CHINA BALL INFO
The Chinaberry (China ball) tree was a unique part of prairie Cajun culture. Imported from Asia in 1830 as an ornamental tree, it was quickly adopted by the Cajuns for its multiple uses. It was a fast-growing shade tree, provided lumber and firewood. Until the mid 1900's, nearly every homestead, lot, and chicken yard had one. Mischievous boys liked the slick green berries because they could use them in their popguns and slingshots.
In the fall the berries turn yellow, wrinkles, and begins to dry out. This is the time that the fowls gorge themselves, but humans and mammals beware because they are toxic to those species.
It is also the time that Cajuns and Native Americans harvest these berries to make their rosaries and ornaments.
China ball trees are no longer popular because of their invasive nature and messy droppings. However, they can still be found at some nurseries.
JOB'S TEARS INFO
When the Acadians were exiled from Nova Scotia, they were not allowed to take anything with them. Arriving in Acadiana they had to start over from scratch. Looking for something to replace their rosaries that were left behind, they found a subtropical plant that produced a bead-like growth that was hard and with a natural hole through it. This plant has been around for thousands of years and used to make decorative body wear; and also, as a food source. Thus, God had provided them with a source to make rosaries from their natural surroundings. This plant is called Job's Tears because of its tear drop shape, and the fact that the Biblical character, Job, experienced many hardships.
I have been growing this plant in my backyard for several years, and harvest the crop each summer. Many Cajuns continue this tradition of making their own rosaries and jewelry with this unique plant.
You can find more history on this plant by Googling Job's Tears on your computer.
Tommy Myers, Craftsman
Tommy Myers has been a resident of Eunice, LA all of his 74 years. Beginning as a teacher at Eunice Junior High, and then retiring from his Manshop by Myers clothing store after 29 years, he and his wife, Lou, now enjoy traveling to the arts and craft shows around Louisiana.
He was juried into the Louisiana Crafts Guild ten years ago for his unusual and decorative birdhouses, and has since expanded into making Cajun rosaries. Many people in South Louisiana make rosaries from Job's Tears, but he was fascinated when he saw Claude and Pat Oubre's China Ball rosaries. After learning their processing techniques, he scanned the internet to see how others did it, but found none. Not wanting this Cajun tradition to be lost, he will be promoting it at the Experience Louisiana Festival.