“No, you mustn’t do that,” her father said. “That is corn silk.”
“Oh, I know what it is,” said Hal. “It’s brown stuff and sometimes when you’re eating corn it gets in your mouth and tickles you.”
“Corn silk isn’t brown until it gets old and dried,” said his father. “At first it is a light green, like this. And the silk is really part of the corn blossom.”
“I didn’t know corn had a blossom,” said Mab.
“Yes,” said her father, “it has. Part of the blossom is up top here, on these things that look like long fingers sticking out,” and he pointed to the upper part of the stalk. “On these fingers grows a sort of fine dust, called pollen, and unless this falls down from the top of the corn stalk, and rests on the silk which grows out from the ear, there would be no more corn seed. Or, if corn seed, or kernels, did form on the ear, they would be lifeless, and when planted next year no corn would grow from them. The pollen dust and the silk must mingle together to make perfect ears of corn, so don’t pull off the silk, even if you do want to make it into hair for your doll.”
Mab promised she would not, though she loved the feel of the soft corn silk. Then she and Hal noticed where some of the light yellow pollen had already been blown by the wind down on the silk to help make the perfect ear of corn.
As the children walked along through the garden with Daddy Blake they heard voices over the fence where Mr. Porter lived. Then they heard Sammie calling:
“Oh, Daddy! Look what I got! It’s a big green bug, an’ Roly-Poly is barkin’ at him! Come quick!”
“I hope Roly-Poly isn’t making any more trouble as he did with the fly paper,” said Mr. Blake as he walked toward the fence.
“What’s the matter, Mr. Porter?” asked Mr. Blake, looking over the fence where Sammie’s father was working in his garden. “Has our little poodle dog been scratching up your plants?”
“Oh, no. Roly is very good. He seems to know we want the thing’s in our gardens to grow, and he only walks carefully between the rows, and doesn’t scratch a bit,” answered the neighbor.
“What is he barking at now?” asked Mab, for the little poodle dog had crawled under the fence and had gone next door, as he often did. He was standing near red-haired Sammie now.
“He’s barkin’ at a big, green bug,” said the little boy.
“A green bug; eh?” spoke Mr. Porter. “Maybe we’d better see what it is,” he added, speaking to Daddy Blake.
“I rather think we had. There are so many bugs, worms and other things trying to spoil our gardens, that we must not let any of them get away.”
“He’s a awful big bug, almost as long as Roly’s tail,” called Sammie from where he stood near a tomato plant.
“Well, Roly’s tail isn’t very big,” laughed Daddy Blake. “But a bug or worm of that size could eat a lot of plant leaves.”