Central Illinois Sports Report: Elise vs. Noah Corn Husking Competition

A while back WAND's Elise Menaker approached Ag Expert Dave Brown about a story for her Central Illinois Sports Report.  She asked him what types of sports he's played on the farm.  Dave said corn husking could be considered a sport and it took a lot of talent to be good at.  In fact, his uncle won a corn husking county champion.  WAND's Elise Menaker had never corn husked before but she figured why not give it a try.  And who better than to compete against than WAND's Noah Newman.

It's all about corn huskers, no not those corn huskers, or modern day machines that produce double the product, but real corn huskers.

“You pull up and shuck the corn like that,” Brown showed Elise and Noah.

When picking corn by hand was a way to make a living...

“In the 20's, 1920's, where there's not mechanized harvesting and farmers had to actually go out and pull the ears from the stalk and then they would throw them in the wagons,” Brown explained.  “It was all hand-picked back in those days.”

It was also a form of entertainment, a competition.

“There would get huge crowds to come out to these competitions,” he explained.  “A horse would pull a wagon along next to them as they walked in the field and you would pitch it into the wagon.  You learned to be able to throw into that wagon without even looking.  There was a lot of pride in the ability to husk a lot of corn in a days time.”

The race took speed, strength and agility.

“It's like baseball skills translate here, like a little pitch to the second baseman,” Noah observed.

“This is your tool right here, your hand,” Brown said.  “A good corn husker will have an ear of corn in the air at all times, so he's picking, he's throwing, he's picking, he's throwing... try doing that all day long for 10 hours.”

Elise Menaker and Noah Newman were going to try but for one minute. Him versus her in a good ol' corn husking competition.  First we get properly equipped.

“Any good farmer is going to go to the farm with the proper equipment, hat and gloves,” Brown said as he handed it to them.  Then it was practice.

Rain the previous day made the corn harder to snap, a tough task regardless.  After some practice tries, Brown had a little more confidence in Noah. 

“My money's on Noah,” he said with a laugh.

Then it was game time.  After one minute,the final tally for Noah to beat: 21.

Noah may not have looked as pretty, but his double picking technique were the difference.

His final count: 23.

“Victory is sweet,” Noah said with a smile.  “I only beat her by two.”

“That was fun,” Elise described.

In the end it was a good workout, a healthy competition and a fun day bringing back an almost century-old sport.

The corn we picked will go to grain processors here in Decatur.

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