1. Cream shortening and sugar in mixing bowl, beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix water and baking soda in small bowl until dissolved. Add baking soda mixture and sorghum to butter mixture. Sift 5.5 cups of the flour, the spices and salt together. Blend into dough. Divide dough into 4 balls. Wrap in plastic wrap. Flatten and refrigerate overnight.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll 1 portion of dough out at a time on lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes. Bake on a greased cookie sheet until puffed, 10 to dozen minutes. Do not overbake.
3. When cool, decorate with buttercream frosting and/or candies as desired. Sorghum gives these cookies a special flavor, but molasses can be used as a substitute. Ann Smith of Plainfield won second place, and described how her gingerbread men left Bohemia in 1872 and immigrated to the United States. Smith's great-grandmother, "Babicka" Novak, lived in a small Czech-American town in South Dakota where Smith's mother grew up in the 1920s. At Christmas time, her great-grandma would give her neighbors Old World gingerbread men, reindeer and rocking horses. "One year when Great-grandma delivered the cookies, she brought along her teenaged grandson, who was visiting from a small ethnic Czech community in Nebraska," Smith wrote. "Introductions made that day over the watchful eyes of the gingerbread men eventually lead to wedding bells for my parents a decade later. Great-grandma Novak probably had planned this all along!" from the Chicago Tribune second annual Food Guide Holiday Cookie Contest December 14, 1989 ----