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.