Being from Iowa, I couldn’t resist sharing this lovely quotation from an interview with writer Paul Theroux from The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction: Building Blocks, edited by Susan Burmeister-Brown and Linda B. Swanson-Davies (link via Paper Cuts):
“I have a quite romantic notion of when I was very young. I saw the movie “Picnic” with William Holden. Whenever I think of “Picnic,” I think of hot summers, the picnics, small towns, something dramatic happening. To me, the quintessential American experience is a summer picnic. It’s hot; it’s kind of steamy. It’s very sensual to me. The way the people are dressed, what they say, darkness falling, the crickets, all of that stuff. And I suppose the film was part of it. That moment in middle America when the corn is ripe.”
Upon reading that, I hopped over to the Corn Cam in Iowa to check out if the corn is “ripe” and discovered a lovely, vigorous vocabulary of corn lingo within the official crop report from the Iowa field office of the National Agricultural Statistical Service in Des Moines, (emphasis mine):
”Corn silked, at 96 percent, is 2 percentage points behind last year, but 1 day ahead of normal. Corn in milk stage is at 71 percent, 2 days ahead of last year and 11 days ahead of the five-year average. Corn in dough stage is at 28 percent, 2 percentage points ahead of last year and 5 percentage points ahead of the five-year average. Corn condition is rated at 2 percent very poor, 10 percent poor, 27 percent fair, 44 percent good, and 17 percent excellent.”
Will I use this in my writing some day? You never know, but just understanding that the world is filled with such exactness is crucial for effective creative writing. So, read the newspaper, troll the internet, listen to people on the street, read obscure out-of-print non-fiction. Pay attention!
P.S. Dan, if you'd like to expound upon those terms for us, please drop me a line!