Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

September 5, 2012

Graves: A problem with communication

Dan Graves
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Some time ago, a friend related a story about his grandparents who, after a period of city life, decided to return to the country and again become somewhat self sufficient.

They moved into a house on 10 acres with no running water or electricity. Water came from a hand-pumped well and light emanated from oil lamps. Although his grandmother was blind, she tended a garden by feel and cooked over a wood burning stove while his grandfather tended to the livestock and other chores around the small spread.

Once a year, the back seat was removed from their old Desoto and a calf was hauled to the farm to be fed for the coming winter. Hams and sides of bacon were salted and hung from wires in the smokehouse while perishables such as fruits and vegetables were canned and stored. A small flock of chickens supplied eggs and Sunday dinners. Hunting and fishing was not so much for sport as it was for furnishing needed supplements to their diet in the form of venison, waterfowl, rabbit, squirrel, and fresh fish.

With past experience, his grandparents re-adapted easily to self-sufficiency.

But what of those people whose only exposure to such a lifestyle has come from watching the Sportsman channel, Swamp People, or Duck Dynasty on TV? Could city slickers survive if they were required to adapt to such a life or would they perish like a snake on an interstate highway? For an answer, it would be interesting if a city dweller were to ask questions of someone of that rare breed of a past that is fading into history.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest obstacles might be the language barrier that exists between today's generation and yesterday's. Since food would be the main topic, the following conversation might serve to enlighten those who consider trading frozen TV dinners for venison steaks.

"You either grew or hunted your food, didn't you?"

"Yup."

"Did you feel you were getting all your nutritional requirements while controlling your fat and cholesterol  and at the same time avoiding intake of harmful carcinogenic food preservation compounds?"

(Blank stare from the old timer as he watches the question asker, as if green tendrils might suddenly sprout from his forehead).

"Let me re-phrase the question. You're 100-years-old, aren't you?"

"Yup."

"Previous question answered. Now, let's get down to the matter of food preparation. Tell me, how do you dress a deer or beef?"

After another blank stare, the old timer would probably answer, "Depends on the day of the week. Ketch 'em durin' the week or on Saturday and they kinda wants to dress casual. Ketch 'em on Sunday and they likes starched collars and a bow tie. If it's wet, put galoshes on 'em to keep mud out from between their toes.Ó

"No, I mean how do you clean them Ñ get them ready to eat?"

(By this time the old man's hand would probably be inching toward his cane for protection).

"Ain't easy. Put 'em in a tub and give 'em a good scrubbing. Wouldn't do no good, though. They'd just get out and get dirty all over again unless it's on Sunday mornin'. They hate to get them starched collars dirty. Besides, they don't care how dirty they get afore eatin'."

"No, no, I want to know how you make them into steaks and other forms of edibles."

"Why'nt you say that in the first place? You sure was talkin' crazy about dressin' 'em  and giving 'em a bath. First, you gotta make 'em dead. Best way is to take your gun and shoot 'em right about here------."

At this point he would probably have to wait until the tinhorn returned from throwing up his socks to continue.

"Kinda tetchy, ain't ya? Next, you hang it up by the hind legs and cut it down the middle of its---------."

Once again he would pause as the city slicker staggers back to his chair, and with his head sagging between his knees, motions for the centenarian to continue.

"You alright, boy? I guess you ain't had much experience in such things. Kindly keep your head turned the other way until I'm finished. After you open him up, you reach in there and------------."

Looking green, the tinhorn would gasp, "Hold it, hold it. I don't eat red meat, anyway. Let's change the subject. How do you clean a mallard duck?"

"Son, you are persistent. Let me set you straight. You clean a fish, butcher a beef or deer, and pluck a duck. For a duck, the first thing you do is take a big pot of boiling water and drop the duck in it---------."

By this time the slicker will have had all he can stand. He would no doubt jump up and yell, "Haven't you ever heard of Kroger or IGA or Piggly Wiggly?" What's with all this hanging them by the hind legs and cutting them open and reaching in there and pots of boiling water? Haven't you ever heard of Twinkies?"

At this point the old man, convinced the tinhorn is crazy, would start swinging his cane and yelling for his wife to bring the cattle prod. The slicker would run for his life and stop at the nearest fast food joint for a McSomething to calm his nerves, still believing the filler in his sandwich is made from soybeans. No wonder some old timers feel like they're living on an alien planet.