Texian Stomping Grounds Page: 28
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TEXIAN STOMPING GROUNDS
The furnace was not fired till there were two good barrels
and a pan full of juice on hand. Unless a breakdown shut off
the supply of juice, work went on night and day, and the pan
was not cooled down till the cooking was finished. Uncle Barney
presided over the pan and did not forget how important his job
was. The dark rich liquid had to be watched closely from the
time it ran into the evaporating pan until it thickened into syrup
at the far end. Two skimmers were kept busy with their ladles,
sieving off the green vegetable scum, or "skimmings," that rose
to the top of the boiling juice.
The maker was always fascinating to watch as he worked with
his ladle, dipping, stirring, and testing. He strained his keen eyes
to read the lazy burst of a bubble, or he would let the cooking
liquid drip from the edge of his ladle to test the break of its bead
before he pulled the bung from the pan and let the finished syrup
run into the pot. Syrup could be cooked too long, in which case
it would soon turn to rock candy, or it could run too thin and
there would be complaints because it took too many biscuits to
hem it on a plate. Uncle Barney rarely made a bad run; given
a good fireman and a steady supply of juice, he could run off a
hundred gallons a day, from which he took a toll of one gallon
While the men folks worked with the cane, their wives were
as busy as any two of them providing three hot meals a day and
a midnight snack. This food had to be prepared in the kitchen
and carried on foot or by wagon to the mill, where it was spread
on the ground, picnic-fashion. The pick of the fall fryers were
killed for the occasion. Cakes, potato custards, and lightbread
were cooked in quantities, and the best of the year's canning was
brought forth. Like the men, the wives took turns in helping
each other out, and there was no end of lively competition among
them to see who could feed their men the best.
The big time was at night when the mill was lighted with
huge pine torches placed about on scaffolds. The crowd gathered
then and there was always a great deal of laughing, hurrahing, and
horse-play among the visitors and the men at work. The young
folks came sparking and sat apart on a handy log, the young men
peeling cane for their girls. The old folks, who had not seen
Here’s what’s next.
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Dobie, J. Frank (James Frank), 1888-1964. Texian Stomping Grounds, book, 1941; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc67663/m1/36/: accessed July 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.