Monday, October 4, 2010

The Corn Shucking Champion (262)

In 1930 my father Lawrence C. Lahrman at the mature age of 40 won the Tippecanoe County Corn Shucking contest. Done in those days all by hand, not as a sport but a way of life, the way corn was harvested in those days, the old fashioned way one ear at a time, by hand. Well saturday afternoon I relived that era for a short time. I walked along side the wagon pulled by horses at the State Park with the Historical Farm here in Lafayette, and I tossed long large ears of open pollinated corn into the wagon. I kidded the driver of the wagon to let me know if the ears were coming too fast and bouncing from the bang boards and falling into the wagon that I would "slow up". I made sure he knew that the son of the 1930 corn shucking contest was on site tossing this corn, along with a couple high school age girls who by the way were staying right with me. I tell you right now I am no Lawrence Lahrman, when it comes to shucking corn. I break them over my hand which in a days time would probably just about do ones hand "in", for sure. My dad used a metal hook rivited to a piece of leather that straped around the base of his hand. It could rip the shank off the ear of corn and at the same time the shucks that were attached also. He showed me a couple times how to use it but to be honest I really did not want to know how to use it. Mechanical corn pickers had been invented and were become numerous and I knew it was a era, a trade that was to be short lived, so I just know this for sure, it was interesting to watch him use the hook and to see the ease and the confidence he had as he grabbed an ear of corn made one pass across it with the hand with the hook attached and then tossed the ear into the air toward the wagon and immediately grabbing the next ear. Maybe even ripping it with his hook and sending it airborne toward the wagon before the first one had completely hit the bank boards and fallen into the wagon. I got to see all of that and I am glad I did and glad I was asked to help out and to see how talented and hard working a man I had for a father.

It was about 57 years ago that my dad purchased a used one row corn picker. And I was honored and elated to hear him say you know I really don't like running these things would you want to stay home from school and do that for asking a 15 year old if he wanted to skip school for 10 days? Man I jumped at that opportunity for sure. I loved it and did it for about 3 years I think before graduating from school and joining the Marines. But back to hand shucking, before we could start harvesting the corn in a field with that picker we had to shuck 3 rows of corn around the field, and make a few 3 row cuts through the field also. Reason being was that the tractor and picker straddled or knocked down three rows of corn and then picked the 4th row.
So Dad and I would need to shuck out by hand the first three rows...The operation went like this....Dad would take two rows and I would take the third row. His abilities with his hook being what it was and I breaking the corn over my hand to dislocate the ear he would start to pull away from me and I would fall behind. Then I would be surprised when all of a sudden maybe 15 of my stalks had no ears to harvest. Dad had reached over and was harvesting all 3 rows to allow me to "catch up" so I would again be up and abreast of where he was shucking....I would fall behind again and the same would happen. He was totally amazing in his ability to harvest corn by hand. And to top it off he "loved it", he told me many times that his favorite time of year was 'corn shucking time'....Can you imagine getting up in the dark doing the chores feeding your livestock, eating breakfast and then taking a team of horses and going into the corn field to harvest and try and get a wagon load by noon...going in scooping it off into the crib eating lunch and going back into the field all afternoon to get the second load, scooping it off, doing chores, eating dinner and falling into bed?????? and loving it????????

Well I believe it, he did love it, and the corn shucking contest did become huge events in each county, farmers would come with their teams of horses and wagons and they would compete for a specified period of time and then the corn was weighed and a winner was declared. In 1930 at the age of 40 my dad was that winner in this county. And he proceeded in a week or so to Elwood Indiana for the Indiana State Corn shucking contest....In that contest he did place 10th....His name appears so in that ranking in a book titled "The battle of the Bangboards" I have a copy, it is a good history of these contest from the 20''s and 30's and then it all ended about 1941 with the world war and then mechanical pickers...But these state winners also went on to compete in National contest usually held in Iowa or Illinois. These event pulled thousands of spectators..they were huge all day events and the forerunner of todays "farm progress shows".....with crowds almost as large as today's yearly events.

Ok the picture to the right was taken at Elwood the day my dad competed there and placed 10th in the State contest. He was standing by a new mechanical picker of that day, wishing I suppose....the large picture above is of my Dad's family...Dad is the handsome dude sitting staddle the chair on the left...His dad on the right holding the book and his brother Albert standing in back...his sisters and mother also...As I look at the picture I kind of see a little of Danny Moore in my Dad...just a fleeting glimpse but I see it....The youngest sister beside him I see my granddaughter Monica Cole....again just a fleeting glimpse but it is is just amazing how genes stay around through the generations...Maybe others will see similarities from their own families...Maybe my face book friend Thomas Lahrman will see something from his great grandfather Albert Lahrman seen in this pic....

OK I have probably bored you long enough here, but just in case you want to read a story I submitted and had printed to Reminise Magazine a few years back about my Dad and Shucking corn here is how to get to it on this the upper left corner you will see a search box by the orange B....just type in Bang Boards and it will come up below this story....try it...I just know a couple of you will....
Oh one more thing if you click on the title above will take you to a great site about old time corn shucking contest and other stuff.

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