Harvest Desk
7:44 am
Mon June 24, 2013

My Farm Roots: Jackie Dougan Jackson

Retired professor Jackie Dougan Jackson lives in Springfield, Ill., but devotes a lot of time reflecting on her childhood growing up on a farm near Beloit, Wisc.
Credit Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

Jackie Dougan Jackson grew up like many farm kids. She spent sunbaked summer hours detasseling corn, tending the crops so it can be pollinated. For farm kids, detasseling is one of the ultimate chores. For the 85-year-old Jackson, those memories still put a song in her heart.

“Okay, my name is Jackie Dougan Jackson. For 22 years I lived on the Dougan dairy farm outside of Beloit, Wis., about a mile and a half. It became also a seed corn farm. We had the two businesses going, sort of hand-in-hand.

The problem with hybrid corn is that it can’t self-pollinate. It has to be pollinated by something else, and that’s why you detassel it. You plant two varieties of corn. When we were detasseling there would be four rows to be tasseled, which we would call the female corn and then two rows of male corn.

Detasseling was hard work, very hard work. You had to be tall enough and you had to wear long sleeves no matter how hot it was because corn leaves are sharp and they will slash you in the elbows as you go along and so you end up with your elbows red and raw and bleeding. So you would quickly learn to wear a shirt. And you knew you had to wear shoes even though the ground was, could be muddy and you would develop feet that would take great lifting to lift your foot. But it was even worse if you were barefoot because there would be a clod of mud up to your knees and so that was bad.
I was just short enough that for the tallest stalks because you have to pull up on a tassel, because you can’t break it off, you can’t leave any shards of it there to come up and contaminate a field. But I also found it gave me a mild stomachache before the day was over because of the constant jerking up which affected my stomach. When I got taller it was a little better.

I used to sing, here we go a tasseling, a tasseling, a tasseling here we go a tasseling out in the Dougan corn. We tassel fast, we tassel slow, we tassel every female row so hardly any tassels show out in the Dougan corn. And that was my…I had another one about stand up, stand up for Dougan you little sturdy oat. But I won’t go on with that song we’re not talking oats right now we’re talking corn.

Grandpa painted his philosophy on the silo. But the big round barn in the center with the barn doors open you could see the words on the barn, which were  ‘The aims of this farm are good crops, proper storage, profitable livestock, a stable market, life as well as the living.’And so we grew up under that philosophy. “

Harvest Public Media is a collaboration of WUIS and public media stations across the Midwest. To hear more My Farm Roots stories – or to share your own – visit Harvest Public Media.org.