(photos at bottom)
"HELL IS REAL" proclaims a black and white billboard standing to the side of the wide and empty highway interstate. Our car whizzes by, unharmed, and continues along the road. I quickly turn my head back around, perplexed, to glimpse the other side of the sign: Thou shalt not kill. – Thou shalt not commit adultery. – Thou shalt not steal. – Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
I turn back towards the road, and the pink line beyond it.
Occasional trees jut out like small black spikes amongst the sea of flatness. Another shouting billboard advertising RVs slowly comes into view and abruptly disappears as our car drives by.
To my right, I see corn. To my left, also corn. Nevertheless, the road spawns ahead.
The pink sky settles and everything slowly changes to a blue color cast. "Welcome to Southern Indiana," I hear my brother say from the front seat.
Part I: Coles Farm
Coles farm lies nestled on top of a high ridge overlooking the Ohio River Valley. On the other side of the valley lies Kentucky. Occasionally, a long barge can be seen below, treading along the wide Ohio River. From the farm, the barges look like twigs running through a stream. During the harvest, these river boats are filled to the brim with the year's crop yield: corn, soybean, wheat, and rye– piled high like sand ready to fill the shore.
It's a couple of minutes after dusk when we finally arrive. The sky has become purple blue, and although the temperature has decreased by a few degrees, the humidity has stayed the same. Opening the car door I find my cousin, Marcus, coming out from the house.
Marcus grew up in Southern Indiana and has been farming since he was just a boy. His father's side of the family comes from a generation of Southern Indiana farmers spanning way back. He grew up along side the cows, and the corn fields by the house, helping with the chores of the farm along side his brothers. Now, at age 22, Marcus has taken over many of the farm responsibilities.
Eager to see the animals of the farm– the cows, and the goats– I ask Marcus if it's still possible to tour the barn. "Sure, come on," he responds and leads me out back. My aunt and brother come along.
Walking through the grassy divide between the home and the barn I stop to look around. Last time I visited, back in May, during the planting season, everything around the house was flat. Now, three months later, a wall of corn surrounds the property. Soon, after the harvest, everything will become flat again.
I run to catch up with Marcus and my aunt. The inside of the barn stands tall as a center of warmth. Bugs fly about frantically hitting the harsh industrial lights mounted to the side of the barn. That familiar barn smell, conditioned by the many animals and the hay, breezes through the barn. Cats run up poles and goats stand tall on their gates trying their hardest to attract attention.
I head towards the cows standing in the far corner of the barn, patting all the animals along the way. Those cows, with their big noses and big eyes, boggle at my new presence. "Scratch them on the back," my aunt suggests, "they can't reach that spot." She shows me how to scratch correctly and the cow emits a loud sound of pleasure.
Time to head back. Marcus turns off the barn lights. Now, all that remains is the light of the home and the sky– more blue than before.
Marcus tells me that this is the summer recess. The period between the planting and harvest season. All he can do is wait. Then September comes and work begins. Whole days spent out in the field, maneuvering large combines around seas of golden corn. Dawn till dusk. September to November. Everything depends on the harvest. Everything.
This October I plan on making a short documentary about the harvest in Southern Indiana. I will try to keep this blog regularly updated along the way to document the process.
This is a new section of the blog where I share something that struck me recently.
This week, a short documentary for ON Running, about the Athlete Refugee Team (A.R.T)–
Beautifully shot by cinematographer Jordan Maddocks and directed by Richard Bullock
The story they were able to tell is remarkable. It reminded me of a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's book, Wind, Sand, and Stars:
"We need to ask why we race: the race itself is more important than the object."
(with help from Drew Coles)