Southern Matters

Southern Matters

Junior Cashwell (Quitman, Georgia)

Alton Hamlin (left) and Junior Cashwell (right) in slide 1, enriched my life one Saturday morning. I thank both of them: Alton for guiding me around, and Junior for being there as the object of our trip. Both are down-to-earth genial fellows, possessing traits sorely missed in this fast-paced, consuming world. Alton and Junior are each dedicated to his respective avocation, and we spent some time catching up on Junior's activities.

We found Junior while he was working on a new irrigation system near his cane patch (Slide 2). His system for planting cane is another variation and of interest. His rows are spaced 52 inches apart. Cane and peas alternate so that he can drive down each cane row for ease of harvesting. He puts 400 pounds/acre in March of a 3-9-9 or 4-8-12, a tobacco-type fertilizer that is low in nitrogen. Junior grows various kinds of cane ('a white cane from Florida', 'ribbon cane', and a 'local cane').

Peas, mentioned above, are Vigna unguiculata . As any southerner knows, they come in wondrous variety (to mention a few, purple hull, crowder, zipper cream). Proper praise of this plant would not fit here. They are delicious and nutritious. In addition, peas associate with Rhizobium to reduce dinitrogen, have extra floral nectaries, and require less fertility and water than most vegetables. (Regrettably, they are susceptible to nematodes, and curculio larvae do not add to their eye appeal.) Folks outside the south call peas cowpeas or southern peas to distinguish them from what we call garden peas or green peas (Pisum sativum).

After leaving Junior's cane patch, we crossed his wooden bridge and stopped by one of his open sheds where treasures, pure and simple, waited for attention. The first of these was a grist mill (Slide 3), and then a disassembled Chattanooga 44 (Slide 4) with a roller (Slide 5) that had been repaired long ago in anticipation of working again. As we left, a 60-gallon Columbus kettle (Slide 6), was sitting ready to scald hogs, which was its job [See also Mark Watson ].


Junior (standing in door) has a very attractive and rustic syrup shed (Slide 7).

Cane is pressed on a Chattanooga 72 (Slides 8 and 9), which is just outside the shed. The juice is collected and pumped (Slide 10), into the shed. (Junior tried filtering the juice with a swimming-pool filter (shown in picture, but disconnected), in an effort to reduce skimming, but the filter clogged frequently and that idea was discarded.)


Junior cooks on a 100-gallon Golden kettle (Slide 11). The kettle is mounted in a massive furnace with a sloping concrete ledge that extends from the rim of the kettle. This arrangement permits him to start with 120 gallons of juice, which is cooked down with wood (Slide 12). A wide variety of the tools used to cook the syrup is shown on the wall near the kettle (Slide 13).