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Out On The Mudline

Cornbread And Peas Mighty Tasty In January

By W. P. Sissell

The Individualist

  My Dad, J. R. Sissell, Sr., had his ways. I have told you that we had a “Ground Hog” saw mill on the second bottom bank, between Uncle Nace’s house and the barn. He got a lot of the mill parts from Mr. Beck who was a cousin by marriage (Mr. Beck’s wife and his wife, Sadie, were cousins). He and Joe Stribling built the wooden frame for the cab and clutch from wood sawed on Mr. Beck’s mill. Power for the mill came from our F-20 Farmall. That power was not sufficient when most of the logs were oak so they devised a mechanism to have an automobile motor belted to the drive line to give added power when needed. That was some contraption, but it worked. Today, with some of the controls available, it would work much smoother.

  After we got the Nolen farm, most of the woodwork of the mill and some of the additions were moved to the edge of the grove where the molasses mill was usually set up.

  Before I entered the service I logged several “Chocaw’s (giant cypress logs that were rejected after cutting) by the lumber companies because they were “pecky”. These downed cypress trees were found in a loop of the O’Tuckolofa run below “Dinner Bell Hill” on the McClarty place. I cut them into eight foot logs for well curbing and crib siding.

  Dad’s sawmill wound up on Mr. Thad Trusty’s Pine Valley place, but that’s another story.

A Threshing Machine

  Stashed away over in a corner of the machinery shed was a large ungainly looking machine. My dad had run away with a friend to the Oklahoma oil fields. Apparently he/they did not like the work or the workers (I do not know which) but he wound up driving a cab in Chicago (this was just before WWI and the automobile was the thing) living with an aunt. When he found this old thresher sitting in the open (un-sheded) he bought it. Although it was in pretty tough shape he knew that he could saw the replacement timbers and, with Joe’s help, could have a virtually new stationary threshing machine.

  You  might wonder why. Well, Dad always grew fifteen or twenty acres of peas for hay, always on second bottom land. After a couple of years of peas that second bottom land would grow sorghum—especially if you put that yearly pile of manure from the barn on it.

  In the corner of the barnyard there was a little red, one time, brooder house. Now it held barrels of peas. When it was pea picking time all the families on the farm were welcome to pick peas for the winter. After they were dried the folks could bring their marked sacks and get them threshed.

The Other Use

  Most any of you who rode out the Mud Line know that if you looked toward our barn there were several other buildings besides the little red house—the machine shed with two large cribs, a farrowing pen and the big barn. At either end of the barn there was a silo and along with them, on the south side of the road there was a concrete silo. Billy Boy (Philip Grady) Mitchell and I helped one man build that silo in about four days. The wooden ones were built by Dad and Joe practically alone.

  But I made sure that no stalk of Japanese Seeded ribbon cane went through the cutter with a seed head intact until we had gathered ten of Sam Adams cotton baskets full of seed heads. Amost always I was alone at this task. That was my contribution to the filling of the silos. The baskets of sorghum seed heads were dumped into barrels in that little red house for storage.

  Later, on some warm fall day, the threshing machine would be pulled out and hooked by belt to the Farmall for power. The barrels of previously stored dried in the hull peas would be threshed and treated with Hilife for weevils. Those peas on cornbread would taste mighty good in January.

  After threshing the peas the sorghum seed heads were threshed. This called for a change in the separation screens but that was soon done and we were on our way to having seed to plant the next years ensilage field.  We usually planted the main part of the sorghum in a field close to the barn so that the bundles did not have to be hauled very far. After a couple of years of cutting the sorghum with cane knives, Dad took me over to Mr. Smith’s and let him teach me how to operate his row binder. After that I got to be the cane cutter, with Mr. Smith’s binder the first year. The following year Dad had Mr. Bill Trusty order us one.

  As I have been writing this, Saturday, the 5th of March, it has been raining—so far this morning .55 inch has fallen. I can read the gauge from inside our kitchen—a fancy gauge one of our children gave us—almost as fancy as that Row Binder. It had a bundle collecting table so that you could pile the bundles and make shocks when harvesting corn.

  Do have a great week. Next week I’ll tell you more about silage making and what happened to the concrete silo that Billy Boy and I helped build.

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