John Henry Avery on Harvesting corn in 1919

John Henry Avery Corn 1919

John Henry Avery shucking the corn in 1919

John Henry Avery corn resting

John Henry taking a break during corn harvesting

corn crop 1919

The Avery Corn Crop of 1919

Corn seasonFor years as we have visited my parents in Illinois it has been a standing joke that the most exciting thing to do was watch the corn grow and see which side of the road the soybeans were planted on that particular year. I think many of my family members have pictures with someone standing beside the corn to measure just how high it was. My nephews have all had turns working in the fields DE tasseling the corn and complaining about how hot it was and what a dirty job it always became. We would watch the harvest season with the big combines with interest noting how quickly a field of corn could be harvested. I didn’t really think about how that process would have affected my own family until I was poring through some old albums kept by my grandmother Carrie Avery Williams. I knew that my mother had moved to Idaho about 1937 and that her father and grandfather had been farmers in Kansas and Nebraska before the great depression growing none other than corn. In the albums I found pictures of my great grandfather John Henry Avery’s corn crop. Along with the wagon he used for gather in his crop and the horses that pulled that wagon. I saw the big piles of corn and realized that he too had grown corn. Only his corn harvesting and de tasseling stories would have made anything my nephews experienced a walk in the park. In 1919 most farmers picked their corn by hand and threw the ears into a horse drawn wagon. Remember the corn could be a foot or two taller than the person cutting it so even getting it down could have been a challenge. Once the corn was picked the husks had to be removed from the ears of corn before it could be sold at market. To do this each farmer had a husking peg. This tool was made of metal or wood and it was usually attached to a leather strap which held it on the farmer’s hand. The husking peg would slide down the length of the ear of the corn . It would split the husk as it slid along. This made the husk easier to pull away from the ear. A good farmer could husk 100 bushels of corn a day. It took about 25 to 30 acres of farm land to grow 100 bushels of corn. As I realized just how hard my grandfather must have worked to provide for his family without the conveniences of today’s tools I stood in awe and realized just how blessed we are today with the many tools that make our work so much easier. It has been said by his children and grand children that knew my Great Grandpa Avery that he was very stern. His grandaugther Barbara Williams Hammond said ” I don’t remember him as a laughing, playful person. And I for one did not want to cross him  Each of his children had their own view of Grandpa. To my mother, the oldest daughter, he was a saint, gentle, kind and as a young father, tender when a child was sick, and even playful. To most of the boys, although they were devoted to him, he was the “Old Man” who expected hard work, obedience and bending to his will and his plans for the family. I think that in reality he was all of the above.”  My Great Grandpa Avery died when I was only 5.  My memories are all fond.  . Whenever I smell gingersnap cookies I see a tall man dressed in coveralls  who held me on his lap by the kitchen window as we shared the cookies together.  I believe that we must have had a special bond that only a grandpa and a little girl can have. I don’t remember stern only kind and willing to take a little girl on his lap and make a lasting memory with her . A memory that I will always cherish and a great grandfather that I look forward to meeting again.

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