Corn Shucking Contest

If you're in a corn shucking competition, aim for "an ear in the air all the time."

| December 2002

  • corn shucking - corn wagon
    This vintage corn wagon has a "scoop board" that drops down on the rear end for the farmer to stand on while unloading. The iron rods serve as ground supports.
    Farm Collector Magazine Staff
  • corn shucking - Lester Lohman
    Lester Lohman of Atchison in the thick of competition.
    Farm Collector Magazine Staff
  • corn shucking - Donna Fairbanks
    Donna Fairbanks of Oskaloosa, KS shows her corn shucking form.
    Farm Collector Magazine Staff
  • corn shucking - weighing the corn
    Two young volunteers help Lee Liechti weigh a contestant's load.
    Farm Collector Magazine Staff
  • corn shucking - trailing the Belgians
    A team of Belgian draft horses pulls the corn wagon while Sister Bridget Dickason works along a row in the Atchison County, KS corn shucking contest. Behind her, county extension agent Ray Ladd times her run.
    Photo: Farm Collector Magazine Staff
  • corn shucking - Donna Fairbanks' hands at work
    Donna Fairbanks' hands. She is a one-time national women's champion.
    Farm Collector Magazine Staff
  • corn shucking - the tally sheet
    The tally sheet.
    Farm Collector Magazine Staff

  • corn shucking - corn wagon
  • corn shucking - Lester Lohman
  • corn shucking - Donna Fairbanks
  • corn shucking - weighing the corn
  • corn shucking - trailing the Belgians
  • corn shucking - Donna Fairbanks' hands at work
  • corn shucking - the tally sheet

Often times, the simplest combinations are the best. Such was the case at this year's corn shucking contest near the community of Good Intent in Atchison County, Kan.

A great autumn day, a field of dried corn still on the stalks, and a crowd of enthusiastic shuckers combined to create a memorable old-time farm event. Never mind that Mother Nature had delivered a drought crop of short ears — which cut into the competitors' tallies. The gathering was more about fun than about winning.

Tools of the trade, according to Charlie Wagner of Atchison, who helps organize this annual event, are thumb hooks and palm hooks (Charlie favors the thumb style), and a strong arm.

Three vintage corn wagons pulled by teams of Belgian draft horses were equipped with 'bang boards,' against which an ear of corn often banged before it dropped into a wagon — like a bank shot in basketball.



Charlie explained corn wagons are built to particular dimensions so they hold precisely one bushel for every inch. Standard height is 26 inches, which yields 26 bushels of corn. However, by adding one extra board around the top, the farmer could achieve a 30-bushel capacity. Two wagonloads a day was about anyone could manage in the old days, Charlie recalled; farmers would work on a single field all winter long.

The Atchison County event was held on a farm owned by Mike Slattery and farmed by Henry Scherer, who helped out by driving his John Deere 50 over the shucked stalks, so contestants had easier walking. But Henry chose not to compete; he claimed he preferred to harvest corn 'six rows at a time, sitting in a cab.'