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The Old Cane Mill

by Nellie Gregg Tomlinson

"What's sorghum?" Don't you know sorghum?
My gran'son nigh sixteen,
Don t boys know nothin' nowadays?
Beats all I ever seen.
Why sorghum's the bulliest stuff
Wuz ever made ter eat.
You spread it thick on homemade bread;
It's most oncommon sweet.

"Come from?" Wall yer jist better bet
It don't come from no can.
Jus' b'iled down juice from sorghum cane,
Straight I'way 'lasses bran'.
"What's cane?" It's some like corn, yer know,
An' topped with plumes o' seed.
Grows straight an' tall on yaller clay
That wouldn't grow a weed.

Long in September when 'twuz ripe,
The cane-patch battle field
Wuz charged by boys with wooden swords,
Good temper wuz their shield.
They stripped the stalks of all their leaves,
Then men, with steel knives keen
Slashed off the heads and cut the stalks
An' piled them straight an' clean.

The tops wuz saved ter feed the hens,
Likewise fer nex' year's seed.
The farmer allus has ter save
Against the futur's need.
The neighbors cum from miles erbout
An' fetched the cane ter mill.
They stacked it high betwixt two trees,
At Gran'dads, on the hill.

An' ol' hoss turned the cane mill sweep,
He led hisself erroun.
The stalks wuz fed inter the press,
From them the sap wuz groun'.
This juice run through a little trough
Ter pans beneath a shed;
There it wuz b'iled an' skimmed and b'iled,
Till it wuz thick an' red.

Then it wuz cooled an' put in bar'ls
An' toted off to town
While us kids got ter lick the pan,
Which job wuz dun up brown.
Gee whiz! but we did hev good times
At taffy pullin' bees.
We woun' the taffy roun' girls' necks—
Bob wuz the biggest tease.

Inside the furnace, on live coals,
We het cane stalks red hot,
Then hit 'em hard out on the groun'—
Yer oughter hear 'em pop!
Sometimes a barefoot boy would step
Inter the skimmin's hole,
Er pinch his fingers in the mill,
Er fall off from the pole.

When winter winds went whis'lin' through
The door an' winder cracks,
An' piled up snow wuz driftin'
Till yer couldn't see yer tracks,
Then we all drawed roun' the table
An' passed the buckwheat cakes,
Er mebbe it wuz good corn bread.
"What's sorghum?" Good lan' sakes.

Wall, son, yer hev my symperthy;
Yer've missed a lot, I swan.
Oh, sure yer dance an' joy-ride
Frum ev'nin' untel dawn,
Yer've football, skates an' golf ter he'p
The passin' time ter kill,
But give me mem'ry's boyhood days,
Erroun' the ol' cane mill.

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