By Janie Southard
COLDWATER -- Called Job's tears, Saint Mary's tears, David's tears, Christ's tears, Coix lacryma-jobi, or just tear drops, the small beads that grow on this plant have been keeping Cam Wenning busy since 1997.
The Coldwater hospital retiree makes rosaries for her family and for local Catholic mission work from the small pearly seeds produced by the Coix lacryma-jobi.
"My sister started growing them and gave me some seeds to make rosaries, and I also planted some. The stock reminds you of a skinny corn stock about this high," says Wenning holding her hand 40-inches or so from her dining room floor.
One of her Job's Tears rosaries is attached to Jason Engle's truck in Kuwait, where he's been stationed since last February with the 1487th Transportation Company of the Ohio National Guard post in Eaton. Engle, formerly of Celina, dates Wenning's granddaughter, Joelle Grieshop of Coldwater, who gave him the rosary when he left the states to keep him safe.
"He told Joelle since he isn't Catholic it might not work. But trucks all around his have been hit, not his. Maybe it's the rosary, maybe not," Wenning shrugs as she assembled box lids and plastic trays that contain her supplies of beads, eye-pins and pliers. Wenning is adept at prepping the beads after all these years, but it's a craft that takes time and patience.
The beads naturally have top and bottom holes that make cleaning out the soft inside material easier. Wenning pokes a straightened paper clip through the bead and wiggles it around.
"Sometimes you really have to work at getting the middle stuff out, but the inside has to be clean before you can put in the eye-pin," she says, adding the beads are air dried before she starts anything.
Although Wenning uses the beads in their natural pearly colors of gray, taupe and white, the beads can be colored. Enamel paint can be used, although stains work best, according to an Internet page on the topic.
The Job's tears plant, a type of grass, is closely related to corn varieties including Indian corn, whose grains were used primarily by various tribes for jewelry. Later they discovered the grains could be ground into food.
Job's tears also are used for food, such as cereal, in Asia where they are considered a native plant. The plant grains are used for soups, drinks and pastries. In India, the grain is used for brewing a beer called zhu. The Japanese use a variety of Job's tears brewed into a tea, and roasted seeds make a coffee-type drink.
Wenning, who says she likes to keep busy, also crochets.
"I give my grandkids and great-grandkids the rosaries for confirmation, and then they get to pick out an afghan for graduation when the time comes. My 12th grandchild is on the way and so is my fifth great-grandchild. I try to keep ahead on the rosaries," she says.