Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Growing up with an Outdoor Family

*** This is what I was going to submit for the November issue of The Corridor but decided there is too much about me and not enough about food.  So, instead of dumping it completely I thought I'd put it here and see if anyone would enjoy it.*** **** Please note that it has not been to my "editor" so I'm sure it is atrocious, over look that and enjoy the random rambling stories of my childhood***
Outdoor Family
            Granddaughter of Eugene and Susie Davenport, founders of Davenport’s Archery, the oldest hunting store in Oklahoma, you would expect that I grew up in the outdoors, and you’d be right.  I spent summer vacations at the lake with family and friends and fall breaks and Thanksgiving holidays were spent hunting close to home or in deer camp with my dad.  My high school graduation gift from my mom and dad was an elk hunting trip to Colorado mountains.  My 16th birthday I received my lifetime hunting license and for graduation my very first hunting pistol was given to me by my grandparents.  I remember a couple birthdays and Christmas’ where I would get a new hunting rifle, hunting dog, or hunting clothes.  I was not the typical “girl”, I was most defiantly a daddy’s girl.  Even now I call my daddy when I need help hanging a tree stand or want to go fishing. 
Food just tastes better when you’re enjoying it in the outdoors.  My family would mostly cook on a two burner Coleman stove out on a picnic table although sometimes we’d have a small bon fire to roast hotdogs and marshmallows and occasionally we’d light up the stove in the travel trailer and do a little cooking, but that was saved for when the weather was cooler and early morning coffee.  Every morning started with my dad heating water in a baby blue kettle that whistled when it was hot enough for his instant coffee to dissolve.  Dad does not function well until he gets that first cup down, and it went in the boat with him or to the tree stand in an old beat up silver  thermos.  He is the reason I have grown to love coffee, although I do remember when I was too young to drink coffee, he would pack hot chocolate for me to drink to warm up after a cold few hours in a tree stand or if we remember to pack it, I would get my own little thermos to take to my hunting blind with me.  
My mom is a pretty good cook and could make just about anything taste good.  One of my favorite camping meals she would serve was breakfast, crispy bacon, fried eggs, biscuits and jelly….Dad and I would get up before the sun and go out fishing for a few hours and when we would come back mom would almost always have breakfast started or done for us.   You could smell the bacon frying before you could see camp.  We loved “whomp’m biscuits” or canned biscuits, and it has to be the cheap ones.  She would use a heavy cast iron skillet, a requirement for all camp cooking, and smash them out flat like pancakes and fry them until they were brown on both sides and serve them with butter and syrup or grape jelly.  She would also drop them into a deep pan of cooking oil and fry them like a donut and again served with butter and syrup or grape jelly.  She defiantly spoiled our family with good, fattening cooking! 
It was a treat when several of the families would get together and share a meal at the lake.  Not too long ago I went to Lake Texoma for a night with my dad and grandparents and my grandma’s brothers and their wives, things are a bit different now days.  When I was younger we had worn out travel trailers or slept in tents, but now that everyone is older and a little more financially stable, things have been stepped up.  My grandparents have a small but nice motor home while everyone else had fancy goose neck travel trailers with really nice kitchen areas.  We were all camped next to each other and had spent the afternoon out fishing for striper, I, of course, caught the biggest one, and harassed my uncles about getting beat by a girl but it was all in fun.  After we cleaned them and handed them off to one of my aunts, the ladies of camp got busy cooking while the gentlemen took a nap.  When it all came together we had a feast!  Fried striper, hushpuppies, fried potatoes, and  Aunt Trish’s famous baked beans, were just a few of the things offered up for the group of 9 hungry outdoor adventurers.
Yes, I mentioned cleaning the fish.  Something my dad taught me when I was very young along with deer.  If you’re going to kill it you’re going to clean it.  He cleaned my first deer for me, when I was 10, to show me how and every deer after that I’ve had to do myself, with his assistance of course.  I was not raised in a wealthy family and for the most part did not have the advantage of taking our game to a processor.  It was always all hands on deck cutting and bagging our kill for the freezer and venison was what we consumed the most of to save money on groceries.  Mom would take the back strap or tender loin and bread it and fry it and serve it with mashed potatoes and gravy or the ground venison would be turned into the chili or stew. 
Britches Ryerson grew up helping his dad process deer for folks around The Corridor area and has tons of experience making the delightful treat we all know as summer sausage.  Summer sausage is a type of sausage that can usually be kept without refrigeration and in these parts it is usually made with 100% ground venison and cured via smoking with a healthy dose of seasonings.    Ryerson said last winter he made three thousand pounds of summer sausage out of venison for friends and family.  He is well now, especially in the Prague area, for his summer sausage recipe and like most specialty foods, he keeps a pretty tight lid on the recipe.  He has also been know to barter goods or labor for his summer sausage!  Deer jerky is another favorite among hunters and their friends and family.  Thinly sliced venison seasoned or marinated and then dehydrated makes a great treat that many kill for.  When I worked at Davenport’s Archery we had a customer from Sasakawa, Buddy Womack, who made the best jerky you can imagine.  He would bring us each a zip lock bag and you better hide it because if not it would disappear fast!
My birthday is in June and when I was younger my birthday as almost always spent at the lake or the pond behind our house with tons of family.  We did not have money for elaborate celebrations or cakes but mom would always pickup my favorite Pepperidge farm coconut cake and serve it.  Occasionally my sister will get one for my birthday now that I’m older, and when we sit down to eat it many birthday memories rush to the surface.  I would not trade those family trips for the biggest birthday bash in history.  The time spent riding bikes around the camp grounds, hunting for that deer your family member shot and enjoying love and laughter around the picnic table will forever be cherished.

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