Family traditions come wrapped up in many packages. This one has its roots in a sporting event in 1941. It has come down through the years and has touched several lives in our community along the way.
The farm technology of 1941 looked much different from that of today. It included workhorses pulling wagons. The corn wagons came equipped with a bang board mounted on one side. Bang boards served to “catch” corn ears that were tossed by hand into the wagon. Corn ricocheted from the board and fell into the wagon bed below. The person picking corn most often used a hook strapped to his hand. The hook dragged across the husks loosening them up, exposing the ear. With a snap on the stem end of the cob, the ear was free to be tossed into the wagon. Things have certainly changed from the old days.
In 1941, my husband’s dad joined in a county-wide contest…a corn husking contest. The object of the competition was to pick as much weight in corn during a fixed time period as the picker could. Besides that, the corn had to be kept as clean and free of husks as possible. Penalties discouraged the excess weight due to attached corn husks. This fun sport ran deep in the veins of many young men from the farms.
With WWII, advances in technology affected even the farmer. Tractors and other machines were developed to add speed to the planting, harvesting on other jobs on the farm. The one-row corn picker came on the scene. Soon farmers did not need to husk corn by hand. Hand corn husking contests dwindled and disappeared.
Yet in the 1980s, my husband’s dad discovered that a revival in corn husking had emerged. He wanted to be a part of it. He went to observe one contest and joined in the fray. His corn husking days had been resurrected! What fun he had that day. Pleasant memories of the old days resurfaced and refreshed him. He shared his joy with family and friends in his renewed love of hand corn husking.
My father-in-law took time to teach us how to husk corn. With his encouragement we competed, too. My husband and I took our young family to some of the contests. Just last year, my own young grandchildren got a chance to learn and be a part of this family sport. This is one special way we pass on traditions here on Heritage Farm.
Photo Credit: Bretta Grabau