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Friday, January 27, 2012

The Great Submarine Incident

I don't remember where we were living at the time but my mother, my brother and I were wading up Nat's Creek some ways above the Wash Rock.  (My brother says it got this name from a time when there was a severe drought and everyone would bring their laundry there to wash in the fairly large pool of water that was there.)  I had to be very young at the time as the water was quite deep to me and I know from being there in later years that section of the creek was not all that deep.

I had a little, toy submarine and I think it was wind  up.  I do know you could hold it under water and let go and it would travel  along until it ran out of power then come to the surface.  My brother wanted to try it out.  I don't know how many times or what he did exactly but shortly my submarine did not come back to the surface.

He made a valiant effort to find it but it was irretrievably lost.  I don't know if I cried or not but I could not have been very happy.  I mentioned the incident in passing to my brother a few years ago and he was amaze I could remember it.

I think our memories are episodic and most especially when we are young.  I don't know what triggers a lasting memory but I can see all these pictures in my mind.  Mostly they are not connected in any way except for the times and places they happened.  The Great Submarine Incident is one of those it makes no sense I would remember.  Losing a toy is not all that traumatic.  I don't remember why we were in the creek or exactly when but I do know where we were and I do remember my submarine.

I wonder where it ended up.  Is it still lodged under the creek bank there above the Wash Rock?  Did it wash out and down the creek in some flood and end up in the river?  Did it go down the Big Sandy River to the Ohio?  From there to the Mississippi?  Then Past New Orleans into the Gulf or Mexico?  I'll never know but it is something to contemplate.

More About Spring Knob

This is my second narrative about living at the Spring Knob forestry tower.  More episodic memories rather than a structured tale with a beginning and end.

Spring Knob tower was where I came very close to not living to double digit age.  The house sat beside the dirt road and the front porch was up on pieces of log with steps up.  On the tower side was a place I used to go play in the dirt quite a lot.  This particular day my mother called me in to supper and I left the dirt and went into the house.  We had just sat down at the table when there was a loud thump and the cabin jolted.

We rushed outside to the porch and saw our old 1953 Chevy sitting with its back bumper against the log holding up the porch where I had been sitting less than five minutes before.  I have no idea what my parents thought about it but I don't recall having any particular emotions about it.  Certainly not fear or relief.  It was just something that happened.  Probably, though, after that my brother made sure to set the parking brake rather than just leaving it in first gear when he cut off the engine.

On another day I was playing in the dirt in the same location.  I don't know if this was before or after the car incident.  But, something drew my attention to the road in front of our steps and there was a fox standing there.  I thought this was curious so I went inside and told my dad there is a fox out in the road.  He did not believe me as no fox would come that close to a house.

I told him there was something out there and it looked like a fox to me.  I guess I've always been a smart ass.  He went to the door and looked outside and saw the fox.  He grabbed his shotgun and killed it.  On closer inspection of the corpse it was obvious why the fox was so brave.  It was rabid.  My brother wrapped some kind of old rag (cloth) around its tail and took it off somewhere to dispose of it.

I had to have passed very close to it when I went into the house.  I have no idea why it just stood there and did not bite me.  I'm glad though as I've heard rabies treatment is quite painful.

Across from the house, just across the road, was a narrow ribbon of slightly raised and wooded land.  It had some common trees and a few peach treas on it.  Just beyond this narrow strip was the garden.  The garden was on a gentle slope between the road in front of the house and where the road circled down and around the hill so the garden was kind of wide on the tower end and narrow on the road end.  This made it bordered by the road on three sides.

I think we lived there for about four years and I don't remember how the garden was plowed for two of them but I do recall the other two vividly as they were quite unusual.  There was a family who lived down on Greasy Creek between us and Boone's Camp named Waller.  They were the stereotypical uneducated, mentally challenged, strong as an ox, tobacco chewing, moonshine drinking clan of men who together probably had a single digit IQ.

But the garden is where the "strong as an ox" part comes in.  One spring I can remember the oldest Waller boy (Lacey) and one of his brothers harnessed to the plow while my dad guided it and they plowed our whole garden this way.  I don't believe it was a turning plow as I don't think any two people are strong enough to do that.  Probably was a plow with a spade-shaped blade.  Still I think that was quite a feat of strength.  But, not the top one.  I recall one spring Lacey pulled the plow by himself.   I still find that somewhat amazing.

I would imagine we grew all the common vegetables there in that garden but we also grew our own pop corn and peanuts.  It made making pop corn a little different than it is now where mostly  you just toss a bag in the microwave and nuke it.

Then we had to wait until the corn was mature, pick it and put it up to dry.  Once it was dry and you wanted to make popcorn you would have to grab a bowl (or other container) and place it in your lap then take two of the dried ears of pop corn and rub them across each other to dislodge the kernels of corn into the bowl.  Once you had a sufficient quantity of corn it was time to go pop it.

Mother would put some kind of stool or something in front of the stove for me to stand on and then get out the big, cast iron skillet and put it on the burner.  I even got to light the gas burner.  Always light the match FIRST and THEN turn on the gas.  Then put about a tablespoon (or more) of bacon grease in the pan to heat.

When we deemed the grease was hot enough we'd drop a few kernels of corn into the skillet and wait for them to pop.  When they popped we knew the grease was at the right temperature and could dump the rest of the corn into the skillet.  Then it was HURRY and grab the old, white enameled lid and clap it on top of the skillet.  Use a dish rag (towel) to hold the handle of the skillet and constantly shake it back and forth at the corn popped.

Often the corn would pop so much it would lift the lid right off the skillet.  I can still see in my mind a picture of that old skillet with the white lid with steam or smoke or something coming out then the corn would raise the lid up.  When it had stopped popping we'd take it off the fire and put it in some kind of bowl.  That part I do not recall.  But I do recall it was the best tasting popcorn I've ever eaten.  Microwave will never replace using the corn kernels in a skillet with hot fat and popping your own.

There are many more Spring Know memories but they will have to wait for another time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Anyone who tells you they have no regrets is either a fool or a liar.  I've done quite a few things that, looking back with the advantage of hind sight, I regret having done.  On the flip side, with that 20-20 vision of hind sight, there are thing I did not do I wish I had done.  If we are at all honest with ourselves, we all have regrets.  And, the longer we live, the more regrets we have.

I have no intention of detailing my regrets here as that is not what this is about.  It is just about being human and making mistakes or being human and thinking we want something we really don't.  Or, just striving and falling short.

I have a friend I've known for a couple of decades who says she has no regrets.  She says she does not allow herself to have regrets.  I think she is full of $%^&.  You can try to hide from your feelings and you can try to suppress your feelings but they are there and eating their way through all your imaginary walls.  Sooner or later everybody has to face them.

I know my dad had regrets and I know he had a difficult time in dealing with them. I know I have regrets and I think I may have an easier time dealing with them as, besides me, there are less than a dozen people in this world I even remotely care what their opinion of me is.  The rest and just go do something anatomically impossible.

Why is today a day for regrets?  I don't know but it is foggy, damp and ugly outside today.  I cannot go outside my front door without hacking and gagging.  My chest hurts when taking a deep breath more than it has since I stopped smoking much more than a decade ago.  But, when one's body is acting up it makes one think of the past and the, possibly limited, future. 

Now I'm going to head to work since the sun has come out and I may be able to breathe.  Filled with pain pills so I can walk.  Don't ever let anyone lie to you.... getting old sucks.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Poor People Food

I grew up pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  We were not very well off with money so we ate a lot of "poor people food".  We raised a large vegetable garden every year.  We always had lots of tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, green onions and green beans.  Shame I did not care much for them in my younger days as I'd love the opportunity to have that kind of fresh food now.

I'm fond of telling people when I was growing up, "If we did not shoot it or raise it we did not eat it for the most part".  That is a small exaggeration but the majority of our food came from my mother's garden or the results of my father's days spent in the woods.  We would have bacon all the time (when we had electricity and a refrigerator) and a beef roast once in a while but the biggest source of animal protein was what my dad killed and brought home.   After about the age of ten I was able to supplement the larder with my own hunting results.  I was never much of a good hunter but I did love being out in the woods by myself.  Of course, I loved being anywhere my parents were not and being by myself.

We had quail, pheasant, grouse, rabbits, ground hogs, rabbits and squirrels.  The fowl portion of this list was quite a rare treat as was most everything except rabbits and squirrels.  Squirrel was the most prominent protein in my diet.  Well, except for bacon.  I loved bacon then and I love bacon now.  I could just about give up meat all together if it were not for bacon.

We would eat squirrel any time of day though my very favorite was for breakfast.   Cook some squirrels up and make gravy over them.  Have a big pan of hot, home made biscuits to sop up the gravy and it was heaven. 

There were a lot of hunters who would not skin out the squirrel heads as they are kind of tedious to clean but that was my very favorite part of the squirrel and my whole family (those who skinned them anyway) always took the trouble to skin out the heads.

Now, there is not much meat on a squirrel head but the amount there is happens to be the best of it all.  There was a little bite on each cheek and pull the bottom jaw off and grab the tongue.  That was great as well.  But the very best part was the brain.  If you put two fingers in the eye sockets and pulled p the whole top of the head would come off and leave the brain undamaged.  Just pop it out and slurp it down.   Some of the best eating in the world.

When we lived in West Van Lear (1961-1967) there was not much hunting opportunity so the only time we really got squirrel was when dad would catch the passenger train down to Patrick and walk from there to my grandparent's house.  Imagine that now!  Man getting on a train carrying a shotgun and two pistols.  My, how times have changed.

But he (or someone) would clean all the squirrels he killed and cut them up and put them in canning jars with salt water for him to bring home.  Even when we had them fresh my mother would generally soak them over night in salt water before cooking them.

I was never much of a good squirrel hunter.  But I generally could scare up a rabbit or two.  If  you get some young squirrels and young rabbits and fry them up together you really can't tell which one is which by the flavor.  Dredge in flour, a little salt and put in hot bacon grease.  Everything tastes better with bacon grease. 

We used it for frying and for seasoning vegetables.  I guess it was mostly beans.  Our kettles (I cannot get used to calling them pots) of beans always had a big hunk of bacon grease and a few strips of bacon in them.  Both green beans and pinto beans (soup beans) were treated this way.  And would have a big pone of cornbread (also made with bacon grease) to eat with them.  Cut up some green onions and have some killed lettuce.... It might kill  me now to eat that but I'd just about kill to get it.

In the Spring I'd go with my mother along the roads as she would look for wild greens to pick for us to eat.  I can't really remember any of them except for young polk.  (Poke Salad)  But I know there were several plants she'd add to her bag.  I did not like any of them as a kid though.   I was a carnivore and did not want anything much that was not meat of one kind or another.  I'd love to be able to try them again now with the way my tastes have changed.

When the garden crops started ripening enough where we could not eat it all fresh my mother and grandmother would spend days picking and canning them.  I got the privilege of chopping cabbage for kraut with a little hand chopper.  What fun.  But when winter came we'd have a cellar full of sauer kraut, tomatoes, pickled beans and various other things as well as a big bin of "Irish" potatoes.  It was pronounced "Arsh" potatoes.  Sometimes we'd have turnips and there were often cans of pickled beets.  Up on the wall of the building by the old bard the back was covered with nails and we'd gather all the mature onions and tie the stems together and hang them over those nails.

And, if you happened to raise hogs the morning after a "hog killing" was one of the best mornings of the year.  If you have not eaten pork that was not walking around the day before you have not really eaten pork.  Fresh tenderloin, chops and eggs with gravy and home made biscuits and home made jams and jellies and apple butter.  Some of the best eating in the world.

Then on Sunday we'd have a fried chicken or chicken and dumplings.  When we lived at Nat's Creek it was kill your own chicken and when that one big, red rooster got turned into chicken and dumplings I was happy as a lark.  I hated that thing.  I was afraid to go out of the house if he was in sight.  When we lived in West Van Lear my dad would give me a dollar to go to Vic Conley's grocery and buy a chicken that cost no more than that.  I'd bring it back and my mother would cut it up and fry it in a big, cast iron skillet.  Best chicken in the world is simple flour dredge in bacon grease and a cast iron skillet.

Fried chicken, greens, garden vegetables and things you kill to toss in the pot.  I see most of the time you find this any more  it is called "Soul Food".  But to me it does not matter what your skin color is that was just "Poor People Food".  I guess mostly poor Southern people but still.  When you did not have a lot of money you ate what would fill your belly be you white, black or purple with yellow polkadots.   Poor people all ate the same things all over the world.  Now, what we ate out of necessity is the kind of food people pay a premium price to have in a restaurant. 

There a lot more memories for me associated with food I had while growing up but I've gone on long enough for today.  I'll delve more deeply into this subject at some later time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Life and the Written Word

My daughter, Heather, posted a quote from a book she was reading on Facebook about books and what a gift they are.  It made me think about the role books and other pieces of written words played in my life and still does.

I laways say a book is a doorway and when you open it you can go anywhere in space and time.  You can experience any culture, past or present.  You can be at the siege of Troy with Odysseus or at the very end of time with Poul Anderson.  You can delve into knowledge past and present and theories on what tomorrow will be like.

You can be a detective, a spy, a scientist, a reporter, a priest or anything at all in a book.  Of all mankind's achievements language and the written word have to be the greatest of all.  On a purely practical level it allows one generation to pass accumulated learning to the next so they don't have to follow all those tedious intermediate steps.  It passes on what was learned before and it allows those with vision to speculate about what will come in the future.  Some of those speculations are wonderful and some are not as are all the possibilities of humanity.

We may go on to conquer space and time and spread humanity among the stars or we may simply blow ourselves up in a cataclysmic nuclear war.  Or, perhaps, nature herself will take care of us with a massive comet or asteroid with our name on it.   Books can take us there, there to all these places and times.  I can't imagine a world without books and without the written word.  Stories of the past, today, the possibilities of the future.  The drama, the comedies, the tragedies and the pedestrian and hum drum of every day life.

And that is just prose.  We have not yet even thought of poetry.  It is odd how one can say in a poem things that are so much more powerful and meaningful than the same ideas could be expressed in prose.  Prose is a language of pictures of reality while poetry is a language of dreams and ideas about how things were, are, should be, might be, will never be but things, none the less, we feel inside us somewhere prose will never touch.

I cannot imagine a world without books for it would be a cruel and barren place and one in which I would not care to exist. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Spring Knob Tower

We moved from the house on Stafford to Spring Knob Forestry Tower when I was about four.  I think this was the only job I ever knew my dad to have.  He stayed up in the tower all day looking for smoke from forest fires so he could call them in.

We lived there until September of 1961 when we moved to West Van Lear.  I was seven going on eight when that happened so we must have been at Spring Know for about three years more or less.  When one is young those years last forever and now they just fly past.  I have so many memories of life at Spring Knob I know I'll miss many of them and have to revisit that period of my life many times.

The tower sat on the highest point of Spring Knob with the log cabin where we lived down below it a ways.  The house was in Johnson County and across the road (front yard as well) was our garden and it was in Martin County.  One one side was the house then there was the road then a small raised area with trees and then the garden on the down slope.  The road wound around the hill and made a large "C" shape surrounding the garden before continuing on down and around the hill past "Jim Crow" Crum's house and "Old man" Crum's house and then past the last house in that area and I forget the name of the people who lived in it and that is just due to senility as I should remember it well.

I don't even know where to begin with memories of Spring Knob.  There are so many of so many different kinds it is hard to voice them in any coherent way.  So, since I can't string the memories in a coherent manner I guess I'll just do episodic ones as I think about them. 

Spring Know tower sat four and one tenth miles our a dirt road from Route 40.  This was the black top road between Inez and Paintsville.  I know this as my dad always would say that.  It impressed itself on my memory.   If one went down the hill past Old Man Crum's house he'd go down Greasy Creek to Boonescamp where Walter's store was.  That is where we always got our groceries.  The building is still there though Walters is long gone.

Greasy Creek and Boonescamp were named by, or for, Daniel Boone.  On one of his long hunts they camped there and it was said they killed so  much game the sides of the trees got greasy from hauling it out.  Ergo, Greasy Creek.

Sometime you should read up on Boone.  He was over forty years old before he first stepped foot in Kentucky.  Despite the Fess Parker image he was a small man about five feet two inches in height.  But, he did giant deeds in and around Kentucky. 

The house was a log cabin with mud chinking between the logs.  I know as I used to pick it out as it was pretty crumbly.  Standing on the dirt road (which was our front yard as well) and looking at the house there was a front porch running the length of the house with the front door about in the middle.

When one went in the front door, on the left was the kitchen with the stove first thing and the table down towards the other end of the room.  There was no refrigerator as we had no electricity there.  Straight ahead in the main room was the bed where my mother and I slept.  To the right was the couch where my older brother slept and against the far wall was the fold up bed where my dad slept.  Directly above it was a window.  On the right wall was a large fire place which we used as our sole means of keeping warm in the winter.

Beyond the bed was a doorway to another smaller bedroom and a back porch built out over the hill.  I can remember at times sleeping in that room.  My clearest memory of sleeping in that room was pretending to be sick so my mother would kill a chicken and make me some chicken broth.  I dearly loved chicken broth.  Loved chicken as well and chicken and dumplings.  But, most of all it was chicken broth.

Still standing outside looking at the house to the right the road continued a short way and wound around the small rise where the tower sat.  That was where our car was always parked.  To that side of the house was the well and a small out building with a fenced in area.  Beside he fence was a table where my mother would put tomatoes to ripen in the sun.  I have a picture of me sitting on that table somewhere.

Then on the highest point was the tower.  It was one hundred feet to the tip, top of it.  Man, when you were up in it and the wind was blowing you could feel it sway.  It always scared me but my Dad stayed up there in storms with high winds and lightening.  I don't know if I would have.  After all when the rain is pouring down what are the chances of spotting a forest fire? 

I can remember my mother getting me out of bed before daylight and taking me up the tower to just below the cabin on top and we'd sit there and watch the sun rise up over the hills.  The valleys were all filled with fog like a vast, white ocean with little green islands sticking up where the tops of the hills were. 

Crum's house.  Here about eighteen years ago my brother, nephew and I want out there.  I remembered every turn of the old dirt road though it had been over thirty years since I'd been over it. 

There are houses all out that way now and most, if not all, of the road is black topped.  Everything changes and the only place the "used to be" lives on is in the memories of those who lived those times.  In my mind it is still a real place even though the bulldozers pushed it over the hill years and years ago. 

Monday, January 9, 2012


There is a book my elder and I are both reading about a girl growing up in the Southern Baptist church in Eastern Ky.  One of her stories involved music by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  Great group.  I loved them.  Maybe a little to progressive for their time but they had some super lyrics.

Either way, it got me to thinking about music and life and realizing (once again) how much my life relates to certain songs and the memories attached to them.  Some are "anthems" and some are just music I love.  But, be warned, I'm not a happy person and my music is not happy.  There are a lot of reasons for this and I'm not going into them here and probably never.  But, I'll list some and make explanations where I can.

I guess the first "Anthem" song was "Behind Blue Eyes" by The Who.  "And my dreams are not as empty as my conscience seems to be..."  I lived/loved that song.  Then there was Bob Seger with "Running Against the Wind".  I'm not going to explain the meaning of the term so look it up.  It has to do with sailing.  But, the lines, "I'm older now but still running against the wind" speak to me,

Who can forget Nazareth with "Love Hurts"?  "Some fools fool themselves I guess, They're not fooling me"    Well worth a listen or two.

I've always lived and loved music and it is one of the great regrets in my life I am unable to play an instrument or carry a tune.  I can't play and I can't sing but I dearly love music and I love the poets who touch my life and set it to a tune.

From the time I was around ten and my brother bought me my first 9volt transistor radio, I've loved and lived the music of my time.   Though lately, I find myself more and more loving and listening to music of my past.  I know not all music means the same thing to different people as we've all had different experiences.

How may of you can relate to Kris Kristoffersen's "Epitaph:Black and Blue"?  It is a very simple tune.  I recently found out it was written about Janis Joplin but I did not care.  Something in it spoke to me and still does.  I really love Kris K's music.  See "Sunday Morning Coming Down", "Jesus Was a Capricorn", "Loving Her Was Easier Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again", "Late Again" and so many others.  Makes you feel he's lived your life already and you're just stuck in  a rut and going to end up in the same place no matter.

Music, and music is just poetry with instruments, infiltrates into our very being and has such a hold on us that any certain tune can bring back memories, feelings, longings.  Music is like a time machine.  To the young it takes us to the future and to the young it takes us to the past.

I'm constantly working on my "funeral music" as I do not want any kind of preacher getting up and spouting lies about me or marginalizing my death by preaching a hellfire and damnation sermon then having an alter call. (Yes, happened at my wife's father's funeral).  I just want about 30 minutes of music that has meaning to me.  Everyone else can guess and gossip (some of my family's favorite sports) about it. 

I may just create a DVD of some of the music that has special meaning in my life.  Problem is I don't know if I can cut it to 30 minutes.  Oh well.  :-)  Maybe I'll figure it out and maybe I won't.  In the end it is just so much noise.  All we leave behind us is the memories of those who have known us and those are so subjective it does not make a real difference.    However music is eternal and music can tell us more about another person when we listen to it than they might tell  us themselves.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Beatles

I've really not spoken about music though it is one of the greatest influences and loves of my life.  I have no musical talent at all so I can't play or sing and maybe that is why I love music so much.  And, the instruments and melody are fine but it is the words that speak to me.

I've been sitting here this evening going through The Beatles on You Tube.  I don't think anyone who is very much younger than I can conceive what a change the Beatles wrought on the world of popular American music.

They were the point company in the British Invasion of the 60's.  They played their own music but they also played a lot of black music.  Lots of the early rock & rollers played "black" music that would otherwise not have had air time on "white" radio.  So many of the groups in the late 50s and early 60s were heavily influenced by black rock and roll and black gospel.  Times were so bad then it took white groups covering songs black artists originated to get them played on the radio.  This is very much pre MTV.

When I was a  pre-teen I had a radio my brother bought for me and I'd carry it everywhere listening to the music.  When I was a teen I would lie in bed listening to the music.  Every week I'd buy a "Hit Parade" magazine and memorize the lyrics to every top 40 song. 

At the time I had no idea about what songs were by black groups and what songs were by white.  I always thought the group, "Chicago" was black and Doby Grey (RIP) was white and I was wrong in both cases.  But music in those ages taught me a lot of lessons.  I guess one never knows where the lessons are coming from and what will impact one in later years.

Like "Brother Louie"..

"She was black as the night,
Louie was whiter than white
There's a danger when you taste brown sugar
Louie fell in love overnight"

"Living in the Love of the Common People"

"Have You Seen Her"

So many, many others.  No real idea who was black or white, just what the music said to me.  The injustices, the stupidities, the way people acted that so contradicted their words.  Music has always been both a refuge and a revolution for me. 

I guess that is one reason instead of a conventional funeral when I die I want some very special songs played.  I imagine no one else will understand what they mean to me but that really does not matter.  Not as long as it makes someone think, makes some one wonder, makes one look inside and take the tinted glasses off and really sees what is there.

I wish I had the gift of music.  I'd love to be able to put down in words the things I've felt throughout my life and sing them "in tune".  People have told me I should write a book.  Perhaps that is true but the most of it would be considered porn in most states.    Once that might have been lucrative but now there is so much free stuff on the Internet no one bothers to read porn any more.  Just one more nail in our coffin of illiteracy.

Now it is time for me to try to get to sleep before my latest pain pills have worn off.  I just cannot imagine what it must have been like to have to go through this back in history before all of our pain concoctions were invented.  Vive la medicine.  :-)

There was one song recorded by TG Sheppard I think I have to put on my funeral play list. :-)

"I've known some painted ladies
who sparkled in the night,
Country girls who loved a lover's moon.
Some that I never knew
Even though I wanted to
Some I only met once in a room.
Some said they liked my style
Others of them stayed a while
Others left me on the run"

Music... It has to be the greatest gift one group of humans can pass on to another.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Food and Stuff

I have been thinking of foods I grew up eating and wishing I could be some place where it was available to me.  Heck, I would not mind cooking it if I could get the ingredients.  I guess these days it would be called comfort food by some and just plain weird by others.  But there are some things you just cannot understand until you've tried them.

First on my list is "red eye gravy".  I've read different descriptions of what it is over the years but what it was when I was growing up was my Granny would fry ham in a cast iron skillet.  The ham would stick to the skillet and leave lots of ham grease and little bits of ham when you took it out.  Then you put in a little water (deglazing according to the cooking shows) and used a spatula (or spoon) and scraped off all the ham bits and mixed it up with the ham grease until it boiled down (reduced for you modern people).  That was red eye gravy.

You'd chop up your eggs, put regular "milk" gravy over it.  Pull apart the ham and mix it all up then you'd take a tablespoon and spoon the red eye gravy over top.  Yummmmmmm.

Next is chicken and dumplings.  I've searched over the Internet and cannot find anyone who has a recipe made the way it was made by my mother and grandmother.  First of all you need a FAT hen.  Not a fryer.  But a big, fat hen (or a troublesome rooster if you have one.  Just so long as it is fat).  Fat is the key to good chicken and dumplings.  First you kill the chicken.  My Granny would wring the chicken's neck.  My mother never could do that so she'd grab the chicken by the feet and fling it's head across the chopping block and swing the axe... Same result.  Eventually the chicken would realize it was dead and stop flopping about.

Pull off all the feathers and singe the little hairs (or pin feathers.. or whatever) with lit kitchen matches then cut up the bird and put in in a big kettle.  My wife laughs at me for referring to a "pot" as a kettle but when and where I grew up a pot was what went under the bed for night time use and a kettle was what you cooked in.  Now, if you were lucky and got a laying hen you were in for an even bigger treat as you could have the egg bag (womb I guess) to eat after it was cooked and before you put the dumplings in.

So, cut up the chicken and put in in a kettle of water and bring it to a boil and cook it partially covered until it was tender.  Meanwhile make the dumplings.  As I recall there was no difference between biscuit dough and dumpling dough.  You just rolled the dough out and used a biscuit cutter like my mom or you just left it in a big lump and made "pinch" biscuits lime my Granny.  You could roll out the dumplings, cut then in strips, then into small pieces or you could just pinch off little dabs and drop them in the kettle.

When the chicken was completely cooked you take it out of the kettle and put it in a bowl.  Then you'd drop the dumplings into the boiling broth a few at a time so it would stay boiling.  Oh, did I say you left the skin on the chicken?  Chicken and dumplings is about fat and not about healthy eating.  The more fat the better so do not strip the skin off the chicken. 

Ideally there should be enough flour on the dumplings to thicken the broth into a gravy but if not you can add a little more.  Once all the dumplings are in you can pull all the meat off the bones of the chicken and dump that back in the kettle and stir it regularly while it boils to keep if from sticking and burning.

If you were lucky enough to get an egg bag you never got a chance to put it back in the dumplings as this was the best part of the chicken and it was barely allowed to get done before someone was fishing it out of the kettle and setting in to eating it.  A good egg bag would have eggs from those in a shell ready to be laid to those no larger than the head of a pin.  Best eggs you'd ever eat as well.

Now, you would make enough dough for dumplings as well as for biscuits as there is nothing better than hot chicken and dumplings with hot biscuits to sop up the gravy with.   I'd just about kill for a good kettle of chicken and dumplings and home made biscuits right now.

The last item I'll talk about is squirrels.  We ate a lot of squirrels growing up but my favorites were when we had it for breakfast.  Almost like chicken and dumplings except there were no dumplings.  Just cook the squirrel, add a little flour for thickening and make a big pan of biscuits.  Suck the meat of the those little squirrel bones, sop up the gravy with the biscuits and then my favorite part... the heads.  The heads did not have a lot of meat on them but it was the best.  A little dab of cheek meat off each side.  Then pull off the lower jaw and take out the tongue and eat it.  Then put two fingers in the eye sockets and pull back the top of the skull and either pry out the brain or just suck it out.  Best part of a squirrel is the brains.

Funny, as much as I love squirrel brains I won't eat any other kind.  Odd the little finicky habits we end up with.