Friday, September 27, 2013

Magic Numbers

Cards cut magic number to 1 

Kind of at loose ends tonight...

There are a mere three baseball games left in the long season, just one more series of their favorite team for many fans before they reluctantly push the red ESPN score button to some other sport.  They may follow the playoffs, but will neither suffer the thrill of victory nor the agony of defeat.  

But...even though I am  making do with Dodgers/Giants as my nighttime relaxation, post season baseball is on my mind.  The math still matters; during the last three games the Cardinals play the Cubs, the stadium will be electric with more than the normal good humored rivalry.  The stands will hum and the crowd will inflate and deflate as scores of other contenders are posted.  The days will still be warm but the nights will cool down; the stands won't be quite as red as they are during the summer.  Having a magic number means college football will take a back seat this Saturday and the pros won't warrant a second thought on Sunday.  Nerves in our house will be frayed; for the most edgy fan (me), sitting will be a trial and I'll wander the house like Banquo's ghost.  Even though baseball season comes around every year; the pitchers and catchers report in Florida sunshine, the opening day crowds will be hunched into their windbreakers, the fireworks will light the sky over the Old Courthouse in July....these waning days of the season are always bittersweet with loss in a way that no other sport can be.  Who feels regret in June when professional basketball finally gives up a the ghost?  Or tunes in for the Pro Bowl...or cares?  The end of baseball always sneaks up on me; superstitious to the last, no one mentions magic numbers until they are single digits just like a no hitter is that which shall not be named until at least the seventh inning.

Fall is chock full of magic numbers.  They regulate our life.  Four is the magic number until the mums run out.  Noah's crew boarded their vessel two by two but the trailers of mums count the tables of four.  Early in the season, fifty pots fit in the loft (12 trips, plus one handful) and 75 fours on the floor.  But by October, we are trying to deflate those fragrant orbs of bloom in an attempt to fit JUST FOUR MORE, telling them to INHALE as we close the door, as if they were sentient beings.

Each truckload brings us closer to picking up an irrigation line.  Each line holds something under 200 mums.  By October we are loading hundreds of plants of the same variety, marching from bottom to top, calling out our count, knowing that each truckload shrinks the gallons of water we must pull out of the ground.  From six hours of watering for 3 people, we are under 2 hours for two.  But who is counting?

Baseball may rule my nights, but mums rule the day.

With the mums in new homes, the lines rolled and stacked, the ground cloth bundled securely under concrete bricks, its time to face the really big numbers.  Two combines, two eight row corn heads, one 20'and one 25'grain table, two good sized auger wagons, four or five semi trucks and trailers, two long augers and at least one pickup per farm family....this armada is what it takes to conquer the rolling sea of corn and beans spread over the northern part of Atchison county.  The numbers, I apologize, are imprecise because some piece of machinery is always on the disabled list.  Some days the harvesters seem to glide effortlessly along the long rows of the river bottoms and the intricate ballet of trailer, auger wagon and combine rivals any computer aided design as the grain piles into the trucks and flows out of the trucks according to the laws of physics and the variables of shape, moisture, and slope.  We used to count trucks coming off the field, or being dumped into a bin, but now the mighty machines do the math for guesswork in the numbers, no cheating allowed. Unless the yield monitors lose their brains.

Other days I come into the field to see the mechanical equivalent of open heart surgery taking place...or a tell tale pile of grain detritus under the machine....or the hit or miss of plug and play as farmers and technicians try to decipher some cryptic electronic error message. Minutes grind into hours lost and a general constipation of the harvest process.  When we trudge home dust caked and smelling of grease and oil after days like this, we do the math and watch our magic number fade into the mists of the future like the oracle of Delphi.

Corn and beans: 150 days plus
Mums and asters: 135 days plus or minus
Baseball: 162 games.

Long seasons.

It takes optimism to begin, persistence to make it past the obstacles and through the inevitable mid season slump and grit to make the necessary adjustments and finish strong.

Gentlemen, start your engines.
Red, white, yellow, orange..the colors of the autumn rainbow stripe the hillside.
Play ball....

Let's go CARDS!


  1. Love the part about the mums, I practically felt like I was there smelling them! And, so glad you linked this up with the County Fair Blog Party.

    High Heels & Shotgun Shells