Friday, April 10, 2015
Wild Onion Soup
I like the flavor of wild onions in lots of things, one of my favorite is scrambled eggs but one thing I never cared for when I was a kid was onion soup. That changed over the course of a not so good camping trip. My idea of camping back then was wondering out in the woods as far away from people as I could get. That always meant Coalton bottoms because it was the biggest stretch of woods I knew of and since the only way I had of getting anywhere was to walk, I liked to travel light. My camping equipment consisted of one blanket that I could roll up and carry over my shoulder, a pocket knife, a hatchet I could carry in my belt and my trusty 22 rifle. I got smart enough (finally) to carry some salt and pepper in a couple of Grandmas old snuff cans plus some hooks, line and sinkers. I never carried any food or water because the woods always supplied both, or at least they had until this trip.
I tended not to eat breakfast most of time even back then and the day I headed out was no different. By the time I had walked all the way to the bottoms then through the woods to my camping spot I was starting to get a little hungry but I wasn't worried about it, all I had to do was gather some fire wood, go shoot me a squirrel and I'd have a good supper.
Everything went according to plan except getting a squirrel. I saw a couple but both of them were on the wrong side of the river. I even kept hunting until it was to dark to see before I had to finally give it up and head back to my camp, empty handed. Still, it was just the first day and I'd gone without eating for a day before. It wasn't real comfortable but I figured I'd have no problem getting one the next day and even if the squirrels didn't cooperate I still had my fishing line and was sure I could at least catch a fish.
I was up bright and early the next morning and already thinking about a nice squirrel roasting over my fire! The first thing I did was head to the river and set up a limb line. I was sure I'd have at least one fish even if i couldn't find a squirrel. That second day was nothing but a replay of the first. The only squirrels i saw were on the other side of the river. I scared up one rabbit but lost him in the brush before I could even get a shot and to add insult to injury the fish just didn't seem to care about the nice, fat, juiciest worm on my limb line! By the time I was laying next to the fire and trying to go to sleep I was beginning to wish I had ate the worm myself! However, I was positive I would get something the next day.
The third day. Up early and back to the river. I moved my limb line to what I hoped was a better spot and re-baited with fresh worm then out in the woods for some serious hunting. I tried sitting real still down by the river waiting for something to come down for a drink, nothing. I tried stalking, working hard not to make any noise at all, nothing. I tried sitting under a big oak tree for almost three hours, nothing. I went back to check on my limb line, nothing. I flushed a covey of quail, no shot. Spooked a rabbit, no shot. I even eyeballed a crow but decided I wasn't that hungry, yet. That night I got to listen to my stomach rumble most of the night
Day four and I was about ready to call it quits. It was going to be a long, hungry walk home but at least there was something to eat there. This was the first trip where I wasn't able to get anything to eat Granted, I was in no danger of starving or anything but it sure was getting uncomfortable! I was up at dawn and decided to give it until at least noon before I headed home, The first thing I did was go check my limb line. After a full day and night the only thing different with it was that something had stolen my bait! Giving up on catching a fish I headed to a different part of the woods where I'd always had good luck with squirrels in the past. The closer it got to noon the more this day was beginning to look like the last ones. The only things i saw were either to far away or moving to fast for me to get a shot and I was pretty well to the point of just giving up and heading home. On my way back to the camp I happened upon a patch of wild onions and without even breaking stride I reached down and grabbed one to munch on. I was so busy feeling sorry for myself for not being able to find something to eat I had walk plumb out of the patch before my brain kicked in! Raw onions weren't what I was looking or hoping for but they are food. I went back and pulled two big handfuls at least they would be something to eat. I was almost back to the camp when I ran into a patch of stinging nettles and had to back track and go around them to get to the camp
As I was sitting there munching on my onions I got to thinking that if I got some water in my little pot I could make some onion soup, at least it would be better than eating them raw. While I was getting the water I remembered the stinging nettles I had found and a better idea popped into my head. I dropped the pot off at the camp and went back to the nettle patch. I didn't have any gloves but I had already learned to use a handful of oak leaves to protect my hands while I gathered them. While I was there I remembered seeing some fresh cat tails where I had been hunting that morning so I left the nettles I had and went back to the area and dug out a couple of nice sized ones. Back to the gather the nettles and finally back to camp.
I put the water pot on the fire and started cutting up the onions and the cat tail stalks while it was coming to a boil. As soon as i had a good boil going i dropped the nettles in the pot and let them boil for a minute or so then pulled them out and used the oak leaves to rub them down to make sure i got all the tiny thorns of them. once i had that done I chopped them up and put everything back in the pot. I added a little salt and pepper and sat back to wait. I had no idea how good onion soup smells while it's cooking and i sure didn't know it could taste as good as that first sip! By the time I had finished that pot I was feeling so good
that I decided to stay another day.
The next day my luck finally turned and I was able to get a squirrel. Normally I'd just put it on a spit and roast it over the fire but this time I gathered everything up for another pot of onion soup. I did put the squirrel on the spit and roasted it but I only let if get about half way done, then I cut it up and added it to my soup pot. It was even better than the first pot!
Since those days I've come to like onion soup. I've added everything from beef to rabbit to ground hog and snake to it. All of it has been pretty good and even when it's not the best, at least it's filling!
Anyone ever try walking across a rope bridge? I read about these when I was around 14 (gee what a surprise, me reading about something) and wondered how they worked. As usual when I read something the books was great about the general idea but lacking in detail. Still, it sparked my interest enough to make me want to give it a try. I don't know about where you live but around
at the time, rope bridges were in short supply. As far as I knew there weren't
any nor could I find anyone who had actually walked across one. Since lack of
knowledge had never held me up before I decided to make one Oklahoma
myself and see how it worked.
You would think that even as dumb as I was back then my first choice to attempt this would have been one of the local creeks close to home. Of course if you did think that then you definitely haven't been keeping track of any of my other "great plans". My first thought was of Deepfork river and the first pklace I thought of as a great place was down in Coalton bottoms where the old railroad bridge used to be.
I figured it would take a pretty good sized rope to hold me up so I could walk from one side of the river to the other since where I planned on trying it was a good hundred yards across. My first problem was the fact that I didn't have any kind of rope that would reach that far big or small. I did happen to know some cousins that had lots of rope. I'm not going to mention their names cause I'm not sure they ever figured out where their rope disappeared to. Let's just say that I ended up with some rope.
The book I read talked about using three ropes for the bridge, two on the top for your hands and one on the bottom for you to walk on. It turned out that I only had enough rope for two. That was OK in my pea brain cause the book also mentioned a two rope bridge although only in passing, it didn't explain a lot about how to use it.
I took of early one Saturday morning with the rope I had "borrowed" and hiked down to the river. I was happy to find a good sized tree on the near bank to tie the end of the rope to. As soon as I had it tied up high and nice and tight to that first tree I discovered my second problem, how did you get the rope to the other side? I didn't remember reading anything about this problem. The only thing I could think of was to swim across the river. That wasn't quite what I had in mind but since it was all I could think off, I uncoiled the rope down to the river bank, took off my shoes and shirt and jumped in. Let me tell you, swimming across a fast, cold river isn't easy! The first time I tried it I got out to the middle where the current was the fastest and because i was holding the end of the rope I ended up just being swept down stream and right back to the same bank I had started from! After I lay on the bank for awhile and got my breath back I went up stream from where the rope was tied and tried it again. I did make it across the second time even though i was still way down stream form where I had started and had to walk back up.
By the time I got back to the top of the bank and found a decent tree to tie the rope to I was wondering why would I even want a bridge? I mean. I was already across the river, right? Anyhow, I tied the end of the rope to the tree, pulling it as tight as I could. Now I had a rope stretched across the river! of course it was only one rope and as dumb as I might have been I knew I wasn't a tightrope walker so just the one wasn't going to do me much good. I tied a second rope about five feet above the first and trekked back down to the waters edge. What else could I do? The only way to get that second rope across the river was to swim back! At least that time I was smart enough to start out way above where I planned on ending up!
Once I was on the other side I tied the second rope to the same tree as the first, again, pulling it as tight as I could. Now I had a two rope bridge! As I stood there looking at it I figure that this was going to work out just fine! All I had to do was keep my feet on the bottom rope and use the top rope to help me keep my balance, what could be so hard about that? WRONG! You have any idea how hard it is to walk across a sagging, swaying rope trying too hang onto another sagging swaying rope when both of them tend to go the opposite directions? I made it less than a quarter of the way across before I fell off the first time! The second time I almost made it halfway before I went swimming again! It took me four, count em, FOUR times before I made it to the other bank!
I was really proud of myself when I finally made it across the first time! I wasn't so proud when it took me six times just to make it back across.
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Friday, February 27, 2015
Fall was always a good time down home. Most of our favorite hunting seasons were open. The leaves were turning, making the woods really pretty and fun to be in. You could still find wild onions, grapes and sand hill plumbs if you knew where to look. The acorns were ready to fall which made squirrel a lot easier if you could find a nice patch of oak trees. Best of all, the nuts were ready to pick. Pecans were out favorite but there were hickory and walnuts also. I always carried a little toe sack along with me when I went hunting during that time of year so I would always be ready if I found any trees with nuts. I didn't mind crawling around the bottom of the tree and picking them up but my main love was in "flailing" the trees. Flailing is actually pretty easy. All you have to do is climb up the tree and jump up and down on the limbs to shake the nuts loose. It always surprised me that not too many people wanted to do that, maybe there were a lot more people down home that were afraid of heights than I thought, or there were a lot more people smarter than I was. I'm kind of leaning toward the last since I have fallen out of more than one tree right along with the rest of the nuts. Folks mainly went after pecans because they were the easiest to sell. There were two kinds, paper shells and natives. Natives were smaller and weren't worth as much. Paper shells were worth more, around thirty-five cents a pound then, so that's the ones everyone hunted for even though they were lighter so it took more to make a pound. There was lots of pecan orchards you could go and pick "on half's" which just meant you got half of all the nuts you gathered. There were also lots of trees scattered around the woods that were first come, first serve
The other good thing about climbing the trees was the split. I never ask for it but the way things worked most of the time was the person who failed the tree got half the pecans, no matter how many people were picking them up. I used to really like picking with the McGowen clan, there were eight kids and they could clean up under a tree just about as fast as you could walk around it. We would sell our pecans in Henryetta but I had to go to
to sell hickory or walnuts, either way, it was a good way to make a few bucks. Okmulgee
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Wasted Time or Fun Time?
All of my time in the woods down home wasn't spent just hunting, fishing or trapping. There were many days I was either bored and just wanted something to do and even more when I just wanted to be alone and away from everyone. One thing about a kid and especially a teenager is how bored we can get even when we're doing something that was supposed to keep us from being bored. When I was hunting I could sit under a tree or in a stand for hours without hardly moving but put me in the woods on the off season and i could seem to stay still for longer than 15 minutes, I had to DO something!
One of the main things I enjoyed doing was making camping spots. I had several scattered from close to
Wilson to deepfork bottoms and from outside to Henryetta
that I actually used but I also put in a lot of time and effort on some that I
never used once they were done. This is what I built most of the time. Okmulgee
I spent three days one summer building a wickiup by the creek that ran through my uncle's land. I didn't know that was what it was called when I did it. I'd never heard of or even seen a picture of one but it's one of those things that come to you if you do much camping. The whole idea of shelter is just something to protect you from the weather. It's pretty easy to prop a bunch of limbs against a log and cover them with leaves. If you do it right, you have a space that will keep you dry and kind of warm, If there's nothing to prop the end of branches then it's natural to figure you can lean them against each other and cover them. I got a feeling that's how folks came up with the teepee. If you have animal skins to cover the branches with that works great but if you are trying to use leaves it gets a little harder. Leaves just don't want to be piled against something that's to steep. If you try that you'll see that the next idea to pop in your pea brain is that if you bend the branches over and keep them lower it's lots easier to pile loose leaves on top of it and if you add enough you can cover the whole thing. Anyway, that's pretty well how I came up with the idea. After my first attempt just using what ever branches I could find didn't work out to well I switched to long thin branches (willow, just because there was lots growing along the creek). I dug a circle groove in the dirt the size I wanted the shelter to be. I stuck the big end of the branches in the groove and bent them over until I could stick the thin end in the same groove on the opposite side. That didn't work as well as I thought it would! The ends kept popping out of the groove. Tried digging it deeper but still had the same problem. So I said to hell with it and went home.
I couldn't stop thinking about what I was doing wrong that whole night so I was back first thing the next morning to try an idea I'd had while eating supper. I cut three of the longest branches I could find and made a ring the same size as my groove by tying them together with grape vines. Then I tied one end of a branch to the ring, bend it over in an arch and tied off the other end. It worked! I kept adding more branches until I had a nice little dome. I even figured out how to bend one into a smaller arch and tie it to the up rights to use as a doorway. I was down right proud of myself right up until I tried covering it with leaves. Turns out I didn't have enough branches because every time I dumped an armload of leaves on it, most of them just fell through. I could add more limbs but if I added to many it was going to get hard to tie them to the ring. Then it downed on me that it would be easier to weave limbs around the dome so it would look like an up-side down basket! I spent the next couple of days cutting enough limbs to cover the entire thing. It was a lot more than what I really needed for shelter but I had that basket picture in my mind and just kept adding them.. I ended up spending a whole week working everyday on getting it just the way I wanted it. I was pretty proud of it when I was finally done, and what did I do with it? I sat inside of it for an hour or so and admired it, then I went home. I never camped there and not only did I never use the shelter by the time I went back to the spot a couple of years later the only thing left was a few limbs. To a lot of folks that was a totally wasted week and since I never used it I can see where people might think that. However, building it gave me something to do, something I wanted to do and I got to learn how to build a good shelter that came in handy later in life so to me, it was a fun way to pass a summer week.
There's one that as far as I know may even still be there. I was heading down to deepfork to do some hunting and decided to take a short cut instead of walking all the way around the road. There used to be a place where everyone dumped their trash off the side of the hill above the river bottoms It was a pretty steep hillside and a real pain to walk down but if you got down it would save a mile or so of walking. I just wanted to cut through the woods at the edge of the trash pile so I didn't have to try climbing over all the garbage. I was about half way past the dump when I noticed a piece of corrugated steel sticking out of the pile. I worked my way to check on it just because. I didn't really want it and had no thought of doing anything other than just checking it out. You could find lots of stuff in that dump but this was something you didn't see very often. There turned out to be three pieces, each about 8 feet long and in not bad shape. They still had the nail holes in them but they weren't bent up or anything. Not sure where the idea came from but I thought that if I took them along with me I could think of some way to use them as a roof for some kind of house. The first problem with my plan was figuring out how to carry them. I had my 22 with me for hunting and since I didn't have any kind of sling on it I had to spend some time prowling around to find enough rags that I could rip up and make one. Next came the problem of moving the steel. I don't know how many of you have messed with this kind of material but for those of you who haven't I'll tell ya, one piece is kind of heavy and three was a lot more than I could pick up. Back I went, hunting for a piece of rope or something that I could use to tie them together so I could try and drag them down the hill.
I had arrived at the dump just after daylight and by the time I found enough old cloths that I could rip up and braid something close to a piece of rope it was getting up toward noon. If I would have had any since I would have just bagged the idea and went on about my business but I had a plan. To be truthful I had a vague idea but I was sure a plan would show up. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail of how hard or how long it took me to drag those things down that hill. I will say that by the time I got them to the old roadway at the bottom of the hill I was skint, bruised and dog tired! It was so late in the day all I could do was stash them close to the road and head home.
I was back early the next morning and spent that whole day dragging them down the road and along the river to a spot where I could get them down close to the water. Dragging them down the road wasn't to bad since it was an old railroad and since the rails and ties were gone it was pretty smooth. Fighting them through the brush and briers to get them close to the river was something else! The next day I brought a hatchet and even remembered to grab some bailing wire of a fence on the way over. The spot I'd picked had a pretty steep bank leading down to the water and I came up with the idea that I could use the steel as a roof for a fishing spot for Stanley and me. I found a couple of trees that were about 6 foot apart and didn't have any limbs close to the ground. I cut down another tree and trimmed it to make a cross pole. I wired it between the two about 5 foot above the ground using the wire. Next I got the steel up on the cross pole and shoved the opposite end into the bank as far as I could. Once I got all three of them up and over lapped it made a pretty nice roof. Now I had to dig out the bank under them because it was to steep to sit on and since all I had brought with me was a hatchet I was done for the day. I ended up spending most of my free days that summer working on that place. I dig out the bank so I had a flat floor. I added branches stacked along each side to keep the wind out. I even found an old car seat in the dump and drug it all the way down so we'd have something to sit on. The only thing that was wrong with it was that I had put it in a spot where Stanley and I never went fishing so even after all that work, we never used it.
This is another thing I spent countless hours trying to make Just, what looked to me like a simple fish trap. Trust me, a lot of good willow trees gave up their lives before I was even able to come close! This is a picture very similar to one i found in the school library. Looks so simple doesn't it?
Figuring out this part was real easy but trying to build the actual trap working just from a couple of descriptions and a drawing for a person that once knew how to make them but couldn't actually remember was a lot harder than I thought. I took me well into my 20's before I was able to make one that even came close to looking like one in the picture. I thought it was just an outside shell. You start with a big hoop on the front and added smaller ones to get the length you wanted. Then you would just tie willow limbs to the outside, I managed to make several of those over the years and never caught a single fish in any of them! It wasn't until I was in
and went to a museum
where I finally got to see one that I realized the trick is the inside cone!
That keeps the fish from just swimming back out! I did have some luck with
fence traps in both deepfork and salt creek. Those just involved building a
fence out of tree branches from the bank out toward the middle and down stream.
You would leave a small opening at the end by the bank then build another fence
in the shape of a circle off that end. Lots of fish will swim up-stream and end
up following your fence to the end then get trapped in the circle. Of course
even with that you could spend a couple of days building the thing and may
still not catch anything. A fishing pole was so much easier but it was still
fun to try and do one right and it did pass the time! Alaska