Childhood ended when he was in the seventh grade. That fall, his dad came to him and said he’d be picking corn instead of going to school. For six weeks, chores and breakfast were out of the way by dawn so he and his brothers could be in the field at first light. The crew took a break for lunch at midday, returning to the corn until daylight faded. Head home, haul in corn, do chores, dinner at nearly 8. Then mom cleared the table and produced a sheaf of homework assignments she’d picked up at school.
A couple years later, the Iowa farm boy – by then a seasoned picker – read an article in the big city daily newspaper about a national cornhusking contest. The best huskers in the world competing against each other! “Dad,” he said, “they hold these picking contests all over the U.S. Let’s go to one and see how fast they pick corn!” The farmer was unmoved. “We’ve got corn to pick here,” he said, and that was that.
The boy picked corn that fall and for a few more. He found his way to college; graduated, started a career, married, raised a family. Decades passed. Early this fall, he entered a state cornhusking contest, competing in the men’s 75-and-older division – and surprised himself by taking first place. Nearly 75 years after reading an article in the newspaper about the national cornhusking contest, he’d finally be going to one – as a state qualifier.
The national contest was held on a bright October morning. The man, now in his 80s, lumbered to the stand of corn he was assigned to pick. Wedged between a wall of corn and a wagon drawn by a pair of mules, he set to work. He talked to himself as he worked the row, cursing corn so green that the husks were all but impossible to remove. “Dad would never have picked this,” he muttered. Watching from nearby, his daughter tried to temper his intensity. “Breathe,” she called out. “Remember to breathe!”
In 10 minutes, the timer sounded. The man finished in the top five, satisfying a personal goal. “You know, I’ve dreamed of this for 70 years,” he said. “Don’t ever give up on your dreams!” And with that, an Iowa farm boy’s irrepressible grin stretched across his face. “The best huskers in the world!” FC