First Taste of Blackstrap Molasses

Tom Poland

Posted 2/9/24

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer
www.tompoland.net
tompol@earthlink.net

Mid 1950s, early morning on the farm, it was. Rivers of gold ran down the stack of pancakes on the old oak table. Butter pooled higher and higher and I expected it to spill onto the old table crosshatched from hatchet blows. It was an aberration, that oak table. Granddad chopped pit-cooked BBQ on it, and boar’s head feet held that table up. Hogs on the table; hogs below, all in all, a place for good food.

Full of iron and full of memories. (Photo by Tom Poland)

As I stared at the pancakes, my Grandmother poured blackstrap molasses over them. Viscous, glistening mahogany oozed into the gold. It tasted sweet and salty and it conjured up a field of sugar cane. Such is my first memory of blackstrap molasses.

Pancakes drenched in butter and blackstrap molasses kicked off many an adventure on a farm where other firsts took place. I caught my first bass on Granddad’s farm. Caught it on a cheap, plastic Zebco reel. Close by, I took my first flight in an airplane, bumping along a grassy pasture into the Georgia sky. Saw my first farmer’s gas pump there. Right near it I witnessed my first violence between grown men. A great uncle known to drink pulled a knife on my dad. You can’t forget things like that.

Another first proved shocking. I watched Granddad butcher a cow. No details. Best keep moving. I suffered my first serious cut on that farm. Climbing an outbuilding I got four feet off the ground when my left hand—seeking a grip—landed on the business end of a nail. It punctured my palm. That’s when I made my second mistake. I let go, hung for a second, then the nail ripped my hand open. Took eight men to pin me down while a man called Penny Doc sutured the wound shut with 58 stitches.

Aside from butchered cows and a bloody hand, other memories run more pleasant. Played my first game of baseball there with friends who lived on the farm. We didn’t use cow piles for bases. We used rocks. And we used rocks for homerun derby battles, knocking them over a power line with axe handles. We had no money for bats and baseballs, but that didn’t stop us. Sons of the South all, we waged war on wasp nests, knocking them down with … rocks, of course. Wasp warfare—another first.

Still another first. Up the road lived a man reputed to be insane. We just knew he would leap out from an outbuilding and do us in. Come sundown we sat on Sweetie Boy’s porch and imagined all the ways he would kill us. As things turned out, I never laid eyes on him.

Yet another first … The first and only time I gathered eggs. My grandmother sent me out to the henhouse one morning. As I reached beneath a hen a black snake slithered out a crack in the boards. To make matters worse, the eggs were messy and you know what I mean.

What a simple life back then. What joy. We spent every minute we could outdoors, aside from eating stacks of pancakes. I look back on those times and mourn. I really do. We live in such an artificial time now. TV ads depict various races jollying it up like they’ve known each other forever when we know they’re scripted scenes. Back in my day, we really did hang together for meals, work, and fun. And all these years later—I daresay 65—we’re still friends. And this sets the stage for one final first.

Somewhere lost in time is an old super 8mm film dad took in the 1950s with his Bell & Howell camera. It’s the first film of me playing with teammates, not high school football, but baseball. I was nine years old. Childhood friends Sweetie Boy, Joe Boy, Jabe, and I are stacking hands over an axe handle to see who bats first. We have on jackets, but the cold does not stop us.

I can’t recall who got to bat first but I know this: those days were the best of my life, and I miss them still. Some will disparage those days, as some will disparage most anything, but those days were honest and real and we were always there for one another. And we still are.


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email Tom about most anything at at tompol@earthlink.net 

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