Poole does things the old fashioned wayPublished 6:11pm Friday, December 6, 2013
Grover Poole didn’t have a big cane patch this year. But he had one.
Poole said he can’t imagine what it would be like not to grind cane when Jack Frost comes calling.
When he was only knee-high to a grasshopper, Poole was at the cane mill way before the rooster crowed. And cane juice never tasted as good as the sweet, sticky nectar that had been was chilled by the early morning air.
“We lived on clay land and it would spew up ice and I’d near about freeze to death but that didn’t keep me from putting that cold, tin dipper of cane juice to my mouth,” he said.
Many years down the road now, Pool is still putting the dipper to his mouth.
His cane mill is powered, as it ought to be with a mule. But he’s not found a mule yet that can beat the path like Donna Gail.
“Me and Donna Gail worked together at the cane mill for a long time and I think she enjoyed working the mill as much as I did,” Poole said. “You don’t see these old mills working like you used to. Why, you couldn’t go down many country roads and not find a cane mill. People back then needed the juice to make syrup. That’s what they used for sweetener. Syrup.”
Poole said making syrup was a long, sticky process and one that he doesn’t fool with.
“But I love to smell that stuff cooking,” he said with a smile. “You’d have to stand over the syrup kettle and in that sticky steam just about all day. It was a long, hard day.”
Poole paused in remembrance of a time long ago.
“You had this wire skimmer on the end of a long pole and you had to skim off the impurities as they came to the top,” he said. “You’d dump the skimmings in barrels to be poured out. Some folks didn’t pour ’em out though. If you left the skimmings in the barrel, they would ferment and turn to whiskey.”
Poole, laughingly, remembered the time a neighbor’s hogs got the “colic.” Some were dead and the others were dying.
“He called the vet to come out to save the ones he could,” Poole said. “The vet said the hogs weren’t dead. They’d passed out from drinking the cane skimmings. They were dead drunk.”
Poole said candy pullings were a part of syrup making and those were especially fun for the children.
“Back then, young people enjoyed things like candy pullings,” he said. “Why, I’d wear out the knees of my britches on the ground shooting marbles. Candy pullings and shooting marbles wouldn’t entertain children these days.”
Poole was plowing a mule when he was only nine years old. When he was 16 years old, he starting logging.
“I snaked logs with a mule and would tote the pulpwood and load it,” he said. “I was as strong as a mule. I’ve worked all my life and I love working. And, I can’t think of a thing I would rather do than work a cane mill. I count myself lucky that I can still do that. I don’t reckon that is still doesn’t take much to entertain me.”