10 Country-- Billy’s Sweet Army - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

10 Country-- Billy’s Sweet Army

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July 2, 2002

Few people know Southwest Georgia gets invaded by a foreign army that cleans out field after field, as it marches onward. That army makes it possible for you to have plenty of sweet corn for the peak of consumption-- the July 4th holiday, and the rest of the year.

It looks like something from a low budget science fiction movie, but it’s the modern way to attack 1,800 acres of sweet corn, where Billy Faircloth serves as the field general. “We got three of them working today. Three armies.”

Fifty soldiers make up each army, working with precision to harvest seemingly endless rows of sweet corn. “Once over, that’s it. A one shot deal.” The field soldiers go through basic training, learning how to make snap decisions. “They know as soon as they put their hand on it, whether it’s good or not.”

These soldiers lead the rest of the sweet army, starting at daybreak, pulling enough corn to fill a box every minute, with 48 ears. “One crew can pull six thousand boxes of corn real easy, and go home by two o’clock,” Faircloth says.

Boxes of sweet corn going to grocery stores within hours after leaving the battlefield. They work on what is called a 'mule train,' a large assembly line on wheels. They call it a mule train because many years ago mules literally pulled a trailer through the field. Now, instead of animals, a military surplus, heavy-duty truck with 20 tires marches slowly through the fields. “

Twice a year, in the spring and fall, the soldiers return to the mule train armies, Re-enlisting for each of the past 14 years. “Some have been here as long as I have,” says Faircloth.

Just like any good plan of attack, the soldiers know in advance what they are expected to do individually. “You plan every day for the next day...” Creating a battle plan. “Everybody’s got to do their job right, if the whole operation is going to tick.”

And, it ticks like clock work day after day, year after year, as if in a general's battle plan.