“You Got to Learn Them To Eat.”


He adjusted his cowboy hat as he entered the shop.  Beautifully dark skin and an easy smile shone from his slight frame.  He had come in to see the medicines.  A bit reminiscent, he was.  His grandmother was half Cherokee and she knew all the remedies and how to doctor up everyone on her place in Oklahoma.

I am not sure how we got from plants to homesteading but it was a seamless jump and his stories filled me with wonder.  He is about the same age as my friend, Rod, who was there making his jewelry and he came over to join the conversation.  Soon, I was quiet, a child, listening to tales and bits of wisdom I had yet to learn.

They grew a lot of food.  They grew corn for the pigs.  Good corn.  The cowboy talked of catching ‘coons and how good of eating they were.  A bit like bear.  Rod talked of hunting rabbits.  Nothing was wasted.  “You got to learn them to eat,” the cowboy’s grandmother said.  “They might look at you and wonder how you eat that but they are sitting there not eating.”  He told this as he explained how to use a sling shot to kill pigeons.  They are little but you just take the feathers off, and cook ’em.  They are good with dumplings.  They taste like chicken.  “Everything tastes like chicken!” Rod joked and added to the recollections.

Growing up in the seventies and eighties in the city there wasn’t much chance to “learn to eat”.  Sure, I learned to cook.  I learned thrift and such but everything we had came from the store.  Who knows what folks would have thought of us if we were out getting birds.  Or raccoons.  And I am pretty sure my mother would have avoided that like the plague.  She may never have learned to eat either!

But I think of that.  I have been writing a “how to homestead” blog for over three years now.  Almost a reenactment though.  This is how to homestead, as I eat a piece of veggie chick’n (which is quite good actually).  We had a hard time putting a hit on our roosters.  But, Doug and I were not brought up to hunt or feed our families.  Not many of the kids I know were.  I suppose if we were in dire straits, we may learn real quick, but as of right now the thought of my sheep from last summer in someone’s freezer brings me great sadness.

But I listened intently.  I am fascinated with all of the wisdom that was lost in such a short time.  The things I never learned, but I pay attention.  Doug and I hope to buy a place to homestead next year and even if we never use a sling shot to kill pigeons or if we end up with a pet raccoon instead of dinner, at least I will know how things were.  And one day we may need to learn our grandchildren to eat.