Picking Corn

Diagram of a peg for corn picking.

After a frost in the fall, corn was ripe and dry enough for picking. Farmers picked corn by hand, using a curved husking knife or a peg strapped to the palm of a heavy glove. The person walked down each row, picking corn from stalks on the right and left, twisting each ear from the stalk and tossing it into a wagon pulled by horses. Stalk after stalk, row after row. The picker threw the corn against a board — called a “bang board” — you would “bang” the ears into the board and they would fall into the wagon. It was hard, tiring work.

 

 

A farmer picks corn next to a wagon with a “bang board.”

“You had a peg on your hand, and you’d open the shucks and pull the ear out and throw it in the wagon. The team [of horses] learned to walk slow. And you’d just go down through the field picking corn.” — Kenneth Jackson

When the wagon was full, the farmer drove the horses to the corncribA building of narrow boards about an inch apart where corn (still on the cob) was put to dry. Farmer shelled the corn (removed it from the cob) for livestock feed. Shelling corn was done by a hand-turned machine and later by a power corn sheller, which had sharp wheels to separate the kernels from the cob.

where the corn was scooped from the wagon into a corn crib — a building of narrow boards about an inch apart. The space between the boards allowed air to circulate and dried the corn. After the corn had dried in the crib, farmers hired corn shellers. At first, shelling corn was done by a hand-turned machine. Later a corn sheller used a power machine with sharp wheels to separate the kernels from the cob. Shelled corn was sold as a cash crop or used for animal feed. Leftover corn cobs were stored in a cob house to be burned in the kitchen stove for heat and cooking fuel.

Written by Claudia Reinhardt.

 

Corn shellers of the 1920s were giant machines. Today combines usually shell the corn as it is harvested.