|Wonderful town in picturesque place: Sundance WY|
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
The homemade bread trumped the hunting of deer
Hunting seemed more embedded in our culture when I was growing up. We filled our obligation, the male members anyway. The NRA would be proud. So would Yosemite Sam.
Mitt Romney talked about how he once "hunted varmints." That sure conjures up visions of Yosemite Sam. It was clever by Romney. Pesky reporters wouldn't be able to prove or disprove anything by looking up hunting license records. You don't need a license to go after varmints.
My father and I made trips west to hunt deer in the Sundance, Wyoming, area. A family friend from Brainerd joined us. The same ranch hosted us each year. The scenery out there was stunning for someone accustomed to the prairie. Not that the prairie doesn't have its own wonderment.
I had always seen pictures of mule deer in magazines like Outdoor Life. We don't have these deer on the prairie but they're quite common out by Sundance. They don't look that much different from our whitetail deer. Unlike whitetails they hold their tails down when running. Simply seeing such wildlife was its own reward.
Traveling in and of itself was rewarding. We made a wrong turn once and got to see Devil's Tower. This was before the fame it gained in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
We must have been on the road on a Friday night once because I remember seeing the glow of lights at football fields. Every little town had its own high school football team then (the 1960s). Here in the Morris area we had the Herman Panthers, Graceville Shamrocks and Appleton Aces among many others.
I'll never forget the host family at the ranch where we hunted. The man got us out to our hunting stations in the morning. He was a graduate of some sort of military academy. I remember that because one year he had an old classmate visiting and they sat down with great delight paging through their yearbook. It made me wonder if I'd be better off having attended such a school.
I didn't talk much with the man but I definitely got to know the mother. They had a son who was close to my age. Their last name was Frolander. Several years after our hunting experiences ended, I sent Mrs. Frolander a postcard from Europe and she answered. Hunting didn't cross my mind. She said she had always wanted to see the Holy Land. I hope she did.
Besides being wonderful people, I have the most distinct memory of her homemade bread. That bread was on the corner of my thoughts during the entire trip west. Any homemade bread is good but Mrs. Frolander's was unique. Maybe if I'm fortunate enough to go to heaven, I can have some again. It won't be the first thing I'll do if allowed to check in there. I'm already obligated through my online writing to look up Willie Martin and Del Holdgrafer and perhaps others. Hey, I can share the bread with them!
Some of the other hunters who were guests at the ranch really seemed to savor a regional product: Coors beer. The distribution of that product was more limited then. Coors had a mystique, I learned. Empty Coors cans gave a backdrop for our experience, a dubious one. Not only was hunting more embedded in our culture then, drinking was too. Much more appealing was the backdrop of that wondrous nature and the topography so different from western Minnesota. In hindsight, hunting really just gave us an excuse to have this wonderfully exotic experience.
I of course was too young to sample any beer. When I eventually got old enough to do that, I couldn't have told the difference between brands anyway. A big deal was made of Olympia beer coming to Minnesota. Big deal.
Getting a deer wasn't much of a challenge in our trips. I never got a "trophy." The NRA would have approved of how I filled my obligations. Yosemite Sam too. The NRA wasn't so political back then. I remember it as a reasonable organization that promoted the safe use of firearms. I guess that made too much sense. Today it wants armed guards at all our schools. What could go wrong, right? More people with guns - that's the answer, or so they say.
I used a Remington 30/06 bolt action rifle with a Redfield scope. We got our guns "sighted in" at the Morris rifle range out by the golf course (across the railroad tracks).
Here in western Minnesota you could only use a shotgun with "slugs." It was OK to use a rifle up north.
We also hunted in the vast north woods of Minnesota. As with Wyoming the surroundings seemed a world away from the western Minnesota prairie. Getting a deer in the north woods was much harder than in Wyoming. To be honest I never got one there. But as with Wyoming, the non-hunting related memories seem so much richer anyway. Like, hearing that primitive call of a "raven" (like a giant crow) as it glided over the forest top. I remember a little store/lounge in the middle of nowhere that had lots of literature available on the independent presidential candidacy of George Wallace. Punch the right number and letter on the jukebox there, and you could hear Lorne Greene narrate "Ringo."
I was awed by the seemingly endless forest.
Hunting is a closed chapter in our life now. Mrs. Frolander's bread ranks higher in my memories than any pursuit of deer. It also reminds of a time when women were more likely to specialize as "homemakers" and made bread from scratch. I suspect many older people like me relish memories of when such fare was more common.
Such memories are included in the book "Remember - No Electricity!" by the wonderful Maurice Faust of Pierz. Faust is a little like Del Holdgrafer in that he's a homespun artist. He has as much talent as anyone. But his "fame" will be limited. Let's put Doug Rasmusson in the same category. Holdgrafer and Rasmusson have moved on to the next life. I don't know about Faust; his book is copyrighted 1998. I will quote from Faust's book as the closing portion of this post. Close your eyes and imagine fresh-baked bread nearby. Please, if you ever see his writing for sale somewhere, buy it. His reminiscences center on the 1930s and 1940s.
Here we go:
"Making good bread was an art form but, I believe also took a certain amount of luck. Unlike today when a dial is set for the desired temperature, in those days it took the skill of the housewife to fire the stove for the correct baking temperature. The kind of wood used, the outside temperature, the wind for proper draft all had a bearing on the output of the cook stove. Too hot meant burned bread, too cold made for small doughy loaves.
"No batch of bread was ever a complete failure - if the bottom was black it would be sliced off and given to the animals. If not raised properly it would be sliced and served in its deflated form. Fresh cream, homemade jam, sweet cream butter, or egg bread, all made even the poorest home baked bread seem like cake compared to store-bought. A batch of bread that flopped, which seldom happened, was almost always blamed on the yeast or the flour.
"Bread baked in our home in midweek was usually just plain loaves, but on Saturday Mama pulled out all the stops. Raisin loaf, plain buns, buns baked in a bed of caramel, cinnamon rolls, or a loaf of cinnamon-sugar combination were usually part of the weekend fare. It is amazing what the ladies in those days could produce in their kitchen without any modern conveniences."
(end of quoted material)
Let's remember the simple genius and ingenuity of our ancestors. High tech is no panacea.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org