Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

One day each year they fed 22 hungry farmhands

Anything unusual was exciting for us country kids; one day a year neighbors came to help Mom prepare and serve a noon meal for about 22 hungry, sweaty men. It was silo-filling day, and some of the women brought children about my age.

Mom and I just about bought out the store on the day before the big day. I never saw such a huge chunk of raw beef as she bought. Then we went to the bakery for many loaves of light bread - a treat for the ones who always had homemade rolls and bread. Some of the women brought homemade pies, and Mom had made cakes and had three or four hens ready for the oven. The kids came along to help serve and run errands with Jim and me.

A silo is a tall, airtight tower for storing not-quite-ripe corn for cattle feed after pastures are finished. It could be made of vertical wooden, tongue and groove boards, interlocking concrete blocks or, like Dad’s, interlocking ceramic blocks made and installed by Dickey Tile Co. of St. Louis.

Silo-filling day was determined by the just-so maturity of the corn. The day started at daybreak with the arrival of our neighbor, "Ev" Warren, and his boys. They contracted to cut all of the corn and were known to be able to keep ahead of the haulers to avoid delays. Each Warren brought his own heavy corn knife that had a long, wide, sharp blade with a wooden handle. They started work at sun-up, whacking corn off stalk by stalk a few inches above the ground. They grasped several long corn stalks into the left arm and whacked each one off a few inches above where the roots sprawled out and entered the earth. They placed each armload of stalks on the ground a certain way so haulers - arriving with empty wagons and teams at an easy trot - stopped, hopped off and stacked the bunches neatly on their wagons with cut ends to the left. Teams pulled the loaded wagons up to the ensilage cutter with the corn’s butt ends near the moving feeder track.

Dad and a helper were the ones to push stalks into the Papec’s sharp whirling blades. Uneven loads could cause the machine to "choke up" and the process to be delayed. Smooth operation saved time and money.

There were chores for kids to do. We pumped cool water for those sweaty workers’ jugs and poured water over those with gunnysack covers. My brother Jim was allowed to be in the silo, sometimes managing the distributor pipe to keep the silage from building up in the middle and occasionally tromping the edges where air pockets might form.

My friends and I had lots of running and message-carrying chores on silo-filling day. We had to locate every chair - and the piano bench - and some borrowed folding ones. We checked sugar bowls, salt and pepper, butter and jam. We put wash pans, soap, water and towels on the back porch. The last workers to wash up chose to sit on the ground outdoors; we passed seconds to them.

Yes, work was fun! We farm kids liked being needed, liked being cogs in the huge wheel of tasks on silo-filling day.

I’ll bet it was as much fun as a theme park!

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