The Last Days of Hand Cornhusking
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Contestants are divided into different categories. The men's open class provides the stiffest competition. The men also have two older classes, 65 to 74 bracket and the 75 and older group. The women compete in the women's open class, and both men and women compete in the under 20 class.
To the uninitiated, the starting method can seem odd, but after awhile the blast seems natural. As the contestants line up at the start of their row of corn a shotgun is fired. The first blast, aimed out into the seemingly endless cornfield, serves as the one minute warning shot. Contestants grasp their first ears of corn and, with the next shot, they are off and husking.
Most huskers use a special metal hook that quickly tears away the husk, exposing the ear, which is then tossed into a nearby horse drawn wagon.
Ask any contestant what his or her main strategy is and that cornhusker will say it's simply to 'give it all I got.'
Supporters and families follow contestants and judges down the row. When the heat is over, they inspect one another's loads, trying to second-guess the scales. Finally, the loads are weighed and scored and an official marks down the score.
Despite record turnout of contestants in the past, the tournament is losing the prestige it once had. Noticeably absent are the middle-aged men and women and those mostly too young to remember the way it used to be.
In some ways, the tournament is a testament to a part of American agricultural history, but is unlike the glassed-in displays you see in roadside stops in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and elsewhere, proclaiming the past agricultural achievements of the Midwest. It is a testament because these cornhuskers are the people who made the history; these are the people who were willing to work hard but who frankly don't miss it now that it is gone.
The 2001 Minnesota State and National Comhusking contest will be held Oct. 20-21, at the Gilfillan Farm, located between Morgan and Redwood Falls, Minn., and is sponsored in part by the 'Friends of Gilfillan.' There will also be displays, crafts, food and, of course, hand cornhusking. The Prairie Land Flywheelers Two Cylinder Club will sponsor a display of antique tractors and Gilfillan Farm's agricultural heritage displays will be available for viewing as well.
Lowell Blick and Dena Bickhardt are members of Friends of Gilfillan.
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