If you are from the city you may not relate to this but, here in central Illinois where we are blessed with the blackest, richest soil on earth, we grow corn, really tall, good corn and beans. As it turns out, we are known as the “bread basket of the world”. In July the weather here is hot and steamy, the high humidity sometimes makes it difficult to breathe.
If young people in this area want to earn money, and most do, they can de-tassel corn or walk beans. With most companies now, the teen has to be at least thirteen years old. The job is hot messy work. This type of summer job has been going on for generations. It’s a good way to earn enough spending money to last most of the school year.
Our youth are not afraid of hard work. There are many different kinds of jobs they do, perhaps you have been in a nursing home recently, you may have had a high school CNA person help you.
Years ago, our son got a job washing dishes at the Park Tavern. He smelled like a giant chicken leg by the time he got home at night. (The aroma drove our cocker spaniel crazy.)
Our daughter Amy walked beans and carried a big machete. Many kids like Kim and Teresa de-tasseled corn.
Every morning, they would don their muddy sneakers, tee shirt, jeans and hat and gloves. Like all the other kids, they carried water, lunch pail and a big plastic garbage bag in which to stand. (that helped keep them dry). Off they trudged at five in the morning to board the big yellow school bus that would haul them to the corn fields.
If you have never seen a de-tasseling machine, it resembles a giant mosquito. The driver sits on top in the middle and the de-tasselers ride two on either side. Gloves are important because pulling the tassel takes strength and can cause bad blisters. The de-tasselers ride back and forth following the corn rows until the field is finished. Some de-tasselers “walk” the rows. I have to admit, that would cause me some claustrophobia, because the corn towers over the de-tasseler; all they see is corn, up close and personal.
We parents heard the usual grumbling every morning. “Mom, the driver of the machine smokes.” ( not too smart, while sitting atop a gas tank). Kim got a spider bite that was the size of a silver dollar. I put alcohol on it and pronounced her well. Amy had a friend who nearly lost his arm to a machete. Sometimes accidents happened and kids got hurt. If it was a cut, they bandaged it up and went back to work.
“Back in the day” going to the bathroom was a challenge out in the middle of nowhere. No porta potties back then. No cell phones or radar either. Everyone kept an eye out for storm clouds. Open fields are dangerous places to be with thunder and lightening.
Over the summer we parents kept reminding our teens that it was only for a few weeks. They kept reminding us it was hell, but they stuck it out.
It is good money for the time it takes. We parents never said it would be easy.
Our young adults are a pretty wonderful group of people. Let’s give credit where credit is due. We are so proud of them. They are the best of the best, our cream of the crop.
This summer when you pass a school bus hauling kids to the corn fields, remember this, our kids work hard and under less than perfect conditions. It is a dirty hot job, and when they get finished with work their bones ache and they are tired.
Illinois grows good corn and good kids!