Sunday, May 19, 2013

Uncle Charlie’s Husking Peg

I was reminded of one of my great half-uncles today. Looking through my desk drawer, I came across a husking peg he’d made. For folks who don’t know what a husking peg is, it’s a small, pointed, dowel-like piece of wood held in the hand, which is inserted into the silk end of an ear of field corn and then rammed down the length of the ear, ripping a slot in the husks surrounding the ear. That allows you to pop the ear out that slot and break off the husk. Usually a leather loop went around the thumb or the two fingers next to the thumb, so you wouldn’t drop it while working. The simple tool, about five inches long and a half-inch thick, lay in the drawer of the Hoosier cabinet in the kitchen of our farm home from my earliest memory until the time my mother finally sold her personal items and moved to town. It was one of the few things in the home that I ended up with, since I don’t believe in paying for family heirlooms.

Charles Devol was an older half-brother of my paternal grandmother. He lied about his age to get into the Army, probably about the time of the Spanish-American War. He went to France during World War I and got gassed in the trenches, but recovered. He went on to be a 30 year man. I heard he made Master Sergeant; I know he was a gunnery sergeant for most of his career. The only story I remember from his years in the service was that he was stationed at a fort in Texas during the years when they still used horses. The mud was so bad there that scoop shovels were used to clean out the barracks as much as they were to clean the stables. The only other thing I remember hearing was that one day after his retirement, he went up the road to my uncle’s place to help at haying. When he walked into the barn, the big hay fork in the mow dropped unexpectedly and stuck in the barn floor just beyond the toe of his shoe. He stood stock still for a moment, turned white as a sheet, turned on his heel and left without saying a word. He helped his relatives on their farms as long as his health allowed, but then died in a military hospital sometime in the 60’s.

Charlie is the one in front of the doorway of the tent in the picture below. It was probably taken well before his retirement and is the only picture I have of him in uniform. A rather poor photo of the husking peg that he made (probably sometime between 1930 and 1950) is in the photo at the bottom of this post. Not having anyone to leave it to who remembers him, I’ve decided to put it on eBay. © 2013



Chickenmom said...

Saw it listed...If you can't sell it, can you donate it to your local Historical Society or library? I know sometimes they won't accept things though. Twice I have contacted the Paterson, NJ one. I have pictures from the turn of the 20th century when the downtown area burned down. They never replied.

Gorges Smythe said...

I guess you never know until you try, Cm.