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Southern Farm Vocabulary
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Southern Farm Vocabulary

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By Bill Frazer

I am having trouble with some of the less informed seniors. Some time ago, Jane Crawford confronted me and said that she had looked it up in the dictionary and the correct word is “curry comb” and not “curr comb”, which is the word that I used earlier to identify a horse comb. Now I ask you, what does Webster know about farm terminology? I resent the so called farm know-it-all intellectuals telling me that my grandfather did not know correct farm language usage.
Mary Frances Sims came into the Pore Folks Dinning Hall and asked if I knew the boll weevil song. Of course, the lyrics were: “the first time I “seen” the boll weevil he was sitting on a square, the next time I “seed” him, he had his family there, just looking for a home”.

Let’s see how much you readers remember?

1.Who made popular the boll weevil song?

2.What is a haint?

3.What is a shoat?

4.What is a croker sack?

5.What is a hoe cake?

6.What is a breast chain?

7.What is shortening bread?

8.What is a doodle bug?

9.What is a stilyard?

A.The song was written in 1908 after the invasion of the cotton fields by the boll weevil that migrated into the US from Mexico. A number of artists popularized this song, but the one I remember was Tex Ritter in 1945.

B.A haint is a ghost or an evil out of this world figure. A lot of southerners that were basically uneducated believed in haints. Most of us do not understand why anyone would believe in an evil out of this world figure. However, if you reflect on it, we Christians believe in the devil who is active among our lives. The difference is that we have a reliable source that documents this unseen evil figure called the devil. Best description is, “A haint aint!”

C.A shoat is a common term today among farmers. A shoat is a young pig.

D.A croker sack is simply a burlap bag that holds a large volume of farm products such as Irish potatoes.

E.According to some cotton pickers, a hoe cake is corn bread fried that looks like pan cakes.

F.A breast chain is the chain that holds the wagon tongue to the mule’s collar.

G.Shortening bread is a bread made with a lot of fat such as butter or lard.

H.The doodle bugs are ant lions that create miniature craters in loose soil and lay eggs which hatch into larvae. The larvae lay in the crater until a passing insect slips into the crater and makes lunch for him.

I. A stilyard is a set of scales which was used to weight cotton baskets in the cotton field. A hoe handle was held on the shoulders of the field workers and the basket suspended by the hook on the scales. The cotton pickers were generally paid by the harvested pound. The correct spelling should be steel yard. Rabbit Adams has stilyard in his collection of artifacts. Remember the shortening bread song: “Mama’s little baby likes shortening, shortening, shortening bread, stole the skillet, stole the lid, spent 6 months in jail eating shortening bread”.

Also, there was a ditty used while doodling for doodle bugs. As one takes a small stick or straw and stirs the miniature crater, they say “Come out your house is on fire” until they have uncovered the larvae hatched in the hole. Doodling means that your mind is engrossed in some silly endeavor. The best example that I know of a doodler is James Walter Allen out at LaFayette Hardware.

Rabbit Adams and the James Morgan family have a large collection of farm artifacts. Sadly, James Morgan who was a true old time farm boy, is no longer with us. The County Museum has a wonderful collection of farm artifacts and it is well categorized and worth a visit to view.