Thursday’s Children August 15, 2013

Inspired by The Cornbread Man…

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

If you follow me on Facebook, you may remember  photos of our visit to a local grist mill. The Atkinson Mill website is reasonably slick. Along with picturesque photos (see the one below) it mentions tours, a store, etc. We drove in expecting a spiffy, sanitized “learning experience”, maybe a catwalk and viewing stations with plexi-glass windows.

AtkinsonsMillSelma

Photo Atkinson Milling Company

Um, no.

 Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

Along with the structures above, there was a mobile home with a sign “The Miller’s House”, and a big old dog lying beside a building labeled “Office”. Inside, we were greeted by the two-woman admin team. There was an old guy eating cracker sandwiches at a nearby table. We asked about a tour. The women looked at each other and one of them said “I’ll call Bobby,” at which point the old guy mumbled through his crackers, “Never mind him, I’ll take ’em.”

cornbreadman

Photo Atkinson Milling Company

 

As it turned out, cracker-guy was actually The Cornbread Man (his hat even says so), the mill owner. He led us through the entire operation, where production was in full swing.  With our bare hands we scooped up the corn shells separated from the kernel during milling. (Mr. Cornbread’s son raises cows who eat that stuff.) Pepper-flavored cornmeal got up our noses at the bagging station. We all had sneezing fits. We watched the big wheel churnin’ (sorry couldn’t resist the “Proud Mary” reference even though it’s a different kind of wheel). We marveled at the high water mark from the hurricane-induced flood which nearly destroyed the whole operation a couple of decades ago.  With water rushing into the building, The Cornbread Man told his sons to use the forklifts to raise the bagging machines as high as they could. The forklifts were ruined but the baggers were saved. The Cornbread Man also told us about the fire that burned down his house, and pointed out the millstone he’s chosen for his grave marker.

We bought some yellow cornmeal and some white and a bag of hush puppy mix (he gave us hush puppy pointers too). That white cornmeal made the moistest, tenderest cornbread I’ve ever eaten.

Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

Do what you love and do it as well as you know how, come hell or high water. Or, to quote Libba Bray, “Write like it matters, and it will.”

Here are this week’s codes.

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24 thoughts on “Thursday’s Children August 15, 2013

  1. We used to give tours of our wholesale lumber facility. Most were offered to builders by our retailers, and the builders were mostly lured by the promise of golf or food or drinks in return for listening to our spiel.

    These poor guys would begin in our office with looks that read of tolerant boredom (“What, you’re going to show me a lumber yard? I’ve seen them. Just get me to the course or the bar.”). But as I led them through our drying operation, our siding prefinishing plant, explaining how our air-knives maintained a mil-thickness of coating, how we measured it with a rolling gauge, and that we could paint or stain up to 1000 board-feet a minute on our eight machines; then showed them our chop shop, two-headed planner and resaw, with a 26 foot blade that went six feet under the floor–both of which could handle timbers as big as 12″ by 24″ by up to 40′ in length–and explained how our operation was moved to the site in 1896 as a railroad reloading center for a former downtown Chicago office wholesaler, their faces almost always ended up with smiles.

    The visitors would go from arms-crossed frowning to asking questions and playing with the moisture meters; remarking how wonderful the cedar smelled, and did we ever get sick of it. The answer was no, I never got sick of it. I never get sick of writing, either. It has to do with the passion.

    Fun post. Sorry for the long story, the photo you took really takes me back. I miss it. Well, the parts I was passionate about, anyway. 😉

    • My grandfather was a mill owner too, but he worked with wool. That might be a story for another post 🙂 It’s clear that you were as committed to milling wood as you are to “milling” words 😀

  2. Please tell me you didn’t sneeze *into* the pepper cornmeal bags.

    I love cornbread. It’s such an American food. (If it’s also English I never encountered any, growing up.) I also love American biscuits (vastly different from English biscuits).

    • Heavens, no! I sneezed into my elbow, but man, my sinuses were burning! Biscuits are “BIG” down here. There’s even a chain restaurant called Biscuitville. We had biscuits with pimento cheese there, which is about as Southern as a biscuit can be, I think.

    • I know just the place for the butter too – little place across the street sells Amish butter, it comes in a wax paper wrapped cylinder. And yes, there’s plenty of story fodder around me, this fall I’m going to make a photo essay of abandoned tobacco sheds, vintage gas stations and kudzu. No, I’m not kidding.

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