Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fall Harvest; The Vanishing Corn Bundle

Each fall, in the middle of the fall season, I catch a glimpse of a classic northern New England decorative antique, the corn bundle in the corn field. The corn bundle is the vertical stack of dry corn stalks …with the drying corn ears still attached… that have been cut, gathered in approximately ten stalk clumps, raised upon each other to form the bundle and tied two-thirds of the way up with corn stalks that synch the bundle in and give it classic form. A field of cut corn is bundled and becomes, as the photographs show, a classic icon of the New England fall harvest.
So classic be these bundles in the corn field that… to even the romantic New England eye… they are hardly noticed. One's car goes by them at sixty-five. This chance notice is difficult too for, these days, a field of bundled corn is quite scarce to encounter, even at sixty-five. Furthering this viewing scarcity is that the bundle progression is done only as a brief step in the process of the corn harvest. 

The corn is cut the first day, stacked and bundled the next and then… these whole bundles are intended to be moved to the barn the third day ("before they get wet"). Weather permitting. This is the quick plan and process is often delayed by weather BUT STILL is done quickly. The bundle stage, the most picturesque, is designed to shed any water AND keep the inner corn fresh dried; a light green. We were lucky to find and photograph a bundle torn open by the wind that shows the dried green corn stalks inside. The whole point of this harvest style is to process the corn to be a winter feed; a sort of original form of silage, for cows. For the romantic New England eye, the moment of bundles of corn in the field is very short.

There is very scant reference to corn bundles in the field. One may find abundant pictorial usage, nearly formulaic, but discussion is very scant. Even Eric Sloane, who includes a superior color print of his painted view of the corn bundle harvest as the frontis for his "Autumn" chapter in his THE SEASONS OF AMERICA PAST (Funk, New York, 1958, after page 82) (see our photographs) gives no written commentary on the bundle or bundle process.
Once one understands that one is looking at a… classic… fleeting moment of a …classic… New England harvest, slowing down and gazing fondly becomes one's norm. Then one may chance to see the bundles being made and tied, usually by several men accompanied by small children and dogs (just as Sloan portrayed). Savor this view. The whole process will be gone in a few days; the field will be bare stubble ready for the winter snows… flocks of geese… and crows. As the corn bundle harvest practice continues to wane, I personally view each field as if it's my last contact with this classic northern New England antique.

No comments:

Post a Comment