Many years ago, there was a very small farm tool widely used this time of the year, and in some groups it is still a popular little tool. It is called a husking peg or pin. It's a small piece of metal or, when money was very scarce, even a big nail, fastened to a leather strap or canvas cloth that slipped onto one's fingers.
Husking pegs were important because they helped farmers that were harvesting corn by hand to strip the husks off the ears of corn. They could grab an ear with one hand and usually with one motion and with the help of the husking peg, peel the husk off with the other.
Simple little tools like these pegs could save a lot of time when most of our farms had to rely on hand labor. There was little mechanical equipment for many years. Theirs is a long history of these little tools. Apparently, they go clear back to American Indian times in this country. Very early ones were made from animal bone attached to a leather strap that went across the hand. Early settlers borrowed the idea of this tool from our Indian friends.
Husking pegs were made in different sizes to fit large or small hands. Since most every family member had to help on early farms, sizes were made for women and children.
Yes, these husking pegs are still used today in the Amish communities. Much of their corn is still harvested with hand labor, and some families husk standing corn. They put a high board on one side of the wagon and start down the field with the team of horses. If they are working together as they often do, two or three men will each take a row and with their husking pegs, strip the husk off the corn and throw it against the board in the wagon.
When they need to move down the field, the farm owner will give a command to the horses and they go ahead without a driver until told to stop. That command to go or stop may be given in the Amish version of Pennsylvania Dutch. The horses understand this language. Sometimes these pickers get into friendly competition to see who can pick the fastest.
I'm old enough to remember on our small size farm, cutting the corn with an old corn binder that tied it in bundles. Then we had to pick up those heavy bundles and set them around a three-legged wooden stand to make a shock.
Later, when we had time, we went out with the wagon, loaded the corn shocks on and brought them to the barn to husk. Our husking pegs were a must to speed up that cold job on the barn floor. Our ear corn was then used to feed the cows. Dad had an old machine called a hammer mill that was used to shred the fodder that we fed to the livestock for roughage.
Frankly, I'm most thankful for today's modern equipment and technology that allows farmers to be much more efficient than years ago. Combines that can pick, husk and shell six or eight rows of corn or more at a time have increased the efficiency of modern farmers many times over. That efficiency has provided us with an abundant food supply at reasonable prices.
Sometimes it seems like going back to simpler times with simple tools like the corn husking peg would be great. Nostalgia sets in and we think life today is too complicated. When my computer acts up as I type this article, I might agree.
But going back to simpler times on the farm would mean that you and I and 60 percent or more of our population would have to go back to the farm. We would have to hunt around and find a husking peg.
I'm not ready for that. I'll take today's modern farmers and technology and put up with my computer!
Parker grew up in Trumbull County, is retired from Ohio State University and is an independent writer for the Tribune.