Great State: The Corn Grinders

 

PAWNEE, OKLAHOMA — They call one old machine ‘Grandpa’. It’s an old, belt driven, stone burr mill built in 1912 that still works thanks to another machine from the 1930′s. Restorers like Marneth Weaver call her ‘Grandma’ because she’s the engine that pushes Grandpa to life. “It’s a great privilege to be able to work on these machines,” says Weaver.

Donated antiques restored to working order at the Oklahoma Gas and Steam Engine grounds in Pawnee, OK. Marneth started working this unique stand a couple of years ago and didn’t fully appreciate its popularity with show visitors. “We’ve got one fella that comes in and buys 20 pounds,” she says. “He takes it back home and gives it out to his relatives.”

The process of making corn meal seems pretty simple. Corn goes in the top. Corn meal comes out the bottom, but Weaver and others say the end product is better because it’s fresh, and because it’s ground by stone. Weaver explains, “The nice thing about stone is that it stays cool. It doesn’t heat up the grain and pre-cook it.” The leftover husks even make good chicken feed. “Nothing goes to waste,” she insists.

Every spring the old gas and steam engine grounds come to life with some of the first machines of the Industrial Age. Most of them don’t do anything really useful anymore but across the yard workers still sell cedar shakes cut from an old, portable, saw mill. “We sell to the general public,” says saw operator Allen Golden.

Just like the corn husks, nothing will go to waste. Allen will help sell the cedar shavings for people who want to keep their closets fresh. Shoppers can still find regular corn meal at the grocery store. They can still make the old recipes too. But it’s nice to know old ‘Grandma’ and ‘Grandpa’ still have a little kick in the yet, and that there are still some people glad they do.