Children of the corn


With all the formerly lush green grass that felt so good on bare feet and is now crunchy and turning to dust, I wondered to my friend just how long it had been since we had rain. She checked and came back with this interesting fact – this is the driest June in Indiana since 1988.

Ah, I remember the summer of ’88. It was the summer before I got my very first ‘real’ job, and the summer when the drought and heat killed crops and all the grass. The dry earth cracked wide open, and we wondered if it would ever rain again.

It must have, because the next July I got up well before 6 a.m. to be at the bus stop with a group of kids who were also embarking on a money-making venture. We rode the school bus to the cornfield where we’d spend the majority of our days for the next three weeks detasseling corn.

My parents arranged the job for me, saying it would help me build character and a good work ethic.

Detasseling corn, for the uninitiated, is pulling tassels out of all of the ‘female’ rows of corn to allow for pollination by the ‘male’ rows, so that these two species create a hybrid. It is hard, hard work and the quitting rate is high. We called ourselves ‘children of the corn’ and knew that our work force ranging in age from 14 to 18 were the only ones who would sign up for this gig.

My oldest daughter is nearly the age I was when I started detasseling. Would I want her or any of my kids to detassel? Hmm. Looking back I can see the ‘character building’ and the ‘good work ethic’ it helped me cultivate, but there are lots of other opportunities for that and not much opportunity to detassel around Noblesville anyway.

I guess I’ll have to settle for regaling the kids with stories of me working in the wet and muddy fields, blistered, sunburned, sweaty and sore. And find other opportunities for them to build character, outside of the cornfield.