Frontier Days offered taste of the past

Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Joshua Schreiner, of Jenkins, and Levi Myers, of Washburn, fed sorghum cane into a press as Matthew Robbins, of Washburn, and Jordan Archer, of Monett, observed the process. The demonstration was part of the Frontier Days celebration held on Saturday in rural Cassville. Democrat photo/Kerry Hays

A little over 400 people visited the farm of Edgar and Sandy Schreiner in Jenkins this past Saturday to observe and participate in the natural process of making foods and other supplies necessary for life on the frontier.

"You know a lot of the old fashioned stuff is dying off, you don't see it anymore and you don't hear about it," said Sandy Schreiner who was pleased with the number of people who came out for this event.

Participants dressed in their everyday clothes and demonstrated how various foods and supplies were made using largely hand-powered tools. Edgar Schreiner came up with the title and he believes it reflects the many activities that were shared.

Tom Ray, of Cassville, stirred a vat of apple butter at last Saturday's Frontier Days in rural Cassvile. The stirring process lasted approximately four hours and it yielded about three gallons of butter.

"It takes you back in time to the olden days," said Schreiner, "to see what things actually happened back then and how they were done."

The centerpiece of the experience was a sorghum press where those in attendance were able to watch the entire process of pressing, straining and cooking the food material. Sorghum making is a labor intensive process which yields a thick dark syrup with a sweet taste that can be used for adding flavor to baked beans, cookies, cakes, and pies.

This is the first time that the Schreiner's have attempted sorghum making and the idea was generated during a meeting of the Sonrise Trail Riding Club which sponsored Saturday's event.

"We've been talking about this at our meetings for the past 2-3 months," said Sandy Schreiner who explained that this was the largest event ever undertaken by the club and that every member of the club volunteered to participate.

Club members Bob and Marie McKee of Aurora have been involved in sorghum making for many years and they provided much of the required equipment and training.

"They gave us a run down on how it's done and showed us pictures of previous cookings," said Schreiner who expressed her appreciation for how much mentoring was provided by the McKee's.

"I made the mistake of marrying a southern girl from Alabama and her granddaddy used to do it down there and it got me interested," said Bob McKee who noted that he has been involved in helping others make sorghum for 10-12 years.

"Doing it in batches like this takes anywhere from 4-6, and sometimes eight hours," said McKee. "This batch that we made here came out as some of the best that we've made."

Additional demonstrations were provided on grinding corn, making apple butter, cooking kettle corn, rope making, Dutch oven cooking and producing lye soap. Wagon rides were also offered by members of the club and those from other clubs in the area.

Saturday's event was provided in large part to remind people of the natural way life used to be and to demonstrate skills that are quickly becoming lost.

"It's good for children to learn what was made and how people lived a long time ago," said Marie McKee, I think it's a better way of life-it teaches values. If you don't work you don't eat because it's real work to do this."

Taynea Thompson, from Freistatt, demonstrated old-fashioned lye soap making and she agreed that much has been lost.

"We have really lost the knowledge of what we have at our fingertips," said Thompson. "A hundred years ago people knew that, a hundred years later there's this gap from our great-grandparents to now of all that knowledge that was lost."

Pam Ferguson-White of Exeter, who teaches in Cassville, was curious and took her kids to Saturday's event.

"I think it's interesting," said Ferguson-White, "I wanted to get their minds off their iPods for while."

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