The Tellico Plains Mountain Press

Bread Corn

By Edd Witt

Clip Art

   Probably the most important crop of the mountain people was corn. Besides being their main source of bread, it was the basic feed for all their livestock. Everyone tried to make enough for, first, bread... and then to fatten their hogs and feed the other farm animals, through the winter months.

   In the first part of this century, we had a special breed of cattle which, over the past hundred years, had adapted themselves to living on the open range and practically making their living. They were a small-boned, sharp-horned which would give about one gallon of milk on just enough "nubbins" to milk them (a nubbin is a short ear of corn). This short corn was sorted out and thrown to one side in the corn crib to feed the milk cow through the winter months. When spring came and the grass began to grow, we would use the bran left when the meal was sifted to make bread. They would take enough of this bran and let the cow eat it while she was being milked. Without something to eat, she wouldn't stand still to be milked. When the grass was big enough, about the first of June, we would cut enough of this from the creek banks to milk her by. This was cut with a scythe.

   Early in the Fall, after corn was gathered, they would go to the corn crib, usually on a rainy day, and start shucking and shelling the year's supply of bread corn. They were very particular not to get any rotten corn in this and always used the firmest corn they had.

   When it was shelled, it was placed in a big square wooden box and kept covered. any number of these boxes were "still boxes" used to sour the mash when making moonshine whiskey. They were brought home and used to store bread corn in only after the people had decided to quit making moonshine.

   After the winter's meat was killed and cured with salt or smoked in the smokehouse, the hams were placed deep in this box of corn to protect it from flies. There it would stay fresh and sweet through the warm Summer months or until it was eaten.

   Taking corn to the mill to have it ground into meal was a chore which usually fell to the teenage boys. A big part of the time, they had to walk and carry it. Nevertheless, these trips to the store, mill, or post office were something to look forward to. It was a chance to meet with neighbors and talk over the latest community gossip.

   If it was in the Summer time, we would fish in the mill pond while the corn was being ground, and if it was in the Winter months, the miller always had a big iron skillet so we could parch enough corn to eat all the way home.

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