Too Much TV
It wasn't corn.
Moon Wright dozed in the bed of his truck, stretched out on top of a load of sugar cane. I made a pass, turned around, and admired the sugar cane.
I was in south Georgia, between Jesup and Odum, visiting old friends, noting changes in a place that used to be familiar.
I maintain what little sanity I enjoy due to occasional trips into south Georgia. When life gets the way life can get, I haul myself into the land of tall pines, slow moving dark rivers, and sandy soil. It calms me.
Slamming my door didn't wake him up. He didn't bat an eye when his dog crawled from under the truck and beat the fender with his tail. The dog was glad to see me.
Moon worked turpentine most of his life, collecting pine tar from cups hanging on the trees.
When the turpentine business went stale, he worked at a lumber yard, bought a piece of land, raised kids, sent them all to college, buried his wife.
He never owned a television. He believes he wouldn't have gotten those kids through school with one in the house.
He retired years ago but works at something every day. This week Moon has been cutting, stripping, and selling sugar cane.
In the spring he raised and sold vegetables and now sells sugar cane and cane syrup beside the road for seventy five cents a stalk, or two for a dollar. A pint of syrup is a dollar.
'People don't know what to do with it anymore,' he said and waved at yellow jackets. 'One white lady asked how much I wanted for my corn.” Moon wasn't selling much sugar cane.
'It's because of TV. People watch the TV rather than do something that's good for them.'
It’s hard to believe people have forgotten about sugar cane. Just a few years ago it was common to see a mule hooked to the “sweep,” a long pole attached to the rollers of a cane mill. The mule walked in circles turning the rollers. Juice poured through burlap into a barrel, and then into to a large syrup kettle where it boiled down into syrup. What was left was molasses.
Many a flat Coca Cola was saved by the addition of a little rum thanks to sugar cane.
Today, the only place to see a cane mill is at a historic demonstration. We just missed the Sugar Cane Festival in Leslie, GA.
Fifty or sixty years ago, you'd find half the population chewing a little sugar cane in the afternoon. It was just the autumn thing to do.
At a fast food joint, I was joined by a couple of teenagers and handed them a piece of sugar cane after the usual instructions.
'Man, what kind of corn is this?'
Moon was right. Too much TV.