I walked out to the garden this morning because I thought I saw some pink tomatoes. I also thought it was impossible. You almost always have to wait until after the Fourth Of July to be blessed with those long awaited juicy sunshine kissed fruit. When I got to the garden I saw four pink tomatoes. We will have ripe tomatoes in just three or four days. Bacon and tomato sandwiches will be our meals for supper for quite a few days.
While I was looking at the plants in the garden I saw tassels on the sweet corn. For some reason, once again I was hurled on my time machine to my fourteenth year. I was loaded up into a farm truck along with many other teenage girls to “detassel” corn. Detasseling is a very hard job. You have to pull the tassel out every other row if I remember right, so it will pollinate. Most always the corn stalk was taller than I was. If you were careful you could bend it a little so you could reach the tassel. You certainly did not want to break the stalk because your work was checked. Farmers of hybrid sweet corn had to have the detasseling done to get the best crops.
The girls had a song that they sang early in the morning on the way to the fields, when every one was feeling chipper. It was called “We are the detasseling girls, we wear our hair in curls…..” Then I forget the rest of the words.
The tasseling job was hot, sweaty, and very hard work. As you walked the rows of corn stalks the leaves were sharp and often cut my mouth and skin. Young ladies had to put their modesty in their hip pocket and use the corn stalks for protection when they needed to go to the bathroom. The foreman of these crews were men, so it was a little embarrassing.
There was a mold that grew on corn that was black and gray and soft and mushy; it was called smut. If you didn’t see that mold before you picked the tassel you got a hand full of the mush. Then there were rogues. Those had to be chopped out. They were very tall and I think they were not good to be left in the field.
I remember days when I didn’t think that buying my own school clothes was worth all that work. The thing that kept me going was the ability to pick out my own wardrobe. Later when I was shopping it was worth it!
The one thing I remember is my sweet mother. Every day she put fresh sheets and pillow cases on my bed. They smelled so sweet and felt wonderful after a shower.
My children detasseled corn when they were old enough and when my nephew stayed with us, he was put on a truck too! As a matter of fact, my daughter got impetigo from the cuts of the corn leaves. This job sounds like a hand me down legacy to me. Nothing like good fresh air and hard work.
Just a note I thought was interesting. I looked to see if they still detassel corn. They certainly do. But oh my, so much differently. They are taken by bus to the fields, they wear rain coats, gloves, and safety glasses. They still suffer from cuts on their faces from the corn leaves. It is boys that generally do the detasseling and they do every four rows, which may have been what we did too. The tractors have arms that extend for the fourteen year olds to grab the tassels. The article did say that many of the boys drop out of the job because it was too hard and hot to do. Two hundred fifty kids can detassel twelve hundred acres of corn in today’s fields. We barely got six hundred acres done. I remember my check was one hundred three dollars for that month. What a difference fifty years make!!