Fremont County, Iowa

Corn Shelling Days

By Sherry Perkins

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of September 21, 2015

Shelling corn at Grandpa’s back in the 1950s’s was a day grandkids relished. But not for the reason one would think. Today, mammoth combines shell the corn as they roll down the corn rows. Then corn pickers picked the corn in the ear and dropped it into a wagon. The ears of corn were scooped from the wagon into elevators that rolled the yellow orbs high into a corn crib where they dropped like rain filling the crib. The corn crib’s sides were boards with space between to allow drying by Mother Nature’s winds.

Come spring or summer, Grandpa waited patiently (well most of the time) for Hugie and his corn sheller to arrive. I remember the corn being fed into this machine where the kernels were stripped off. We watched the bright red corncobs fly out of its conveyer while the shucks blew out into a pile. We knew eventually we would climb this red mountain.

The corn sheller itself was an awful, noisy, rattling machine. One couldn’t talk or yell loud enough to be heard over its roar. We knew we were in trouble if we were underfoot while it was operating. When the job was finished, it seemed so still and quiet in Grandpa’s barn lot. When the kittens began to venture out, we knew the fun could begin.

Grandpa hired extra men on “shelling day” for scooping. So at noon, that meant that Grandma’s dinner table was groaning with a scrumptious noon fare including homemade meringue pies. I think Mom helped with the cooking. Otherwise why would my siblings and I have been there? We certainly were no help but probably in the way.

When the “sheller” pulled out of the driveway and while Grandpa was settling up with the men, we stood at the base of “Red Cob Mountain” eyeing the side with the best approach. In spite of the scratchy corn cobs, we were ready to climb to the summit. We knew it was only a matter of time until we were discovered scattering cobs and told by Grandpa to “get off those cobs.” Soon the truck would come, load up the cobs and leave for parts unknown.

The cobs leaving the farm would end up in many different products. But we also had several uses for them. Before they left, we grabbed buckets from the wash house and began the search for the biggest red cobs. Those were for Grandma and her jelly. She would take these and the next few days boil the corn cobs to get juice for making her sparkling Corn Cob Jelly. I always picked a few cobs to create a family of dolls. Some of the cobs went to the cob bin in the wash house to use as a starter for fires in the wood stove for summer canning.

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Page updated on February 10, 2017 by Karyn Techau