“Molasses Making Time” [circa 1935]
By Edith Inez (Lovelace) Jenkins and used with her permission
Molasses making was a time to look forward to. People tried to grow enough cane and make enough molasses to last from one year to the next. Occasionally someone would run out before the cane was ready to harvest. When this happened you could always borrow some from your neighbor or vice versa. When the cane was ready to harvest, it had to be stripped of its fodder, then cut down and the cane heads cut off, only then, was it ready to be loaded on the wagon. The wagon had been equipped with tall pieces of wood (called standards) along the sides to hold the cane on. Every stalk was loaded until, in the eyes of two little bright eyed girls, it looked like a mountain of cane. Marilyn [Marilyn Biggerstaff Arney, daughter of Inez’s half-sister Blanche Eva Lovelace Biggerstaff] and I eagerly awaited the assistance of the “grown-ups” to get atop. When we were at last seated, Dad [Joseph Baxter Lovelace] would take the driver’s seat of the wagon, reigns [sic] in hand. He guided the mules as we bumped our way the three-mile drive to the Molasses Mill. I can’t describe the grinder but it was not motorized. It was powered by a team of mules hitched to it and going, round and round and round squeezing the sweet juice into the boiler. A smaller vat was at one end and as the juice boiled, a white foam formed on top which the miller would skillfully skim off and put in the smaller vat, and we were allowed to take a piece of cane and dip it into the small vat for a treat of the sweet taste. Our mouths were sore already from chewing on pieces of cane while it was being loaded. When the sewwt syrup was cooked to perfection it was then poured into gallon buckets. For the ride home we sat on the wagon bed along with the buckets of molasses. When we arrived home Mama [Cleo Etta Campbell Lovelace] had supper ready, so, everyone got to sample the new Molasses. The fun day was over and Dad was going to take Marilyn home [to Sunshine, a few miles north of Joseph’s homeplace] in the car. As she climbed down from the table, Mama told Dad to wait a minute, she wanted to send Blanche some milk, and Marilyn in her strongest little voice said, “Send us some butter too.” Of course Mama obliged.
Narrative written by Edith Inez Lovelace Jenkins, Nebo, North Carolina (my aunt) and included in a letter to me dated 5 December 2013
Transcribed by Greg Lovelace 28 January 2014