Mississippi coons love their corn

Published 8:38 am Wednesday, May 11, 2022

By John Nelson


From my experience in operating a gristmill, I’d say that most people today prefer yellow corn meal, but that has not always been the case.

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Back in my grandparents’ day, white corn meal was the favorite of most folks, and the most common white meal was ground from Mosby prolific white dent corn developed in the 1870’s by J.K. Mosby of Lockhart, Mississippi.

It was mostly Mosby corn that Mr. Fred O’Bryant, father of the late, well-known Panola educator Vashti O’Bryant Lewis, ground at his gristmill in downtown Chapeltown when my daddy was a boy.

A few years ago, Scott Elmore and I decided to reintroduce Mosby corn to Chapeltown.  Our reason for bringing it back was not just for the taste but also to produce meal from corn grown from seeds that had not been genetically modified or treated – a consideration of some importance to those concerned about what they eat.

Our agreement was that I would find the seeds, he would grow the corn, and I would grind it into meal when I fired up my steam mill in the fall.

No one in the community had held on to the old Mosby seeds, but I assumed that some could easily be found by placing an ad in the Mississippi Market Bulletin.  I was surprised and disappointed when my ad got only one response, and that was from a man who was also looking for the seeds.

I finally located some Mosby seeds out in a small farming operation in Oregon that specializes in open-pollinated, untreated, heirloom seeds.  I was happy to find some, but it was a little embarrassing to have to reach out to Oregon to get corn seeds originally developed here in our state.

Scott soon had a good stand of corn, but not long after the young ears began to develop on the stalks, he got some early, unwanted customers.  It turned out that he and I were not alone in wanting to taste the old white corn again.  The memory of Mosby corn must have also survived in the raccoon population for as soon as they learned that it was available again at Scott’s place, they were on it – well, since we’re talking about grain – like white on rice.

It was a long, hard summer for Scott as he used guns, staked out dogs, traps, and flashing lights to fend off the coons.

He had great hopes for the light trick when he parked a 4-wheeler in the small field and used a car battery to power overnight a set of strobe lights and a radio.  The lights would supposedly irritate the eyes of the nocturnal diners, and the noise of the radio would certainly scare them away.

His hopes were dashed when he arose early the next morning to find coons comfortably seated on the 4-wheeler and apparently enjoying the music and the light show while munching on corn.

He was finally forced to pull the corn early and then bring it over to my house where I spread it out to dry on the floor of my garage – an enclosed garage thank goodness for I’m sure that some of the determined coons had followed his trailer load of corn.

That fall, I salvaged every kernel of corn.  No nubbin was culled, and what ears were too small to pass through the mechanical sheller, I shelled by hand.  We didn’t have enough to offer the old style cornmeal to the public, but we did grind enough for our own use.

Though we’ve used the meal sparingly, it’s all gone, and we are now in the process of again trying to raise Mosby corn.  Scot prepared a plot next to his house, and he now has a good stand.  Everything looks promising for a good harvest – just as it did last time before the coon assault.

As for controlling the coons this time, we don’t really have any new ideas.  An internet search turned up more gimmicks than practical solutions, so Scott plans to apply the old methods more effectively.

I’m thinking that we need to take an entirely different approach to the problem.  If a partnership between a grower and a miller is not sufficient to ensue success, then we need to bring in an accomplished chef like Amy Thomas from down in the Curtis community.

If she comes in with us, we can’t lose this fall.  We’ll either provide meal ground from the original, untreated, unadulterated, Mosby white corn, or we’ll offer up succulent baked coon fattened up on that good ole Mississippi corn.