Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Tall cylinders called silos once dotted th...

Tall cylinders called silos once dotted the countryside. When you saw a silo you probably saw dairy cows grazing nearby. Producing and selling milk was a good way for farmers to make a living and silage was great feed for milk cows.

In 1912, Dad and John L. Henry owned a small dairy together on a farm adjacent to what is now the Stephens College golf course. After a few years Dad and Mom borrowed enough money from a private investor to buy an 80 acre farm farther out in the country and to buy Uncle John’s half interest in the dairy business.

About 1916, they moved two babies, the household goods and their dairy to the new farm. The dairy included a small herd of Holstein cows; a horse, mule, farm wagon and a one-horse delivery wagon. There was also a hodge podge of galvanized milk buckets, tubs, measuring cans, a large milk cooler and some wooden crates with three sizes of glass bottles. And much more.

The Columbia Savings Bank loaned this young couple, O.D. and Nancy Meyers, money to buy two additional expensive items. One was a 34 foot tall, hollow tile silo from Dickey Tile Co. in St. Louis. The other was a Papec ensilage cutter. They could then raise their own corn and store it in the silo, reducing feed costs and improving the ration for their growing herd.

The silo tiles were ceramic squares that fit together to make an airtight wall. As the chopped corn piled up inside, wooden doors were “mudded in” and clamped, creating a ladder. I heard, many times, that after the first silo filling Mom started to the hen house and discovered that I had climbed almost to the top of that ladder! She was hysterical and Dad grabbed her and held tight to keep her from screaming. Calmly he said, “Nancy, don’t scream! You’ll frighten her. She’ll come down the way she went up.” I remember nothing of this because I was only 3!

The Papec ensilage cutter had huge blades which chopped and blew the corn up through a tall pipe that directed it over the edge and down, inside, through a flexible distributor tube. One person scattered it by manipulating the tube and another tramped it down. Several weeks after filling day, the corn became the fragrant, fermented ensilage that cows craved.

The silo filling crew required about 25 men, including several neighbors who brought teams and wagons to haul the corn from the field. When everything was synchronized, that big silo would be filled by evening.

In our area, most farmers contracted with “Warren and his boys” who could hand-cut the standing stalks in the field with amazing speed. Inexperienced cutters could get behind and shut down the entire operation. Warren’s cutters also made neat piles that made it easier for the “feeders” to send an endless flow of corn into the cutting machine.

When I was 6 or 7, I was allowed to be in the silo as corn and leaves and stalk pieces shot out of the distributor tube. Round and round I’d stomp, pressing the corn down next to that tile wall. It was a messy place where green corn trash covered my clothes, face and hands. Sometimes a big slice from an ear of corn would bang me on the head, hard! Debris kept going down my neck in spite of the big blue handkerchief I wore to keep it out. It was noisy, dirty work but I was proud to help, even that little bit. I was unpaid, but part of the crew.

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