The neighbors said it couldn’t be done. Sod Corn Jones said it could.
The Kansas sod was tough—tougher than anything the early settlers had ever seen before, thanks to the thick root system of the tallgrass prairie. Many an ox team wore itself out dragging a crude plow through the ground, and many a tired homesteader hired a professional sodbuster—if he could afford to. It took the oxen a day to break maybe an acre, if they were lucky.
But the worst part was that the sod was still rough at first. Nothing could grow on it but squash, pumpkins, and the like. At least, that was what the knowing ones said.
Sod Corn Jones looked at the virgin soil with its lush growth of grass and thought otherwise. He knew the prairie must be fertile enough for other crops, fertile enough to take a dedicated settler past bare subsistence farming. Why not try his hand at something other than squash? Why not try corn?
Corn! The neighbors laughed outright. Everyone knew that Kansas sod was too tough for corn, at least at first. Start with pumpkins, and keep plowing every spring, and then maybe in a few years they could consider corn.
But it has been said that virgin prairie is virgin only once. Corn thrives only on a nutrient-rich soil, and Sod Corn Jones believed he had found just that. If the rains fell, the harvest would be staggering. Why, it might even be a hundred bushels to the acre!
So regardless of the snickers and scoffs of the neighbors, Sod Corn Jones took his ax and hacked his rows into the sod. Carefully he dropped the precious kernels of seed corn into the ground and packed the soil down over them. Seed was hard to come by back then. If the experiment failed, Jones would have a hard time coming up with something to plant next year, let alone something to feed his family.
Days passed, and then one morning, miracle of miracles! Tender green blades forcing their way up through the sod along the ax slits! Steadily they grew, first putting out leaves, then growing more stem, then putting out more leaves. Fortunately, Sod Corn Jones lived in eastern Kansas, and the rains fell on schedule. The corn continued to grow and thrive, much to the astonishment of the wise neighbors.
Sod Corn Jones’s estimate of a hundred bushels per acre was not far from the actual yield. He had seen a vision, worked to bring it to pass, and fought against the tide of opinion. And he had prevailed.
Was there really a man whom the neighbors called Sod Corn Jones? It is doubtful. The plucky farmer seems to be just another half-forgotten folktale of the past, buried in a particularly dusty corner of the legends of Kansas. But to the early settlers, the story may have provided a much-needed source of encouragement, a beacon light in the darkness of their struggles with nature.
And so, Sod Corn Jones really did prevail.