Whitesburg KY

Picking fresh hybrid corn

A man in the Air Force with little rank and a family to feed has a hard time. Usually they have to take a part-time job just to get by.

Jake and I were the same rank (E-4) in 1963. We lived side by side in a Southern state. All outskirts of town was agricultural with rotated crops — corn, soybeans, peanuts and tobacco.

I had two kids and Jake had four. I worked in a sandblasting shop part time for $1.35 an hour, and Jake’s wife worked as a waitress.

One hundred dollars a week was a very good wage, but with our Air Force pay we averaged about $60 a week. I had another job helping a farmer on weekends. I usually made $13 to $20 a week at that job.

One evening Jake and I were sitting in my backyard discussing gardening and farm work. I casually mentioned that the hybrid corn would be ripe in a few days.

Then it hit both of us at the same time — why not just go and get some for our families? The next day Jake rode with me to work. After work, we went on a scouting trip. We drove down a few roads and checked out the corn crops.

On one long, straight stretch there was no traffic. Jake jumped out and ran into the corn and snatched two ears. We went to a parking place by the river, shucked the corn and tested it with our fingernails. It was ripe and ready to pick.

At home, Jake had four old burlap bags. We shook them out and checked for holes. About 9 p.m. we took a trip to the cornfield. I pulled over and Jake jumped out with the four bags (if a cop came along I was supposed to claim the car was overheating).

Jake soon came running out, carrying four full bags of un-husked corn. We stopped at a store and bought some butter.

My wife shucked some corn and put it into salted, boiling water on the stove. Then we shucked the rest of the corn.

They were the longest ears of corn I had ever seen. It sure was good, and I ate two ears of it before bedtime. The rest of the family ate some, too.

The next day my wife showed Jake’s wife Betty how to preserve the corn in the glass jars we had. They had already shucked their corn and cut if off of the cob.

The four empty bags were waiting in Jake’s back seat. It might be dangerous, but we had decided to try again. At 9:30 that night we were home again, unloading corn, dividing it, shucking it, and cutting some off the cob.

I asked Jake, “Won’t that farmer notice that someone has been picking his corn?” Jake said, “Not for a few months when they run the picker. I went four rows in before I started picking, then I picked one about every fourth stalk.”

The women used all the Mason jars we had, then froze the rest in some plastic containers. We pickled a few jars of corn.

“You know,” Betty said, “if you guys had asked that farmer for some corn, he probably would have given you some, free.” She was probably right.

A few months later Jake said, “Jim, the peanuts have been plowed up and stacked up to dry.” We started planning another raid. The roasted peanuts and peanut brittle we made were awfully good.

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