Cultivating corn, one row at a time

Recalling the days of cultivating corn one row at a time using a 1-row cultivator


| August 2010



DG1

An International Harvester No. 4 cultivator from the early 1920s.

Decades ago, responsibility for cultivating corn one row at a time came early in a farm boy’s life. My brother, Dudley, and I were 10 or so when we first took the field with Tom and Mary, Dad’s team of aging plodders, who weren’t likely to bolt with us and plow up a quarter mile of corn in a circle.

Even after Dad got a 2-row cultivator attached to our John Deere tractor I still took a turn rattling down the bumpy lane with a high, iron-wheeled rig. Trailing in the dust were the harness reins that were tied in a knot behind my back.

I thought cultivating was one of the nicer farm jobs. Often the sun was shining as the metal wheels clanked and grated over small stones in the road leading to the field gate. Tom and Mary were usually in a good mood. Towing a 1-row cultivator was effortless compared to other heavy chores that could leave festering sores under the horse collars. I rode with my legs dangling down from the iron seat. In the field, I’d put my feet in metal stirrups that, along with the curved oak handles, helped guide the two sets of polished steel shovels that turned the earth.

In a good year, the corn was dark green and becoming sturdy on small, finger-sized stalks. The harrowing had been done, breaking up clods of dirt and lightly rolling down just enough soil to discourage the tiny emerging weeds.

Now the weeds that survived the harrowing were growing fast. It was fun to press down with feet and hands on the shovel bars and watch the blades send a cascade of damp loam over the weeds. Looking backward down the row, the deep green of the corn shone brightly against the dusky earth.

Price of distraction