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Thaxton man carries on old country tradition

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By John Barnhart

    Donald Phillips, of Thaxton, keeps an old country tradition alive. He plants two rows of broom corn in his garden and makes old-fashioned brooms from it.

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    The plant has leaves that look a bit like corn, but it’s actually a variety of sorghum. Each stalk produces a brushy head that bears the plant’s small seeds. Phillips combs the heads to recover the seeds. He said that his two rows produce two or three gallons of seeds, but he only plants a handful of them.
    He cuts off the upper portion of the stalks and binds them together to make the sort of broom that his mother used 80 years ago.
    Phillips said that his father, Henry Phillips, raised broom corn every year so that he could make all the brooms the family would need for the year. Henry Phillips was a farmer who raised tomatoes and corn on a farm off Sheep Creek Road. He used horses to plow his field.
    Phillips said that these brooms were used outside as well as inside. He said that farm houses back then had bare ground in front of the house and women would sweep them with the brooms.