Husking Corn with Dad

Husking corn by hand provided opportunities for father and son to bond


| September 2012



Father And Son Working On Machinery

Fathers and sons build strong bonds working together on the farm.

Photo courtesy the Library of Congress

The headline of “First Things” in the May 2012 issue of Farm Collector (All I Really Need to Know I Learned While Husking Corn) sure got me reminiscing about the days when most everyone picked corn by hand.

I was born in southwest Iowa on Groundhog Day 1931. According to my dad, 1937 was the first year after I was born that they had a good corn crop. I was considered tall for my age, so my dad decided that I could start helping pick corn. He assigned me to the first row of corn next to the wagon. He’d pick the next two rows and watch for those ears I missed. And that was my position every year until I was about 13 years old.

Dad always insisted that we pick three rows while crossing a field, as that left more stocks standing for winter cattle feed, especially if we had a lot of snow. So what did I learn during those years while picking the first row of corn next to the wagon? A lot!

My dad was 43 years older than me, so I had a vast time frame to explore. I found out at what age he began to pick corn, at what age he first drove a team of horses pulling a wagon, and whether he was nervous or scared. Whether he ever rode horseback and had a saddle. How did the team of horses pulling the buggy find their way back home in the dark or during a snowstorm? How fast did he figure a good team of horses pulling a buggy could go? And did he ever race with his neighbors? And win? How many bushels of corn did he ever pick in one day? In one season? Dad had three brothers who farmed close by: two older, one younger. Did they pick corn as fast or faster than he did? What were the earliest and latest that he ever finished picking corn in a given year? Did the schools give corn-picking vacation when he was a boy? Did he pick with a peg or a hook when he began picking? When did he get a scoop board or his first corn elevator?

How old was he before he began smoking in public? His first car was a 1919 Buick; who taught him how to drive? Was he scared? Did he drive it very fast and race with some neighbor? Did he think it was a big improvement over a team and buggy? Before they got electric lights, did he have any trouble getting dressed in the dark? Finding socks that matched, and shoes?

Wood and corncobs were the main fuel used to heat the house. Did he ever run out of wood or cobs before winter ended? What would he do if they did? Did he always get enough hay and other feed put up for cattle, horses and hogs before winter set in?