Saturday, April 28, 2012
I met a guy not long ago that kind of threw me for a loop. We got to talking about things and I happened to mention that I was looking forward to doing a little gold prospecting this summer. He seemed really excited about that and said that him and his wife had been thinking about trying that their selves I told him about a few places up here that he might want to check out, just regular prospector talk. It took a few minutes to sink into my pea brain that every time I mentioned a different place the first thing he would ask about was what town was the closest and did I know anything about motels that were close. When I told him that the only way to prospect a lot of the places was going to require camping out, that's where the loop came in. This guy was in his late 50's and not only had he never been camping but according to him, he'd never slept anywhere but in a bed in his entire life!
I guess there must be other folk like that, city folks maybe, but to someone who has been camping out since I was around three it does seem strange. After talking to him I got to thinking and trying to remember some of the places I've slept over the years. There are the regulars, curled up on a blanket beside a creek, river or lake. I know we used to think that sleeping under a pickup was about the same as having a tent. I can't even begin to remember all the trees I've spent the night under or the number of shelters I've spent the night in. I've made shelters out of tree limbs and brush, roofed with pine boughs. There have been lean-tos covered with everything from tree bark to Johnson grass leaves. There were caves, both large enough to stand up and move around and the ones that were just big enough to slide into feet first. I've even spent a few nights inside a fallen hollow log watching some pretty good storms pass by.
I've slept under rock overhangs trying to keep dry during a rain storm or trying to catch a few hours sleep out of the desert sun. There have been nights spent sitting up or leaning back against a tree and warm summer nights just laying out in the middle of a field. I can remember almost every night I've ever spent in abandoned buildings from the old saloon in a ghost town in Nevada to the old miner's cabins in Alaska. There was even an old honky-tonk in Schulter where I spent a few nights when I had problems at home during my teen years.
I saw a film about Chimps building a kind of nest and sleeping in trees so of course I had to try that. It really wasn't bad until a storm blew in and the tree started hard enough to almost toss me out of my "nest", I developed a lot more respect for baby birds after that night. I spent several nights in snow caves during some bad storms and found them to be downright comfortable as long as you pay attention to how you dig them, having one cave in on you in the middle of the night will definitely get your attention!
I built a really nice shelter out of drift wood on the Oregon one time. It was snug and water proof and I enjoyed staying in it until the night I got the fire too close to the roof and set it on fire. Thankfully it was raining that night which is the only thing that saved me from burning up a few miles of beach.
Snow caves are great places for a night if you happen to find caught out in a blizzard and the snow is deep enough to dig into. Even the cloudless nights up in Alaska when it hits thirty or forty below a snow cave will be relativity warm in a nice sleeping bag and just a miner's candle. I did manager to spend one night in an igloo. It only took me about five attempts to actually get one that would stay up. Those things are a lot harder to build than it looks. Another way to keep warm at night (at least in Oklahoma where it seldom gets more than about ten below) is to burrow into a pile of leaves. I have spent a few hours raking up all the leaves I could and piling them against a log the burrow into the middle of them. I've spent nights like that just as snug as a bug in a rug and woke in the morning to find the whole pile covered in ice. The only bad part about spending the night in cold weather is having to get up in the morning.
I found a nice overhang in a cliff up in northern Arizona one time that came in real handy when I got caught out in one of the big desert thunder storms. The best thing about it was the fact that there were pictographs on the walls. I'm not an archeologist but even I could tell that they were very old. I was careful to build my fire at the edge of the cave in order not to have smoke blowing inside. I didn't know if the smoke would cause and damage to the drawings but I sure didn't want to take a chance. I spent that night wondering what the person that made them might have used the cave for. Back when they must have been made that part of the country was a lot different than what it was while I was there. There was a lot more water and the country was a lot greener then. The ledge in front would have been a great spot for a hunter to watch the valley below or maybe it was a sacred place only visited by the local Shamans. I will never know but it was special place to me.
One of the scarcest places I've ever spent a night was in a hammock tied to two carabineers driven into a couple of cracks in the rock and about six hundred feet up the side of a cliff in northern California. That was my one and only attempt at real rock climbing. I didn't get much sleep that night.
Now days I tend to spend my camping nights in a tent on a cop with an air mattress. Laying out on the rocky bank of a creek for the night just isn't as comfortable as it used to be as Stanley and I found out the last time I went down to visit him. Those rocks just don't seem to make as good a pillow as they used to!
Posted by Down Home at 11:31 AM
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Down Home Stories: Just a quick thought on breakfast: Breakfast Here's a breakfast idea that lots of people down home like. In fact, this is so good and I'm sure that so many people nationwi...
Here's a breakfast idea that lots of people down home like. In fact, this is so good and I'm sure that so many people nationwide enjoy it I'm surprised I have never seen it advertised at Denny's or seen any mention of it on any of the cooking shows. I'm sure ya'll know I'm talking about that ole trusty stand-by, Brains and Eggs.
All you need to enjoy this delectable treat is one good size calf brain, half a dozen eggs, milk, six green onions, a little oregano, basil, dill weed, salt and peeper. Crack the eggs in a medium bowl and add one -half cup of milk along with the other ingredients. Whisk them all together just like you were going to make scrambled eggs. Wash the brain in cold water and chop it into chunks about half-inch square. Add the brain to the egg mix and stir until it mixed throughout.
Add a couple of tablespoons of oil (lard if you're from down south) to a ten inch skillet (cast iron works real well) Once the oil is hot pour in the egg and brain mix, stirring constantly. Keep stirring until the eggs are kind of dry looking and the brains have been cooked through. Dish em up along with a pile of fried taters and cover them both with fresh white gravy with a couple of scratch made biskets.
This is a breakfast that will stick with you through a whole day of baling hay or a hard day of tromping through the woods! Enjoy.
Posted by Down Home at 8:33 PM
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
The thing we always liked best about frog legs was being out at night hunting them. The fact that they taste really good was just frosting on the cake. We hunted frogs pretty well every time we were out fishing and we'd use our fishing poles to catch them. You just tie a three prong hook on your line and once you spot a frog you sneak up to him, reach out and lay the hook beside him and jerk it across his back. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred you will snag him with the hook. You just have to pay attention while you're sneaking around the water watching for frog eyes to shine in your light because snake eyes also shine and you don't really want to be snagging a big cottonmouth when you're wanting frog legs.
The easiest way to fix the legs is to just add a little salt and pepper to them and fry them in hot oil. You can do them under real quick by holding their back feet and whacking their heads against a tree or rock. To clean them just make a slit through the skin across the back right above the legs. You can peel the skin off with your fingers but it's a lot easier if you have a pair of pliers. You just get a hold of the skin and pull down and the skin will come off just like taking his pants off. Cut the legs off just above the hips and remove the feet. Fry them in about an inch of hot oil about three minutes on each side. They seem to taste a lot better cooked this way if you're camping out. Of course we always thought that even eggs had a lot better taste when you fix them out in the woods.
You can also get fancy with them. Season them with salt, pepper, oregano and basil. Add two tablespoons of butter to a ten inch fry pan and when it melts add two teaspoons of lemon juice. Cook the legs a couple of minutes on each side the add a quarter cup of red wine and finish them off as the wine reduces. Add a small cold salad and you will have the same dish they serve in some high class restaurants.
Another good way to fix legs is to use them as part of a wilderness fish stew. Most everyone who has everyone any camping has a version of these. Stanley and I had two different versions. One was purely from what we could gather from the woods and the other one was if we happened to be close to someone's fields or gardens where we could "liberate" a few extra goodies.
Wilderness Fish Stew:
At least six pair of frog legs
What every kind of fish you can catch. If you can get good sized one then filet them and cut the filets into chunks about an inch square. If their small, like perch, just cut the heads and fins off, gut and scale them and use them whole.
Half a dozen wild onions
Three wild garlic including tops
A handful of dandelion greens
Cat tail stalks cut in two to three inch strips (use the bottom foot or so. Peel the outer leaves and just use the core)
A handful of black mustard greens
Salt and pepper to taste
Put one quart of water in a pot and bring to a boil then dump everything in except the frog legs and fish. Let everything boil for about half an hour then add the legs and let them boil for about ten minutes before adding the fish. Keep it boiling for another twenty minutes then move to the side of the campfire and let it cool down for about fifteen minutes. If you happen to be around where you can gather a few things for some one's fields or gardens without getting shot you can add some corn for taste and some okra to thicken the stew.