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Celebrating the origins of ‘fat lightered’

POSTED: March 14, 2018 12:42 p.m.
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FAT LIGHTERED?!?
Most of you know what “fat lightered” is, but for those city folks and members who live in states that aren’t blessed with it, I will explain.
The old growth longleaf pines and slash pines that grew along the coastal lands and inland flatlands of Virginia down to Texas, had a concentration of “tar,” or rosin that helped to make the wood resistant to rot, insects and disease. The lower parts of the trees, in particular the stumps, had several hundred pounds of tar to the ton of wood and this wood is referred to as “light wood” which was long ago corrupted in southern speak to “lightered” or fat lightered, referring to its fat like properties as it sputtered and popped as it burned, much like hog fat.
The reason it was called “lightwood” was because it was used for torches in pioneer times. After an old such pine dies, and the thin layer of sapwood rots away and the finer feed roots rot away, what is left is the heartwood that is resistant to rot and can persist for decades or hundreds of years exposed to the elements.
It was and is prized for kindling for starting fires and for other uses such as fence posts etc. The stumps have been harvested for well over 100 years and taken to plants for removing the rosin and other chemicals such as wood turpentine for industrial uses.
Pictured is a stump top that my brother cut off the other day to use for kindling, and the picture of the lightered stumps being loaded on the truck is of my Daddy’s crew in the 1970s.
He was an independent stump shipper for Hercules, Inc. of Brunswick, Geo. and this is his loader truck being loaded for a trip to the railroad siding to load railroad “gons,” the cars on which they were shipped. The stumps were pushed out of the ground with a bulldozer and skidded with tractors to the loader truck for transport.
Thanks to folks like me and my family and others who hauled away thousands and thousands of tons, fat lightered is scarce today, as the trees we cut today do not grow long enough nor are they the right type to produce it anymore, for the most part. Oh, a couple of side notes, it smells wonderful, pioneers made medicine from it and no, Hercules never made gunpowder or dynamite from lightered stumps.

Written by Wade Peebles and printed with permission from Ga Folk and Farm Life on Facebook.

This was written by Susan Exley from Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos or historical information to share contact her at 912-754-6681 or email hesheraldexley@aol.com

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