Steak for Breakfast

I recently posted on Facebook of a visit when my son in law had fixed steak for breakfast on the day I left. Rex, one of my distant cousins on Grandma’s side of the family, commented that he remebered my mom cooking steak for breakfast, and what a good cook she was.

That comment brought back many memories for me. Although I don’t specifically remember steak for breakfast, we did have steak often–deer steak. Deer were plentiful in the area and my dad, brothers and uncles would hunt every year. I remember them coming home at the end of the day, bundled up in coats and ear muffed caps, with their bounty. They would take the deer into the shop, where they hung it.

My dad was of the mind that, at least for the most part, women had certain roles. Therefore, I don’t remember any of the actual butchering of the deer. But I remember the deer, usually 3 or 4 of them hanging in the shop. I know they later skinned them and cut up the meat. Most of it would go into our freezer, or if there was an abundance, Dad would take it to the lockler we rented in town. I remember going with him sometimes, happy to be taking boxes of meat to the locker to be frozen for later use. In the summer, I would go with Mom, taking laundry baskets, to get meat. We would come out of the heat into the main/front part of the building, then through a door in the back and past another door with huge sheets of plastic hanging, into the the cold part. There we would find our locker. At first, it felt nice and cool, but if we were there very long we could get very cold, especially our fingers.

Besides deer, we had other game. Pheasants were usually plentiful in those years. The boys would bring them in and Mom would dress them. Those she would fry and we what we didn’t eat that night, she would send them with Dad for his lunch. And there were rabbits. Dad always said when there were lots of coyotes, there were few rabbits and when there were lots of rabbits, there were few coyotes. I remember there were ususally a lot of coyotes. But at least one year, there were an abundance of rabbits. My brother Dick had been bringing home several every day when he went hunting. One day that winter, he and his friend Ernie went hunting and came back with 30 rabbits! We were astonished and hoped they hadn’t cleaned them out. Not so, as the next day they went out again and got around 50 more. That’s when Mom said, “No more rabbits for awhile!”. I think that was the year Dick tried tanning the rabbit skins. Some turned out kind of soft, but others were stiff. But the fur was still so soft and pretty.

Although I didn’t hunt, or help dress the deer, I did get in on preparing the rabbits. My job was to hold the back legs of the rabbit about my knee high, so the boys could gut and skin them. I liked helping, but by the time we finsihed the 30 and then 50 rabbits, my arms were sore! After they were dressed, I would help Mom cut them up. Most years we would just cut them into pieces at the joints and then she would either fry them or bake them in a creamy sauce. (I liked them fried best.) But that year, there were so many she decided to grind the meat. That was another job that I could do She would cut the meat off the bones and I would feed it through the grinder. I can still picture the meat coming out in long tubes. And then I would help wrap it in the freezer paper, and into into our freezer it went.

We always had meat in the freezer. To us it was just meat. But others were amazed, sometimes not in a good way, of the types of meat we had. I remember one time when Dad came home and told us about his experience sharing his lunch. One of the workers saw Dad eating steak and couldn’t believe it, that this common man was eating a steak sandwich! So Dad offered him some. The man went on and on about how it was the best steak ever. At least until Dad told him it was deer steak. We had a good laugh about that.

Mom usually fixed country fried steak. She would pound the steak and put it in a pie pan of flour where I would drench each side, trying to get it all covered. Then she would fry it in about an inch of fat (probably lard) flipping it halfway through and seasoning it with salt and pepper. She also made roasts, usually with carrots, potatoes, and onions. And she always canned some of the meat, perhaps the tougher cuts. I remember how much I loved that canned meat! She usually used it to make something else with, but she would always let me have some fresh from the jar. And sometimes we would have sandwiches of it for lunch. I still get hungry for it.

As Rex remembered, Mom was a good cook. She could make anything out of almost anything. That year we ground the rabbit meat, she used it in different ways. But what i remember best was the rabbit chili she would make. It was the best chili ever. I don’t know if she put any different spices in it or if it was just the rabbit flavor, but it was delicious! My mouth waters as I think of it.

I remember one time when we had friends from town for dinner and one of the boys kept going on about what a spread it was, which seemed very strange to me. To us, it was just a regular noon meal. We always ate hardy. Mom had a big garden, and as a result we always had food. It still seems strange to me that some people don’t like leftovers. Leftovers were a part of our life! I still like them and think many times things tasted better the next day.

It was my and Dick’s job to help Mom in the garden. I loved working in the garden and could never understand why he did not. How could you not like a job where you could eat anything you want while you are picking it. Just a swipe on my dress and they all went into my mouth: those fresh beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and even the new potatoes (although they were better with a little salt). Mom would can and freeze the surplus. When we canned, I would fill the scalded jars and she would pour in the hot water. Then into the canner, with a timer set. After the jars were out of the canner and cooled, it was my job to check them to be sure all were sealed. I remember mostly the green beans. Picking, snapping, and then canning. All of it was the life I loved, and I smile as I experience it all over again in my memories. .

Beginnings

My dad had said if he ever got married, he wanted it to be in the Little Brown Church.  Well, at age 35, he finally got married!  Since he and my mom both loved music and singing and the song about this church had always been a favorite of both, they were married at The Little Brown Church in the Vale in Nashua, Iowa in the summer of 1948.   After the wedding they visited my dad’s family in Iowa, and then took about a month long honeymoon traveling from Iowa north to Washington state.  They wanted to see Sedro-Woolley, where Mom was born, and visit her relatives in the area.  From there they headed south to California.   I still have many of the picture postcards Mom bought on the trip.  I also have her viewfinder slides and some pictures.  I especially remember the redwoods, where they drove the car through!  And sad to say, that enormous tree has since fallen.   After leaving California they head back through Colorado, visiting relatives along the way, till they arrived in Broken Bow Nebraska.

Besides getting a wife, my dad also became a step-father, although we never used that term.  They were just were just my brothers.  They had a dad in Colorado, (and eventually two sisters—but I didn’t know this for some time).  They always called my dad by his name, Lloyd.  While my folks were traveling for their wedding and honeymoon, the boys stayed with their dad Tom and his wife Vida in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

Although both my parents came from farming backgrounds, at the time of their marriage Dad was part owner—along with the Pirnie brothers— of the Arrow Freight Lines in Broken Bow, Nebraska.  The new family—Lloyd, Lucy, Danny and Terry—moved into his house in Broken Bow, just north of the new North Park School.

Tumbleweeds2Seashells

How did I come up with such a name?  It required bouncing ideas around with my family.  We wanted something that would reflect me, my life and my memories of that life.  I was born on the praires of Nebraska but at the time I start this blog, I live in Florida.  And have been other states I’ve lived in.  I wanted a name that would span this time.

When we were playing with the blog name I was trying to find a name that would reflect the prairies.  And when tumbleweed came up I said “Yes!”.  The part for Florida was easy as I love gathering seashells from the beach.  I also wanted the name to connect somewhat to my sister site learning2leftovers.  So it came to be “tumbleweeds2seashells”!

When I decided on the name, one family member said “I didn’t know Nebraska had tumbleweeds. I thought they were from the desolate parts of the west”.    I said that Nebraska was the gateway to the west.  I was immediately corrected–that it’s St Louis with the Gateway Arch.  And I suppose that is true technically.  Yet, to me, my Nebraska  will always be that gateway to the west.  On the eastern side there are the crop lands.  After all, Nebraska is the Cornhusker State.  But the western side has miles and miles of pasture land prairies. And in the middle of the state there is the special “gateway”, a unique blend.  There is crop land in the broad valleys along the rivers and the smaller fields on semi-flat land in the hills.  But there is also pasture land.  Hilly areas covered with the prairie grasses.  Here one can see cattle and sometimes horses grazing.   And here you can start to see tumbleweeds!

Tumbleweeds.  I smile as the word brings pictures to my mind.  I can see them blowing  in the wind, piled up along the fence rows, tumbling across the fields –now and then snagging onto something in their path.  On cold winter mornings they would be ‘picture perfect’ covered with a thick coating of frost.  I love tumbleweeds and miss seeing them.  It brings a feeling of home.  Cause I was born in Nebraska and no matter where I’ve gone or llived, Nebraska is still home!  And tumbleweeds are a part of that home I remember.

Before I let my memories carry me away too far, I want to get to the other half of the name.  Seashells.   I now live in Florida were I can reach the seashore in 30 some minutes.  On the times when I previously visited, I loved gathering seashells.  I liked beach decor.  And now I like living here.

Compared to Nebraska, Florida is a different world!   Yet, I can look out at the waves, always moving, flowing, as far as the eye can see.   And connect again, somehow, to the flowing waves of grass on the prairie.