CANE, THE WONDER CROP!

By Norris Chambers

             I have told you about making syrup from cane, but there were other uses for the stuff. Hogs love the stalks and leaves. Horses like it. You can go to the field and cut a double arm full and carry it back to the milk cows and they become contented cows and give good milk. Good sweet cane is one of the farmís most appreciated crops, not only by the farm folk but by all the animals on the farm.

            The farm kids are especially addicted to cane. A stalk of sorghum or sugar cane makes an excellent substitute for chewing gum. The cane stalk grows in little joints about five to eight inches in length and anywhere from a half inch to three quarters of an inch in diameter.

            These joints sometimes break off easily, but sometimes a little persuasion from a pocket knife is necessary. After acquiring a joint, take your knife and cut off one of the joint ends and start peeling the outside of the stick off in strips, or maybe down just an inch or two. The inside fiber is soft and juicy.

            Bite off a comfortable portion and start chewing it. It has a very sweet and pleasant flavor. The flavor may vary a little with the variety of the cane, but all kinds are delicious. After a few delightful swallows it is time to spit the pulp out and bite off another chew. This process can be continued for a long, pleasant period.

            The demand for good chewing cane was great enough for many roadside stands and market sections to sell the joints.

            Clifton and I tried chewing maize, corn and other jointed stalks, but none of them had enough sweet juice to be considered good chewing material.

            There were other things the cane joints could be used for. For instance, by letting the joint cure for a few days we could push the pulp out and have a hollow tube. By cutting a long sloping notch close to one end and inserting a piece of wood with one side flattened, we made excellent whistles. You could put a slider in one end and by moving it back and forth, get different tones. A nice flute type instrument!

            Another way to make use of the cane joint was to put a wooden plug in one end with a small hole in the center and insert a rod with a ball of string or rubber bands in the other end. With a little priming we could pull the rod out and draw water into the joint. Then by pushing the rod a long, steady stream squirted. This weapon was indispensable for fighting wasps and dirt daubers. It was also fun to shoot lizards and horned toads with one. Of course we never thought of shooting the dog or cat. We did sometimes have water gun battles when playing with several other kids.

            Long, heavy stalks could be left to mature and dry and made very nice fishing poles. I have even seen old men use them for walking sticks.

            Kids used cane stalks for playthings. The joints could be separated and placed in the ground as fence posts. Binder twine could serve as wire and very realistic fences could be built. Horned toads could be fenced in and serve as horses and cows.

            The same hard workers could break the stalks in various lengths and build very realistic log cabins.

            The cane logs also served as excellent building material for placing bridges over hand formed creeks and rivers.

            An active imagination could think of many things to do with a bundle of cane stalks. Occasionally a parentís imagination made use of a nice sized cane quirt and it served as a very good character molder when applied to the proper area of the anatomy!  As much fun as cane usually was, this application was never very popular with the younger generation on the farm!

            Does this little tale have a moral? Perhaps it is to remind us not to raise too much cane but make good use of what we do raise!