Then Versus Now

Melissa Sandfort

Each fall, we cruise past fields where combines are busy harvesting crops, averaging 200 bushels per acre at 6 mph with a 6- or 12-row corn head. We have augers and grain bins and yield monitors and so many numbers our computers, not our notepads, are full to the brim. Now let’s rewind about 80 years.

I have to preface this week’s walk by providing you with some background. My grandfather, now 88, has an entire semi trailer full of antiques behind his shop. He has purposefully and meticulously cleaned each and every piece and proudly displays them for anyone interested in learning a bit more about “how things used to be” on the farm. I myself find this very interesting.

So this past weekend, I held a little piece of farming history in my hand (literally) and wanted to share it with you. We came across a palm corn husking hook, which sparked my interest, so I converted grandpa into a hand model for the morning. As you can tell, these are hands that have seen a bit of hard work.

You see, back in the 1930s, you would hold the corn shank in your left hand and rake the hook across the husks, break the ear loose from the shank, and toss each ear into a wagon. Corn cobs would then go in the corn crib to dry. The average field size was 80 acres (or a quarter at 160 acres). If you were fast, you could pick 100 bushels a day…taking you about 75 days to harvest that 80-acre field. The job required a lot of hand labor and a simple year’s harvest would take the entire fall and winter.

Now go sit in your big green air-conditioned combine, turn on your satellite radio, and smile because that was then.

Until our next history lesson…

Agricultural Anthropology

Comments 4

  1. Amazing! Ask and you shall receive! The miracle of the internet!

    I adapting one of our blog posts – “Pluck and Promise” (from http://blog.yourgardenshow.com/pluck-and-promise/) for another venue.

    The blog itself is about the photo project by Roy Stryker ( historian, FSA) as farming was being transformed in the 1930’s – and I needed a picture of a palm husking hook to go along with a photo (by John Vachon) of a husker using one.

    Thank you to your grandfather – and to you for this nice story.

  2. Amazing! Ask and you shall receive! The miracle of the internet!

    I adapting one of our blog posts – “Pluck and Promise” (from http://blog.yourgardenshow.com/pluck-and-promise/) for another venue.

    The blog itself is about the photo project by Roy Stryker ( historian, FSA) as farming was being transformed in the 1930’s – and I needed a picture of a palm husking hook to go along with a photo (by John Vachon) of a husker using one.

    Thank you to your grandfather – and to you for this nice story.

Comments are closed.