Corn-gathering in the South differs materially from corn-gathering in the North. The negroes go through the field breaking the ears from the stalks without removing the husk. The ears are thrown into heaps at convenient distances from each other, and in regular rows. A wagon is driven between these rows, and the corn gathered for the crib. Still unhusked, it is placed in the crib, to be removed when needed. It is claimed that the husk thus remaining on the corn, protects it from various insects, and from the effect of the weather.
Every body of laborers on a plantation is called a “gang.” Thus we had “the picking-gang,” “the corn-gang,” “the trash-gang,” “the hoe-gang,” “the planting-gang,” “the plow-gang,” and so on through the list. Each gang goes to the field in charge of a head negro, known as the driver. This driver is responsible for the work of his gang, and, under the old regime, was empowered to enforce his orders with the whip, if necessary. Under our new dispensation the whip was laid aside, and a milder policy took its place. It was satisfactory with the adults; but there were occasions when the smaller boys were materially benefited by applications of hickory shrubs. Solomon’s words about sparing the rod are applicable to children of one race as well as to those of another. We did not allow our drivers to make any bodily punishment in the field, and I am happy to say they showed no desire to do so.
As I have before stated, our first organization was the picking-gang. Then followed the gin-gang and the press-gang. Our gin-gang was organized on principles of total abstinence, and, therefore, differed materially from the gin-gangs of Northern cities. Our press-gang, unlike the press-gangs of New York or Chicago, had nothing to do with morning publications, and would have failed to comprehend us had we ordered the preparation of a sensation leader, or a report of the last great meeting at Union Square. Our press-gang devoted its time and energies to putting our cotton into bales of the proper size and neatness.
The corn-gang, the trash-gang, and the plow-gang were successively organized by Mr. Colburn. Of the first I have spoken. The duties of the second were to gather the corn-stalks or cotton-stalks, as the case might be, into proper heaps for burning. As all this debris came under the generic name of “trash,” the appellation of the gang is readily understood. Our trash-gang did very well, except in a certain instance, when it allowed the fire from the trash to run across a field of dead grass, and destroy several hundred feet of fence. In justice to the negroes, I should admit that the firing of the grass was in obedience to our orders, and the destruction of the fence partly due to a strong wind which suddenly sprang up. The trash-gang is usually composed of the younger children and the older women. The former gather and pile the stalks which the latter cut up. They particularly enjoy firing the heaps of dry trash.