November 22, 2010

Acknowledging the Corn


It came from someone’s pack but nobody admitted to it.  Probably because it was immediately heckled.  ‘Just Corn’. It was exactly that:  just corn. The pale yellow kernels were dehydrated- a dried out and disappointing snack. Corn: dumbed down.  Each bite offering small benefit. Plain corn, whose only virtue is butter- its only real reason for consumption- is only a little more nourishing than Just Corn.

From that day when the unopened bag appeared after we pooled together our snacks at our first campsite in Black Canyon Gunnison National Forest, it became the constant offering and constant joke.  Nobody is hungry enough on the first few days of a backpacking trip to try such a snack.  The cheese, fresh fruit, and beef jerky are too much in abundance at that point.  At the end of those first long days on the trail, when the blisters were just beginning and my clothes were still clean, I still had my good snacks and was not willing to waste time with something like Just Corn. And neither, it seemed, was anyone else.

The hardest day, a 3,000’ day of ascent came and went with no takers at camp that night. Summit day also came and went.  Even tired calves and feet, sore backs under heavy packs did not demand that snack. The trip continued down from treeline and high alpine flowers and that plastic bag was doled from pack to pack, carried for days through Colorado’s Ponderosa, Aspen, and Lodgepole, shouldered awhile then shrugged off for another person to carry Just Corn, and it became the joke- whoever was last in to camp that day had to tote it the next day. The days passed and when snacks like peanut butter and crackers and other less delectables were all that were left, the corn remained intact in its wrapping, always out at dinner time, never consumed.

Until one day.

Down low, unlucky with dry flies and wet, one fisherman tried, with hopes unabated, caddis, grasshopper, and wooly bugger. And, finally desperate, tied on one piece and caught a crowning brook trout with Just Corn. Returning to camp, that fisherman forced a certain acknowledgment by fish and fool- failure at having been outwitted by just corn.