When Grover Poole had to put Donna Gail down earlier this year, he didn’t know how he would operate his cane mill this fall.
Donna Gail had been his cane mill sidekick for about 30 years and he just didn’t know if there was a horse around that could fill her big hooves.
Poole is a stickler for doing things the old-timey way and he just couldn’t imagine hitching a tractor to his cane mill. So, he hitched his Belgian horse Frank to the mill and started teaching him the art of grinding cane.
To keep Frank “on task,” Poole hitched him to a ground sled that keeps him anchored.
“He’s done pretty good but I have to keep him moving,” Poole said. “He wants to stop every now and then and he’ll back off sometime but he’s doing good and he’ll get better.”
Frank will have a lot of opportunities to get better because Poole has got a lot of cane to grind.
“This year’s cane is some of the sweetest that I’ve had in a long time,” Poole said. “Most of it is sugar cane but this cane with green tops is good, too. I’ve already had a lot of calls for the cane juice. A lot of older people like it but not too many young folks.”
Perhaps, it’s the mossy green color that young people don’t like but Poole said anybody that has good taste should like cane juice.
“It’s a natural juice, “ he said. “You don’t have to add any sugar or artificial sweetener. It’s nothing but pure juice from the sugar cane.”
Those who doubt the sweetness of Poole’s 2009 sugar cane crop need only heed the recommendation of the yellow hovering jackets.
“You always have yellow jackets around the cane mill but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them as bad as they are this year,” he said, as the ‘jackets’ swarmed around his head on their way to the sweet juice that was pouring from the spout. “ If you don’t swat at them, they’ll usually leave you alone. But if you start waving around, they’ll come after you.”
Poole used to make cane syrup but now he’s just “sticking” to the juice.
“Making cane syrup is a whole lot of trouble and it takes a lot of juice to make one gallon,” he said. “That’s just too much trouble and too much work for me now.”
Almost any morning now, Poole and Frank will be at his cane mill, grinding some of the best cane juice anywhere around.
“You can freeze cane juice so some folks will come and get several gallons,” Poole said. “Some come just to see how a cane mill works and I always give them a sip. And, I keep some stalks around for the children. A lot of them have never seen cane and don’t know what it is. When I was a boy, sugar cane was our chewing gum. I’ll peel off a few pieces and let the children try it. But they don’t like it the way I did.”
Poole has enough cane to last for a week or two and those who would like to see him and Frank at work are welcome to stop by. But call first. He just might be out working in the cane patch.
Poole’s number is 566-4463.