12/7/2013 7:00 AM
By Cindy O. Herman Special to Lancaster Farming
WINFIELD, Pa. — Marry into a farming family and you can find a curious sense of fun. So it was this fall when my brother-in-law, Randall Herman, hosted a corn-husking bee — despite the fact that tractors and corn pickers now do this tedious labor.
“Why?” I asked my sister Leslie, Randall’s wife.
Leslie just rolled her eyes.
Randall liked the nostalgic aspect. He pointed out his small rural church, St. John’s Union Church, in Winfield, Pa., and Mazeppa Union Church, in Mazeppa, Pa., both overseen by the Rev. Ricky A. Phillips and both founded by predominantly German farmers.
“These people were agrarian people, and that’s how they harvested a crop, by hand,” Randall said.
And if they could make a party of it, why not?
“The women probably prepared something to eat, and there was probably some romance,” he added.
“Romance?” I asked. “In a dusty, chilly corn field?”
Leslie just rolled her eyes.
“You’ve got to remember, the young people didn’t have cell phones. They didn’t have Facebook. They looked forward to this for weeks. This is the chance to meet that young chick.” Randall assumed a stern look. “After you finish your work, of course. The Germans work first, and play later.”
The corn-husking event, held at Frances Herman’s farm along County Line Road in Winfield, Snyder County, Pa., attracted more than 70 people from the two churches willing to tackle the long rows of corn, one stalk at a time, or at least enjoy a hay ride and a variety of foods and desserts.
Eva Bennett, of Winfield, Pa., joined in the corn-husking event.
“Dad would always get the wagon out, and the family would get together,” Eva said, noting that horses pulled the wagon and sometimes it was so late they worked in the moonlight.
Joyce Mensch, of Hummels Wharf, Pa., doesn’t remember her first corn-husking bee, but her mother used to tell her about it.
“I was a baby, and my mom laid me down on the (corn) shocks,” she said.
Randall’s mother, Frances Herman, and her brothers and sisters recalled husking corn off the shocks. Their parents cut down corn stalks and bound them into piles, called shocks, a practice still seen in Amish fields today.
“That’s what we used to do after school,” Frances said, “go out and husk shocks.”
“I like to husk it off the stalk better than off the shock,” said Frances’ sister Shirley Musser, of Selinsgrove, Pa.
Their father then chopped up the shocks for bedding for the cattle, explained their brother, Clair “Sonny” Inch, of McAlisterville, Pa.
Randall pronounced his husking bee “a huge success.”
“I mean, they husked, I’d say, a third of an acre.”
Which, apparently, wouldn’t have impressed their ancestors too much, but this party was just for fun. And judging by the hoots of laughter ringing throughout the farm, I’d say most people did have fun. At least most of them.
“I thought it was a little slow,” said Randall’s son, Peter, 17.
To which Randall replied, “There was no Wi-Fi back then, so the younger generation had to buck it up for a while.”
Peter just rolled his eyes.