The harvest is known to its practitioners as “combining,” an interesting and apt description. Combining does what in previous times was a multiplicity of chores; cutting and shocking, later the husking and threshing, and finally the hand-cranked sheller.
Our grandfather owned one of those hand-turned relics that as farmboys we no longer attached to an odious chore. We thought the hand-cranked corn sheller was a neat toy; the device, however, lost its neatness somewhere after the seventh bushel, as a modern combine does this in a few blurry seconds.
Corn is the objective cause for the combine, a machine that arrived fairly recently to agricultural practice, about two generations previous. Corn is arguably the most distinguished crop to transfer directly from the Indian empire to the modern farm; though potatoes, squash and beans give a good account of themselves. The fur posts of the Hudson’s Bay Company and Northwest Company planted corn as a food stock, following the acknowledged Indian habit for corn that had grown radially out of Mesoamerica – the Olmec, Toltec, Aztec empires themselves fueled by this high sustenance crop.