Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sorghum Molasses

My folks were living on a farm in Oklahoma. The year was 1932. There were four children at that time. My grandparents owned the farm, which my grandpa homesteaded by running a horse race. I’ll talk about that at another time. My parents lived on the backside of the farm and raised their own crops. They raised cotton, sorghum cane, and corn. They had turkeys, goats, cows and horses.

Everything was hard work. It was hard work to create something so wonderful as sorghum molasses. There was no running to the local Safeway and picking up a bottle of Mrs. Butter-Worth’s syrup, original, lite or otherwise. It just wasn’t done. Molasses are delicious on pancakes or cornbread and is a wonderful sweetener for cookies. To make the sorghum molasses takes a lot of time and hard work from the growing the cane to the entire process of cutting it and bringing it from the field. It was especially hard work for the horse, that had to walk in a small circle all day, to operate the press that was squeezing the syrup out of the cane.

The yellow colored syrup flowed over a large tray and was heated to a boiling point. I would explain it better, but I was very young and my memory has faded a little. I do remember that my little brother, who was only a toddler, was accidentally splashed with the boiling syrup. I remember the pathetic screams and all the scrambling my parents did to find some relief for him. It took hours to produce enough molasses to can in fruit jars. Enough had been preserved to last until the next year.

The turkeys were sold and Mom was able to buy a much needed winter coat. The cotton field was picked with help from the neighbors. The neighbors helped you and you helped the neighbors when help was needed. The cotton had been packed into a large four-wheeled trailer to be taken to town the following Monday morning. Sunday night the family went to church to fellowship with the neighbors. A good time was had by all, and when they came home and drove into the yard the first thing they noticed was the trailer of cotton was missing.

When they went inside they found that somebody had also stolen the sorghum molasses and Mom’s new coat. Think of all that work, just snatched away from them. It was a sad time. Thievery was not as rampant at that time as it is today. Everybody from miles around came to offer their condolences and offer their help.
Uncle Tom was so outraged, he offered to go gunning for the thief. He helped try to track down the trailer wheels, but they kept running into dead ends. It took years to forget the disappointment and hardship of the theft. It was talked about forever. That is why I remember most of this story. This story has a surprise ending.
Uncle Tom admitted years later that he was the thief, and he thought it highly amusing that he was over there guiding them away from the tracks instead of helping. There is just something about it. A thief or murderer cannot resist bragging about their crime.

Uncle Tom ended up being driven out of the State of Oklahoma by the county sheriff because of his bootlegging and whiskey making. I guess that is what he used the sorghum molasses for.
He left the state and moved to Colorado and never returned again. Uncle Tom was married to my mother’s sister.
A link to the making of Sorghum Molasses.