Dave Peyton: Stringin’ beans might be the answer to incivility

August 8, 2018

A friend in the northern part of the state posted a “throwback picture” on Facebook recently of a “bean stringin.”

You never heard of a bean stringin’? You must be a pup, then.

Old codgers like this columnist remember them. My friend’s picture showed a granddaughter and several nieces sitting around a table in his kitchen with a bushel of unstrung half-runner beans spread out. Each of the younguns and perhaps a few others not pictured were taking beans off the table, removing the strings and snapping them into pieces to prepare them for canning, one bean at a time.

You can see the pure pleasure on their faces. Bean stringin’s were predominantly a feminist pursuit. The girls were obviously talking about “things” as they snapped the beans. They may have been talking about boys, relatives who were not there, relatives who had passed. But most of all, they were joining together in a family pursuit.

When beans are ready to be canned, they can’t be “put off.” They have to be processed quickly. That’s where bean stringin’ begins.

Everyone from sometimes miles around joined a family in stringin’ and snappin’ the beans to can for winter. The stringin’ moved from house to house, farm to farm as did the social gathering that was as important or maybe even more important than the stringin’.

Later in the fall, in the olden days, they’d gather in the barn for the annual corn huskin’, mostly a male undertaking.

The corn was harvested and put in the barn with the husks still on the ears. The community men gathered to help the farmer rip the husks off the ears so it could be thrown to the cows and horses to keep them alive during the cold winter months.

It was not unheard of to pass the jug holding the homemade whiskey during a huskin’. It made time pass faster.

Most cornhuskers used a “huskin’ peg” to speed the process. It was a pointed piece of metal wrapped in leather. It would be attached to the husker’s hand to make the huskin’ go faster.

I still have my Grandpa Peyton’s huskin’ peg. It’s a piece of Peyton history.

My friend, Pamela, sent me an email about a public bean stringin’ at the Charleston Farmer’s Market. Stringers were to bring their own beans to string or buy beans from the local farmers.

As they go about the business of stringin’ and being social, there would be live music, corn on the cob and general socialization.

The strung beans were to be canned and given to local food banks.

What a great idea - a perfect ritual for any farmer’s market in August.

In these modern times, bean stringin’s to save us from starvation in the winter aren’t necessary, not when you can buy a big can of beans for 79 cents at Kroger’s.

But how could neighbors fuss and fight after stringin’ beans together? How could neighbors fight like cats and dog after huskin’ corn together as they passed the jug?

Maybe we need to have more bean stringin’s and corn huskin’s. Not for the beans and corn, but for the old-fashioned social harmony.

It might solve a mountain of problems.

Dave Peyton is on Facebook. His email address is davepeyton@comcast.net.

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