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Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

The nightmare of detassling corn

Posted Friday, July 27, 2012, at 5:05 PM

(Photo)
Nancy and Ellie. (Contributed photo)
By ELLIE BUTTERFIELD
Columnist

In the days of my teenage years, there were not many jobs for girls -- not that most of us wanted a job at the swimming pool at Indian Foothills Park as a lifeguard. I prefered being on the tennis courts.

But the girls liked money and were willing to work and I mean work hard. Detassling corn was the job that paid the most. Fifty cents an hour!

My mother, thank goodness, didn't believe girls should work, but I was feeling left out when all my girlfriends went to the fields to detassle corn.

One day at 5 in the morning, my friend, Nancy, came running into my bedroom, waking me up, hollering, "Get dressed! Your mother said you could go to work with us detassling corn."

I was excited! My first job at 15 years old!

I pulled on my jeans, an old shirt and tennis shoes.

Little did I know I was about to enter the life of hell on earth.

For those of you have never detassled corn, it is beyond a nightmare. There you are on a huge machine going through rows and rows of corn.

I mean, you looked about you and it was as if you were in the middle of an ocean and all you could see for miles and miles was corn, corn and more corn.

These machines moved slowly so the team could grab and pull the tassels from the corn. I never did know why they wanted us to do this almost impossible task.

Some days they had to walk the fields after a rain. The mud sucked their boots off.

The corn shucks would cut their arms and you would feel as if you were all alone and lost in a maze of maize as you couldn't see where the others were.

They gave you a half hour for lunch, which was usually a bologna sandwich and a bottle of pop. Blast of the whistle, back to work!

Now, I was a little 15-year-old -- only 5 feet tall and didn't quite weigh 100 pounds.

I grabbed a tassel as I had been taught and pulled and pulled and tugged until it nearly pulled me off the machine.

Those tassels don't want be be detassled.

It was, without a doubt the longest day of my life.

From 6 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon, the sun beating down (how come the sun beating down on me at the swimming pool working on my suntan didn't feel so hot?).

That night, finally at home, safe and sound and so tired I could not eat dinner, I fell into bed.

I woke up in the middle of the night in the worst dream of my life. I was in the middle of a corn field screaming, "Get me out of here!"

Mother, hearing me scream came to my room, woke me from my nighmare and told me, "You can not go back to detassle any more!

Mother knows best ...

Nancy, brave girl that she was, worked though the long, hot summer.

But, guess what?

She had the best back to school wardrobe of us all. A cashmere sweater worn with pearls, a plaid skirt and saddle oxfords.

That was back in the days when girls dressed like young ladies.

All I had a great suntan.



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Various members of the community, current or past residents, occasionally submit essays recalling the people, places and events of the past. We'll post them here. Also, reminisces sometimes emerge in other web forums. This will be a place those conversations can continue.
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