The Corn Shock Tier
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First-person account of cutting corn by hand in early 1900sThe following account was hand-written in a loose-leaf notebook sometime during the 1970s by Frances Steele, then in his seventies. Frances grew up on a farm in South Beaver Township, Beaver County, Pa. My late cousin, Peg Townsend, who lived in the house Mr. Steele’s grandparents built in 1908 after their log cabin burned, copied some of the pages for me. The account is almost exactly as written by Mr. Steele, with a word added here and there for clarity, and while it doesn’t mention the use of a shock tier, it explains how corn was cut by hand.
“My father and I would take eight rows at a time. I cut four rows and he cut four. He used a regular corn cutter and I used a sickle, which I liked better. We used a wooden horse to lean the corn together between the fourth and fifth row. The horse was a pole about three inches in diameter at the big end and 12 feet long. It was about two inches at the small end. It had two broomsticks for legs at the big end and the small end rested on the ground. And one and a half foot from the large end a hole the size of a broomstick or handle was drilled and a broomstick inserted. This is what the corn was leaned on to start the shock. And when we had cut a space eight rows square, my father would tie the shock. With either rye straw for a band, or binder twine, and as soon as it was tied, I would pull out the broom stick and pull the horse ahead and we would start a new shock. We mostly hauled the shocks in (onto) the barn floor and husked on rainy days or in the evening by lantern light. Major, my dog, would always be around. He loved to eat corn, and there would be mice in the field under the shocks when we hauled them in. And I saw him have a front foot on a mouse holding it down while he killed another one, but (he) never ate one. One man is supposed to cut 100 shocks a day. We never cut that many, and we did not lose any time.”FC
Sam Moore grew up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. He now lives in Salem, Ohio, and collects antique tractors, implements and related items. Contact Sam by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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