Saturday, January 21, 2012

Peeling 'taters and Squirrels

Today I'm cooking chili. Years before remote TV or cell phones, I helped my Mamaw prepare a hardy meal of squirrel and veggies from their garden. At times, I would go with my Papaw to hunt the squirrel, wielding a cold shotgun that would knock me off my feet so I had to lean against a tree when I took a shot. My ten year old eyes would watch his three legged dog, Drifter, tree the animal then I would track dinner with the sight just in front of it's head. It would bounce off branches as it fell to the ground, off Drifter would run, howling as he ran, to guard the kill.

Papaw would make sure it was not moving before he tossed it in the old dirty burlap bag. Even after all these years, I still haven't found a word to describe the smell of that tote. Once it felt heavy enough, we would head home. Mamaw usually had some beans picked and washed, since seven dust was used to rid bugs. After my Papaw got his coffee, with a little extra nip to warm his bones, I would skip behind him to his cure shed out back of their house.

I was expert at "field dressing" the little things by then, but we never cleaned them in the field, he wanted to use the guts for his garden. It was like surgery since certain parts has to be saved and cooked, not just the flesh. After I accomplished this, the most fun for me was working with him to tug the fur off those critters, like peeling 'taters but faster.

The reward at dinner was a platter of squirrel in the middle of their tiny worn table, small cups to spit buckshot next to our plates. All squirrel meat is dark, I loved it all. My brother, Jimbo, loved putting the tiny brains between home made biscuits then downed them in one bite.

It took all day to make an evening meal at my grandparents but involved a lot of recreation and family preparation. Now I brown store bought meat, open cans of veggies, add premixed spices then stir, dinner's ready.

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