Letters – What Did the Hook on the Beet Harvesting Knife Do?

The article on the sugar beet and dry bean harvest in the January 2009 issue (“High Plains Heritage”) was very informative and interesting. However, I still have a question concerning the harvest. The boy in the picture (page 23) is holding the knife that was used to cut off the beet tops, but what is the purpose of the hook that is on the knife?

Paul A. Fossler
10547 W. Henry Rd.
Polo, IL 61064
(815) 946-3781

Editor’s note: Good question, Paul. Allan Dragseth of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Museum explains that the prong on the end of the knife was used to spike the beet. That allowed a worker to swing up the beet rather than bend over to get it, reducing back strain. The knife blade was used to cut off the top. Allan notes that beet knives are still produced by Ontario Knife Co., Franklinville, N.Y.

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