Har­vest Time In Corn­wall

This England - - Harvest Time - H.M. CAIN

Dur­ing World War II, along with a num­ber of school friends, I as­sisted lo­cal farm­ers with the har­vest­ing of their sum­mer crops. At that time they were glad of our help for many of their farm work­ers had ei­ther vol­un­teered or been called upon to serve. For our ef­forts we were paid the princely sum of one pound per week.

There was some­thing mag­i­cal about cy­cling along coun­try lanes sur­rounded by cen­turies-old gran­ite hedges fes­tooned with all man­ner of wild flow­ers.

On ar­rival at the farm we would stow our cy­cles in a nearby shed prior to re­port­ing to the farmer, re­splen­dent in his dark cor­duroys, heavy boots and brightly coloured shirt. We had been warned to wear long trousers for fail­ure to do so could re­sult in our be­ing bit­ten by midges and flies.

If we were lucky the farmer would al­low each of us in turn to sit astride one of the Shire horses used in har­vest­ing the corn. I vividly re­call the feel­ings of plea­sure when I felt my­self be­ing hoisted on its back from where I could sur­vey the world about me from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.

Once in the field, the farmer would al­lo­cate us our tasks for that day. Be­fore long, with horse and reaper at­tached, the task of cut­ting the corn would com­mence. This could prove back­break­ing work de­spite our youth and en­ergy.

At noon we would stop work for lunch and the en­tire task force would take a well-earned rest. Sand­wiches were nor­mally pre­pared by our mums and these would be quickly despatched.

As our coun­try was at war with Ger­many we would keep an eye open for en­emy air­craft which might come our way.

Our af­ter­noon tea break was al­ways some­thing spe­cial for it was then the farmer’s wife vis­ited the field armed with a bas­ket full of scones and a large pitcher of home-made lemon­ade. A break of fif­teen min­utes would then en­sue as we sat amongst the corn en­joy­ing her of­fer­ings. All too quickly it would be time to start work, but we had been re­freshed and the end of our work­ing day was in sight.

Through­out the har­vest­ing, rab­bits would take refuge from the reaper in what was left of the corn. This meant that on the fi­nal cut in a par­tic­u­lar field they would rush for cover and head for the safety of the hedgerow. When this was about to hap­pen the farmer would shout, “Off you go, lads. See how many you can catch!”

Need­less to say our mums were very happy, for food was short and a fresh rab­bit a wel­come ad­di­tion to the larder.

Nowa­days, when­ever I pass a field of ripened corn be­ing har­vested, I re­call those happy times in the 1940s when life for a small group of school­boys proved to be full of won­der and ex­cite­ment.

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