Friday, December 30, 2016

David’s Lousy Eggs

The great poet Robert Frost published in 1916 a collection of poems titled Mountain Interval.  The first poem in the compilation is “The Road Not Taken,” and I have often read and pondered the myriad of meanings one can extract from this masterpiece.  I’m certain Mr. Frost had his own personal meaning(s) embedded within the lines, but I believe my own meanings would be significantly altered if I were to discover the true reason behind this poem.

Every day choices are made for better or for worse.  And sometimes worse isn’t so bad, it’s just not the best choice.  But then again, what is there to compare with?  If one chooses one way over another, how is that person to know if the other way would have been better or worse?

I eat; therefore, I cook.  I do not consider myself to be a great cook, and there are certain persons who have informed me my time spent in the kitchen is time wasted, but I like to cook.  I have a collection of recipes from many sources, mostly from my family or my own experiments, and usually I follow them (more or less).  My palate is not the most refined, and I must admit this is an advantage when cooking just for me.  However, I rarely get to cook just for me, so I have developed a list of “go to” recipes based upon observing the reactions from my guinea pigs guests.

Today I made scrambled eggs for myself.  Just me.  No one else.  And I did them up in David style.  Yes, I could have chosen a different road, but no, I chose the road less traveled.  Even I knew these eggs were lousy, but I licked the plate clean.  I even went back for seconds; however, seconds were not to be.  My wife discovered my afternoon snack, and she helped herself to what remained.  I didn’t know what to say.  She added salt, pepper, and my extra slice of toast to her plate and sat down to watch some television.

As she tasted the first fork full, she looked down at the plate as though it was something more akin to roadkill.  She lifted the plate to her nose and sniffed of it two or three times, and then with it at eye level, she moved some of it around with her fork.  I think she was trying to determine what was in those eggs, but she took a second bite, and a third.  Soon it was a clean plate, and she returned to the kitchen to look for more.

My scrambled eggs were simply a cleaning of the refrigerator.  To the four jumbo eggs I added some mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, sliced sweet mini-peppers, some kind of meat in a container, a splotch of cheap store-bought salsa, some forgotten corn kernels, and a few other things that had been sitting on the shelf way too long.  I’m not really certain what was in one of those containers, but it scrambled as well as everything else.

It’s not that I necessarily like this type of eggs, but I seem to do this every two or three weeks.  Maybe that road is more traveled than I realized.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mountain Goat

Oreamnos americanus, Rocky Mountain Goat.  Elusive, smart, hard to hunt.  Really hard to hunt.

I was visiting a friend in Fort Worth who had just received his trophy Mountain Goat head for the wall above his fireplace.  It was beautiful with its white fur (hair?), beard, and those 11-inch horns.  I stared at it all evening as he told me about his hunt in the Rocky Mountains in Canada.

I had never trophy hunted, but it was interesting to look at this beast and think about what it took to harvest it.  My friend described the hunt as a short hike to a lush green meadow where the guide pointed out which goat was to be taken.  A few days camping and enjoying the outdoors in northwest Canada and a plane flight home.  What could be easier?  I liked what I was hearing, and soon I was in contact with my friend’s guide in Terrace, B.C.  We arranged a time, and the hunt was on. 

I had business meetings in Anchorage and Juneau to attend, but as soon as the meetings were over, I flew into Terrace where I met up with “Fuzzy.”  He took one look at me, gave a low whistle, and commented that he had never seen this much fat on a lazy pig.  I had just spent a year getting into the best shape I had ever been in, but apparently it wasn’t good enough for him. We threw my baggage into the back of his truck and drove a number of miles to a ranch house where his horses were stabled.  A few hours later we were entering a camp high in the mountains where it was cold, beautiful, and late in the evening even though the sun was still well up in the sky.

The camp cook, “Stew,” tended to my horse and pack while I changed out of my business clothes and into something more suitable for hunting and camping.  Afterwards we chowed down on a hearty stew and camp biscuits with some good strong coffee.

It seems guides and camp hands are all in possession of a name that doesn’t always make sense to me—or maybe it does.  Stew’s name was Robert, but the only thing he could or would cook was stew.  I had an Apache guide once named Horace.  Horace?  Another guide was Rhonda.  One time I called him Ron, but I quickly learned not to do that again.  Flatfoot Mike did everything while running as fast as he could.  Dipper could never cross a stream without stumbling and taking a dip.  It took me a couple of days to find out why Fuzzy was called Fuzzy.   He was clean-shaven and the name didn’t fit—until I found out his last name was Knutz.

About 3am the next morning I was awakened to start the day, and by 4am we were on the trail.  My horse was named Un.  I quickly found out it was short for Unpredictable.  At times he would break into a gallop, and then stop on a dime.  No warning about the start or the stop.  He also loved to crow hop about every 15 to 20 minutes.  Joy.  Only once have I ever been tossed from a horse, and it wasn’t going to happen again, but I never quite convinced Un that his antics were useless.  Time for another crow hop.

About 6am we tied off the horses to some bushes and continued on foot.  Up.  Up.  Up.  I was beginning to remember the description my friend had given me of the lush green meadows with goats everywhere.  I vowed to get even when I got back to Fort Worth.  The narrow rocky trail soon faded to just rocks with no trail to be seen anywhere.  Up.  Up.  Up.

We hiked along the edge of a small stream.  Well, maybe it was some 80 to 100 feet below us, but we kept it on our left side and we moved forward.  Finally we stopped.  Fuzzy commented that he didn’t expect me to keep up with him, and if I had realized sooner his expectations, I might not have done so.  But too late.  We were at the hunting grounds.

For 4 hours we searched the area until finally Fuzzy saw a white speck in a shadowed crevice on a cliffside in the distance across the stream.  “Take that one.  It looks to be at least a 10-incher, and it’s only 800 yards away.”

As hard as I looked, I couldn’t see it.  “Where?” 

Fuzzy looked at me as though I was nuts.  “Right there!” 

He pointed at it, and I strained to see it but no luck.  And I was using binoculars—he wasn’t.  Finally I dialed up my scope to the full 10x and spotted it.  And it was just a spot.

“Take him Now!  You’ll never get an easy shot like this again.”

I thought about the fact that my old .30’06 had a 39-inch drop at 500 yards, and I had never dialed it in beyond that.  Just how much would the drop be at 800 yards?  Then I remembered a lesson from my 7th grade band class, “If you haven’t practiced it, don’t try to perform it.”

When I said I’d pass on this shot, Fuzzy came uncorked.  “I thought I was guiding a Hunter!”  He also said quite a few other things as we hiked back to the horses.

Two more days we hiked back to those same grounds only to find nothing.  “I told you that was the easiest shot you’d get.  Your own fault if you don’t take down a goat.”  I still had two more days paid for, and I decided to use up all of it.  If a goat happened, it happened.  If not, oh well.

On the morning of the fourth day, about half an hour after tying off the horses, I noticed a goat slipping over the edge of the cliff just as we came into his sight.  Fuzzy didn’t see it, but he took a look over the edge and there was that goat about 25 feet straight down standing on a ledge about 1-inch wide.

There was no way to take a shot straight down, so we decided to go back downstream and cross over so we could take him from the other side.  The hike was not easy, but about 45 minutes later we drew up to where the goat should have been visible.  Slowly we crawled to the edge and looked across, but there was no goat.  We looked all up and down the area, but all we could see was an empty rock-face.

For some reason, Fuzzy decided to look straight down, and there was the goat below us again.  He had crossed over the stream just as we had done.  Well the only thing to do was to cross back to our original spot.

Again it took about 45 minutes to cross back, and again there was no goat.  Without hesitation Fuzzy looked straight down and there was the goat.  He had crossed back.

Fuzzy decided to cross back over the stream by himself, and as he worked his way across, I watched the goat cross back to the far side.  Now he was mine.  Fuzzy appeared just for a moment to let me know where he was, and then he backed away to safety as I sighted in and squeezed the trigger. 

I watched as the goat fell into a tight hole among some large boulders, and I hoped the horns were still in tact.  I started working my way to where he fell and arrived about the same time as did Fuzzy.

It took a few hours to bring the goat back to the horses, but it was worth all the effort.  The horns measured just under 11-inches, and the coat was beautiful.  Fuzzy estimated the weight to be about 240 to 250 pounds, and he said that was just about as big as they get.  “Good job.”

I was still in shock over Fuzzy’s comment when we arrived back in camp.  Stew had our stew ready, and after dinner, Fuzzy finished preparing the goat for transporting back to civilization. 

Back home I had just about finished eating the last of the goat when the mounted head arrived from the taxidermist in Terrace.  I gave it to my friend to hang beside the one he already had, and the pair made a fantastic display above his fireplace.  It was the only time I had ever taken a trophy, and I don’t expect I’ll ever do it again.  And I still haven’t gotten even with my friend for his description of the hunt, but his time is coming.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Gooney Islands

My grandmother would on occasion make her version of Coney Islands.  In reality they had more of a Tex-Mex heritage rather than a Michigan heritage, and the only real relation to a Coney Island was the hot dog in the bun.

If one has ever been to Michigan, one has most likely been exposed to the hot dog called ‘Coney Island.’  There are as many versions of this classic dog as there are versions of chili in Texas, but just like chili, there are two basic approaches.  In Texas, the chili is either red or green.  In Michigan, the Coney Island is either dry or wet.

My grandmother would stick a boiled weenie (aka wiener, frankfurter, sausage) in a bun, add some hot mustard and pickles (jalapenos) along the side, and top it with chow-chow, chili, grated cheese, and big chunks of yellow onion.  She would place eight of these into a baking dish like enchiladas side by side and slide the dish into a hot oven for a few minutes until the cheese was bubbly and brown.  Oh were these good!  But they weren’t Coney Islands.

I had business meetings in Michigan one fall, and in the city of Flint I was introduced to the wet Coney Island.  I didn’t know at that time the difference between the wet and dry versions, nor did I know the rivalries and loyalties each incurs, I just went with some of the store employees to lunch.

When I looked at the two dogs I was served, I thought, “Okay, it’s sort of like my grandmother’s version.”  However, I was wrong.  This was nothing like hers.  The smooth slightly thickened sauce was reminiscent of chili, but it didn’t taste like chili.  It was definitely its own thing, and it was good.  In fact it was so good, I stuffed myself stupid on these things, and I paid the resulting price in the days before Beano.

I couldn’t leave these dogs alone.  I was in Flint for four days, and I must have consumed close to thirty Coney Islands.  When it came time to rent a car, drive to a store in Detroit, and leave behind the Coney Islands, I made certain to have a box in the front seat of my car with another dozen within easy reach.  I was convinced I couldn’t live without having a Coney Island as a traveling companion.

Then I arrived in Detroit.  My first night was spent alone in my hotel room wishing I had maintained better control of my appetite for the past few days.  The next morning I had a simple breakfast of hotel room coffee and the last two Coney Islands in my possession, and I was almost glad they were gone.

The morning meeting with the store manager and his staff went well, and about 1:00 the manager announced the lunch he had ordered was waiting for us in a nearby room.  When we opened the door to the room, the first thing I saw was a huge tray piled high with Coney Islands.  Yeah!!!  But they weren’t the same.  These were the dry version preferred in Detroit.  The sauce had a similar taste, but the texture was coarse and dry rather than wet and smooth.  It was similar to a loose meat burger, but the taste was all Coney Island.

Once again, I couldn’t stop myself.  Everyone in the room watched as I packed away four or five of these things.  And since there was a dozen or so left over, I wrapped them up for dinner and a late night snack.

Again I spent a few days living on Coney Islands, and I even put a few in my suitcase to take on the plane when I flew back to my office in Denver.  When I checked my luggage at the airport, the Skycap commented that this must have been my first trip to Detroit.  He was very familiar with the smell of Coney Islands emanating from luggage.

Back home in Texas I told my grandmother about the Coney Islands I had tasted in Michigan (I didn’t tell her how many I had tasted), and she said that is where her idea for them came from.  One of her sisters had traveled there sometime in the thirty’s and had worked for a time in a restaurant where these dogs were the top selling item on the menu.  Back in Texas they had tried to copy the idea, and her baked chilidogs were the result.

I thought I could do the same thing.  At least my grandmother’s chili dogs were on the right track.  Mine, well, a bun and a wiener were about the only thing in common with the Coney Island.  Toasted buns are a given—usually.  An all beef wiener is also a given—sometimes.  And so is mustard and/or ketchup—most of the time.  After that, all bets are off. 

Gooney Islands

Suggested toppings:

French fries with cream gravy.
Salsa.
Guacamole.
Salsa and Guacamole.
A big cheese enchilada (my favorite).
Velveeta cheese.  Lots of Velveeta cheese.  Melted.  Or not.
Fried onions, mushrooms, and peppers (hot or sweet).
Baked beans.
Sour Cream.
Sauerkraut.
Red chili.
Green chili.
Kimchee.
Hollandaise sauce.
Mac and Cheese.
Spaghetti sauce—with or without spaghetti
Any combination of the above.
Name your own.

Gooneys aren’t meant to be Coneys.  They are an artist’s palette and should be treated as such.  Even the type of buns and wieners isn’t necessarily set in stone.  The sky is the limit.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Last Bird

The dove can humble the best of bird hunters, and since I am not the best, one can only imagine my humiliation.  But I’ve already told that story (La Paloma).  Over a period of about 20 years I hunted a number of birds including the dove, but it was the dove that had the last word.

In the ‘80’s my wife and I lived in Arizona where hunting is almost mandatory, and from time to time I took advantage of the opportunities.  It seemed to me dove were  everywhere just begging for me to shoot them, and I tried.  I really tried.  I spent a small fortune on shells for the old 20-gauge, and I believe the dove I brought home ran me between $25 and $30 apiece.  But I kept trying.

About 10 to 12 miles from where I lived were some canals providing water for the city of Phoenix, and the dove came there in large numbers all day long.  In the fall, during dove hunting season, the numbers seemed to increase.  It was a dove hunter’s paradise.  I went out regularly during each season, and I always managed to bring home a limit.  Dove was on the menu several times each week, and I didn’t care what it cost to bring them home.  I knew this would not last too many years into the future the way Phoenix was expanding.

On the last day of the season I arrived ready to fill my limit once again.  The night before I had eaten the last of the previous hunt’s birds, so this last day would provide my final taste of dove for another year.

I dropped a box of shells into my vest pocket and walked over to my favorite spot.  The sun was just up when I arrived there, and within a minute I could see dove in the distance.  Suddenly a lone dove flew in front of me about thirty yards out.  Quickly I brought up the 20-gauge and squeezed the trigger.  Click.  It might help if I loaded the shotgun first.

I noticed the dove had circled back and was crossing in front of me again as I loaded up.  As soon as I was ready, it flew back by.  Boom.  I missed.  Again it circled around.  Boom.  I missed.  And again it turned and flew in front of me.  And again, Boom.  And again I missed.  I reloaded while watching the dove sit on a branch of a Palo Verde tree about forty yards out.  It was watching me.  We played this game a few more times before I began to have flashbacks of a dove that had flown through my pattern on my first dove hunt.  (La Paloma).  This couldn’t be happening to me again.  It just couldn’t.

Several more birds began to fly by, but they were in no danger.  I couldn’t hit one if it were looking down the barrel of the shotgun while I pulled the trigger.  It didn’t take long for me to use up the entire box of shells with nothing to show for it.  I thought of the extra boxes in the car, but enough was enough.  I decided to go home.

Just as I was turning to walk away, the dove sitting in the tree flew over to within a few yards from me and landed on the ground.  It turned sideways to look at me with its right eye, and then it turned around to look at me with its left eye.  I think it was laughing.  But I walked on back to my car, got in, and drove to the skeet and trap range nearby.

I went through four trap rounds without a miss.  I used up the last of my shells on skeet with only two misses out of about twenty pulls.  I don’t get it. 

The next year I was not able to spend any time in pursuit of the dove, but the following year I was prepared.  As I got near the area, the first thing I noticed was paved roads.  Not good.  Then I noticed the construction sites.  Oh well.  I drove around for a while watching the dove still occupying the area, but the hunting was gone.  I drove out a few more miles, but it was useless.  The doves were staying near the canals, and the canals were in the construction zone.

A year later I was living in California.  I packed away the shotgun and never used it again, so I must say that the last statement about bird hunting belonged to the birds.

Friday, October 7, 2016

When Things Were Black and White

When I first entered college, money was very tight.  College was expensive, and my wallet was cheap.  I lived in the dorm on campus, but the first semester I couldn’t afford the cafeteria, so I did the best I could to survive by fishing at a nearby lake for something to eat.  I was usually successful, but not always.

During this first semester I heard that a city close by was having a skunk problem and the city council was having difficulties securing a pest control company to remedy the situation.  I found out when the next meeting of the council was, and I made certain I was there to offer my services.

I was a bow hunter, and I thought a bow would be perfect for hunting in the streets and alleys after midnight two or three times a week.  It was quiet, and I was normally very accurate with my arrow placements.  It made sense to me, but when I proposed it to the council, they snickered and showed me the door.  Oh well.

A few weeks later I was summoned to the chancellor’s office at the university.  For the life of me I couldn’t figure what I had done to deserve this, but when I arrived I was met by one of the councilmen who had refused my service offer.  It seems things weren’t smelling too good for the city, and they had reconsidered what I had proposed.

Paperwork and legalities move at a snail’s pace, and it was the beginning of my second semester before everything was in place for me to venture forth among the high-rises to hunt the critters.  I was thinking at a few dollars per skunk, this should the answer to my financial problems.  And it certainly helped.  But I soon learned the smell of money wasn’t as sweet as I had hoped.

I had the expenses of using my old car and hiring a driver to patrol the streets while I sat on the hood of the car with bow and arrow ready.  It worked like a charm.  Each time we went in search of PepĂ© we managed to quickly fill the big ice chest I carried in the trunk of my car.  After expenses for the driver and gasoline, I was actually earning a decent amount of money.  But there was another cost.

The one thing I didn’t fully prepare for was the one thing that makes a skunk a skunk.  No matter how tightly that ice chest lid was closed, the skunks it contained smelled like the skunks it contained, and eventually so did my car.  To top it off, I could deliver the skunks to an animal control compound only once each week, meaning the skunks stayed in the ice chest (without ice) far too long.

Slowly my classmates at the college began to sit in small groups as far from me as they could.  I noticed the professors would open windows in the room even if it was raining or cold outside.  And my roommate in the dorm starting spending nights “studying” with a friend in another room.

The end came when one night I walked over to retrieve a skunk, and I didn’t see its friend in the shadows.  It was the only time I got sprayed, but it was one time too many for my compatriots at the college.  At least the semester was almost over, and the skunk project was ending anyway.  The smell of money was not as I had expected, and I didn’t pursue the skunks in future semesters.  But those times of black and white made certain I no longer had to fish to eat.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

2016 Wild Game Feed

To the members of the Annual Wild Game Feed—Thank You!  You outdid yourself again this year and provided us with the biggest and best Wild Game Feed ever.  Every year I ask myself if you have reached the apex of perfection, but you always follow it up with something bigger and better.  Thank You!

And to everyone that attended—Thank You!  Without you the Annual Wild Game Feed would be nothing.  I’m always impressed that almost 1,500 men from all corners of society can get together for fun, food, and beer (not necessarily in that order) and not get into trouble.  This is one of the many reasons I return every year.  Thank You!

Well, it’s over for another year, and I’m already preparing for it to come back again.  Over the next twelve months I’ll pack and repack everything several times and enjoy thinking about the good times of the past while anticipating the good times of the future.  I know I’ve said this before, but I would like to do this more than once each year, but too much of a good thing is not a good thing.  So I’ll wait, and I’ll wait because those few short hours are worth the wait.  Next year I’ll see my friends again, and we’ll enjoy every moment of the Feed while forgetting all about the long year of waiting for it to arrive.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Checklist for 2016 Annual Wild Game Feed

Are you ready for some fun?  I know I am.  The Feed is coming up quickly—or slowly depending upon your point of view.  If you have been there before, it can’t come fast enough.  Right?  As for me, I started preparing as soon as I got home from last year’s Feed.

If you have read my page on AWGF FAQs (Annual Wild Game Feed Frequently Asked Questions), then you already understand the basic procedure is 1) buy a ticket, 2) don’t lose the ticket, 3) bring the ticket with you to the feed, and 4) have more fun than you can stand.  But I’ve been thinking the most asked question after “How can I get a ticket?” is the question “What do I bring?”

The answer to the question of what to bring is highly subjective.  As I’ve stated in the AWGF FAQs the simple answer is to bring yourself and your ticket, but honestly, few people stop with just those two essentials.  Also I hear every year at the Feed from guys who forgot to bring something they really wanted to bring.  Oh, I completely understand this one.  The first year I was there they ran out of toilet paper.  The next year I forgot to bring my own, and they ran out again.  Both times it cost me a t-shirt.  Enough said.

For the last ten or fifteen years, the afore-mentioned problem has not been a problem, but T.P. is on my checklist anyway.  In fact I started making my checklist before I attended the third time, and each year I tweak my list a little bit as needed.  Best thing I ever did.  I use this list to pack my car (half a dozen times or more during the year) before leaving for the Feed, and I use it again to make certain I’m bringing everything back home.  Actually I didn’t start doing the exit checklist until about the sixth or seventh year when I realized the following day I had forgotten my ice chest.  Fortunately the next year it was returned to me (it pays to put some form of identification on your possessions).

To this end I decided to share my checklist with you in hopes it will inspire you to make your own—and use it.  I’ve listed everything by groups in order of the importance to me; your order will probably be much different, as will be the items on your list.


David’s Annual Wild Game Feed Checklist

Group 1:  Me, Ticket, Chair(s), Cigars with Cutter and Lighter, Quail Eggs, Table(s), Shelter, Beer Mug, Hat, Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Sharp Pocket Knife, Bottle Opener, Toothpicks, Dental Floss, A Few Bandages, Light Jacket, Insulated Lunch Bag.

Group 2:  Toilet Paper, Paper Towels and/or Napkins, Heavy Duty Paper Plates, Disposable Table Cloths, Metal Knife/Fork/Spoon, Ice Chest and Ice, Cider, Cloth Hand Towels.

Group 3:  Waste Basket, Trash Bags, Bottled Water, 1 Gallon Zip-Type Plastic Bags, Sharpie, Inexpensive Plastic Containers with Lids, Small Plastic Cups or Bowls, Plastic Spoons.

Group 4:  Condiments, Cutting Board, Camera, Knife Sharpener, Plastic Pitcher, Hand Truck, Real Glasses for any Scotch (Bourbon, Rum, Rye, etc.) that comes my way (even though my doctor tells me to abstain).


Okay, Group 1) has an insulated lunch bag.  Why?  Because I walk with a cane, and the lunch bag becomes an extra hand for carrying food back to my shelter.  I started doing this out of necessity, but I quickly discovered I could also carry a lot more food than anyone else.  Less time in line, more time eating.

As you can see, my list is probably much different from your list.  Some of these things on my list are for giving out samples of the quail eggs, and some are for bringing a few things home with me.  Some things are just in the way unless I happen to need them, and then nothing else will do (such as T.P.).

There are still a few days remaining before the Feed, so you have plenty of time to make your list.  Take your time and think about each item you add to it.  Nothing says you have to arrive with more than yourself and your ticket, but a few extras can add to comfort.  If you still forget something, just add it to your list for next year.  And remember, it may be necessary to pack your vehicle a couple of times just to get the hang of it.  I’ve met more than one person who managed to bring everything they wanted only to find out they couldn’t get it all back into their car to go home. 

Just remember what’s really important here, bring yourself, your ticket, and have fun.  All else is optional.

See you at the Feed.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Motorcycle

The perfect vehicle for joining together both transportation and recreation is the motorcycle.  Back in the 1960’s a friend inherited a motorcycle shop from an uncle and he asked me to help him with some cleanup around there in exchange for one of the bikes.  It had been closed for about two years due to his uncle’s illness, and things were a mess, but we were both excited about eventually hitting the road for some fun.

The store was oddly shaped and we commented to each other more than once that it seemed much smaller on the inside than it looked on the outside.  One afternoon as we were talking about it, we decided to actually measure the building.  We were in for a surprise.  The northeast wall of the building was about eight feet shorter on the inside than the outside wall.  It didn’t take us long to determine there was a wall hiding a room on the other side.

Edd and I made quick work of opening a hole in that wall, and on the other side we discovered eight 1939 Harley’s with sidecars still in crates.  They were all painted a military grayish/greenish/brownish and looked as though they may have been surplus stock, or possibly “diverted” stock.  Either way, they were in the room we had discovered.  We took serial numbers and contacted Harley-Davidson and the United States Army, but no record of their existence could be found.  A bit of paperwork later, and Edd was the owner of seven of these machines, and I was the owner of the eighth one.

Oh, the work.  Restoring these vintage bikes wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.  Learning to ride one wasn’t easy either, but it was worth it.  Luckily for us, there were a number of ex-servicemen still around who had experience with some of the odd features of these rare motorcycles.

Over the next few years I did some trading around of motorcycles starting with trading the Harley for an Indian Chief (plus some cash).  The Indian was traded away for something else (also with some cash), and eventually I ended up with an almost new Harley (and a lot of cash). 

One day I was riding the motorcycle to work when I realized I needed to sell the bike and make a car my main form of transportation.  I was making the transition from westbound Interstate Loop 820 to southbound I35W on the north side of Fort Worth, and I was high on the long curving overpass when I spotted a skunk up ahead.  I moved to the left, and so did the skunk.  I moved to the right, and so did the skunk.  I moved back to the left, and so did the skunk.  Finally I just held on and ran over the skunk.  I really didn’t have much choice in the matter.  I returned home to let my employer know I wouldn’t be coming in for a couple of days, as I needed to get rid of a certain odor. 

While the odor eventually disappeared from my body (I threw my clothes away), the motorcycle was a different story altogether.  Each time I tried to ride it, as it warmed up the smell of skunk returned.  I completely dissembled the bike and washed each individual part in tomato juice and baking soda, but after reassembling my very clean bike, the odor returned just as strong as ever.

I advertised the motorcycle in a local newspaper, and went through a long list of potential buyers before I found one who didn’t mind the smell.  In fact, he liked it.  He was a biker from a nearby club (don’t ask), and his handle was “Skunk.”  Perfect.  I saw Skunk riding that bike a few times over the next few years, and once I saw it parked outside a store I was entering.  As I walked by it, there was no doubt who owned it.  It had been over three years, but the smell was still there. 

When I was preparing to leave Texas to move to California, Skunk stopped by my home just to chat.  I hadn’t spoken to him since the day he purchased my bike, so I thought it was unusual for him to show up at my door, but there he was.  He said he was getting married in a couple of months, and he was inviting me to the wedding.  He told me that bike had changed his life.  I didn’t ask details, but I went to the wedding. 

And what a wedding it was.  Everything was black and/or white.  Nothing smelled good.  Nothing.  And the happy couple rode off on that same smelly motorcycle leaving behind a trail anyone could follow, if they were brave enough.

I’ve stayed almost exclusively with cars ever since.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Biggie--Transitioning

Recently my wife and I moved away from our home of over 20 years.  Our neighbor (Biggie’s ‘Mom’) also moved away a few weeks later.  I didn’t think we would have Biggie in our lives any more, and I was absolutely heartbroken over that thought; however, things are not as bad as I originally thought they would be. 

Since moving we have had Biggie here several times for a few days at a time.  He has easily transitioned to being transported between the two homes for extended stays at each.  I’m not fond of his absence for several weeks at a time, but this is better than not having him at all.  I’ll take it.

A few days ago his mom sent us a short video of Biggie in his new digs, and it made me very happy to see him having fun.  I wish I were there, although this is the next best thing.



Friday, July 8, 2016

Irvine Lake 2016 Wild Game Feed

Ten More Weeks.  Ten more LONG weeks.  Seventy eternities (a.k.a. Days) until the next Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake.  I feel like I’m about to explode!  I’m not trying to speed up my life, but I do wish for the Feed to hurry up and get here.

I’m wondering if I’m the only person already packed?  Has anybody already packed, unpacked, and repacked?  Several times?  I have.  And I will most likely do it again.  Several times.

If you are reading this thinking “Maybe I should order a ticket and give this a try,” you are probably too late for this year.  Maybe not, but don’t get your hopes up.  This shindig sells out quickly.  If you did get your order placed in back in June and received your ticket, but this is your first time to go, please read my page AWGF FAQs.  It’s a tab near the top of this page.  It may answer some of your questions, but if it doesn’t do it for you, just email me at fineleatherart@yahoo.com .  I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve been going there for two decades.  I’ve learned a few things the hard way so you don’t have to.  In fact, if anyone has anything to add to my FAQ list, let me know.  Like I said, I don’t have all the answers.

The Annual Wild Game Feed is the biggest and best Feed I’ve ever encountered in my many years on this earth.  I’ve been to about 25 to 30 of these game feed events outside of this one, and most were pretty good.  Good food, good people, good prizes—but none even compare to the Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake.  Not One!   This is as good as it gets.  You don’t get just a plate served to you with three or four different meats, you get as many plates (paper trays) as you want, and you can go back as many times as you want.  The meat selection is HUGE, and you may not get around to sampling everything before you are too full to move.  Then they serve dinner.

On top of the food, the beer is a bottomless keg.  Just drink responsibly.  You still have to drive home, remember?  And the prizes are unbelievable.  Just look at what’s listed on your order form, and realize ‘That’s not even close to all of it.’  And don’t forget the events and exhibits.  There is just too much to take it all in, and after nearly twenty years, I still haven’t gotten around to everything.

If you go this year, stop by my shelter and chat a while.  I usually bring along a few extra cigars and some pickled quail eggs just to share.

See you at the Feed.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

West Coast Barbeque

Sitting around waiting for the 48th Annual Wild Game Feed to roll around on the third Friday in September has started me thinking about barbeque.  The AWGF serves some good stuff, and although it isn’t Texas barbeque, it’s good enough to make me want to be first in line to get served.

I’ve mentioned many times before that barbeque is where you find it.  I’ve also mentioned regional preferences.  I’ve been surprised many times by what people call barbeque, but I’ve enjoyed sampling my way through the many style and approaches to cooking meat and veggies.  The one thing I just can’t wrap myself around is barbequed tofu, although it does seem to be popular in California.  Maybe popular isn’t the right word.  I probably should have said it is not considered unusual in California.  Then again, it’s California.

The west coast includes three states, Washington, Oregon, and California, but what I’m looking at here is the lower half of the state of California from Paso Robles at the north end to San Diego in the south.

I live in Los Angeles and have spent more than thirty years in the Southern California area.  Many things brought me here, and many things keep me here.  Although it is not Texas, it is a great place to live, but the barbeque is just not my preference.

Santa Maria, near the central coast and a bit south of Paso Robles, is the place where everyone points when they speak of California barbeque.  I find it to taste like juicy, smoky grit.  But many people swear it’s the best barbeque in the nation.  Okay.  I’ll leave it to them.  It’s not often I’ll walk away from barbeque, but this is one of those times.  Even a tuna fish sandwich sounds better to me than that stuff.

Every town in California has its barbeque place, and many have several of them.  I have tried out any number of these eateries, and I’m struck by the sameness of the flavors.  Some are labeled as ‘real Southern barbeque,’ ‘real Texas barbeque,’ ‘real Memphis barbeque,’ etc., but they are all about the same.  As long as they don’t call themselves ‘Santa Maria barbeque’ I find them enjoyable enough, but not exciting.

I’ve spoken with many of the restaurant owners and realized they are just making the best of the ingredients available.  Most started out with good intentions and with experience in the style they desire to emulate, but the local ingredients in one part of the country are not the same as the local ingredients in another part of the country. 

And then there are the local laws governing restaurants.  Barbeque has to be handled differently in each city and town, and counties have their own set of laws, not to mention the state regulations.  Smoke is not allowed to fill the air in some areas, and gas and electric sealed smokers are substituted with only moderate success.  In some areas, smoke must be in liquid form, and barbeque must be oven cooked.

Well, I do understand why pollution control is necessary, but something’s lost when something’s gained, and in this case that which is lost is flavor.  Some of the places really try hard to produce a good product, and I’m not faulting the effort, nor am I faulting the knowledge and abilities of the people.  Given the right ingredients, many of these restaurants could be producing very good stuff.

This makes me think that California needs to rethink barbeque.  First things first—Santa Maria barbeque.  The only thing wrong here is the wood ash that gets all over everything.  Most of it is grilled directly over a bed of coals with chunks of red oak burning on it.  The wood pops and sputters spraying the meat with junk.  Maybe it’s the characteristic of the red oak, but whatever flavor the smoke may add is negated by the ash and wood bits imbedded in the meat.  Just simply smoking in an offset box would make a huge difference.  If the meat is to be grilled directly over the fire, just increase the cooking grate by a few extra inches above the fire.  It will take a little longer to cook, but it will taste less like eating hot wet sand.  (I’m sure going to hear about this one.)  Then again, it wouldn’t be Santa Maria barbeque.

There are a few barbeque societies represented out here.  I have managed to go to a number of the contests they have put together, and I found some very good barbeque.  Some of the top crews own or work at barbeque restaurants, so why isn’t the restaurant’s food as good as the food at the cook-off?  Maybe if they put the same effort into the restaurant as they do the competition…, or am I just getting back to the laws governing the restaurants?

Well, I won’t be the one to fix the problem.  The best I can do is to make my own, but I must admit, it’s not the same as when I made barbeque in Texas.  Maybe it’s the weather.  I don’t know.  I just miss good barbeque.

With all of this negative, there is still some positive about the barbeque found in California.  Seafood is often found on grills instead of beef, chicken, or pork.  While it isn’t my approach to barbeque, it can be very good eating.  A large fresh fish stuffed with some seasonings and placed on an indirect heat grill along side of some oysters on the half shell and some fresh veggies is both delicious and healthy. 

I know this sounds like a broken record, but I really am open to different approaches to barbeque.  It just needs to taste good.

Where is the Annual Wild Game Feed when you need it most?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

48th Annual Wild Game Feed

New Post on July 8, 2019.  51st Annual Wild Game Feed.

New Post on May 30, 2018.  50th Annual Wild Game Feed.

New Post on June 23, 2017.  49th Annual Wild Game Feed.

For several days I’ve been in a panic about receiving my order form for the 2016 Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake.  Usually I receive it in late May, but I moved this year, and I have been worried my change of address was lost.  However, today my fears were banished. 

It’s that time!  My ticket order form has arrived for the 2016 Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake!  Today I placed my order for tickets in the mail, and the waiting has officially started for Friday, September 16, 2016.  If you plan on attending this year, mail your order form NOW!!  If you choose to hesitate, then plan on waiting another year.  After all, this is the biggest and best Wild Game Feed you will ever attend.  EVER!!  And it will be sold out in just a few short weeks.

I’ve been going to this event for nearly twenty years, and every year is better than the year before.  I don’t know how the organizers do it, but each year is an improvement on perfection.  As always it is a stag event (men only) and age 21 or over, and it’s all you can eat, and all the beer you can drink.  Prizes are unbelievable and numerous, and it’s all to raise money for charities. 

If you have been to the AWGF before, then you know what I am talking about.  If you’ve never been, then it’s about time you learned what I’m talking about.  You will not be disappointed except for one thing—the day is too short.  Yes, we are all tired at the end of the day, but I’ve never met anyone who wanted it to be over.

At the Feed everyone is a friend.  Last year I spoke with a guy who had lived a rather rough life, much of it behind bars.  He came to the Feed with his close friend—the judge who had twice placed him behind those bars.  Friends.  Simple as that.  But no matter who you meet, you are meeting an instant friend.  No one is greater or lesser than anyone else.  And that is a huge part of the fun.  Everyone is there just to enjoy the day.

Every year I bring along some things to just give away.  Usually it is pickled quail eggs, cigars, and a few bottles of cider (I’ve always preferred cider over beer, but that doesn’t mean I will turn down beer).  And I’m not alone in giving.  Some of the best Scotch I’ve ever tasted was at the Feed.  The same with cigars.  Wow!  One of the guys handed me a puro from the Canary Island of La Palma.  As good a cigar as I’ve ever had.  Sharing.  What a concept.

Of course, the food is not to be ignored.  The appetizers are in endless supply, and just when you’ve eaten way too much, dinner is served.  My favorite appetizer is always the gumbo, quail, fish, chili, tamales (the goat tamales last year were outstanding), wild boar tacos, buffalo ribs, game sausages, clams, frog legs, turkey nuts, calamari, crawfish, and…well…just about anything they serve.  As for dinner, I lost track long ago.  It’s all good.

I don’t want to forget to mention the exhibits, games, and competitions.  There is just an overload of excitement available.  Every corner of this park is filled with something to enjoy.  In nearly twenty years, I’ve never met anyone who mentioned being bored at the Feed.

Again, if you received a ticket order form, send it in immediately or you may miss out.  Every year I receive emails from people who waited a couple of weeks to mail off their form and didn’t get a ticket.  THEY WILL SELL OUT QUICKLY, and that’s no joke.  I purchase my ticket like everyone else, and each year I receive many requests for tickets, but I have only my own, and I don’t expect to give it up easily.  Once in a great while someone will write me with an extra ticket available, but don’t count on it.  Just order your ticket today, and you shouldn’t have a problem receiving it. 

I know the tickets are not cheap, but neither are the costs associated with organizing the AWGF.  Just be aware, the organization putting on this event is made entirely of volunteers.  It is for your enjoyment and for the support of charities they do this; however, such an event is worth every penny spent.  I know you will not be disappointed.

Be certain to check out my new AWGF FAQs page.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Where Is My Order Form?

I’m beginning to panic.  I don’t like waiting for my order form to arrive for the Annual Wild Game Feed in Irvine each year.  And this year it’s a bit late arriving.  My lack of patience is growing fast.

Actually I moved a few months ago, and I’m worried my form won’t catch up with me.  I placed a forwarding address with the Post Office—twice.   I sent the new address to the AWGF home office.  I even sent the new address to the Idaho location that processes the mailing of the tickets.  Nothing.  I’ve even contacted my contacts with the AWGF.  Still nothing.  I can’t even find out if the forms have been sent out.

PLEASE SEND ME AN ORDER FORM!!

If anyone reading this has received his order form, would you please send me an electronic copy?  Just scan the front and back and send it as an attachment to fineleatherart@yahoo.com .  I’ll be sure to buy you a beer at the Feed. 

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m ready for the big event.  My shelter is standing beside my tables and chairs.  My quail eggs are all pickled and stacked in their boxes.  My cigars are packed in their travel humidors.  And my wife is ready to kick me out if I don’t stop talking about it.  If you’ve been there before, then you know what I am talking about, and you know why I’m worried about that order form.

For many years I’ve mailed out (both snail mail and email) copies of the form I’ve received, and I know of about 70 men who attend each year because of this, not to mention the ones they have influenced.  Now it’s my turn to beg.  So if the pickled quail eggs are to arrive this year, please, someone, send me an order form.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Sleep, or Lack Thereof

A few days ago someone came to my front door and knocked.  I jumped out of bed, slipped into some jeans and opened the door to find a neighbor waiting for me.

“Did I wake you?  I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah, but that’s okay.  I can always go back to sleep.”

“But it’s after noon.”

That’s when I realized I’ve given up on any regular sleep schedule.

“I know, but I was up late last night.”  I don’t think he believed me.

For years I rarely slept more than a few hours a week as I traveled almost non-stop for a company.  And for years after that it was difficult for me to sleep more than three or four hours a night, just because I didn’t know how to do it.  Finally I reached a five to six hour per night average, and there it stayed for about thirty years.  Then things changed.

For some reason I started staying up late at night to work on projects, or read, or watch the television, etc.  Then I would sleep a couple of hours and get up again to do some more of whatever I had been doing before sleeping.  After a few months, I began to stay up longer and sleep later until I found myself getting up to start the day somewhere between 11am and 1pm.

Once upon a time I had no problem being at a fishing hole at sunrise.  If someone said we need to be somewhere by 4am to start our hike to someplace, I was there at 3:30am.  I never minded getting up very early to do something outdoors, even if it meant I could not go to bed the night before.  No big deal.

Times have changed, and so have I.  Recently I thought about walking across the street to catch some sunrise surf fishing.  I came closer to making it there at sunset.  I don’t completely understand this.  I really like to fish, I just don’t like keeping a time schedule.  But I decided to get my act together and do something about it.

On Wednesday last week, I gathered my surf fly fishing gear together and put it into the car so I could drive to my favorite surf fishing spot on the peninsula about a mile from where I live.  Wednesday evening I went to bed early and slept straight through until 5am.  At that time I got up, put on my clothes, fixed a little breakfast, sat down at my computer to check overnight emails, and dozed off until 10:30.

I hate to admit it, but this isn’t the first time I’ve done this.  Nor is it the second, third, or twenty-fifth.  Well, I left everything in the trunk of the car, and tomorrow I’m trying again.  This time I’m really going to do it.  No more excuses.

Follow up:  It’s 11:15am.  Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes.  I’ve rescheduled my outing to next Tuesday.
*******
I wrote this a few months ago with all intents to go fishing on Tuesday.  Oh, well.  Since then I moved several miles away, and I’ve been exploring new areas for fishing.  Many great possibilities are within a short drive from my home.  Now, if I could just get up in the morning.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Pedigree

Hillbillies are found everywhere, not just in the mountains of the eastern parts of America.  And not all talk like Jethro Bodine from the Beverly Hillbillies.  Some are even educated.  Not all are rednecks—that’s an entirely different story.  Basically hillbillies are often not the most forward thinking lot much of the time; however, their wisdom and wit can be priceless.

For instance, a family was traveling to visit relatives down in the flatland when one of the kids asked, “When will we get there?”  “Well,” the dad replied, “like the dog said after he got his tail run over by a lawnmower, ‘It won’t be long now’.”

I was watching a show about genealogy recently where one of the people discovered several of their ancestors to be of less than perfection.  In fact, there were turncoats, robbers, grifters, and a few other rather interesting persons just a few generations back.  This caused some wailing that sounded like an alley cat convention, not to mention enough tears to float a battleship.

Not everyone has a perfect pedigree.  Usually there is a shady character or two every few generations.  Maybe there is a big difference between reality and family lore.  These genealogy programs often bring up at least one surprise proving no one is immune from the past.

For years I heard stories about my family that didn’t make sense to me so I ignored what I heard and just lived my life, but over time I grew curious about where I came from.  What I have found out so far is such a mixed bag, I may never completely come to terms with all of it.  I am descended from presidents, soldiers, slaves, doctors, thieves, farmers, inventors, somebodys, nobodys, and a lot of other stuff—but the one of the biggest discoveries is that I am descended from hillbillies.  Now it’s my turn to wail and cry.

The farther back I travel on the family tree, the greater the number of ‘anomalies.’  And it seems many of those ‘anomalies’ lived in the Appalachians.  Actually, I found it began long before the Appalachians became known to Europeans.  One branch of my family traces back to the Vikings (from the mountains of Scandinavia) that settled in the highland mountains and some of the islands of western Scotland.  A portion of that branch ultimately migrated to the mountains of Wales.  (I guess they were attracted to the mountains.)  In the 1650’s they moved to America and within two generations were counted among the founding fathers of hillbilly Appalachia, so I guess hillbillies predated America.

Another branch of my family were among the Puritans who arrived on the Mayflower.  It took about fifty years for them to start moving around, and they finally settled down, more or less, in what is now North Carolina where they intermarried with the previous batch of family and so were indoctrinated into the hillbilly lifestyle.  (Let’s see—mountains and family marrying family—hmm.  Banjos anyone?)  These hillbillies joined with other hillbillies, and over the years my fate was sealed.

For some reason, my family sought out the mountains and the solitude it provided.  But with that solitude came strange thought processes.  By the time I came along, I simply inherited many generations of strangeness.  I knew in school I was different from everyone else, but it wasn’t until I began to visit in the homes of my friends that I could see what made me different.  Actually, for a long time I thought THEY were the strange ones.

When I entered college my first major was music, but I moved on to psychology where I began to learn what was strange about everyone else.  It wasn’t until I overheard someone comment to another that I should use psychology to study myself that my eyes were opened to reality.  Well, enough of that. 

As a child I would spend some nights with my grandparents on their farms.  My dad’s mother would get up in the dark hours of the morning and start preparing breakfast, but at the first moment of light she would open the front door and deeply breath in the outside air.  She would always have me join her inhaling big drafts of early morning atmosphere, and she would tell me there is nothing else as wonderful as the good country air.  A few years later I realized this fresh country air was basically barnyard air.  There was nothing at all good about it.

I learned a lot of things from my family.  Farming was definitely the first thing, and leatherworking was a close second.  Canning, pickling, dry storage, smoking (food and otherwise), and of course some wine making.  There was a time when my grandfather showed me his method for making moonshine—the same method that got him arrested back in the ‘thirties.  Anyone for making beer in the bathtub?  How about stove-top distilling using a modified pressure cooker?

My great-aunt Emma taught me that smoking a cigar in a pipe allowed the entire cigar to be used up without any waste.  My mother’s cousin Carl grew a small patch of tobacco to make his own style of chaw.  I tried it once.  I will not, will not, make that mistake again.  My mothers’ mothers’ sister’s great-grandchild’s husband’s uncle’s cousin (who was also my mother’s father’s sister’s grandson) was a mechanic who worked on farm tractors until it was discovered the replacement parts and motors he was using had been pilfered from the sheriffs’ cars in a neighboring county.

Genealogy has taught me more than I really wanted to know about my family, but once I started the process I found it difficult to stop researching.  Recently I was contacted by a very distant cousin who found my name while involved in his own family search.  He was a relative of my mother’s father, and had discovered we were descended from gypsies (or Roma) from Romania, filtered through Bohemia, before arriving in America.  They may not have been actual hillbillies, but it’s pretty darn close.

We are all influenced by family traditions handed down through generations, but that doesn’t mean we are the people who handed them down.  And that doesn’t mean we have to accept the traditions offered to us.  But then again, some are downright interesting, such as the game of Bum Checkers.  Don’t ask.  I’ve said too much already.

I was researching how we moved out of the mountains and ultimately to Texas, and it soon became apparent it was all about elbowroom.  By the 1790’s there were just too many people living in the Blue Ridge Mountains, so one of my ancestors along with his Cherokee wife chose to move to New Orleans.  Go figure.  From there they moved into East Texas in the 1840’s.  (I suspect New Orleans was even more crowded than the mountains.)

Another batch of these hillbillies joined with Stephen Austin’s first wave of settlers to Texas in the early 1820’s.   At least one of my ancestor’s fought at the Alamo, another at Goliad, and another fought at San Jacinto (things didn’t turn out very well for the first two). 

Several of my ancestors arrived from eastern Tennessee starting in 1828, and the last group seems to have arrived shortly after Texas was readmitted to the Union following the Great War for Southern Independence.

Some surprises in the research were the family members that came from Mexico possibly in the mid-1500’s, and married into some the Native American tribes of East Texas.  Karankawa, Tonkawa, and Caddo were all a part of the mix.  In the late 1880’s to early 1900’s (some details are hard to pin down here), a Mexican/Cherokee joined the family.

Another surprise from the late 1700’s and early 1800’s was that one of my Cherokee ancestors owned slaves—black, white, and Cherokee—and through at least two generations my lineage includes African ancestry. 

It also appears the wife of one of my great-great grandfathers was Japanese of Anyu decent.

Yeah, I’m descended from hillbillies.  But I’m also descended from many other groups of fascinating people whose lives I will probably never understand.  It took courage to make many of their choices, but I’m glad they did.  And I’m proud of my very mixed up heritage.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

In the Meat of the Night

Beware of the long dark nights when the only sounds are the chirping of the crickets, an occasional frog croak, and the crackling of the wood fire in the smoker.  Sometimes these nights can cause a normally rational man to cook something besides a brisket.

I was expecting some company to arrive over the weekend and I decided to cook up a few things ahead of time so we could spend more time together talking and eating, and less time talking and just waiting to eat (i.e., cooking).  Nothing was too good for these friends from Wyoming, and I was going all out for them.  To me ‘all out’ means more brisket than can possibly be eaten, and, of course, all the sides and deserts that go with it.

This event was coming at a critical time in both of our lives.  Stan and Sherry were moving to his family home in Ireland, and I was in the process of moving to California.  We knew we would probably never see each other again, and the past forty years have proven this to be true.

Sherry I had known since the fifth grade.  We weren’t close friends, but we were friends.  It was a relatively small school in a rather small town near Fort Worth, so it was impossible not to know each other.  It wasn’t until after she met my friend Stan that I discovered what a treasure she was.

Stan was the new kid in the tenth grade.  He was from Ireland, he had red hair, green eyes, and he spoke with a funny accent, but I didn’t care.  Stan was fun to be around.  It wasn’t long before he and Sherry were a couple, and they never looked back.

They married right out of high school, and moved to Boulder, Colorado to attend the university there.  I didn’t hear from them for about four years until I was holding a meeting at a company store in Denver.  We took a lunch break, and as I was walking through the store to go to a nearby restaurant, I saw Stan making a purchase in one of the departments.

I did a double take.  At first I wasn’t sure this was my friend, but I heard him speak, and there was no doubt.  Moments later, Sherry came up behind him and took his hand.  I had to say something.

They had just moved to Denver after graduating from college, and both were starting new jobs in a few days.  For the next two years, each time I was in Denver, I stayed with Stan and Sherry, but then they moved to a remote spot in Wyoming.  I didn’t see them much after the move, although we stayed in touch.  Now our lives were changing permanently, and nothing less than brisket would be proper for the occasion.

I had just left my job of many years, and I had a lot of time on my hands, so I began gathering everything needed to get ahead on the cooking.  It was Tuesday, and Stan and Sherry would be arriving mid-day Saturday for a four-day visit.  I had much to do, but there was plenty of time. 

First on the list was to secure four briskets for the smoker.  I headed over to Bubba’s Butcher Shop where I was told they were completely out of brisket.  Some big outfit over in Arlington was throwing a barbeque and had bought every brisket in two counties.  Great.  Now what?

The owner of the shop said since I was such a good customer, he would reach into his private locker and let me have his personal briskets.  If I could come back tomorrow morning, he would have them ready to travel.  Wow.  That was very kind.  The next morning I was there when they opened the doors at 6am, and I grabbed the box with the big package in it.  I gave it a few pokes with my hand to determine if it was frozen (as expected, it was not), and I headed home.

I spent the day making ahead everything I possibly could with the exception of the brisket.  That evening I opened the package to begin preparing the first two briskets, and I discovered the package contained six smaller packages.  Five of the packages were brisket size, but the sixth one was quite a bit larger.  Well, it must have been a huge cow.  I’ll just save it for later.  By the time I went to bed somewhere around 3am, I had four briskets dry rubbed and wrapped up to season for the smoker.

I spent Thursday making pies, a couple of cakes, prepping appetizers and sticking them into the freezer, and that evening I started prepping some bread dough for Friday baking.  Does this sound like a lot of food?  Yeah, it was.  But I knew Stan and Sherry well enough to expect a lot of visitors over the next few days.  They were saying ‘goodbye’ to a lot of friends.

About noon on Friday I took some time to start the smoker.  I shuffled back and forth between the kitchen and the smoker for a while until the temperature was just right, and then I put on the first two briskets.  These should get us through Saturday and Sunday, with the second two briskets being smoked Sunday night for Monday and Tuesday.  Perfect.

By the time Stan and Sherry arrived, everything was ready, including about a dozen high school friends I didn’t expect before Sunday.  We had a great time just sitting out in the back yard eating, drinking, talking, eating.  By the evening, we were already about halfway through the second brisket, so I decided to toss the other two prepared briskets onto the smoker.

Sunday I saw more people than I could remember ever seeing at our old high school.  At least they brought along a few dishes to supplement the disappearing appetizers, sides, desserts, and brisket I had prepared.  But still, the food was going fast.  Someone called out concerning the lack of Big Reds, so I decided to take a trip to the store.  Most likely no one would realize I was gone until I returned with the sodas, but my real intent was to find more meat for the smoker and/or grill.

Buddies Grocery was just a few miles away, so I figured I would be gone about half an hour at the most.  What I didn’t figure on was the lack of meat in the store.  It seems the big barbeque over in Arlington caused a meat panic and every piece of beef had already been purchased.  However, they had some sausages.  I bought about 20 pounds.

Worth Mart was in the same condition, but they had a big prime rib left.  I took it.  Harrison’s Market had a shipper’s box of pork chops.  I didn’t know how to cook a pork chop, but it was meat.  It went into the car.  I made one more stop at F&M Market and all they had left was a few sausages and several baloney (Texan for bologna) rings.  Good enough.  I got home after nearly two hours without any sodas.  At least someone else realized the problem and picked some up.

I fired up the smoker and tossed on all of the baloney and the pork chops.  I fired up the grill and tossed on the sausages.  I think it was Janet that took over the grill for me, and I went into the house to open the last two packages of brisket.  I guessed I couldn’t have them ready to cook tonight, but they could be prepped for tomorrow.  I opened the small package to discover more sausages instead of a brisket.  Okay, at least it was meat.  I opened the big package and discovered two perfect prime ribs.  Oh, yeah.  Along with the one I already had, we were going to eat high on the hog, uh, cow.

We sausaged, baloneyed, and pork chopped our way through the night with a lot of leftovers.  These became breakfast and lunch on Monday.  By Monday afternoon I had the smoker going again, and the prime rib was in place.  Stan and Sherry had decided to take the evening and visit someone over in Dallas, so the guests left early, and I had a long quiet evening ahead.  Just as the sun was setting, a truck pulled into my long dirt driveway.  It was Bubba the Butcher.

“I got some more brisket here for you.  I know you was goin’ to come up short, so when these showed up, I thought of you.  And here is a box of chickens.  And here is a turkey.  Need any help?”

We got everything ready on into the smoker (that was one crowded smoker), and we sat back and ate the few remaining sausages and pork chops.  About 10pm Bubba left, and I was on my own.  I wandered into the kitchen searching for a slice of pie, and there on the kitchen table was a box with a note.  “Just a little extra,” was all it said.

I opened the box and found a dressed out pig.  Not a big one, maybe about 30 pounds.  What do I do with it?  I had just cooked pork chops for the first time in my life, so what now?  I decided to just wrap the pig up and put it in the refrigerator.  At least the refrigerator was nearly empty.

I sat in front of the smoker until about 1am when the chickens were done.  I pulled them off, wrapped them up, and placed them in a hot box with the three prime ribs that had come off the smoker earlier.  I sat down to watch the smoke against the moonlight and listen to the crickets and frogs. 

My mind started wandering down to the endless pathways of semi-consciousness where reality becomes very distorted.  There was something about a motorcycle with tank treads, a fish in a fashion show, and a bus with the ability to fly.  I came awake with a jerk when I heard someone talking about the uncertainty of the existence of chocolate.  I looked around, but no one was there, and I was now sitting on my back porch instead of the chair by the smoker.

My watch was showing 4:15am, so I guessed I had been out for a couple of hours.  I checked the temperature on the smoker and tossed a couple of logs into the firebox.  Then I raised the lid to check on the turkey and briskets, but there was that pig in there with them.  When did I do that?  Well, the turkey was done, and I was getting hungry.  The way things had been for the last few days, I didn’t think anyone would miss a few slices.

About 7am the crowd started gathering again.  Stan and Sherry weren’t due back until about noon, but since this was to be their last day in town before flying out early Wednesday morning, no one wanted to miss seeing them one last time.  It was with great relief that I witnessed several of the guests take over the kitchen and prepare a banquet breakfast for everyone.  And I was really glad to see the mounds of dishes being addressed. 

Stan and Sherry arrived just in time to have lunch.  Turkey, chickens, and briskets were gone by mid-afternoon.  All I had left were the prime ribs and the pig, and they were gone by the time the last guest left late that evening.

Wednesday morning I took Stan and Sherry over to Dallas’ Love Field to catch their pre-dawn flight to New York where they would change planes for Dublin.  When I returned home, I began the final cleanup before packing my things to move to California.  The farm, which had been in my family for several generations, had already been sold, and a second-hand company had purchased almost everything else.  I kept my car and my trailer with all that would fit in it.  As I was driving out of the long driveway for the last time, I realized I had told no one other than Stan and Sherry that I was moving to California.  They’ve probably figured it out by now.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

I’m Never Moving Again!!

Twenty years and thirty-three days is more than adequate to collect more stuff than I could possibly need or use, and that is exactly what I did.  Then I had to move it all to a new home about fifteen miles from where I had hoped I would never leave.  We more than doubled our living space, but there just isn’t enough room for everything.  I have to ask myself, “How did I make it fit in the old smaller place?”

Well, the move is over and the sorting begins.  The little things we count on everyday can’ be found, but the things we didn’t need are everywhere.  We found books we had never read.  We found duplicates of those books we had never read.  We even found one triplicate—so far.

It took three weeks to get the internet working.  I am still trying to get the power companies to change the utilities into my name.  I just found my computer in a large humidor of cigars (I like the fragrance it give off as it warms up).  But the worst thing is not something I lost or even had before the move—I had to buy a lawnmower.  What was I thinking?  I mowed the lawn yesterday, and this morning there were weeds over 6 inches high.  I’m mowing it again tomorrow to find out if I just missed some parts of the lawn, or if these things really grow that fast.

I applied for a postal address change for mail forwarding on February 1, and I have yet to see anything forwarded to me.  This worries me a lot.  I don’t care if the bills take their time about getting here, and I never read all the junk mail I receive, but the Annual Wild Game Feed will be sending out their order forms in about two months, and I DON’T want to miss that.

I’ve sent out address changes to everyone I can think of who may need to know where I live, but the one that worries me the most is the AWGF.  I’m hoping when the forms start arriving, someone will immediately forward me a copy of the forms.  I know the AWGF does their best to stay up to date on addresses, but my luck says that I will be the one they overlook.

Anyway, as far as the move goes, I’m lightening the load.  I think the various donation centers around this area are reaching capacity as I bring car full after car full.  When I look at something, if I don’t know immediately what it is, or when I last used it, away it goes. 

On the plus side, I like where I now live.  Not that I didn’t like where I was, but this is much better.  No more street parking.  No more parking two miles away and taking the bus home.  And no more worrying about the tenants in the complex we managed.  I sleep at night without fear of someone waking me up at two a.m. with a plugged toilet, or missing keys.

This place is a fixer-upper big-time, and I’m looking forward to the task.  But if anyone gets that AWGF order form, PLEASE email me a copy immediately.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Biggie--Year Five

Biggie is now nine years old, and sometime this summer he will turn ten.  His actual birthday is unknown, but we renew his shots each year on or about June 6, so that is his unofficial birthday. 

Biggie's age is starting to show, and I hate to admit it, but I have many of the same symptoms.  We're both slowing down.  We both sleep late in the morning and take naps in the afternoon.  But we both find it difficult to sleep at night.  Both of us are having dental problems in spite of dental care.  We've both gained weight.  We are having vision problems.  We both have white hair.

Anytime my wife opens the refrigerator, Biggie and I have a race to the kitchen.  Both of us hate to go outside for a walk, but once we are outside, we don't want to come back in.  We both like rides in the car with stops at almost any park we pass by.  Wait!  Are these symptoms?  Sometimes its difficult to separate symptoms from actions, but I've noticed on the days I have allergies, he has watering eyes and a runny nose.

I cherish my time with Biggie, and I know it is limited and will ultimately come to an end.  He is not my dog, and there is always the possibility his mom will move away, or my wife and I will move away.  Also, we are all getting older and time may gather its reward.

Meanwhile, he is a happy dog, and that makes me happy.

*******

I wrote this a few weeks ago not knowing just how short my time with Biggie really was.  Today his mom let me know she is moving away in a few weeks, just as my wife and I had also decided it was time to move.  Biggie will have to adjust to a new home with his mom, and Rachael and I will have to adjust to a life without Biggie.  Not an easy thing to do, but once again I must rely upon past resolve to never again own another dog.  The pain of losing them is too much for me to carry.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Bolsa Chica

About two years ago my wife Rachael volunteered to be a docent at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve located between Sunset Beach and Huntington Beach.  Separating it from Bolsa Chica State Beach is the Pacific Coast Highway.  The two Bolsa Chica's have a symbiotic relationship with plants and animals, so what is good (or bad) for one is good (or bad) for the other.

The Amigos de Bolsa Chica, to which Rachael belongs, were instrumental in saving the Reserve from becoming a marina back in the 1970's, and over the years they have worked to remove the many oil wells from the area.  The preservation of the Reserve also helped save the State Beach (formerly known as Tin Can Beach due to the trash and oil wells), and today the beach is a clean and beautiful sandy surf beach with many native and endangered plants.  Rachael took over the maintenance of the native plants around the headquarters of the State Beach, and therefore I became a volunteer to do the heavy work.  I love it.

I just received status as an official State Beach volunteer and also a free pass to all the State Beaches in Orange County.  It just cost me 100 hours of free labor, a background check, and about two or three hours of filling out forms.  But now I can go to the State Beaches anytime I wish and not have to pay the $15.00 entry fee just to go fishing.

Actually, the pass and fishing is just a bonus.  In the past few months I have built retaining walls around the headquarters, and a secure tool shed to store gardening equipment.  It was hard work, but very satisfying.  About 50 years ago I walked away from a budding career as a brick mason, and I never looked back, but building the retaining walls brought back many memories (and sore muscles), and I'm glad I had the knowledge to do the work.

Volunteering my time, knowledge, and abilities is a joy I never expected.  I was cleaning up some sand from a sidewalk and overheard some surfer dudes commenting on the retaining walls I had built.  Basically they thought is was about time someone got off their ass and did something around there.  I laughed out loud as I thought about that.  They could have gotten off their asses (or surfboards) anytime and helped out, but they didn't.  I guess I don't really care whether or not they choose to help.  What I care about is whether or not someone appreciates the end results of my labor.

Each time I go to the beach now I overhear someone comment about the improvements.  My part is just a small piece of the action.  Now school groups are asking if they can help out.  Corporations are asking if they can donate to the process.  Wow.

As I write this El Nino is bringing its heavy rains to the area, and I just returned from examining the new retaining walls.  They are working as I had hoped they would, and I actually got to see them in action.  My work isn't complete, but I'm on the right track.  The only problem is the cost of the materials and the laborers.  There is only one of me, and the school participants don't have enough of life's experiences to be of much help without a lot, a lot, of direction.  Not that I mind giving them direction and instructions that will help them grow as individuals, but the progress on the walls is slow as a result.  Still, this is a project that will take years beyond my own lifetime to complete.  I just hope someone will come along with similar vision to improve the state beach and pick up the torch.  

Monday, January 4, 2016

Tick... ... ... ...Tock

Time always slows down when waiting for the Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake.  The next Feed is scheduled for Friday, September 16, 2016, and that's just too long to wait.  Am I right on this?  Tick. 

It's been only 3 1/2 months since the last Feed, and I must say they went by almost unnoticed by me as I always have a full Fall schedule.  But experience has told me the next 7 1/2 months will crawl along at a pace slower than watching paint dry.  And the closer we get to the big day, the slower it will go.  Again, am I right?  Tock.

Every year I try to put into words the fun and excitement of the Feed, but I am woefully inadequate to fully describe the event.  If you've been there, you understand.  If you haven't been there, you've missed one of the greatest man gatherings on this planet (and, believe me, you don't understand).  A man once asked me to narrow down my description to just a single sentence, so I spoke a single, twelve-minute, run-on sentence, and I came nowhere near giving the Feed a quality description.  Tick.

I spend quite a number of hours each year preparing for the event.  Cigars need to be properly humidified, quail eggs need to be flavored and sealed in their jars, and my tent, tables, and boxes of "stuff" need to be obsessed over many times.  Even so, my little contribution is basically nothing compared to the dedication the AWGF members give toward making it a success.  All year they prepare to make the party the very best it can be.  I, for one, am more than willing to let them do their job even if it takes all year to do it right.  But a year is a year.

When I was 6 years old, a year was the equivalent of 'forever,' and I couldn't understand why it took so long.  Now that I'm 66 years old, waiting a year for the AWGF is still the equivalent of 'forever.'  At least I understand why I have to wait.  But a year is still a year.  Am I right on this?  Tock.