring
Whose sweet water nourished it.
We'd weed and scrape the ground away
So suckers wouldn't discourage it.
For daddy said the corn was like
A woman with a secret love,
Needing some gentle talk
Not a clumsy, heated shove.
Daddy took one tool and worked
Busily along the rows
While Fred, and Tommy, and tall Jack
Spread out with their hoes.
It was early summer then,
And the stalks were close about my waist,
And looking out across that corn
My disaffection took a rise.
So I called out to Daddy,
"When will this work be done?
For I'm fed up
Sweating all day in the hot sun!"
He said, "Now Lee, you better
Git it right. I run this place,
And we're gonna hoe this field tonight
If we have to give the moon a race!"
All of a sudden that old hoe
Blistered right up in my fist,
And I couldn't wait to go
From that rocky, hoe-scratched place.
And I did. I left right then
With just these parting words to him,
"This God damn hoe don't fit my hand!"
And I threw it in the corn.
Since then it has been many years
And I have known a lot of strife
From Kasserine Pass to Sicily
And I have two girls and a wife.
But whenever I meet my dad
His mouth is thin and drawn,
As he says that old hoe blade
Is still rusting in the corn,
But he says it with respect,
And he firmly takes my hand
As if I have been lifted
Into the company of men.
Copyright 2003 by David King.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.