Memories of Bean Walking

Foggy Morning in the Bean Field.JPG

A Hazy Humid Morning in the Bean Field


I am starting to believe that my sister and I brought the hot, humid weather back to Iowa from D.C. It is humid and stifling. It is great corn growing weather; but not so much for people comfort weather.

Once again, I am back in the swing of gardening, caring for chickens, walking the soybean field and all the other summer tasks that need to be done. Though I think I will wait for cooler weather for mowing the back yard. It is just too hot and there is zero breeze back there.

While I was gone my husband had started walking beans. For those of you who have no idea what that is…..I will tell you what it isn’t.  It is not putting a teeny tiny leash on a bean and taking it for a walk around the block or section. What it is… usually hot work that involves the oldest tennis shoes you have, a hoe or corn knife, volunteer corn and weeds in the soybean field and muggy Iowa weather.

The sprays of today do help with most of the weeds but my husband hesitates to “over spray” so we end up walking to chop out the ones that escape the spray boom.  We also chop out the volunteer corn that always seems to crop up from last season. I am not sure what these corns are volunteering to do but I wish they would quit!

Walking beans was the foundation of my employment back when I was in high school. Back then we worked for $2.65 an hour. We started at 6:00 in the morning and worked all morning to avoid the heat of the afternoon. We would start down the rows of the soybean fields wearing shorts and t-shirts and by noon be down to our swimsuits. With the dew on the beans running down your legs and pooling in your shoes; you could accumulate a couple inches of mud on the bottom of your tennies. By noon, in the heat, it had dried and fallen off.

Once the morning of hoeing and chopping was done our crew headed back home to peel off dirty clothes, hose off shoes and hang them on the line, sharpen hoes, pack lunches for the next day and head for the local sandpit to swim and cool off.

During my bean walking career I worked for many different farmers. Some of them were real “characters”. I will never forget the one who instructed us to only chop weeds to the top of the hill and not to worry about the weeds beyond the hill.  He figured his neighbors could not see those; so it was not a problem.  This same farmer gave us blank signed checks when we turned in our hours for payment!  We told him the amount he should put on them but he told us to just write it in ourselves. I found out later that he did this to many kids, my husband included. From what I know, the kids who received these checks were always honest and put the correct amount. We would shake our heads, grin and imagine what we could do with all that income had we been dishonest…..

For some reason, walking beans seemed a lot easier back then.  The weather seemed cooler (in my memory only perhaps?).  Maybe it was because of unexpected things that seemed to happen…..things like goats jumping all over the car of a friend who drove that day? Maybe it was the Hostess cream filled cupcakes and susy-q’s?  Maybe it was the incentive of the paycheck at the end? I am not really sure….I just know it seemed easier back then.

I am starting to suspect that age may have something to do with my level of enthusiasm when it comes to walking beans. I know that, now, when my husband and I take a water break our  5 minutes of sitting usually turns into 10 minutes. (I cannot get him convinced that we really need to recuperate longer than that.) I know that we do not start at 6:00 in the morning as we prefer the leaves of the beans to be dry so we can avoid the inch of mud on our shoes and pants dragging and heavy from the dew that has run down them. I know that we quit sooner than noon time and that is okay. Maybe if I purchased some Hostess treats the magic would return?  Nope……pretty sure not.

The rhythm of the hours of our days has definitely changed from when we were younger. The need to get “it” all done in a hurry so we can move on to the next thing has all but disappeared. There is a contentment in seeing progress in the bean field but unless we hear that rain is coming, the urgency to finish in a couple days is gone.

I am kind of loving this phase of our lives…..where time is not hurried but rather used, lived and enjoyed.  Yes, even walking beans in the heat and humidity is looked back on with a smile.  It might be that we are smiling because we are done for the day!  But we are smiling.


I don’t know too many kids who ask to weed the garden.
Tom Douglas

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8 thoughts on “Memories of Bean Walking

  1. chicken46 says:

    Well, chickengrandma and Rabbitpatchdiary, I’d read a book either of your wrote, and I would pay for the book too!! For both of you I love your stories and the rhythm of your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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