Out On The Mudline

Molasses Was An Important Asset In Early Farming Years

By W. P. Sissell

Nannette, just a few minutes ago, gave me a most appropriate  opening statement for this weeks article: Many things that we cook have a better taste if about a half cup of molasses is added. Molasses, what is molasses? I guess, technically, molasses is the/a final by-product of the sugar industry in Louisiana called Blackstrap. This is used in cattle feed (probably today’s greatest usage), fertilizer, distilling of rum and alcohol. It also may become one of the leading materials for supplying future fuel supplies.

 Many people of this world do not know about the molasses Nannette was talking about. That molasses comes from the group of plants called the Sorghums which are divided into four general classifications: grain sorghum, sweet sorghum,  grassy sorghum and broomcorn.  We have, at one time or another, raised crops of all four groups for they all grow well in this area of the world. The largest annual acreage of the Sorghum family belongs to the grain sorghum group.  The four mentioned all belong to the Gramineae family and bear the name, Sorghum vulgare.  Another member of the family is, without the use of over grazing or chemicals, one of our old times pests, Johnson Grass, Sorghum halpense.  

We used many acres along the banks of Otuckalofa on the McFarland place as grazing for the dairy herd.  In the area around West Point, Mississippi, hundreds of tons of Johnson Grass hay was baled and sold to Circuses over the country (it was a favorite of the elephants.)  The John Deere Company tested their new automatic hay baler out in that area because it was thought to give balers their toughest test. The company made several revisions in the machine.

Mud Line Molasses Maker

Although we didn’t grow sweet sorghum every year, when it was planted, every family on the farm had an interest in the sorghum field. With the acreage we had it was usually possible to get a “Molasses Maker” to move his rig to our farm.  

Nannette’s mother and father were the “Molasses Makers” for the Taylor Community.  This was the reason the people in Taylor sent the Arkansas molasses seekers to the Shipp home (an earlier article.)  Pay for the cooking was usually made by “toll” of the molasses made so they, most of the time, had molasses for sale.

Out on the mud line the resident “Molasses Maker” was Mr. Swindoll (Tillet’s father) who lived on the north side of Swindoll Hill. He was my good friend Harvey (Deacon) Gray’s Grandpa and I usually just called him Grandpa Swindoll.

I Become a Molasses Maker

In those years when we planted sorghum, especially after we got the Cottoner (McFarland) place, Grandpa Swindoll moved his cooker down to the shade of the grove where Fly Mountain Road (CR 152 now) joins the Mud Line.  When I started asking questions about the cooking Grandpa put me in the pit (walkway along the side of the pan with a nacelle dug large enough for a pot at the right hand end) and taught me how to cook molasses.  

Export Molasses?

Last week an article in the insert of our Panolian caught my eye.  The World’s 10 WORST Dictators.  Number 10 was Isayas Afewerki, ruler of Eritrea. Beneath a picture of each of these men a section U.S.LINK was given: The following was the content of the area under Afewerki. The U. S. has provided aid and food to this country but although American aid workers were ordered out in 2005, we still conduct trade limited largely to our country’s export of sorghum.   My source tells me that in India, Africa, and China the seed of grain sorghum is ground and made into pancakes or mush so much of this import is probably grain.  The most commonly grown of the grain sorghums are the ones that can be harvested with a combine.  

Many years ago we grew some broomcorn on the Mud Line farm and had it made into brooms in little broom factory in the north end of Water Valley. Do you remember who the broom maker was? Those brooms were about the best brooms we ever owned.  The tough part was getting the seeds off the straw.

Thank you for the many comments.  We appreciate you.  Our wish for you is a great week—we hope we continue to miss the cold storms.  Please do not forget that you lose a big percentage of your traction when driving on wet pavement.  You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606, 662-563-9879 or wsissell@bellsouth.net.

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