The Return of Fall

When September rolled around after the busy summer on the farm in 1939, you could feel a more relaxed pace, a chance to take a breath from all the "chores". The canning was completed, the potatoes and carrots had been dug, the grain had been harvested and the granary was filled to the top. Now was the time to go to the corn fields with the corn binder, which cut the corn stalks and tied them into bundles, and transport those bundles by hay wagon to the barn yard. Dad had arranged for the "silage guy" to bring his silo filler which was powered by a tractor. The bundles were tossed from the hay wagon onto the conveyor belt of the silo filler, propelled forward into the chopper mechanism and subsequently blown into the vertical pipe which stood adjacent to the silo. The pipe was equipped with a chute on the top which funneled directly into an opening at the top of the silo. This year the silo was filled to the top -- the cows would have good eating all winter. The air was filled with the odor of freshly cut corn stalks, a rather pleasant "green" aroma. After the silage (ensilage, fodder) was stored for a time, the odor would change dramatically to a pungent, sour smell which the cows loved. You must understand the above-described process is the memory of my eight-year old perspective and not at all a technical description.

There was yet another field of corn raised specifically to provide mature cobs of corn for the animals. When my dad said the corn was ready to pick, we went to the field, pulled the ripened corn from the stalks and tossed them into the bed of a wagon which followed next to the row. You may wonder how an eight year old could help with this venture, but my uncle followed me to reach those ears I could not. Corn picking was a labor-intensive job and care was needed to keep from getting cut by the leaves on the corn stalk which could be sharp in their dried state; it was helpful to wear gloves for this job. The ears of corn were then stored in a corn crib for feeding the animals in the winter. We also had a corn sheller powered by a crank -- one of us turned the crank while another tossed the corn down a chute that pulled the corn from the cobs. A pail at the bottom of the chute collected the kernels of corn; I do not remember how the empty cobs were collected but I recall my mother using them as kindling to start fires in the kitchen cook stove.

The roosters that had been strutting the chicken yard all summer were now big enough to fry for dinner. Mom used a long pole with a hook on one end to snare the leg of a fine rooster. He did not like that one bit and made lots of noise in protest as he was carried to the "chopping block". The axe was there, ready and waiting; I watched as she chopped off his head! The process that followed is too gruesome to describe, so we will fast forward to quickly plunging the headless rooster into a pail of hot water to loosen the feathers. Removing the feathers was actually fun, except for the "wet feather" smell. Next, we brought the headless, featherless bird to the house where mom did her usual masterful job of butchering (I have never been able to duplicate her method nor am I able to fry chicken to her standards).

The best part of fall for a kid was getting back to school -- I hadn't seen my friends all summer and there had not been an opportunity to get to a library for books. At the end of August we diligently began our plans for the start of school. The first day of school clothes were carefully set aside. If our shoes were getting small, we were treated to a new pair, but our school wardrobe was not first priority and the other kids dressed in similar fashion. From our apple orchard, we chose the reddest, roundest apple we could find for our lunch box. The school did not have a cafeteria and the cloak room (which stored the lunch boxes) smelled strongly of stale summer sausage and overripe bananas.

As for my parents, they would soon begin preparations for winter. There was always work to be done.

Respectfully submitted,

Laura W. Berglund
September 2016