Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Corn Shuckings and Pumpkin Gatherings

For those of us who grew up on the farm, fall was the time for gathering in the crops. Pumpkins, an important staple for winter use, had to be gathered in and properly stored so that they could be preserved. Corn, necessary for human consumption as meal for cornbread and for feeding animals during the long winter months, likewise had to be gathered and stored.

I remember corn shuckings, especially at my Grandfather Collins's farm.

He had a corn crib with an open shed in front. The corn was brought by wagonloads from the field and stacked high under the shed. The crib itself had openings between the planks and chicken wire liner in the crib. This arrangement of the crib gave circulation of air so that the corn, gathered when it was not quite cured, could dry without molding.

On a certain day, an event was planned that drew neighbors together. People in the community gathered in the afternoon and the corn shucking began. Young and old, men and women, attended. Some of the women helped with the evening meal that would be ready about sundown, spread out on long tables near the corn crib. Everybody enjoyed the repast. The shared meal was part of the fun and fellowship. Very similar to the dinners-on-the-ground served at church homecomings, the corn-shucking meals received special attention and some of the best dishes from the cooks in charge were spread out to enjoy.

After the evening chores were finished by the hosts of the corn shuckings, everybody gathered around the corn pile and by about midnight, with lanterns giving light, the pile of corn would be shucked and all the ears safely stored in the crib.

Then would come the fun. Any red ears of corn found in the pile had special meaning. The boy or man who happened to find a red ear would be given the privilege of kissing the prettiest girl or woman present, or of leading her out in a square dance when the shucking was done.

Sometimes a prize was given to the one finding the red ear or ears. One young boy won a heifer calf, claimed it, and when it was grown, sold it for $100.00. That was quite a prize for an evening of corn shucking. If the host family had a feeling against dancing, this activity was not held. Some in those days felt dancing was "the devil's playhouse," and it was forbidden by their religious beliefs. Instead of a dance, as they gathered around the corn crib, they told tales of old times and of ancestors' feats.

Before the corn shucking broke up, with another announced to be held at a neighbor's house on a date in the near future, it was much after midnight. Corn shuckings brought community spirit and were a means of neighbor helping neighbor.

The shucks from the corn were saved to feed the livestock. The pumpkins that had been gathered in were stored in the loft of the barn and shucks placed over them to protect them from freezing.

Hard work was broken by community festivals such as corn shuckings. They weren't called "fall festivals" then, but the sense of camaraderie and helpfulness made them welcomed breaks from the monotony of hard labor.

Poet William Cullen Bryant wrote of autumn:
"The melancholy days are come,
The saddest of the year,
Of wailing winds and naked woods,
And meadows brown and sear."

Remembrance of corn shuckings of years past helps us to paraphrase Bryant's poem to read:
"The bright days of fall are here,
With leaves of red and gold;
And together in our work--like play
We bring crops into the fold."

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 25, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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