There is no doubt, as you look around at the bustlling farm fields, that Lexington is in the middle of corn country. After all that corn is harvested, you still have to store it someplace, and years ago, the whole ears were stored in cribs - of all sorts of shapes and sizes - on every farm. During a quiet country drive, you might even see the remnants of one of those early cribs. They are a reminder of steps our farming ancestors went through to make a living.
While early farmers had a huge problem with vermin damaging the stored corn ears, one Lexington farmer developed a creative way to store his. It was featured in an August 1941 article, which included the following information, gathered by an eager reporter:
"The present corn crop prospect is for a normal yield, thanks to the rain and the cooler weather, says C. Y. Hyneman. His farm five miles east of Lexington is equipped with two useful improvements, a ratproof crib and a cistern that will hold about a year's supply of water.
Making a corn crib actually ratproof is a big job, said Mr. Hyneman. Last fall. he built the crib, 44 by 31 feet, 20 feet to the plate. A concrete floor, reinforced, puts the bottom of the crib two feet off the ground. Then there is two feet of wire mesh nailed to the wood cribbing, and at the top of that, there is an eight-inch band of sheet iron that offers rats no foothold to climb higher. Even the wooden doors are fitted with this sheet metal barrier. The outside stairway has a hinged section at the bottom to make a gap over which the rats cannot climb or jump. The outside elevator is also fitted with the metal barriers.
Metal is used freely for sheeting and roofs on the Hyneman farm. Old lumber is used in the framing, but the rule has been to keep it out of contact with the ground and protected with sheet iron. A straw loft poultry house, double-walled and metal-covered, is one of its features. A barn is to be built next. Already Mr. Hyneman is accumulating the sawn oak framing material. It too will be metal-covered, he said.
All buildings are provided with spouting to provide the preservation of rain water - on the crib and machine shed, as well as the home. The water flows first into an ordinary cistern that is used for a settling tank, the overflow from the cistern going into a concrete reservoir. The top of the reservoir is used as the top of one of the sheds. That supply of water will come in handy in a dry season. With a good force pump, it is just what is needed to reduce the fire hazard on the farm."
Over the years, there were numerous rat-killing campaigns held in McLean County- especially in the 1930's and 40's - often led by the Farm Bureau, the Home Bureau or the Health Department, and sometimes there was even a bounty paid for trapping rats. Though there is no record of how successful Mr. Hyneman's inventive creation was, I have some doubt. The evolution to storing shelled corn crops in local elevators surely made a huge difference in the quality of the crop for farmers, here in Lexington and all around the midwest.