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Arbo paths: Treasures of the Piney Woods region and culture

Bob Rouse will be at the Piney Woods Heritage Festival again this year, exhibiting one of his pineywoods cattle and talking to visitors about his efforts to maintain this endangered heritage breed (Photo: Crosby Arboretum Archives).

Bob Rouse will be at the Piney Woods Heritage Festival again this year, exhibiting one of his pineywoods cattle and talking to visitors about his efforts to maintain this endangered heritage breed (Photo: Crosby Arboretum Archives).


I’ll never forget a story told by the guide on our boat tour one day through Jackson County marshlands, of how the pineywoods cattle who once roamed these landscapes would occasionally get stuck and have to be pulled out of the mucky soils. Not only was this a sad and lonely fate to imagine these cattle having to endure, but the native grasses in these marshes looked to be much taller than these short-statured animals! How could the owners even spot them in the first place?
We are looking forward to seeing one of these pineywoods cattle first-hand at the Piney Woods Heritage Festival this weekend, when Pearl River County resident Bob Rouse will display one of his cows and tell about how he is contributing to the preservation of this heritage breed. Bob lives on family land near the Arboretum, and also contains a wealth of information about the early timber industry in the County.
The pineywoods breed has descended from cattle brought to this country by the Spanish in the 1500’s. These cattle are very tolerant of heat and humidity, and through natural selection have resulted in a breed that is extremely tolerant of the region’s high heat and humidity, very disease and parasite-resistant, and easy to keep. This breed of cattle played an important role in the timber industry of the Southeast, as they were used in hauling timber.
Last year, Bob displayed an old trough that he found on his land once used to gather the pine resin that was distilled to make turpentine, along with a portion of a pine tree trunk that still had the “V”-shaped markings that harvesters had slashed into the tree to extract the sap. Slash pine and longleaf pine in particular were tapped for the turpentine industry.
Another fascinating Piney Woods craft is – pine needle baskets! Stone County Extension director Judy Breland possesses this delightful hidden talent and she will share it with visiting schoolchildren on Friday, November 14. If you are a homeschool educator, your school group may attend the school field day on Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The cost is only $2 per child, and there is no charge for adults this day.
Have you ever seen a pine needle basket? They can range from simple shapes to ones that are quite intricate, and are sold for hundreds of dollars. Just enter those keywords into your favorite search engine, and you will be amazed at the range of designs. Talk about making something from nothing! We certainly have an abundance of pine needles in this county, and longleaf pine needles in particular are sought after for creating these baskets. Would you believe that longleaf pine needles are being sold on popular Internet auction sites for 10 to 15 dollars a pound for crafting projects?
Although Judy will not be at the festival on Saturday, she is scheduled to teach a pine needle basketry workshop on January 10 from 9:30 to noon. For more information on this program, or to reserve a space, call the Arboretum office at the below number.
Richard Scott will return this year to the festival. He is a woodturner who fashions beautiful items such as chair rails, addle addles (look this one up!), and cooking utensils such as spoons and roux and gumbo stirrers on his 1840’s white oak “shaving horse”. Both Richard’s turning demonstration and that of the blacksmith are well-attended at the festival, as these craftsmen are mesmerizing to watch. The Picayune Piecemakers will again display their quilts and other items in the Arboretum library, and a treadle sewing machine demonstration will be stationed nearby. It’s these types of crafts and skills that the public and visiting schoolchildren enjoy each year, as they get a taste of the skills common to the “old days” of the early settlers of the region.
Make plans to attend the 12th Annual Piney Woods Heritage Festival this Saturday, November 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. See exhibits and demonstrations of traditional skills such as blacksmithing, quilting, gourdcrafting, a treadle sewing machine demonstration, woodcarving, basket-making, Pearl River County history, and more. Enjoy the Pearl Strings dulcimer group and some old-time music by the Jordan River Band. Members enter free, and admission for general public is only $5 for adults and $2 for children.
Gourdcrafter Janet Schlauderaff will also be at the Piney Woods Festival. Her work is currently featured in the Crosby Arboretum Gallery. She will teach a workshop on gourdcrafting Christmas ornaments Saturday, November 22, from 10 a.m. to Noon for adults and children 10 and up. Cost is $4 for members and $6 for non-members.
To sign up for a program, or for more information, please call the Arboretum office at (601) 799-2311. The Crosby Arboretum is located in Picayune, Mississippi, off I-59 Exit 4, on Ridge Road (between Wal-Mart and I-59). Follow signs to the Arboretum.
FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION: Search the Internet for the key words “pineywoods cattle” and “Mississippi” to read more about this disappearing breed.

By Patricia Drackett