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Section 25

Its People and Institutions as I knew them about Sixty Years ago.


Wednesday, September 8th, 1897


These acres wide in early years,
The tasseled corn with golden ears,
In autumn brought a rich supply,
To supplement the fields of rye.
In satin robes the golden ear
Was gathered when the blades were sere;
And garnered in a goodly store,
Was heaped upon the threshing floor;
And then the neighbors far and near
Were bid to come and husk the ear.
To cheer the gloom of darkening night,
And shed o’er all a cheerful light,
There high and low upon the walls,
And by the cattle’s feeding stalls,
In yellow pumpkins ripe and old,
Like candlesticks of burnished gold,
Were tallow candles burning bright,
Resplendent as the lamps of night,
Then huddling by the heaping ears,
On blocks and stools and broken chairs;
Or sitting on their crouching feet,
In absence of some better seat,
The noisy boys and sober men,
Were all like merry boys again.
Amid their jokes and yarns and cheers,
They stripped the husks from off the ears,
And cross the barn they let them fly,
Like shooting meteors through the sky,
The ears disrobed have left the floor,
The husks behind, the corn before.
The evening’s task is now complete,
And rising from each humble seat,
And gazing on the golden ears,
The rafters echo with three cheers,
Now to the house they all repair,
And feast on heaps of husking fare, -
Molasses cake and pumpkin pies,
And ginger-bread of marvelous size,
Sweet apples baked and heaped in mass,
And luscious pans of apple sauce.
And then departing homeward bound,
The hills and vales their shouts resound;
And sometimes not with this content,
Upon a little mischief bent,
To celebrate the midnight hours,
With something more than vocal powers;
Some neighbor’s barn they pelt with stones,
Attended loud with shouts and groans.

NOTES: - The husking frolics, as they were called, of fifty and sixty years ago, were the grand annual festival seasons of the long autumn evenings. Then, on almost every farm was grown one or more acres of corn, and when ripe, was gathered into the barn and heaped up in the middle of the threshing floor, with an open space on either side. The huskers sat on one side and threw the husked ears on the other side. The boys and men were envited to the husking, from the whole neighborhood; and the neighborhood then embraced the Shaws in the east, Andrew Woodworth’s in the west, and the Chutes in South Berwick. While the husking was going on in the barn, the girls and mothers in the house were making ready the husking supper, spread on a long temporary table, consisting of great plates of fresh baked rye and wheat bread, all sliced and buttered, pumpkin pies, apple sauce, baked apples, doughnuts, molasses cake and steaming cups of tea, sweetened, sometimes, with molasses. To the boys these were hours of feasting and fun, and their late hours home were often celebrated with a jubilee of noise and mischief. I have no doubt it is with others as with myself, the memory of those days, apart from the mischief, are among the most cherished reminiscences of boyhood. To me, the retrospect is like a journey into a foreign land, with a halo of pleasure encircling these scenes of primitive and rural simplicity.