THE LAST RICK

October, Autumn is on its way. The harvest is drawing towards the end. The rickyard is almost full. The smallest rick bottom is laid. Father steps six yards wide, with four rick pegs in his hands. He pushes one in the ground at each corner, ten yards long, a thick layer of wheat straw a good yard thick is spread over and the sheaves stocked in the centre butts down, ears up. The first layer of sheaves no ears of corn touch the straw of the rick bottom. The moisture from the soil strikes up and damps the straw and moulds it. If the ears of corn came in contact with it the corn would not ‘thrash out’.

This is the pattern of the rick building: keep the middle full – this holds the sheaves together and stops the sides slipping out. This last rick is the horse beans with thick stick like straw. Your legs were stubbed sore when the sheaves were thrown at you as you took them and passed them on to the rick builder. Sheaves were thrown at you, a boy, but you dare not throw them at the rick builder. He expected the sheaf to be placed a little to the right and just in front of him. Woe betide you if you dropped one just as he was placing the other one.

October the twelfth was a date we all looked forward to, both men and boys, because the first Thursday after the twelfth is Banbury Fair.

“Can we go to the Fair, Gaffer?” someone would ask. If we had finished harvest Dad would say yes, so everyone puts their best foot forward and works hard to finish, as well my father knew they would. If it was a wet harvest time, the straddle stones were used four along each side, then large long ash poles laid across, criss crossing side to middle and then covered with brushwood and faggots. On this the rick was built, allowing the wind and air to blow through to dry the corn in the rick.