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
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.