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Reflections

Watch For Small Acts Of Kindness This Season

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, hope you had a great Thanksgiving.  I just realized that I had let molasses cooking time almost pass.  This always was an exciting time for all of us kids and some farmers started earlier than others.      

Papa Badley found a sorghum cane called HooDoo that matured late, but it had a greater yield than the conventional sorghums that were widely used up to that time. As I recall, it was a very large stalk, almost as big as sugar cane, and just a little sweeter than other sorghums.

As I said in an earlier column, Papa never made a lot of money and possibly because he gave full value in everything.  Most farmers tried to get a sorghum crop harvested and cooked into molasses because they hoped to raise a little money by being first on the market. Most of them didn’t cook the juice as long because it gave a bigger yield.  Papa preferred to cook his longer and made a thicker molasses but a lower yield.  Even so he would have hundreds of buckets of really great tasting molasses that had a longer shelf life.  You will note that I said buckets–not gallons, as the molasses bucket for some reason was a short gallon.  I don’t know why that was the case but I guess it’s probably a similar comparison to liquor in fifths instead of quarts – more units for sale.  People’s Wholesale sold what was called molasses buckets. The last crop of sorghum Papa raised was the first time glass jugs were introduced. They were still the short gallon, as the old metal bucked but they caught on immediately.      

Papa was very practical because he could use the “heads” of the cane for chicken feed and he told me that years before when they stripped the leaves from the stalk before cutting, they  baled it into sheaves called fodder.  Although he was a large sorghum grower, Papa never had his own sorghum mill but relied on people who had a mill and did the cooking of the molasses.  Some of the cookers I remember were, Mitchell Cox, Ab King, Harv  Terrell,  Cliff Terrell, and Isaac Shepherd. I think Mitchell Cox was my favorite as he would talk to us kids and let us take a small stalk and dip it into the hot molasses and enjoy it like a lollipop. It was really an art that these people practiced. A man fed stalks into the grinder which was pulled by a mule going in a circle. The juice was strained into a barrel and from there into the pan.

The pan had sections which had removable gates because the pan  had raw juice in one part and in various stages, up to the last section, was the finished product.  The cooker had to know at precisely what stage to move the juice from one section to another, otherwise you would have some juice uncooked and some overcooked. The pan sat on two trenches – one for the fire and one for the cooker.  

The only down side I remember was the swarms of yellow jackets that were around the pan.  Papa was as generous with the molasses as he was with his watermelons.

He would give some to friends and neighbors and keep an ample supply for his family and then he would sell the rest. He told me that the most he ever remembered getting was fifty cents a  bucket. I recently bought a fifteen ounce jar of molasses from Big Star and it cost $3.89 plus tax – my how times have changed.

I hope you enjoyed this stroll down memory lane and I’m sure many of you have never tried molasses or though about how it came about.  As usual I’ll change direction before someone accuses me of encroaching on Bill Sissell’s territory.  We’re entering my favorite time of year – the Christmas season.  

Some are going to extremes, such as those that are camping out to get first in line for Black Friday, but they are not in the majority.  True, it has been commercialized but in the process we have enjoyed the greatest standard of living in history but  have still retained the true spirit of Christmas.

I remember several years ago when a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses moved next door to Mother. She was distressed because the children had no Christmas tree, no presents or any other recognition of the meaning of Christmas.  

That only validates my belief that some people are not worthy of being parents.  

Last Saturday we visited Elizabeth and little Edward in Lexington to celebrate Elizabeth’s 21st birthday. Edward is a happy and healthy child. As I look into the face of that innocent little boy, I’m still awed with the miracle of birth.  

So when you go out to do your Christmas shopping, notice how many small acts of kindness go on around you and you’ll enjoy the season and feel a lot better about it all.  

Let me hear from you.  My email address is cncooper1@hotmail.com or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great shopping season.

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