Never in her life had Kate worked harder than she did that fall; but she retained her splendid health. Everything was sheltered and housed, their implements under cover, their stock in good condition, their store-room filled, and their fruits and vegetables buried in hills and long rows in the garden. Adam had a first wheat premium at the County Fair and a second on corn, concerning which he felt abused. He thought his corn scored the highest number of points, but that the award was given another man because of Adam’s having had first on wheat. In her heart Kate agreed with him; but she tried to satisfy him with the blue ribbon on wheat and keep him interested sufficiently to try for the first on corn the coming year. She began making suggestions for the possible improvement of his corn. Adam was not easily propitiated.
“Mother,” he said, “you know as well as you know you’re alive, that if I had failed on wheat, or had second, I would have been given first on my corn; my corn was the best in every way, but they thought I would swell up and burst if I had two blue ribbons. That was what ailed the judges. What encouragement is that to try again? I might grow even finer corn in the coming year than I did this, and be given no award at all, because I had two this year. It would amount to exactly the same thing.”
“We’ll get some more books, and see if we can study up any new wrinkles, this winter,” said Kate. “Now cheer up, and go tell Milly about it. Maybe she can console you, if I can’t.”
“Nothing but justice will console me,” said Adam. “I’m not complaining about losing the prize; I’m fighting mad because my corn, my beautiful corn, that grew and grew, and held its head so high, and waved its banners of triumph to me with every breeze, didn’t get its fair show. What encouragement is there for it to try better the coming year? The crows might as well have had it, or the cutworms; while all my work is for nothing.”
“You’re making a big mistake,” said Kate. “If your corn was the finest, it was, and the judges knew it, and you know it, and very likely the man who has the first prize, knows it. You have a clean conscience, and you know what you know. They surely can’t feel right about it, or enjoy what they know. You have had the experience, you have the corn for seed; with these things to back you, clear a small strip of new land beside the woods this winter, and try what that will do for you.”
Adam looked at her with wide eyes. “By jing, Mother, you are a dandy!” he said. “You just bet I’ll try that next year, but don’t you tell a soul; there are more than you who will let a strip be cleared, in an effort to grow blue ribbon corn. How did you come to think of it?”
“Your saying all your work had been for nothing, made me think of it,” she answered. “Let them give another man the prize, when they know your corn is the best. It’s their way of keeping a larger number of people interested and avoiding the appearance of partiality; this contest was too close; next year, you grow such corn, that the corn will force the decision in spite of the judges. Do you see?”