The Diary of Lizzie Dopps

 

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Chapter X
GRASSHOPPERS

 

I havenít told of our unwelcomed, air-minded guests--the grasshoppers*.  If they had only continued to be air-minded and made a "from coast to coast hop," we would not have minded, but they decided to make a landing field of our twenty-acre cornfield and hop on our corn.

I will remember the first of these pests I ever saw as long as I live,  I had my washing ready to hang out on the line, but as I started out of the door with it, I noticed a black cloud off in the distance, although the sun was shining brightly, and heard a queer distant murmur.

On came the cloud with the wind and the murmur, now a distinct humming, growing louder and louder.  Now this strange and roaring cloud was overhead blotting out the sun.  Then suddenly the wind died down and the cloud descended on our corn-field.

Of course, by this tine I know what that black living, wriggling cloud was -- grasshoppers.

Our corn was in the silk and tassel stage, young, milky kernels forming, too young to gather, but it must have tasted wonderful to those horrible things,

I thought possibly if the corn wasn't standing upright but cut and lying flat on the ground so they could not get at it so easily, they night get discouraged and fly away.  I grabbed up the corn knife and ran out into the field, slashing at it right and left.

About this time Eli came and took the corn knife and told me to go back in the house.  I gave up the corn knife to him as I knew he could wield it better than I, but I ran to the house and returned with the butcher knife and tried to help but it did no good.  They ate the corn--stalks and all, just the same as though it were standing.

Oh, it was awful!  They were everywhere--in the house and all around.  That crackling, crunching sound they made was sickening.

They were with us all that day and night, but about dawn the next morning, a wind came up in the direction they wanted to go, and they arose in a cloud again and left as they had come.

But the havoc had been wrought.  Our twenty acres of corn was as flat and smooth as though some kind of a machine had gone over it.  Our corn was gone.  We were not the only ones thus robbed.  Others all around were visited in the same way.

Perhaps, after all, we were fortunate.  I have heard when there was nothing for them to feed upon when they made a landing that they attacked human beings, especially small children.  I could not vouch for the veracity of this as I never personally knew of such a case, and it might be just "hear-say" but the grasshoppers surely had a most satisfactory feast of corn that time.

Of course, the roots of the corn stalks were not dead and to our great surprise and delight, young stalks of corn shot up from them, and we were so happy to know we were going to have a good crop of corn that year after all.

The corn grew and was just about to the silk and tassel stage again when, low, and behold, the grasshoppers came again and ate it all up.

It was too late after that for a corn crop, so there was not much corn in that locality for that year.  However, we did raise a little corn on a five acre field about five miles away,  

That was my first experience with the grasshoppers, but not my last, but it was our most severe experience with the pests.

* The grasshopper plague descended on Kansas in late July of 1874.

 

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 © 2006 Laurie Arnold.  All material presented herein was transcribed or otherwise provided by Laurie Arnold from the unpublished text of the diary, family photos and personal genealogy.  She and her family have graciously given permission for the diary to be posted to the Norton County Kansas GenWeb website, for the benefit of others who had pioneer families in Norton County, Kansas. This diary, photos and personal genealogy may not be reproduced, published or re-published for any reason, in any format, without prior written consent of the contributors or copyright holders.  web design © 2006 Ardie Grimes