Saturday, May 12, 2018

Search for 'peculiar rock' leads George Singleton to century-old corn in Franklin community

(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Staves off blight: Daddy knew his corn” was originally published in the Sept. 2, 1971 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

“This corn has been planted by my family for well over a hundred years,” stated John Lee Bayles of the Franklin community. “I’m 80 years old and I’ve been planting this same species for 58 years myself. My daddy gave me the seed corn way back when I was just starting out to farm for a living. Never been bothered by any kind of corn blight that I know of. Always has about two or three good ears to the stalk. Best corn I’ve ever seen.”

I had visited John Lee Bayles when seeking information on a peculiar rock that I was told could be found near his home. We sat and talked about the times when he had wandered as a boy through the Franklin hills, seeking the unusual and exploring the places that were strange to him. He, like many other young boys of the early 1900s, had little else to do for recreation but turn to the woods and streams to pass the idle time.

As we sat on the front porch of this home and as I listened to John Bayles reminisce of bygone days, the conversation always returned to the hills of Franklin and farming and the growing of things. What’s the name of this corn, I asked.

“We call it the Shupeck variety. That’s what my daddy called it. Some call it Indian corn, because that is where the seed is supposed to have originated from. It has been called the dog tick corn; that’s because of the black grains scattered here and there on some of the ears that look like a large tick. Some ears have as many as four colors in them: red, orange, strawberry-colored and some the color of flint. Makes good eating for roastears. Good for lye hominy, too. You probably don’t know what lye hominy is: the kind that you cook in a wash pot?

I assured him that I did know what lye hominy is, remembering all too well the time that I became very sick from eating too much lye hominy.

An hour or so had passed when I realized that I must leave. Then, I remembered that I had forgotten what I’d came for. But the rock that I sought could wait until another time.

This would give me a good excuse to return again and visit this new-found friend, and listen again to the stories of yesterday. As I drove away and looked across the rising hills, I think I felt a little of what John Lee Bayles had felt all his life. The beautiful hymn, “The Hills of Home Are Calling Me,” became more meaningful.

(This story also included a photo of Bayles holding an ear of corn. The caption beneath the photo read as follows: John Lee Bayles of Franklin holds an ear of the variety of corn his family has been raising for more than a hundred years.)

(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born to Vincent William Singleton and Frances Cornelia Faile Singleton, during a late-night thunderstorm, on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School in 1946, served as a U.S. Marine paratrooper in the Korean War, worked as a riverboat deckhand, lived for a time among Apache Indians, moved to Monroe County on June 28, 1964 and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from June 28, 1964 to Dec. 14, 1987. For years, Singleton’s columns, titled “Monroe County history – Did you know?” and “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. It’s believed that his first column appeared in the March 25, 1971 edition of The Monroe Journal. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

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