The still arrived Monday, but nothing to report yet. My second anniversary of owning the café is coming up, which means that I’m also due for health and fire inspections, and I don’t want to be explaining to those folks why I’ve got a large trash can full of fermenting corn in my back kitchen. So, no moonshine stories for a bit.
As far as the “Cook’s Tale” series that everyone…well, two of you…were enjoying so much, let me just say that the next three years were pretty uneventful…as far as food goes. I did do, say, and think a whole hell of a lot of stupid things, but I don’t really care to go into any of that. I will say that my dear mom says of those days, “I always loved you, but I didn’t really like you very much.”
When we first moved to Oklahoma and lived in that first house at the base of what passes for mountains back there, I once went squirrel hunting with my grandpa and great-uncle, Osil. We hiked through the hills for a couple of hours without seeing anything…probably something to do with their taking a noisy ten year old along…but eventually found a spring running clear and cold. I still remember how good that water tasted, as well as I remember my first taste of well water from a rusty can that hung from Osil’s cast iron hand pumped well three years before that, as well as I remember any food I’ve ever eaten. To this day I find it hard not to drink from any spring or clear-running stream I happen across.
One very cool thing during that time when I was less lovable was that we lived about six miles from a Civil War battlefield, Honey Springs. Back then it was still “wild”, there was nothing but a metal historical marker on the side of the road to even show that anything had ever happened there.
One of my friends and I used to ride our bikes out there during the summers and hike around and imagine ourselves as brave Rebels fighting off the damned Yankees. Once, I found an old rusted mower blade and was almost able to convince myself that it was a sword. We’d stay out there for hours in the 100 degree heat, drinking from the namesake springs when we got thirsty.
To get to Honey Springs we rode our bikes up the two lane highway a couple of miles north of town and then turned right on what was pretty much a one lane strip of asphalt that passed through the town of Rentiesville, an “all Black” town, before reaching the dirt road that led to the Springs. Many of the Native tribes that had made up the Indian Territories prior to the Civil War had been slave owners and had sided with the South during the War. Afterwards most of these “Freedmen” were given tribal citizenship and continued living within the tribes, but as the territories were opened up for settlement there was also influx of freed slaves from the rest of the South and many of these settled and built all Black towns. Rentiesville is one of the few remaining, and it still has an overwhelmingly African American population (that population is about 140, by the way).
Once when we were riding out to the Springs during a particularly rainy summer we came upon a long section of the road that was under the water of a nearby creek. Nearly the whole town of Rentiesville must have been out there that day, wading through the water, carrying gunny sacks. We stopped and watched as the people moved slowly through the foot-deep water on the road, stooped, and intent on something at the bottom. Every once in a while, someone would reach in and pull something out, crawdads. Until then I had no idea that a crawdad was anything other than something to watch out for when splashing around in the creek. Many people were slicing off and only keeping the tails, casting the heads, claws grasping in confused anger, aside. Many of the sacks were quite full.
We sat and watched for a long time, no one giving the two white kids from town much more than a glance.