O Shenandoah! Dirt Road Journal

treeO Shenandoah! Dirt Road Journal


"Never Name Something You Might Have To Eat"

Author's Note: This now-subdivided hollow, designated by the National Geologic Survey as "Burner's Bottom" after European settlers and their ancestral farming and flood land, was called "The Garden of Eden" or "The Promised Land" by early travellers and residents. Modern plows working riverside fields still turn indigenous tools from ancient and fertile Senedo burial ground.

dirtroadIf you've never seen tree frogs, they don't seem real. They're tiny little things that chirp and get in your house in the summer, when you leave a door open. As they hop and hide in the rug and under furniture, they aren't easy to catch either. Cats think they're interesting, too. Toads like the garden and hang out around the front door. Particularly at night, you have to watch where you walk. Feeling one jump from under an oncoming bare foot is a shock of the cold, wet and slimy sort. I don't believe the wart thing, tho. We don't bother them because they eat the bugs that bother us. Lizards do, too. The ones around here are green with shiny, irridescent stripes. They're good for bait.

deerA fair number of people here eat frogs' legs. As a matter of fact, a lot of gourmet foods live here, but people just mostly think of it as seasonal staples: bass, trout, catfish, perch, crappie, snapping turtles, frogs' legs, and garden fresh vegetables in warmer months; deer, bear, rabbit, squirrels, turkeys, ducks, geese, quail and grouse in the cool seasons. I'd never heard of eating squirrel before living here, and thought I'd misunderstood the first couple of times someone mentioned it. How could there be enough meat on a squirrel worth eating anyway? Actually, it's very good tasting and what people do, really, is make squirrel gravy so one squirrel per person makes a meal. The most common game staples in our house are catfish in the summer and deer meat in the winter. They get supplemented, mostly, with bass and rabbit. We went through a few years where we loved squirrel, but now its mostly rabbit.

llama Oddly enough, we both like rabbits, personally, and have one huge black and white one, Hubie, as a pet. We had a wild one for years in a coop, because her mother lost her somehow. She was so little at first she could get through chicken wire and we had to keep her in a wooden box in an old outhouse until she grew bigger. We knew it was a female, because she made nests every spring. We also raised rabbit dogs (beagles) for years and would never shoot the rabbits because, well, then what would the dogs have to do?

turkey We don't see black bears very often. A few years ago, there was one about 20 yards from the house, apparently trying to figure out what a goat was. "Git!" doesn't work with a bear, but it ambled off and we never saw it again. One of our neighbors way up in the mountains has constant trouble with them, because he has a lot of seed feeders for the wild birds, and it turns out bears like wild bird seed. A lot. They open the cannisters he stores it in and get up on his porch in the middle of the night. Not so many people hunt bear and those that do use dogs for tracking. The most beautifully unusual hunting dogs I've ever seen are blue tick coon dogs. I don't think any two look alike. They don't look anywhere blue to me, but neither do the "blue" ridges of the Appalachians here. We've been given some bear meat during past hunting seasons. It's rich.

river evening It doesn't make a lot of sense that people eat animals they like, but most of us have been doing it throughout the eons. I think it's part of the reason we say grace before we eat.


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Original material O Shenandoah! Country Rag April, 1996. All rights reserved.