The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

The Wisdom Of Barnyard Bruke: Farmers of Old Had to use a Lot of "Elbow Grease"

Greetings to all in Western Illinois. May the full harvest moon of this past Tuesday, October 14, bring a smile to your face and a cheer to your heart.

Many years ago, all too soon, we would use this light from the bright moonshine to extend the days of harvest.

Custom was in those days to have your morning chores all done, cows milked, hogs fed, poultry tended to, horses curried good an harnessed, and breakfast out of the way before daylight.

At the crack of dawn, just as you could see, you was expected to start husking corn.

If'n you were lucky, and very good, you might be able to harvest perhaps 100 bushels of corn per man per day and hand scoop it off the scoop board into the crib.

On top of that you had chores to do yet in the evening.

Those were the days of 36 inch high wagons with bang boards on one side. The far right side of the box was built up perhaps 4 or 5 feet.

You laid in maybe a dozen pairs of double-thumbed cotton-flannel husking gloves. Double-thumbed so you could turn them over when one thumb wore out and a dozen pairs because you would wear out both sides of many gloves before the season was over.

The ears were rough and the plants themselves were a standing obstacle of serrate edges which tore up gloves, wore out jackets and overalls, and rendered exposed wrists raw and even bleeding.

Great quantities of livestock salve was used on wrists and hands each noon and night to keep your hands from cracking and bleeding.

The fact that you started husking at the beginning of daylight meant frost was yet on the plants to add to the discomfort and when it rained or snowed, the gloves became a soggy mess.

Husking pegs were an important tool. They came in various configurations to fit each individuals fancy. As an average, the hook was maybe one-half inch long and about as wide.

In the operation, the husker would grab the ear of corn in the left hand while using the right-hand to quickly rake the hook across the husks, pulling them away from one side of the ear.

Using the left hand, he pulled them off the other side, snapping the ear off at the shank and heaving it without lookin' at the bang board where it hit and fell into the wagon.

Before one ear hit, another was on its way and the picker was eyein' the next.

His work was methodical on two rows, and he spoke to the horses to keep them even with him. They soon learned to work together at an equal pace.

Before harvest was complete, some stalks were no longer standin'. Wind had put many ears on the ground, and many stalks were laid over.

Then it was a matter of pickin' and steppin' over stalks. You had to lean down to ground level and push aside stalks.

Well, maybe I can finish this hand husking and old fashion harvest some other time. I think you can see - "Farmers of old, had to use a lot of "elbow grease'" (hard work).

Hopefully, this little dissertation has sparked your interest in the hand husking contest comin' up.

You had better take some time off with the children and grandchildren and show them some old fashioned excitement, right here in our own little communities.

I'd be plum proud and pleased to see you all there!

Catch ya later,
Barnyard Bruke