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Few rise before the sun, but 47 detasselers from around Antelope County have become some of the few that get to see the sunrise in the morning after detasseling became a summer rite of passage for them.
The day begins by loading the bus at Neligh at 5 a.m. each morning with their water bottles, coolers and clothes. Pick up stops, including Oakdale, Tilden and Meadow Grove, give those from surrounding towns a chance to join the crew and then it’s out to the field for the day. The process of detasseling involves hard labor and early morning exercise as each field takes about three days to finish.
Neither Darcy nor Nate Metschke of Neligh ever thought becoming group leaders for detasseling was going to remain a permanent job for them, but 11 years has brought perspective to their life while working for NBS detasseling. While neither of them detasseled as youth, Nate said he plans to supervise until his children can take over.
“It’s kind of fun to teach kids how to work and watch them grow up,” Nate said.
Darcy said her first time out in the field 13 years ago. Her first time as a detasseling crew leader started in a field near Seward.
“My eyes were very big that day because I had no idea what I was getting into,” Darcy said. “I learned a lot that first year when I detasseled. Now I dream corn.”
Mackenzie Wiseman of Oakdale is one of the oldest on the crew at age 20. After 7 years, she decided to continue the hard work through college.
“It’s worth the money and it’s worth the exercise. I enjoy the job. I enjoy the people and the crew leaders,” said Wiseman.
For Adrienne Parker of Neligh, her first year has provided lots of learning experiences. While her relatives tried to talk her out of it, Parker was determined to learn what it takes to become a detasseler.
“It’s pretty fun even though it’s really hard,” said Parker. “I wanted to make some money at first, but then I just wanted to hang out with Mr. and Mrs. Metschke.”
But kids aren’t the only ones who are impacted by the Metschkes. Owner of NBS detasseling of Seward also showed high respect for them.
“Nate and Darcy have been exceptional leaders for their crew. They have high expectations and at the same time always care for each worker,” said Bill Sloup.
While the Metschkes know that detasseling isn’t always fun, they make the most of the hard work. They also mentioned that a ‘Cornmance’ could come while working on their team as it has happened before.
“You might meet your future spouse while detasseling,” Darcy said.
Nate and Darcy also gave some insight into what it’s like being out in the fields all summer explaining it as more of a summer vacation.
“Some people like to take long walks on the beach. My wife and I like to take long walks in the corn,” Nate joked.
Darcy added, “It’s been a wonderful learning experience. It’s the perfect job for us because we’re teachers and we like being around kids.”
While spending their summer with kids from the crew is fun, Darcy explained the hardship of having her own children stay at home.
“It’s different when you’re a parent and you’re both up at 3 a.m. and you get home and you’re tired and you have kids that want to play,” said Darcy.
However, crew leaders on the detasseling team can make a big difference in relieving some of the stress from the crew. Crew leaders Dylan Smith, J.J. Wagner and Zach Chance have made a significant impact on the team.
“Your crew leader is so important. They have to be positive and fun because when it gets hot out you need someone to motivate,” said Nate.
Tyler Miller of Tilden has been working the fields for 5 years. He has been earning extra money during the summer for college. He plans on coming back next year as a crew leader.
“It’ll be fun to do something different,” said Miller.
John Sloup, manager for NBS detasseling, explained that the operation has been around for about 40 years in his family.
“Detasseling is not easy work,” said Sloup. “Kids working hard is a great thing to see.”
While not all kids are cut out for detasseling, Nate shared some enthusiasm with his crew of workers.
“They know Mom and Dad are going to make them keep coming so you might as well do the best you can,” Nate said. “You gotta have a good work ethic in life and this is a great way to start. They’re our future...so they got to learn how to work.”