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MEMOIR Lye Soap is Certainly No Lie___________ Sidney Saylor Farr Father always butchered two or three hogs in the late fall and early winter. Mama rendered all of the fat and scrap pieces trimmed from the meat to use for cooking. Soap making took place on a clear day when Mama had no other majorjob to do. I remember how she would clean the hog intestines by slitting each strand open and washing it in the little creek running near our house. She draped the long pieces of gut over a rail or pole and let them dry. When ready to make soap, she cut the dried guts into short lengths and put them into her big black kettle along with fat trimmed from the organs and the residue from the rendered fat. After pouring water into the kettle she mixed in the appropriate amount of lye, and then boiled the mixture into soap. I never liked to be around when she made soap. I did not like the smell, and I was afraid of the lye she used. My younger sister and I were given the task of keeping the pile of wood replenished in the back yard where a fire was burning under her black wash pot. Mama would stand, stirring the foul-smelling liquid; warning us not to walk up too close to it for fear we might be splashed. She repeatedly told us how dangerous lye was and how we were never to play with it or get near it. I did not like for her to work with such a dangerous substance. We never had money to buy pretty soaps like my friend Lovella's family did. I used to dream of having a whole washtub full of pretty nice smelling soap. I told Mama when I grew up I would never make lye soap. She smiled at me and said, "If you have enough money to buy things like that, why then I reckon you won't ever have to make your own soap." In my bathroom today I have a little basket full of soap. Not just pretty guest soaps, but good big bars of white soap which smell good. I unwrap five or six bars at a time and pile them into the basket. The air dries the soap and makes it last longer. A Berea friend saves bacon fat and scraps of fat trimmed from roasts and steaks. When she has saved enough she makes a batch of soap for her family's use. She mentions the money she saves this way. I prefer to economize someplace else andbuy what soap I need. I have too many memories of cold days when the black pot in the yard would boil and Mama would stand there with a long-handled paddle stirring and stirring, all the while telling us how dangerous lye was. There are different methods and recipes for making soap, some ancient and some very modern. But all recipes have their origins in two basic ingredients: fat and lye. We always made soap a few days after butchering time. The early settlers in America regarded soap-making as being "women's work." In Southern Appalachia, the women do it to this day. There were two days of the year when Mama made soap, just after butchering in the fall and a few days preceding spring house cleaning. All winter she saved leftover fat from cooking, fat scraps from hams, shoulders, and middlings, which she rendered and stored in a cold place. Lye soap was used during spring house cleaning and other chores. Mama put her lye soap to good use every day. She used it to wash dishes, wash our clothes, scrub our floors, and even wash our hair. She would wash our hair and then rinse it with some grapevine juice (you can tap a grapevine just like a maple or birch tree in the springtime and collect the liquid). This made our hair soft and shiny clean. I remember one day when I was six years old and Mama had just washed my hair and rinsed it with grapevine juice. I begged to go play with my friend...