By Norris Chambers

            When Clifton and I were involved in farming one of our favorite crops was peanuts. Peanuts are not really nuts but are closely related to the bean family. The peanuts are enclosed in a pod, or case, in much the same way as beans or peas. The small Spanish peanuts that we grew had only two nuts in a pod. There were other varieties that had several nuts in a pod and were larger in diameter. The peanut plant extended runners that reached and penetrated the soil. The pod was produced underground and the nuts developed there. Because it was necessary for the peanuts to be produced underground it was essential that the soil be soft enough for the vine stems to penetrate it. Sandy land was ideal for peanut production.

            The peanut plant was relatively large and leafy and it made excellent food for livestock after harvest. When the underground nuts were matured the stalks were turned out of the ground with a plow and shocked in mounds to dry. When thoroughly dry the shocks were hauled to a threshing machine and the nuts were separated from the plant. As the nuts were separated and saved the hay was fed into a baler and stored for animal feed. The nuts could be sold or could be kept to feed animals. Hogs fattened quickly when peanuts were their primary food. Some farmers turned their hogs loose in the field of peanuts instead of threshing them. This process served to fatten the hogs for market and saved the labor and expense of threshing and baling. This harvest process was called “hogging”.

            Some farmers believed that meat fattened on peanuts was not as tasty as that produced by corn or other grain. These families usually fattened the hogs they intended to butcher on grain and sold the ones that ate the peanuts.

            We kids liked peanuts and started scratching them out of the ground as soon as we believed them to be ready. There were many ways to eat peanuts – the easiest method was to just pinch the shell off and eat them raw. The most popular method was to parch them. This was done by placing them in a big bread pan and leaving it in the stove’s oven until the taste was just right. It took continual tasting to find the right stage of parching. Modern kids refer to parching as roasting, but the tasty morsel is just as good using either word! Peanuts were sometimes boiled, either in the shell or after shelling. Sometimes they were boiled in salty water without removing the shell. Boiled peanuts were good, but we preferred the parched ones. We made peanut butter by grinding peanuts in a regular sausage grinder. The grinders had different cutters that could be used for different types of grinding. Corn meal could also be produced with a hand-cranked grinder.

            Several kinds of peanut candy were made at home. Many types of peanut candy were also available at the store. Our musician friend, Elbert Hall, had a younger sister who made delicious peanut candy and sold it on the streets of a nearby town every Saturday. The candy was similar to the commercial peanut patty but she used parched peanuts instead of raw ones. Everyone loved it and she had regular customers who were glad to pay a nickel for a big round chuck.

            In the late thirties four of we peanut folks formed a band and began playing every Saturday over the radio station in Dublin. To make it profitable we purchased peanut butter from a nearby factory in jars and added our Farm Boy label. We called ourselves The Jolly Farm Boys. We peddled the peanut butter to grocery stores on the journey to and from the station.

Our enterprise was working very well when the war preparation program began and the band members went their different ways.

            If the big war hadn’t disrupted our peanut butter business the name “Farm Boy” might have grown into a giant food products company and our delicious morsels might be available in all big grocery stores. We were thinking seriously about adding home-made ketchup to our peanut butter staple. We were even considering an effort to persuade wholesale distributers to help us expand the availability of our unbeatable peanut butter!

            Did we have a lot of fun raising and eating peanuts? Anything connected with peanuts would have to be fun. You might try planting several raw peanuts in your sandbox and parching the harvest properly in a bread pan. Grind the nuts into peanut butter and organize a band to sell it. When you do that you have experienced the ultimate fun!