Cows of a Different Color – A Hill Family Bean Story Clarine Best
[Editor’s Note: The Hill Family Bean, with its multi-colors, is a favorite of many and has been around for well over 100 years, providing both food and creative play during that time. Cecile Hill, grower and keeper of the seed, grew up in Haywood County, North Carolina and was one of 12 children – 8 girls came first, then 4 boys. The girls learned to do all farm work, including plowing with horses. All participated in putting up food for the winter. Cecile married George Best and they had four children, 2 girls and 2 boys. She died in 1992 at the age of 89. When Cecile’s son, Ben, and his wife, Clarine Green Best, discovered our website, they sent us these beans, including the story below. At ages 87 and 78, Ben and Clarine continue to garden and periodically send us more heirloom beans to grow.]
These are the beans that we found in Ben’s mother’s can house in an open half-gallon jar after she had been gone for 15 or 20 years. We planted them and they came up. She had told us they had been in her family since she was a small child, and that she used to carry them in a little apron and drop for her mother who would plant them in the cornfield. In the fall, they would pick bushels of these to pickle and to dry. When dry, they threshed them out on a large tarp and used as dry beans. It would have taken a lot to make a mess, since the Hills had 12 children. Ben’s mother, Cecile, would sit on her porch and fix these. She would shell out the ones that had gone to seed. She always threw away the black ones. Ronnie Hawkins [Cecile’s grandson] remembers she used to let them have the black ones to play with. They would take bean hulls and make fences and pretend the shelled beans were cows. Of course, she had to let them have a few of the other colors, too, so they could have different colors of cows.