Pictures in my mothers album link visits from Effie and Joe of West New York, New Jersey and Dad’s fall chore of cutting corn for silage.
Each fall in mid September for many, many years, Effie and Joe would drive up to Sanford in their very old mid-twenties car, the make unknown to me.
It was also the time when the corn was full grown and well-eared, which meant it was time to harvest, chop and store it in the silo to feed the cows through the winter.
Field corn doesn’t taste like sweet corn grown for the table. I’d tasted it. Having the corn green for silage was considered best for the cows. It was like a winter salad for them to go with the grain and hay they were also fed. During during the summer they were outside all day and ate grass. In the fall when pastures were not very nutritious, Dad fed the cows fresh millet, a grain that is sometimes grown for the seed, but Dad grew it for the whole grass.
Joe was Effie’s nephew, but they were about the same age and lived together in West New York after Effie’s husband had died many years earlier. Effie was a friend of my mother’s, whom Mom met when she worked as a young woman at a resort near Deposit. In 1921, Effie invited Mom to visit her. Having read and heard about the Brooklyn Bridge, Mom fulfilled a desire to walk across it. I don’t remember when Effie’s visits began, but they continued until after I was finished college and was teaching in Painted Post. Our large farmhouse had an upstairs apartment where Effie and Joe lived while they were visiting. While they cooked many of their own meals, but Mom often invited them to dinner or supper.
The last time I remember seeing them was the fall of 1953 or 1954. I took the train from Corning to Deposit. Joe volunteered to meet me at the train station. It was a thoughtful gesture. It wasn’t until we started home, I began to worry. Joe did not seem to realize he was supposed to drive only on the right side of the road. I didn’t know whether to watch the road or close my eyes. Joe drove down the center of the road and often more to the left than the right. On multi-lane roads this might be tolerated, but our state highway was the chief road for milk tankers traveling 50 to 60 miles per hour. Joe drove at about 25. Those nine miles from the depot home was the longest ride I’d ever taken. I’d never been so scared of a traffic accident. I couldn’t help but wonder who guarded him as he drove the 200 miles to and from New Jersey. I vowed never to ride with him again.
I think Joe liked to visit in the fall. He seemed to enjoy being outside with my father and helping with the corn. The corn silage was grown for the entire stalk, not just the ear. The first corn harvester I remember only cut the corn and dropped it to the side. Dad had to pull a bundle of stalks together and put them on the wagon. Later Dad bought a harvester that cut and tied bundles of corn before dropping them. Dad still had to bend over to pick them up and heave them onto the wagon. I think Joe helped, but perhaps he only rode along to watch.
When the wagon was full, Dad drove back to the barn where the corn was thrown onto the corn blower’s belt run by a gasoline engine. It chopped and blew the corn up through a pipe into the silo. It was hard work, but I think Dad liked it. After a summer of putting in hay in hot weather, corn cutting time was generally much cooler, but still pleasant.
Dried cow manure is an excellent fertilizer. Each year of their stay Joe and Effie prepared cowflops to take home for their garden. Early in the visit, they selected a quantity of semi-dry cowflops and with a shovel set them off to the side of the pasture lot. Every day they went to the pasture and turned them over, so by the time they were ready to leave, they had a burlap sack full. Fortunately most of the ripest odor dissipated by then.
Effie visited by herself one summer. I don’t know why. Mom installed her in the back corner bedroom on the first floor of the house. A couple of days later, Dad’s Aunt Sue announced she, too, was coming to visit. What to do? It was difficult for Aunt Sue to climb the stairs, so Mom asked Effie to move to the upstairs guest room. She was not happy. My bedroom, where my visiting cousin, Norma and I slep was also upstairs.
One warm rainy day we all went to Binghamton to return Aunt Sue home. Dad, Mom, and I sat in the front seat. Aunt Sue and Effie sat in the back with my cousin Norma between them. It took an hour to go each way. Effie was a big woman and always too warm. She wanted the window open. Aunt Sue, who was quite elderly and stately with her hair and makeup just so, wanted the window closed. Norma sat between the warring sides. Mom tried to make peace to no avail. Dad said nothing, but I could see the grin on his face. He couldn’t help but see the funny side of the tempest in a teapot. It was not resolved until Aunt Sue was back at her apartment and Effie had the backseat to herself except for Norma, who apparently didn’t count.
Fall, corn cutting, Effie and Joe continue to be connected in my memory.