Reflections on Transition

1930s model tractor

Fig. 3

Content Tools

Earl Henry HC 32 Box 2 Hasty, Arkansas 72640

As people moved from the eastern coastal area into the interior of the North American continent, they had to adapt and develop resources to meet their needs and wants. They took with them the materials and foods that were most familiar in their native lands.

Wild honey was one source of sweetening the early settlers used; another, in the south, was sorghum molasses.

Sorghum was the source for many families and communities as a sweetener. The making of molasses was a community activity that took skill and know-how. This was a community activity that brought families together in the autumn.

In the fall of the year in north central Arkansas, the Rusty Wheels Club of Western Grove, Arkansas cooks off sorghum as a club activity that brings to today a fall activity of bygone years. The club recently purchased acreage to set up a permanent site for their museum and cook-off pan and furnace.

Earl Henry served as president until the fall of 1993. He and others have worked very hard in setting up the program as it now exists.

In planning the fall boil-off, the club has planted acreage of molasses-type cane, planting either the 'Dab' variety or a variety used for many years called 'Silver Drip,' an open pollinated variety with a high yield juice.

In Figure 1 the shed protects the pan and fire. President Earl Henry at left, and Charles House are feeding the fire under the evaporation pan.

Figure 2 shows Charles House putting wood into the fire again. The level and amount of fire is critical to the evaporation process of making molasses. Too much fire will taint the flavor, and with too little fire the result is a watery liquid with no flavor.

The evaporating pan used is 17 feet long and 43 inches wide.

Figure 3 is a 1930s model tractor, two cylinder, Model D. This is used to drive the crusher as shown in the picture.

L. A. Riggins is shown in figure 4. In Figure 5 the crusher and juice tank are shown. The juice there is drained into the evaporating pan, where it is cooked down and removed from the far end.

To those who have never seen or experienced molasses making, you have not lived until you taste the 'foam' as the flavor of good molasses made by master cooks such as Earl Henry and the Rusty Wheels Crew. They are the best!

As Tennessee Ernie Ford would say, 'They are lip-smackin' good!' Next fall, in late September or October, come to Western Grove and see the 'cook-off' and old engine show.