Guest Contributor – Jason M – Autumn Memories – Part 2

Late every summer the entire extended family would get together. I mean the “very extended” family. Both my grandfather’s and grandmother’s families and their children and grandchildren. The men would seine the pond in the cow pasture behind the house I grew up in. All the bigger fish they caught would be cleaned and fried that same day for a giant fish fry. My grandmother made the world’s greatest hush puppies and coleslaw to go along with the fish. Come to think of it, I need to see if I can find her hush puppy recipe from one of my aunts. We only had large-mouth bass and little bluegill bream in that pond. I still love bream more than any other fish I’ve had.

This past summer I took my boys to Walmart and got them both fishing rods. Then I pulled my old rods out of my parent’s building and got the reels working again (they hadn’t been touched for 20+ years), and showed my boys where to look for worms. I took them to that same pond and taught them how to fish. We caught several decent sized bream and a couple small bass that first evening. It was enough to take home, clean and fry so my boys (and my wife and daughter, too) could get an idea of how good “real” food can be.

A few days later I managed to land a bass that topped 6 pounds. I got her off the hook cleanly and let her go back in the pond. Maybe one of us will hook her again someday.

I’m trying to give my kids memories like mine. I took my older boy squirrel hunting with my dad last fall. I’m looking forward to more of that this year. Squirrel hunting was one of my favorite pastimes growing up. My best friend and I spent countless hours out in the woods with our little .22 caliber rifles. Would you believe that squirrel tastes like chicken?

By now, the squirrel population behind my parents’ house has recovered nicely. I’m talking to my wife about getting my older boy a rifle for his 13th birthday in a month. Hopefully I can pass along that love of hunting and fishing to him. So far, he’s truly enjoyed it, and I’m encouraged by that. He might just be a better shot than me soon. While I’ll hate to admit it when he finally is, inside I’ll secretly be elated by it. Now to start working on his little brother…

My grandfather used to complain about Canada Geese. I’ve never had it, but apparently it was not uncommon as a Thanksgiving meal a couple generations ago. Grandad told me that the problem with them was that you had to soak them for hours before you cooked them because they ate so many of the wild onions that grew around here the meat tasted too much like onion. He said it smelled bad when you cooked it…to the point that you had to leave the house. He could exaggerate at times though, so I don’t know exactly how serious he was.

 

Several years ago, those same wild onions came up in a conversation I had with my dad. I was asking about milk cows and how many cows a family of 5 would need. Despite growing up with cows on the farm I had no idea because grandad raised beef cattle when I was growing up.

My dad, on the other hand, grew up milking cows. He told me that their family of 6 had so much milk from two cows that they threw half of it out every day. They had enough for milk for all its various milky uses and even enough cream for my grandmother to churn her own butter. I asked him why they threw away half of it and he told me it was because of the wild onions! Of course, that made no sense to me and further questioning revealed the rest of the story: they threw out the evening milk because the cows would be grazing in the pasture all day and the onions made the milk taste bad, so they threw it out. They only kept the milk from the morning because the cows were in the barn all night munching on sweet hay and the morning milk tasted good. I still haven’t decided if a couple milk cows are in our future or not though.

Guest Contributor – Jason M – Autumn Memories

Memories around autumn. The most common thread was the presence of extended family.

We didn’t raise tobacco, but my grandfather leased fields to a man that did. I got my taste of pulling tobacco as a young child and got a few bucks as a reward. I was too young to do much, but getting those few dollars meant the world to me. Every now and then you’d see one of the laborers take a leaf straight off the plant, cut it up and share it with his buddies. They’d roll the leaf right there and smoke it like a cigarette.

When I was older and soccer practice began in mid to late summer, we’d run anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 miles as a team before practice. The entire run was surrounded by tobacco fields and I still remember the aroma. That farm is still in business some 28 years later. They’re still growing tobacco, soy beans and milo depending on the crop rotation.

Fall meant festivals and pork BBQ of any variety you could imagine. My school had a fall festival each year and they smoked hundreds of pounds of hams over hickory wood and sold plates to local businesses all night long for the 3rd shift workers, and to the festival-goers the next day.

It meant Saturdays with the cousins trying to knock each other off of rolling barrels while our parents made furniture to sell at the fall festival.

Fall meant dove hunting, squirrel hunting and deer hunting were all in full effect. You’d wake up to the sound of shotguns in the field next your house every Saturday… that is, if you weren’t the one waking everyone else up at sunrise.

It meant playing in the hay loft and building forts out of the square bales. Or setting up obstacle courses to try and conquer to see who could do it the fastest.

It meant Halloween and candy and a party at the church near our house with all the younger kids in our area.

Man, I miss those simple times.

Seeing the world today is almost enough to make you weep. I read an article two days ago where the white author was proclaiming how racist it is for a white person to own a dog. He ended it by saying that all white people should give their dogs to POC or give them to the nearest no kill shelter.

What have I done to my children by bringing them into this world? I moved “back home” 18 months ago. We’ve built a house “on the farm.” I’d love for my kids to experience things like I did growing up. It beats Atlanta, that’s for sure, but they’ll never know those simple joys. I didn’t intend for this to be such a downer comment. Focus on the good parts.