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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Creeks and Crawdads

My elder daughter posted on Facebook today about one's favorite thing to do when age ten.  Being that was somewhat over fifty years ago I had do to pause and consider.  But, first, let me tell you something about my world at age ten.

That would have been the year of 1964.  I know I was in the fourth grade for the '63 - '64 school year as I can clearly recall sitting in the sun on the porch in front of Mrs Hazelett's fourth grade school room and thinking about President Kennedy's assassination in November of '63.

Other than being historically significant with the assassination it was a watershed year for me as well for, as I recall, that was the year I made the acquaintance of three men who were to be a great influence in my life from there on out.

They were Isaac Isamov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein. In case you are not familiar with those names they are three of the greatest luminaries from the golden age of Science Fiction.  Plus all were scientists themselves as well as being writers.  I suppose Asimov was the most prominent as he was assuredly the most prolific.

By the time I reached the fourth grade I was reading at an adult level.  And I was a voracious reader.  It was not just that I loved to read it was that I was also pretty much ostracized from the social activities of my peers at school and not allowed to "associate" with them when not in school.  One of my parent's few shared beliefs was anyone whom I were to associate with would be a bad influence on "their little angel".  So, books had quickly become my best and, mostly, only friends.

But, when I was not in school and did not have access to the book-mobile my reading material was pretty limited.  But, during the summer and and on many weekends my dad and I would catch the passenger train at West Van Lear and ride down to the Patrick station.  From there we'd walk up the creek and across the gap to the Nat's Creek side and follow the foot path to my grandparent's house.  I don't think my dad bought me my own shotgun and took me squirrel hunting until the next year.  So, my most common past time was playing in the creek down in front of grandparent's house.

It was not a large stream but it seemed pretty big to me.  I guess the deepest part was about mid shin on me at that point in time.  The part right in front of my grandparent's house was the deepest and slowest flowing and it had a sandy bottom.  But just above and below that were rocky shallows where there were crawdads under almost every rock of any size.

So that is what I responded to her Facebook with as my favorite activity when I was ten.  Playing in the creek and catching crawdads.  Or crayfish if you prefer.  They will always just be crawdads to me.

Being a long way from the bayous we never thought at all about eating them but they did make really good fish baits.  Bass would "tear up" the whole ones and most any fish would bite on a peeled tail.  Maybe we should have taken a note of what the fish ate and tried them ourselves.  I know I was certainly hungry enough all the time in those days where I'd have tried almost anything anyone put in front of me.  Well, except vegetable.  Was never much for vegetables when I was a kid.

That creek is wildly different now though.  It seems much smaller than in memory and the strip mines dumped so much sand/silt in it all the fish, minnows and , probably, crawdads died out.  In the years after the strip mines left it has been recovering though.  A lot of the sand has washed out and the life is returning though it is mostly overgrown as people no longer use it for a road.

Yep, I reckon at age ten playing in that creek and catching crawdads would have to rate as my favorite thing.  Unless I had a good book.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pie Crust and Oddly Shaped Biscuits

These two things may not seem to have much in common but they were both a part of my childhood I look back on with fondness.  See, when I was growing up it was back in the time when all moms were "stay at home" and all moms cooked three meals every day.  Plus assorted baking and all the household chores.

From the time I can really remember until my late teens I helped my mother with cooking a lot.  Two of my favorite treats from those times were the baked trimmings from the "made from scratch" pie crusts she made and the oddly shaped portions of biscuit dough after the biscuits were cut out.

Mother would put the pie crust trimmings in a separate pan and bake them in the oven until they were nice and brown.  I think I liked those almost as much as the pies themselves.  Same with biscuits.  Mother made "scratch" biscuits every morning and used an old jelly glass to cut out the biscuits.  As for the jelly glass that was what the biggest part of our "water" glasses were.  Mother never had a real set of drinking glasses.  We just made use of what we had.

But cutting out the biscuits this way left little strings of dough between the holes from cutting out the "real" biscuits.  Mother would group these at the end of the pan and those are what I'd eat at breakfast while mother and dad ate the regular biscuits.

I guess the reason I liked those "left over" biscuits was the greater crust to biscuit ration.  Plus they were smaller and got done quicker so they were browner than the larger biscuits.  That was the good part.  One of my (many) faults with the biscuits I get when eating out these days is they are never browned enough.  And, let me tell you this, butter on top will never brown a biscuit the way bacon drippings (grease) will.  Nor will the biscuit taste as good.

In the years between my marriages I did, on rare occasion, make both biscuits and pies from "scratch".  Mostly my biscuits were pretty good and so were my pie crusts.  Now, the "whop" biscuits (store bought in a cardboard tube.  Whop comes from a Jerry Clower comedy routine.) and refrigerated pie crusts have become so good we never bother to do it the right way.

Nothing spectacular or important about it but those two things are something from my childhood I recall with fondness.