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July 25, 2013 - Jane Whitmore
Do you recall a time when you have encountered several different events and suddenly they all come together to solve the puzzle? Perhaps you didn’t even know it was a puzzle, but the equation was “solved.” Earlier this summer we were on our way to Mason City, traveling on Highway 18, when we started meeting school buses. Perhaps after the first two or three, we started counting the number of buses. There were over a dozen. Each had its school name covered with white. Where were these buses going??And, why were the names covered? As quickly as we saw the buses, thoughts strayed and we gave it no more thought. Later that day, as we returned home, we saw the buses again. They were parked at the Pioneer plant in Algona. There wasn’t time to stop and count how many, but there were well over the dozen we met. Why were the buses at the Pioneer plant? Were they going to give tours somewhere? Lots of additional uses came to mind, then disappeared with no more thought...until last weekend. This time I was traveling south, going through Pocahontas County. Suddenly we saw two buses (with school name covered) parked on the edge of a corn field. Aha! Detasselers! The buses were apparently carrying crews of detasselers to the field. In addition to the buses, there were portable toilets at the edge of the field. Driving along, we could see the detasseled rows. The puzzle was solved. My next thought: Is it time for detasseling already? Wasn’t it just yesterday that farmers waiting for the soil to dry so they could finish planting? Our personal detasseling days are far behind, but the memories are bright as a sunny day. Our “crew” consisted of my mother, my aunt, my sister and occasionally a friend. We contracted with Pioneer - usually three acres for each of us, which equaled about 15 acres. Back then (just after the days of covered wagons) we went over the same field each day for perhaps ten days or maybe two weeks. We only pulled tassels that were starting to peek through the top leaves. It was my mother’s choice to start the day at the break of dawn. We would layer our clothing, topped with rain gear because the corn was so wet with dew. As the day progressed, it became warmer and warmer in the field and we would remove layers of clothing. Keep in mind, the varieties of corn were quite a bit taller than most of those planted today. I can vividly remember reaching up to pull a tassel and the cold, morning dew sliding down my arm. What an eye opener that was. Incidentally, we didn’t have portable toilets at the end of the row either. Today’s crews have it made. We endured much more crude working conditions, from the lack of toilets to the bugs and birds in the field. Detasseling is a great summer job. It doesn’t last long and the pay is pretty decent. Each year, when we finished detasseling and got our checks, we would head North to our grandparents’ resort at Lake of the Woods.?We would usually make a trip into Canada. A couple of times I purchased yarn with my detasseling money, and my mother would knit me a sweater. I believe I also purchased my first pair of contact lenses with my detasseling money. Walking beans is another story. That was a one season event in my younger life.
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