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By Staff | Nov 20, 2009

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is here already

It used to be Thanksgiving marked the official beginning of the Shop-Yourself-Silly Christmas Season. Not anymore. Retailers are constantly pushing to make Christmas arrive earlier and earlier; I wouldn’t be surprised to someday see a placard proclaiming a “Fourth Of July Christmas Sale!”

Most of us have much to be thankful for. Personally, this includes the fact that, because of Facebook and its ilk, society has acquired a high tolerance for such grammatical sins as dangling prepositions and unnecessary apostrophe’s.

It’s customary to finish fall harvest by Thanksgiving. This autumn’s harvest has been grinding on and on, like a Chinese water torture comprised of trickling grain. Saying that harvest has been slow is like stating that Vikings fans tend to get a bit excited whenever they hear the words “Brett Favre.”

Combines are running all night, their powerful headlights boring holes into the darkness as farmers burn the midnight oil. Actually, it’s midnight diesel fuel.

Corn dryers are also working overtime, their lonesome moans echoing across the rural nightscape. Such sounds seem to carry farther in the crystalline chill of these long November nights.

We should also be thankful for corn. It helps feed us and provides a plethora of industrial products that range from Sheetrock to Cheetos. Not bad for a lowly Central American vagabond that migrated north in search of a better life.

The Pilgrims nearly starved to death during their first winter in the New World. Fortunately, a Native American named Squanto befriended them and showed them how to raise corn.

Farm kids these days sure have it good regarding corn harvest. They get to operate these gargantuan combines which have heated cabs that are as cushy as a featherbed. “Roughing it” means being forced to drive a machine that lacks a dock for their iPod.

Back when I was a kid, corn was commonly harvested in ear form. And we were told that we sure had it good seeing as how we got to pick corn with a machine instead of by hand!

Corn harvest always seemed to grind on and on. This was because the picker took two rows at a time and went two miles per hour. Assume that we had to pick at least 100 acres, subtract a good chunk from each day for chores and breakdowns and, well, you do the math.

Hardly anyone picks ear corn anymore. As such, cribbing has become all but a lost art.

I am not referring to cribs made of steel or wood or concrete. Nor do I mean the kind of container typically used to confine a baby.

The style of crib I have in mind is made of wire and lath. It formed the core of our “poor man’s” corn storage strategy.

The beauty of storing ear corn in this type of crib was that it could be placed almost anywhere. If winter was fast approaching and you needed to save time, you could crib corn on the headland of the field. This was similar to shouting “Look! A spaceship!” then moving the ball ten yards down the field as the opposing team gawked at the sky.

I was often tasked with hauling and unloading our ear corn, which meant I was also in charge of cribbing operations. We usually put up a two-ring corn crib.

The first ring was a snap. A person simply found a likely spot and began piling ear corn with the elevator. Once a small mound had formed, you spooled out a roll of cribbing and formed a circle around the pile.

Things got tricky when the first ring became nearly full. A second roll was unwound and set up around the first one. This was then hoisted up and nested just inside the top of the first ring. One guy could do this, but only if he was both very athletic and highly skilled at cussing.

Sometimes a third ring would be added. At that point assistance would definitely be needed, unless you were some sort of Sampson. Which I wasn’t; my parents never let me grow my hair anywhere near long enough.

It was extremely satisfying to see that third story of cribbing in place and filled with ear corn. From a distance the structure looked like a humungous three-tiered wedding cake. Except it was made of corn. And it didn’t have a plastic bride and groom on top.

And like a towering wedding cake, the cribbed corn represented both hope for the future and a whole lot of calories.

And that’s the kind of stuff we can all be thankful for.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com

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