Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Ask for ‘pegs’ or ‘hooks’; both are difficult to find

I accept Ol’ Clark’s challenge: Shucking, or "husking," hooks might still be available at big, old hardware stores here in America’s Corn Belt. Blacksmith shops serving Amish communities also stock the metal hooks on a "half glove."

However, shucking pegs are what catch the eye of collectors. No two are the same because each one was whittled out of a stick of wood or forged out of metal by the person who shucked his own corn crop with it.

I collect shucking pegs because I treasure the individual’s hand carving on most pegs. I’m fascinated by these tools our forefathers whittled, carved or hammered out of various materials - usually a hard wood, an animal horn or a very large nail. Each peg was made to last and to feel comfortable in one hand of the person who used it. My display of more than 30 shucking pegs has no two the same. I’m guessing that each was carried in a coat pocket and slipped over the right hand of the farmer who proudly gathered his mature corn crop.

Walnut wood and scrap leather made many of the shucking pegs in my collection. It’s likely that several others were made quickly. When a peg was lost, it could be replaced at lunchtime with a sharp pocketknife, some scrap wood and a bit of old rubber boot or shoe leather. Several of mine suggest just that sort of quick replacement.

Many were just the opposite - too carefully made to take to the cornfield!

To pick dry corn from standing stalks, up to 20 feet tall, a farmer needs his team and wagon; the wagon needs one tall side that acts as a "bang board" so no ears fly out of reach because of a farmer’s hefty throw. He directs the team by voice to move the wagon along as needed.

Nature turns dry ear corn "top-side down." Then shucks protect the grain until the farmer grabs the naked ear, breaks it off the stalk and flings it into the wagon. Some "huskers" vie to see who can harvest a field with the least loss of time and the greatest amount of corn shucked. It’s an old competition that hasn’t gone out of style! People drive hundreds of miles to watch these performances.

Long ago, farmers made these simple pegs to hasten the blustery winter farm chore; today, some vie to determine "best shucker of dry, cut corn in the field or in the shock." Of course, modern equipment can shuck corn, shell it and store it in the time it takes to bat an eye, but the old way draws lookers for hundreds of miles to experience a winter weekend - to relive a segment of their ancestors’ way of life. Final events in national corn-shucking contests have frequently been held in fields near Marshall, west of Columbia and north of Interstate 70.

Long ago, I owned a book titled "Battle of the Bang Boards" (author and publisher unknown).

My dad’s shucking peg is lost in my collection.


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