There was little doubt “What’s This?” was in our most recent clue. It was a corn hook, though some responders explained its use a bit different and there also were some variations on the name. But the results were the same: hand-harvesting ear corn, walking in the fields and tossing the ears of corn into a horse-powered wagon, a continuous-motion operation, extremely antiquated by today’s monster machines.
Back then, it was the best there could be. The champion (and yes, it could be quite competitive with the neighbor or brother) kept moving as fast as the horses, with a regularly timed sound of an ear knocking the bang boards on the far side of the wagon. Some would have called it an artistry in motion. The best clearly had a system, and the corn hook played a major role in the operation.
The photo with this reveal includes someone’s hand, which I thought would have been overly simple to identify if published as the clue. The photo with the clue should have been a bit harder to identify, but it really didn’t fool anyone.
Here are some of the responses and stories we received:
It’s a photo of a right-handed thumb husking hook. I could pick 100 bushels a day, irrigated corn that was somewhat down in spots. I drove my wagon and team of horses about 6 miles of gravel road and blacktop road to Elton Potter’s farm 2 miles east of Monroe, Neb. His wife fed me three meals a day. Elton had an elevator to unload corn into a large wooden crib. He furnished hay and grain for my team, an older team that were very good for pulling a corn wagon. All I had to do was chuckle at them and they always were slightly ahead of me. I never had to look where they were.
On my left thumb I used a leather thumb hob nailed glove. I also carried alongside of my wagon 2 12-inch extra bang boards. I got paid 5 cents a bushel. Good wages for 1948. I was 18 years old. I picked from dark a.m. to dark p.m.
I’m 87 years old and could still pick corn! Ron Blaser, Columbus, Neb.
Corn Husking Hook. I tried one many years ago but wasn’t very successful. My granddad on my dad’s side could really make one work. He went to Iowa in the ’30s to shuck corn because the crops in Nebraska were dried up. Mitch Coffin, Lincoln, Neb.
It’s a corn picking hook worn on the thumb, fingers grab the clean ear and fling it into the wagon. Ted Haverkamp, Verdigre, Neb.
My answer is a thumb corn shucking hook. Don Donjon, Ovid, Colo.
It’s a corn husking hand sleeve. R.L. Pierson, Munden, Kan.
My dad used one to shuck corn. They strapped it to the wrist with that metal piece in the palm of the hand and it was used to remove the husk. David Salem, St. John, Kan.
It’s a hand corn husker used to shuck corn by hand before corn pickers were invented. Most of them are the “Boss” Huskers, manufactured by The Boss Mfg. Co., Kewanee, Illinois. I have a collection of hand corn huskers, 32 and counting. Dan Ast, Belle Plaine, Kan.
The item is a husking hook for corn. I have used it many times. Fred Howard, Sargent, Neb.
A corn husking hook. I have my grandpa’s on my back porch. Margaret Ruf, Wilsonville, Neb.
It’s an ear corn shucker hook. You strapped it on your wrist and picked corn by hand. Then you can throw the ear of corn into a wagon. It would shuck the husk off the ear of corn. Perry Sherman, Newcastle, Neb.
I’m guessing a corn hand chucker. Melvin Miller, Wayne, Neb.
It’s a tool you wear on your hand to shuck corn. I watched my dad use it when I was small. Burt Schroer, Lawrence Neb.
The “hook” used by a manual two-legged corn picker. You strapped this on the right hand. Grabbed the ear of corn with the left and with one swift move you had the ear of corn ready for the wagon equipped with a bang board. The wagon was pulled by a trusty team of horses and if two of you were “picking” the picker closer to the wagon hoped the outside row picker had a good aim for the throw. Proper additional equipment was a heavy pair of mittens! This brought back nostalgic memories. Jackie Wedemeyer, Scottsbluff, Neb.
I believe that the picture looks like a corn husking peg or hook. We used them when I was a boy and had to pick corn by hand to open up the field. Rod Hollman, Martell, Neb.
That is known as a corn shucker and attaches over a glove on one hand. The other hand grabs the ear of corn and then this hand with shucker tears the shucks, enough to break the ear loose from the stalk and away the ear goes into the wagon. There were different versions of shucking hooks, as my Mom used a peg.
Graduated from the 8th grade and helped my cousin (who was farming our farm due to my Dad’s health) and helped him shuck corn. I took the inside row and he took the next two rows. Helped him all fall and he paid me $20 and I asked for a $20 bill, as I never had one. Didn’t have to scoop the corn into a crib as we had a crib with an elevator in it. No lift, so had to get the corn out the back end gate. Glen Schweppe, Syracuse, Neb.
While going through my dad’s things after his passing, we came across this item. He worked as a drafter at Beach Aircraft during WWII. I think it might be some type of drafting tool, but not sure. Any help would be appreciated. Raylen Phelon, Melvern, Kan.
I would say it’s a corn hook for picking ear corn by hand. Glen Popken, Hooper, Neb.
Your picture … brought back memories of my youth and husking corn with a “Thumb hook” like the picture. A Palm Hook was more common but I tried the Thumb hook once and liked it. I grew up on a farm in the Bohemian Alps north of Garland. Our neighbors to the west and north both included young men who were good corn huskers and we could often hear each other’s “speed” on a quiet morning as we heard the ears hit the backboard. We were good friends and played on the Garland Town Team Baseball team. We thought of “picking corn” as an athletic event and worked at perfecting our skills. My record was 135 bushels in one day. Getting 100 was a standard for each of us. The Thumb hook helped but I also learned to never look at the ear I was working on but look at the next one and program your mind as to how to approach it. A lesson that I carried forward in my career in management with the USDA Soil Conservation Service. Verlon “Tony” Vrana, Seward, Neb.
That is a tool that’s put on your hand to hand pick ear corn off the stalk. Jeff Wolfe, Hartington, Neb.
And we heard from our regulars, too: Stan Shavlik, our 89-year-young reader from rural Linwood, Neb., and Melvin Sporrer, from Portsmouth, Iowa, who reported from the morning coffee group in Logan, Iowa. Both quickly recognized the corn hook.
The harvest season had to be greatly aided with the invention of the corn hook – and by those who developed a skill to use it. Harvest remained a slow process, but the hook may have been the equivalent of streamlining the routine. The combine was still years in the future.