A chirping cuckoo means a harvest time

A chirping cuckoo means a harvest time

Every year during the summer, there is a special day out of the (Chinese) 24 solar terms – “Grain in ear”. It means that’s the time for farmers in the north provinces to harvest wheat, and it’s also the time for farmers in the south provinces to sow grains.

As a boy growing up in the north west of China, I always have so many memories in my mind that every year when the cuckoo is chirping, something special will remind me of many things that have already been carved in my head, it is just like some magic catalyst which will release something to recall people to the early lives of themselves.
When I was learning in the middle school and high school in my hometown. Every year at this time, people would be busy collecting the mature wheat, it always took 2 weeks to finish the collecting of wheat and the sowing of corn.

As we know, it is the summer, so working in the farmland is always a hard job. The skin of people always get red or hurt by the sunshine, but they rarely have a break for just one day, every day they are working and working.
It is boring to work in the hot farmland for long hours such as 8 or 12 hours. But the chirping of a cuckoo always gives people some topics to talk about or some inspirations to continue their job.
Why is the chirping of a cuckoo but not any other birds such as a pigeon or a sparrow. It is because of the voice of the cuckoo.
There are 3 types of cuckoo, two of them are the “3 words cuckoo” and “4 words cuckoo”, it means that there are 3 or 4 words in a chirping of this bird. The one we used to talk about and going to introduce in this article is the “4 words cuckoo”. Because the chirping voice of the “4 words cuckoo” is similar to the Chinese voice of human beings, just like “being mature, keep harvesting”. So when the bird is singing in the farmland, parents always told their children when they were complaining about the hot day – “Listen, my child, the cuckoo is telling us, as the wheat goes mature, just keep harvesting”. Of course, when a bird is giving you some advice, whoever will refuse that, just like the instruction from the god. Then people became energetic again, and after a short break, the whole family continued to work hard.
After enrolling into the university or a high school, we began to realise that the sound of a cuckoo is just a common bird chirping but not the message from the god. But nothing went worse, I mean every time when we go back home or become adult and do the same job in the farmland with our parents, we never challenge our parents that the story is false, because the children know that it is just the way their parents use to teach them to work hard, to become a diligent person.
It seems that the story should be over. But i tried to search the folktale of the “4 word cuckoo chirping”, and i learned a story which touched me.
It’s said that hundreds of years ago, there was an old man who lived in the mountains of SHANNXi province, where I was born, and where the favor foods of most people are made from wheat flour.
Like most people living with him, the old man and their people did not know exactly which day to collect wheat. If it is too early, you would get wheat which are not totally mature and the flour from those wheat would not be so good, and if it is too late, a large part of the wheat seeds would drop from wheatear and be lost in the land. So it was really a problem for the famers even if they had been planting wheat for many years.
To solve the problem of their man, this poor and old man observed and checked, then he found that the best way is to collect wheat as soon as they get mature.
So when it is the harvest time for wheat, he would run around all the mountains and shouted to the farmers “Collect the wheat as it goes mature, do not wait for all to become mature”. But, sadly, no one believed what he said, and he was so worried that he kept running and shouting to all other farmers without any rest.
Several days later, the poor man was so tired and thirst that there was blood bleeding from his mouth and throat, but he kept trying to persuade people to collect wheat under his suggestion. Some people were moved by him and tried to do as what he suggested and found they could get more wheat than the year before.
More and more people began to walk to the farmland for harvest when he walked by and shouted with his last strength.

Finally, the old man died. And there was another new kind of bird appeared which chirp the same voice as the man “Collect the wheat as it goes mature… “. People said that it was not a bird but the old and kind man, who chose to convert himself into a bird, and then he could fly quickly and notify the farmers to collect wheat as soon as possible when it is the right time.
“Look, the bird break is red, it is him, still bleeding”, people often talked about the bird this way.
I have not been doing the harvest job for many years after graduation. But every year at the same time, when the cuckoo is chirping, I will remember my brother, my parents and all the people in my home town, who are in another place, but are well prepared or already busy with the harvest of grains. They work hard, take every seed seriously, never let one seed to be lost.

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