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Raising Cane

Raising Cane by writer Shane Mitchell is one of the feature stories in the November issue of the Bitter Southerner.

The story is about growing sugarcane in the South and features interviews with sugarcane farmer Patrick Frischhertz of St. Louis Planting in Iberville Parish and Charles Schudmak at Cora-Texas Manufacturing. The photographs are by Rinne Allen.

Mitchell starts her story with a reminiscence of her great-aunt in Charleston, South Carolina, and a brief study of the etymology of the word sugar.

Here’s her introduction:

“Gimme some sugar,” said my great-aunt Adele Anderson, who always grabbed me to her bosom and plastered red lipstick kisses on my head when I landed on her doorstep. She was kind to a shy, disheveled adolescent who belonged neither here nor there, and lacked sweetness of other kinds in life. Like her sister, my Nana, she was the sort of Southern woman whose hair was never out of place, carried purses clutched with military precision on her arm, and marched staccato in matching heels, even on cobbled streets in Charleston’s historic district. A descendant of French Huguenot refugees and Scots traders, my great-aunt was raised on one of the more isolated Sea Islands off the Carolina coast during the early years of the last century. Her father ran the country store next to the steamboat landing, where all the island’s children bought penny candy. She could speak some Gullah, the unifying creole language of enslaved West Africans, but so did everyone back then, Black and white, even if they wouldn’t acknowledge it because of race shaming or shameful racism. She taught me a little bit too, enough to appreciate its poetry and rhythm. 

By the late 1920s, a bridge finally connected the mainland, and my aunt left to seek her way elsewhere. When Adele eventually returned as a widow to the Lowcountry, a certain condescending cousin, one of those Charleston snobs, reportedly said, “You moved away. What makes you think you can come back and fit into Society again?”

Her reply, I’m told, was less than sweet. READ MORE


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