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Talking it Over: Corn fields and thistle patches

Katie Erdman

When I drive through the country, I admire the beautiful weed-free fields. The rows of corn are strong and tall with hardly a weed to be found. This is the result of new technology with the round-up ready seed, fertilizer and chemicals applied.

Corn fields in my youth were not quite as pretty. The rows were full of weeds until they were cultivated a few times. The plants were also surrounded with weeds, some worse than others.

I remember a few very hardy weeds that just kept coming back and spreading quickly. These were the bull weeds and thistles. Every summer, Dad would round up the kids, sharpen up the hoes and take us out to the fields to hoe out the weeds. We walked up and down the field, chopping down the stubborn weeds. The thistle patches were the worst as they were thick and prickly.

We usually did this work in late July and Dad would 'pay' us by buying us ride tickets at the fair and gave us a little spending money for treats. We were thrilled and felt the hot and tiring work was worth it.

Now when I look at those long rows of corn, I can't imagine walking up and down them even once, much less several times in one day. It was just something we had to do as farm kids.

As a teenager it paid off for me as I was able to get a job cutting corn out of a bean field. We had about 8-10 teenagers working in a field and we had a blast. It is one of my favorite memories from my youth and created some long-lasting friendships.

We also had some fun times in corn fields. We would play hide and seek in the field and run up and down rows trying to catch each other in games of tag. I can't imagine letting my grandchildren loose in a corn field today. It might take days before they would emerge again.

One thing that I learned from those years, was that hoeing in my garden is a cinch compared to hoeing in a mile long corn field. The rows are much shorter, the weeds not as tall and the reward is sweeter. I will stick to my garden and leave the weeds in the corn to sprays and cultivators.