After using cornstalks in my haunt during 2007 and 2008, I decided not to include them last year. While I liked the haunt a little better without the massive wall of corn behind my graveyard’s overseer, it was a little strange not having the stalks as part of the display. So, for Halloween 2010, I’ve decided to compromise — no wall of corn, however, I am going to bring the stalks back to the haunt. But this time, I’m going to place them in those lean-to bundles around the edges and back of the graveyard. And, in the vein of Tuesday’s post about Witches and Broomsticks, I decided to do a little digging on the history of those lean-to cornstalk structures, called “shocks.”
I learned that over a century ago (prior to major technological advances in farming), after stalks were cut down, farmers made shocks in the field so the cornstalks could dry out. After drying in shocks, the stalks were either loaded on wagons and hauled to another location for shucking, or they were shucked right in the field.
Today, this same practice is continued by the Amish, as is evident by the great footage of shocks in this vid:
Source: YT user, knoeful
There’s certain imagery that immediately captures the feeling of fall; seeing shocks is one of those for me. While I’ve never lived near an Amish community and machinery has removed the need for shocks among farms that embrace technology, associating those lean-to structures with Halloween and fall must go back to my youth. I used to consume a steady diet of Halloween books that included old artwork. A lot of that artwork featured creepy fields full of shocks, guarded by a lone scarecrow — all illuminated by a full moon.
“Shocks” image source: Wikipedia
A great resource for learning about the use of shocks and other aspects of pioneer farming is: Camp Silos.