The Bean Walker

If you're my age and you grew up in rural Iowa, you may have been a bean walker — bean being short for soybean and walker as in person walking through a soybean field.  The walker often carried both a bean hook (it looks a bit like a garden hoe, only there's a hook on the end with a rather sharp edge, used for cutting) and a corn knife. I know, a corn knife in a bean field? The goal of this June "bean walking" exercise was to walk through the fields of soybeans and cut out the weeds but also the stray stalks of corn which stuck up significantly higher than the beans. That's when the corn knife came in handy.

To the fastidious farmer who planted arrow straight rows of beans at a 90 degree angle with the passing grave/paved road, these stray stalks of corn were an eyesore that ruined the symmetry of the field.  The lower-lying weeds, however, robbed the soybean plant of nutrients and were equally loathed.

Many farm kids loathed the exercise of bean walking.  It generally meant rising very early so as to be in the field just at sunrise, while the dew was still heavy on the soybean plants.  One wore jeans while walking beans and the jeans would be soaked by the dew within seconds, but you didn't dare wear shorts or your skin would be torn to shreds by the soybean plants.  Your shoes would be soaked by the dew as well, so you'd be lulled by the monotonous sound of the "squish" of every step you took.  The ground on which you were walking wasn't even either, as a farm implement called a "cultivator" had likely been pulled through the field by a tractor a few weeks before you, hoeing deep grooves in between the rows of soybeans.

The bean walker, however, is a thing of the past in Iowa farm fields, thanks to Roundup Ready Soybeans.  It means a farmer now can, essentially, spray "weed killer" on a field of soybeans and the soybean plants will survive, but the weeds won't. 

Now, a different kind of "Bean Walker" has emerged on the Iowa landscape.  Entrepreneur Tim Albrecht, an Iowa native who claims to have been a bean walker in the past, launched this evening with a big party at a Des Moines restaurant.  It looks a lot like The Drudge Report.  But Albrecht's goal is to feature Iowa news only on the site, similar to experiments in two other states.  Albrecht has links to dozens of Iowa media sites.  You'll find a link to this blog there, but he neglected to include Radio Iowa's website in his extensive list  Perhaps Albrecht doesn't know whether it's a newspaper, or a radio station…He does link to Radio Iowa stories in his "opening" page, however.

Albrecht has worked behind the scenes on a number of campaigns.  He worked as former House Speaker Christopher Rants' communications director and as the Iowa press secretary for Romney '08.  Albrecht is currently the communications director of the American Future Fund.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.