Friday, April 10, 2015

Wild Onion Soup

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!

Rope Bridges

    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 Oklahoma 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
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.