August 19th……….”ONCE ALL THAT FIELD CORN WAS HARVESTED AND IN THE WIRE-MESH CORN CRIBS ON YOUR FARM, HOW DID YOUR DAD GET ALL THE KERNELS OF CORN OFF OF THE COBS FOR THE ANIMALS TO EAT”??
On that late October morn of 1962, there was only one “General” in command of his small army that day on our farm, but I sure did see A LOT of Colonels around………well, o.k…….. I’ll reword that to kernels …..of corn, that is!!! 😉 The “General” I mentioned earlier was actually our “general contractor/business owner”, Leroy Aske.
What may have seemed archaic in comparison to today’s high tech corn harvesting operations, our farm family, at the time, considered this truck-mounted corn shelling operation to be “right up town”. In years past, our father and his agrarian fathers before him used to do everything by hand, so this fascinating, gas-driven device on wheels and truck frame was a godsend.
T’was a very windy fall day that found me to be one elated, eudemonic Elliott basking in the wildness of the winds that had dried down our ample corncribs that were full of the marvelous maize that had been harvested from our cornfields just a month or two before. Even with the earflaps of my winter cap pulled down, I could hear those exceedingly chilly, dry winds as they sang a song while they whistled through the wire mesh construction of our corncrib walls. Those whipping winds had accelerated the drying of the corn to the point of being able to now be shelled and hauled to the Kiester Co-op Grain Elevator in town to be sold and added to our family’s income.
Ya know, it even seemed (teasingly) that Leroy Aske (pronounced Ahh-skee), and his crew, appeared to know when my little sister’s birthday was each year, for that was when we’d hear his caravan of grain trucks and his sheller truck grinding their gears as they slowed down to navigate the driveway into our farm from the south.
I swallowed in awe right along with our barn swallows above me as their lyre tails harped a silent salute to the marvelous mechanical wonder of Mr. Aske’s corn sheller in all its metallic glory . To take this all in, I leaned up against the trunk of a shade tree near the corncrib to observe while Mr. Aske slid the truck’s stout shift lever into reverse gear. The transmission gave out a pumping whine and the whole truck moved in gentle jerks backwards towards the doorway of the corncrib until a crew member’s whistle and a loud holler of, “WHOA”!!!, stopped the rig in a perfect spot to catch the corn.
Built into and cutting straight across the center of the round cement flooring of our corncrib was a long, narrow, rectangular trough. Within that trough lived a chain-driven series of vertical, metal plates or paddles all interconnected with the chain drive. When energized by an engine’s power source, those vertical plates, conjoined to the chains, and would actually drag the ears of corn above them out of the crib and into the corn sheller……thus, this system was known to us as the “drag line”.
Our father, Russell, smiled broadly as Leroy revved up the engine powerhouse of his truck and pulled levers, pushed buttons and did whatever was necessary to bring his sheller to life. Boards, that had closed the doorway of the corncrib during harvest’s filling, were now yanked away to allow workers to fork and shovel out the ears of corn into the roar of elevators that lifted the corn up into the sheller. Even in my little boy mind, it was obvious that engineers had truly created a machine that could multi-task this operation.
With a 1,500 bushel capacity or more, per corncrib, it took a number of hardy workers to shovel, fork or even use a silage hook to keep the moving “drag line” below them full of corn for the sheller to “eat”. As the ears exited the corncrib, an “incline drag” carried the crop up and inside the sheller. The machine stripped the kernels off the cobs and sent the kernels of corn through a long auger that deposited the “gold nuggets” into a waiting grain truck that, when full, lugged it’s heavy load out of our driveway and on to Kiester’s elevator three miles away.
The sheller had a powerful circular cage cleaning fan aboard that would blow the light, thin corn husks far away into their own gradually growing pile. The empty corn cobs were separated and sent up a separate auger called the “cob stacker” which they could then be loaded into a waiting truck or allowed to “mountain” on the ground nearby. Our farm home kitchen contained a side by side stove that could operate by gas on one side and burn wood, coal, or in this case, corn cobs on the other side. Mom was grateful for the free corn cob fuel for our kitchen stove even if it did burn rather quickly and needed to be stoked more often from a corncob pile near our house.
Corn harvest had come a long way from the time of doing everything by hand. And, even though today’s modern methods are amazing, in 1962, it was a fascinating adventure to to watch for this awe-struck Norwegian Farmer’s Son! 😉