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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Down Home Stories: Down Home Stories: Corn

Down Home Stories: Down Home Stories: Corn: Down Home Stories: Corn : A lot of countries have taken ingredients and not only made them their own but have done so to such an extent that...

Tarzan Time

   Ever notice that boys walking through the woods find it impossible to just walk? They always have to high kick a tree, jump up and grab a limb to either swing on or try to do a chin up. Heaven forbid if there are vines growing in those woods because that is one hundred percent sure to bring out the Tarzan gene in every boy (and some girls) which makes it totally imp0ossible to walk by a vine without trying to climb on it or swing from it.
   There are some good swinging vines down home but there are a whole lot more that aren't and for anyone that had small brains like Stanley or myself, telling the difference between them seemed to be just out of our reach. Now the ones that hung straight down the trunk of a tree weren't too bad as all you could do with them was to get a running start and swing up a foot or so then you would head right back to the tree. Since you never got your feet to far off the ground there wasn't much that could wrong other than hitting the tree if you didn't turn loose in time. Of course there are ways of getting into trouble with vines besides swinging on them. There was a big red oak growing on the hill behind Charlie Condrens place with what I was sure was a coon den at the top. The problem with that tree was the same as a lot of oak trees; the first branch was a good fifteen feet above the ground and since I was only about five foot three back then you can see the problem. I wasn't one to give up when there was a den tree to check out thought and it so happened there was one good size grape vine running up the side of the trunk. Grape vines put out these little shoots as the grow that burrow into a tress bark and hold them up but if you can get your fingers behind the vine you can rip them out enough to be able to climb up it just like a rope. I yanked this one out until it was loose up past that first limb and figured I'd have no problem climbing up it until I could get into the limbs and then be able to shinny my way on up to the den. I've always said that one of the main problems Stanley and I had back then was not being able to think out a plan more than five seconds which is the reason we tended to run into problems about six seconds into whatever it was we were trying. Well this time I had just the opposite problem. All I could think about was getting to the top of that tree and seeing what I might find in that den so I wasn't paying much attention to anything else. Pulling yourself up a vine, hand over hand is hard but if you can get your feet against something it's a lot easier cause you can use your feet to kind of walk up the tree while pulling on the vine which is the way I always did it. I started out pretty good. The vine was thick enough to get a good hold of and the bark was rough enough to give good traction. I was up high enough to just reach the bottom limb and was thinking of how neat it would be if there were baby coons in that den. Just as I put my hand on the limb the vine pulled loose from the bark and I dropped down a few inches. Because I had my feet against the tree I was now stretched out flat. I had just enough time to think "Oh" before the vine broke. Thank god that limb was only about fifteen feet off the ground. I only bounced twice when I hit and that second bounce moved me just enough to keep the broken end of the vine from poking me in the eye when it came down on top of me. It took a few minutes of laying there gasping for breath before I could even finish my though and I'm sure I don't need to tell you the second word. I learned something that day (again) "make sure the vine isn't dead before you try climbing it". I have to admit that both Stanley and I learned that lesson many times over the years, the problem was that it just never sunk in and it surprised us every time.
   The best Tarzan vines were the ones that hung down from tree limbs and the best of the best were on trees that grew close to a creek or the river. These were so good because you could really get a really good swing going especially if you got a running start. Our goal was swing at least as high as the limb they were attached too. We never quite made it but it sure wasn't from lack of trying. Another good thing about the ones that were close to a creek or river is that it didn't hurt quite as much if the vine broke, as long as there was water in said creek or river! Now, the smart thing to do when swinging on an unknown vine would be to talk someone else into trying it first. That way if the vine wasn't strong enough to hold a person you could be the one standing back laughing instead on the one laying on the ground with the wind knocked out of him. The problem was that most of the time it was just Stanley and me and since we were just a little bit competitive about some things each of us always wanted to be first. Of course we didn't always end up flat on our backs when a vine broke. There was the time Stanley got the vine first, pulled it back as far as it would go and took off running. He would have made a really impressive swing if only the vine hadn't broken just as he was starting to take off. He just kept right on running with that vine trailing back over his shoulder right off the edge of the creek bank. I'm not sure, and he wouldn't tell, if he tripped at the edge or was trying to dive into the water to make the landing softer but he ended up doing a back flip and hit the water feet first still holding the vine, then he just fell over backwards. I guess it was a god thing he didn't manage to complete a dive because the water was only ankle deep. He had to crawl back to dry land and we had to hang out there for a couple of hours until his ankles, knees and hips quit hurting enough for him to be able to walk back home. He also bit his tongue and had a gash in the back of his head from hitting a rock when he fell. I don't want you to think he was stubborn or anything but he did make another wild Tarzan swing the very next day.
   I can't say too much about Stanley's' almost swing because about two weeks later I was down on Salt Creek doing a little squirrel hunting when I tried one that came out pretty well the same. I was a really hot day and I decided to take a swim in the creek to cool off. Normally on days like that I'd just wade out in the water far enough to lay down and just float around but that day while I was floating I noticed a good size grape vine growing up a cottonwood tree that was leaning out over the creek. There use to be a rope swing down at Skyrocket (our main swimming hole) that I loved to swing on and drop into the creek and this vine looked enough like that rope that it was just too hard to pass up. I remembered what had happened to Stanley on his creek swing so I gave that vine a couple of hard yanks to make sure it was strong enough to hold me. I even cut the bottom off the vine so there wouldn't be any chance of tripping myself. I figured that if I got a good running start I'd be able to swing out as far as I could, let go of the vine and land just about in the middle of the creek where I knew the water was deep. My take off was perfect if I do say so myself. Off the bank I went and up and over the creek I flew laughing my butt off the whole way. I went so high that looking straight ahead all I could see was the sky and was just thinking about turning loose when the vine broke. No warning it just broke. To say the least it was a kind of sinking feeling but I still figured I'd be Ok after all, I knew the creek was deep enough that the worst that was going to happen would be landing on my back in the water and I was right, kind of. If Mr. Short (our math teacher) had of been there I'm sure he could have explained my miscalculation but since I was never very good at math I will tell you what happened and you can figure out the math. I didn't take into account how far or how high I would get and I also didn't even think about how narrow that creek was so instead of landing on my back in the water; I went all the way across the creek and planted both feet into the opposite bank. Not on top of the bank although I only missed it by about six inches and fell straight down. I was right about the water being deep enough but since the only part of me that actually hit the water was my head and shoulders that wasn't much to brag about, the rest of me was stuck in the mud. I also had a really hard time getting back home that day and had to wear an Ace bandage wrapped around my ankle for the next two weeks.
   You would think that after a few results like these we might have figured out that maybe, just maybe trying to swing through the trees might not have been such a good idea but you would be wrong. Some folks are just slow learners.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Down Home Stories: Corn

Down Home Stories: Corn: A lot of countries have taken ingredients and not only made them their own but have done so to such an extent that most people believe th...

Corn

   A lot of countries have taken ingredients and not only made them their own but have done so to such an extent that most people believe they have been using them for thousands of years. Tomatoes for example, are one of the main ingredients for Italian foods and they are known far and wide for the many ways they use them. Granted, they do some wonderful stuff with them but some people forget that tomatoes come from the new word and before the fifteen hundred's there were no great tasting sauces made from them. When a lot of people think of potatoes they think of the Irish forgetting that potatoes also come from the new world. Feasting on pigs cooked in a pit using hot stones is a trademark of many of the pacific islands but until European sailors dropped pigs off on those islands to provide a food supply for their voyages the main protein for those feasts would have been fish. Most of the spices that the French use so well in their food came from Java and other members of the "spice islands" and there are so many foods in America that came for other countries a person could write a book just listing them but one of the things that we had and kept in the new world was corn.

   There are a lot of amazing things that corn can be used for and I wish I could say that Okies came up with them and for all I know maybe they did but the only thing we used it for down home was some pretty good eats. Ingredients

   Corn Bread: It seems like there's as many different ways of making corn bread as there are people making it. Everyone has their favorite recipes including adding different spices. I had a couple of cousins that came close to a knockdown, drag out fight over adding sugar. This is what I tended to think of as "regular" corn bread like Grandma used to make.

• 1/2 cup butter

• 2/3 cup white sugar

• 2 eggs

• 1 cup buttermilk

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

• 1 cup cornmeal

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8 inch square pan.

2. Melt butter in large skillet. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Quickly add eggs and beat until well blended. Combine buttermilk with baking soda and stir into mixture in pan. Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

   Sawmill Gravy: I ordered this from a cafe in North Carolina one time and they brought out sausage and white gravy, not what I was expecting. Granma used to make this for me and sawmill gravy was what she always called it.

In a large saucepan over medium heat melt 4 Tbsp. butter

Add 4 Tbsp of fine ground cornmeal mixed with salt and pepper and whisk to blind

Continue to whish while slowly adding milk until all the ingredients are blended.

This is one of those meals where all I ever did was watch Grandma make it. I never made this on my own and I hope I have this recipe right but my memory isn't what it once was so if I've missed anything I apologize. One thing I remember about these is that you could take the left over's, cut them into pieces about 3" by 3" and fry them into a kind of corn bread for supper. I know a couple of times she added onions and sausage to the mix which I really liked.

   Corn Dodgers: The recipe for these is the same as for regular corn bread except you add a little more corn meal to make a thicker dough, roll the dough into ball about the size of goofballs' and deep fry them. Now I'm not going to lie to ya, these things turn out to be very similar to corn meal rocks but they are really handy to carry along while you're wondering in the woods or working in the fields. You need some pretty strong teeth to eat them but they do taste pretty good. P.S. it's kind of fun to set one of these out and watch the squirrels try to eat it.

   Some of the best corn we ever had when we were kids was other people's corn. We used to sneak up to Bill Longs corn field and pilfer a couple of ears each then we'd take them down to river and soak them in the water for five or ten minutes. After that it was just a matter of laying them still in their sucks directly on the coals of the campfire until they were cooked. You have to be careful peeling the shucks cause they would be really hot but if you're careful you can peel them down to the end and use them as holders. Add a little salt and pepper and you got some great eating and they always seemed to taste so much better than your own corn.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Down Home Stories: A Hearty Meal

Down Home Stories: A Hearty Meal: I traded for a Dutch oven from the second hand store in Henryetta and discovered a whole new way of burning things. The first thing I tri...

A Hearty Meal

   I traded for a Dutch oven from the second hand store in Henryetta and discovered a whole new way of burning things. The first thing I tried to cook in it were biskets because all the books about mountain men all said that was one of the main things they made. I guess always being close to starving to death and short on supplies was motivator for learning how to cook because there was no mention of any burnt or otherwise ruined meals in any of the books I saw.

Here is one of the meals that I was finally able to get cooked correctly with a not to bad flavor.

One roast, three to four pounds. I used deer meat for this one although hog works well also.

A dozen Jerusalem artichokes cleaned and quartered (cat tail roots will work if you do this in the spring when the plants are young and the heads are still firm.












A half a hand full of Black Mustard greens











A hand full of Dock












A dozen wild onions











Half a dozen wild garlic bulbs










Salt

Enough water to cover three quarters of the roast.

Cat tail stems (In season) cut the first five or six inches above the root, remove the outer and chop the stems like you would celery.












Ten inch Dutch oven

You'll want to start with a good sized bed of hot coals off to one side of the campfire (oak or hickory make the best coals). Add all the ingredients to the pot, cover and set in the coals. Cover the lid with at least an inch or more of hot coals. You will need to cook this for most of a day (at least 6 hours, depending on the fire). Keep the fire built up to the side and scrape new coals around and on top of the oven as needed. Be sure and check the water adding more as needed to keep it from boiling dry (my first mistake).

The roast will be ready to serve when it's tender enough to pull apart with a couple of forks.

Down Home Stories: Book Sale

Down Home Stories: Book Sale: The print version is on sale for the rest of Feb. at Amazon for 12.99 and the ebook for .99. Enjoy

Book Sale

The print version is on sale for the rest of Feb. at Amozon for 12.99 and the ebook for .99. Enjoy

Friday, February 10, 2012

Down Home Stories: Dessert

Down Home Stories: Dessert: Now if you're like me and Stanley finding dessert in the Oklahoma woods is the easiest thing in the world, or at least it was a lot easie...

Dessert

   Now if you're like me and Stanley finding dessert in the Oklahoma woods is the easiest thing in the world, or at least it was a lot easier than trying to figure out how to cook. We used to wonder through the woods grazing like a couple of deer and depending the time of year we could have our choice of several different kinds of wild grapes, plums and berries, some of which were ripe during the spring and others in the fall. Mulberries in the spring were not only great eating but they were ripe at the same time Deepfork River overflowed every spring. The neat thing about that was the fact that carp and gar also liked them and bow hunting for big fish was lots of fun. The water seldom got over knee deep when the river flooded so we could wade out through the Mulberry trees and watch for their backs to show above the water. You just don't know what you're missing until you have a thirty or forty pound carp on the end of a light line! But I'm supposed to be talking about dessert here, not fishing. Another treat was in the fall when the persimmons were ripe. You want to make sure that when you bite into a persimmon that it is for sure ripe because if it isn't you just won't believe the "pucker power" there is in such a small fruit. Make sure they are soft all over and the sweetness will surprise you.

   Even though our main way of eating these goodies was to just munch away on the raw ones we did make a few attempts at cooking some of them. One thing I will always remember about growing up was the making of blackberry jelly. Everyone, including us kids would spend days picking blackberries and when the women thought we had enough they would build a fire in the yard and cook them down in big number four washtubs. You could smell them cooking from a couple of miles if the wind was right which made it kind of hard when you're out squirrel hunting. It's really hard to keep your mind on hunting while you're wondering around the woods drooling. There are two different kinds of Blackberries down home. One grows on long vines that are covered in stickers which really hurt when they pole you (if you doubt that, just ask Stanley how it felt to get thrown off a horse and land in the middle of a patch of them) the other kid are called Dew Berries and they seem to grow the best along the railroad tracks on short bushy vines with smaller stickers on them. They both taste the same and that's the part that counts.

   Our first attempt at cooking berries happened when we got the idea of having pancakes cooked over a campfire down by the river. We remembered to take everything we needed to make the cakes but when we got to the river we realized we had forgotten one main thing, syrup! Not to fear! We came up with the great idea of making blackberry syrup. Now I know that any of you who are reading this and actually know how to make syrup and jelly will laugh at this but I thought you could just put some blackberries in a pot, mix in a little water and cook it. For a couple of dumb kids it did kind of work. It was more like blackberry flavored water but the pancakes did soak it up and it was a lot better than eating them dry.

   If you do like making jams and jellies, blackberries are great for either one. I prefer jam just because it's easier to spread on a piece of toast. If you can find them, be sure and add about one quarter volume of possum grapes. Blackberries can be really sweet and it you add the tartness of the possum grapes it makes some really good jam. You can also use persimmons, sand hill plums, dew berries and mulberries for jams and jellies. If you can get mulberries be sure to add a few of the red ones to offset the sweetness.



                                         BlackBerries, Don't all in these and be sure to wear gloves!

                                           Dewberries. Smaller stickers and a little bit sweeter flavor.
                                                 
                                                                     Possum Grapes

                                              Sandhill Plumbs. If you happen to find a grove of these just find a good spot to lay back, watch the word go by and graze till you can't eat any more. Be sure and take a few home to share if you don't get to stuffed.

                                          Persommons. Great sweet flavor as long as you pick a ripe one

                           Mulberry. I used to spend hours climbing around the tree like a squirrel eating these things.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Down Home Stories: A little Side-Dish

Down Home Stories: A little Side-Dish: Jerusalem Artichoke. This plant used to grow in several different places down in Deep Fork bottoms. The best places to find it were the swam...

A little Side-Dish

Jerusalem Artichoke. This plant used to grow in several different places down in Deep Fork bottoms. The best places to find it were the swampy places up between the Allen's and Mrs. Mann's or down around Horseshoe Lake. I actually grew up just calling them Pig Weed for the simple reason that wild pigs seemed to really like them. I didn't find out the real name for them until years later. There were several plants that fell in the pig weed group and all for the same reason. For some odd reason I went through a stage when I thought that any plant a pig liked must be OK to eat. I'm not sure where I came up with that idea but I did find out the hard way that it wasn't true.

Back to the chokes. The leaves, even the young ones, have a really better taste and I never really found any way you could use them for food but the roots aren't too bad. You can fix them kind of like cat tail roots by boiling them and using them as a make-believe mashed tater. They're really just a thick root and don't look a thing like taters and they're kind of stringy even once you get them mashed but they do have kind of a nutty flavor and work pretty good as a side dish for fish, squirrel or rabbit.

Depending on the size of the roots and how many you're feeding gather as many as you think you might need. Since they tend to grow in muddy ground cleaning them can be a pain. Cut the plant off right at the top of the root and wash them as best you can with cold water, Next, drop them into a pot of boiling water and stir them around for three or four minutes. You're not cooking them yet, just getting the rest of the dirt off. After you fish them back out and dump the water you can clean them while you re-heat another pot of water. I found the easiest way to clean them is to just scrape the hide off with the edge of your knife while they're still warm. Once you get them clean you can chop them into pieces a couple of inches long and drop them back in the pot.

Since the only way I've every cooked them was over an open fire I'm not sure how long you boil them. I just kept poking them with my knife until the felt pretty soft then drain the water off and mash them. After the first couple of times I started adding salt and pepper after I mashed them and I found that if I added a few chopped, wild onions ti improved the flavor quite a bit.

Now, I'm not going to lie to ya, they are not taters and no matter what you add to them it ain't gonna make em taste like it, but they are filling and it's better than just eating a chunk of meat. As far as side-dishes go, I'd rate them as "good as most and better than some"


                                                     
                                                         Jerusalem Artichoke

Monday, February 6, 2012

Down Home Stories: Down Home Book

Down Home Stories: Down Home Book: The print version will also be going on sale at Solstice and at Amazon, I'm not sure how soon.

Down Home Book

The print version will also be going on sale at Solstice and at Amazon, I'm not sure how soon.

E book

The on sale Ebook will be here. Hope you enjoy!
www.solsticepublishing.com

Sale

The Ebook version goes on sale for .99 today. Load up your reader!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Down Home Stories: Up North

Down Home Stories: Up North: Chapter 2 Settling In I had spent the previous night gathering firewood and putting together a small camp. I still slept a little ne...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Down Home Stories: Mt Si Gold

Down Home Stories: Mt Si Gold: The good news, we did find gold. The bad news, what we found is flour gold. It is so fine it's really hard to seperate it from the black ...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012