Many mornings I awake and have no idea what will happen to me before I return to bed that night. Well, one unsuspecting morning, I arose and did the usual tasks. I made up the beds; got breakfast for Joel, 9 years old, and Ruth, 8 years old; taught them school lessons; fixed lunch; taught more lessons; etc. You know, the usual.
Floyd , my husband, had retired from Chrysler in 2004.
He was currrently working at job he loved, a part-time cook and caterer at Sauder Village. It’s an Historic Village in northwest Ohio in the rural town of Archbold. Eric Sauder, the “you assemble” furniture maker, recreated a Village dating from the 1600’s to the 1900’s. Floyd catered for weddings, conventions and cooked in the Barn Restaurant.
That day, he was scheduled to start work at 2 PM. A little before 2 PM, Floyd called. This was unusual for two reasons. First, Floyd is not a phone talker. Second, he frowned on talking on “company time”. So I knew immediately that something was up.
He explained he had hit a deer. Floyd was not injured, but the front of the truck was badly dented. He said he had notified the insurance company and that he could still drive the truck.
I immediately called my Mom to tell her what happened.
Now, a little about my mother. Zelina was born in Dollarhide, AL in 1930. She was one of 18 children. Only 11 survived pass 5 years and only ten reached adulthood. They primarily lived off the land that they owned and ate the meat they hunted. It was hard times. The family moved to Detroit in 1937 for the jobs in the automotive industry: Henry Ford was paying the legendary $5.00 a day! However, even in Detroit, there were tough financial times.
I was taught by my mother and grandmother to “waste not, want not”. They both were hard workers and knew how to reuse, recycle, and do without. My grandmother would sew her clothes, resole shoes, raise vegetables, can food, etc. Before either my mother or grandmother would throw out any food it would have to be completely molded; we ate plenty of cheese that had the mold scraped off. Nothing went to waste.
OK, now back to the story. When I described the accident to my mother, she asked the question that I hadn’t even thought about.
“Did you get the meat?”
“No. I didn’t even think about it!!”
“Girl, that’s good deer meat. You better go get it. Get it before it gets too hot in the sun and it bloats up!”
“OK. Let me off the phone so I can find out where it is and call the meat processors. I’ll call you later.”
I went into action. I love having a project that’s adventurous, or novel, or unusual, or different. You know what I mean.
First I called the meat processor. They said I’d have to get the deer there by 4:30 PM with a tag from the police saying the deer was accidentally killed. It was mid-summer, not deer hunting season. The processor wanted to cover themselves by having proof that the deer was legal for them to handle. The processor was near Homer, MI. It would take me an hour or more to get there.
Second, I needed to get the kids psychologically ready to help me. They had eaten deer meatloaf and loved it. I was concerned about them getting squeamish about picking up a dead deer.
I explained to them, “Your dad hit a deer. We are going to get it and take it to the meat processor. I need you both to help me lift it off the road into the van. I don’t want to hear any talk about you can’t do it or it’s too heavy. Do you understand?”
They both chimed, “Yes Ma’am. We understand.”
Joel added, “Come on Ruth, here we go again!”
“OK. The both of you use the bathroom, get your water bottles, rubber boots and work gloves. I’ll meet you in the van.”
Next, I needed Floyd to tell me precisely where the deer was and to get his approval for this project. As I stood holding the phone in my hand and trying to decide the best way to approach him, I knew there was no way that would magically work, so I just decided to “go for it”.
Needless to say, Floyd could not believe I would call his job and pose such a preposterous notion. I knew I had him in a bind because he couldn’t yell at me when everybody in the restaurant kitchen could hear his conversation. He finally realized he couldn’t talk me out of it, so he acquiesced and told me exactly where the deer was.
Later that evening, Floyd did tell me that his co-workers all applauded when he told them his wife was going to get the deer he had hit. He worked with country folk who knew the value of fresh road kill. I think their attitude helped him not have a “hissy-fit” when he got home and saw the mess in the kitchen. But, I’m getting way ahead of the story.
OK, now I needed the police to meet me at the deer on County Road 23 in Archbold, Ohio. The dispatcher reassured me an officer would meet me, but in the rural areas the number of paroling police are very few.
Before leaving the house, I put a large tarp in the back of the van to put under the deer.
When we got to Archbold, we saw the deer on the side of the road and realized that it was a fawn. It still had spots on it. It looked like it weighted about 80 pounds. I’m basing this on an eyeball comparison with a mixed breed dog, collie and retriever, we had, named Riley, who weighted 55 pounds.
I called the dispatcher several times to check on the where-abouts of the officer. He arrived about 3:30 PM and gave me the tag.
You know, I couldn’t believe that muscular young officer sat in his squad car and watched a 59 year-old woman, a nine year-old boy and an eight year-old girl expertly lift the fawn and deftly place it in the back of the van. Not that we needed help, but just the idea of him not offering to help. I guess he figured we were country folk and didn’t need any help. (Who else calls for the police to tag road kill?!)
Well, I was glad it wasn’t heavier than it was. AND ever so PROUD of Joel and Ruth. There wasn’t a peep of complaining from them.
However, it was too late to get the fawn to the processor before closing time. The worker there suggested I clean out the deer, pack it with ice and bring it in the next day, Saturday. That would be Sabbath, so that meant me keeping it until Monday. Even-though, I had two refrigerators and a freezer, this fawn would not fit. So, what to do?
Now, when I’m in a pickle, I often recall the stories and exploits of the pioneers and pilgrims. Their creativity of making something out of nothing and their fortitude inspire me to courageous heights.
Now, these same stories when I use them to persuade Floyd, produce comments such as, “Shar, I don’t care what the pioneers did! I’m not a pioneer and I ain’t doing it.”
I thought to myself, “Laura and Pa Ingalls, you would be proud on me! If you could do it, I can process a deer!”
So, I headed to the store for large black garbage bags and ice. The ice was to keep the fawn cool while I was working on it. The black bags were for the innards. I thought to just throw the intestines to the cats (I had at least ten outdoor cats.), but if they didn’t eat it all, other wild animals would be attracted to the house.
I stopped at the small grocery store in Fayette, Ohio. I spoke to Alfred, a friend who works there. Alfred is a thin, white, mild mannered country man in his late fifties. I’m so excited that I tell him about the deer I’m going to process.
He says, “Shar, be sure you take out the musk gland.”
“What musk gland?”
“The gland near its leg.”
“Is the musk gland on the inside or outside of the deer?”
“Shar, where is the deer?”
“In my van in the parking lot.”
“Let’s go look at it.”
Now, I know for sure Pa Ingalls knew more than I did. Especially, when Alfred walks off his job to help me out.
When he surveyed the situation, he didn’t even try to give me instructions. He just said, “You see that white house across the street? Go over there, knock on the door and ask them to help you. They shoot and do their own processing.”
I was relieved, thankful, and fifty other adjectives. The fear that might have entered some folk’s minds about knocking on strangers’ doors only entered my mind for one-third of a second before it was swiftly kicked out by the thought that I needed HELP.
Well, the three of us jumped in the van and pulled up in their driveway. All three of us went to the door. My kids didn’t want to miss any part of this adventure. Living with me, they hadn’t had much of a chance to develop normal fears.
Two guys and a woman came to the door. I explained the situation to the older looking guy (white, country boy, mid-thirties,).
He said, “What cha gonna gimme for it?”
“What cha wont?” (A little use of their vernacular might help with the negotiations.)
“ A hind quarter.”
I was so relieved that he didn’t want money because I didn’t have much on me. That was a blessing.
Then, I was amazed at how fast those guys worked. Within 4-5 minutes they had cleared a spot in their garage, threw a rope over the main beam, hung up the fawn, split the fawn open, removed the entails, rinsed it off with a hose, packed it with the ice I had bought and put a bungy cord around the fawn to hold the ice in place.
I was mesmerized at their skill. My eyes were glued on the process. Joel had moved to the rear of the garage in the hopes of avoiding seeing too much. Ruth was right next to me tugging at my clothes.
“Mama, Mama, the fawn’s mama and daddy are looking for him. They are going to be sad when they can’t find him!”
“Ruth, deer aren’t like people. They will look for a while and then they will be all right.” (I hoped this was true!!)
“Mama, Mama. The mama and daddy will be real sad. I just know they will! They won’t be able to find their baby!!”
“OK, Ruth, we’ll pray for the mama and daddy. ……. Dear Heavenly Father, we pray for the fawn’s mama and daddy. Please help them not to miss their baby so much and help them to overcome their grief and be happy again. In Jesus name, Amen.”
Then she snuggled into me and we continued to watch the process.
The guys asked me to come back around 8:30 PM. They had to let the deer hang for a while to let the blood drain out, then they could cut it up. The woman pulled me aside and asked me to bring back some zip-lock bags so I could put the meat into them. Somewhere in these exchanges was a really big communications gap.
A couple of hours later, I was so excited and wondering what was going on with the fawn, that I decided to go back early to give them the bags so they would put the meat into them instead of me having to transfer the steaks, roasts and chunks of meat into the zip-lock bags.
Well, when I went back, the older guy met me in the driveway. He said the meat was ready. He directed me to a large black bag surrounded by ice. I peeped into the bag and there were HUGE sections of deer. I thought, “Where are my tiny chunks of stew meat, and beautiful steaks that I can just organize in the freezer?”
But I was too shocked, or embarrassed, to protest. (He never said he was going to chunk up the meat, the woman inferred that he would.) I just said, “Thank you, I appreciate this.”
My mind is really spinning now. On the good side, even-though I have the deer in five large sections (three legs and two rib sections), each section will fit on a fridge shelf. The down side was that I had large sections of deer that needed to be cut up and I had no idea what was shoulder, chuck, or whatever!!”
When I got home and opened the bag, my mind was swimming. The pieces were enormous!..I couldn’t even let Floyd enter my brain at this point. What was I going to do?
I hate confusion, especially in my own mind, so I quickly decided that it did not really matter for me to determine what was steak or stew meat or “prime cuts”.
My plan was to put each huge section into a separate bag and work on the deer, bag by bag. If it looked like steak, it got cut into a steak shape. The hard part was trying to cut off all the odd pieces. My Ginsu knife was not “cutting it”.
Later, when Floyd walked in from work, the kitchen was a mess. He must have felt a deep spiritual sympathy for me. He just looked and began to help. Although, he did say,“If you ever decide to do something like this again, don’t count me in.”
After three evenings of work, we finally got it all done. We tossed the antique meat grinder aside when it kept getting plugged up. We used the food processor to turn the millions of chunks into ground meat.
I browned some of the ground deer meat with onions, garlic, and Italian seasonings and then had a taste test. No one could tell the difference between the deer meat and some beef I had browned. So, I mixed it all together and made spaghetti sauce. With the remaining raw deer meat, I mixed it with raw beef and made lots of meatloaves.
The following week, I decided to bar-b-que the ribs. The ribs were so tiny and there was very little meat, but I did my best. At the table, the kids refused to eat them. They looked too foreign. Floyd and I picked at them and finally admitted we couldn’t eat them either.
After dinner, I phoned my mother. “Ma, … Floyd and I couldn’t finish the ribs. Psychologically, we just couldn’t eat them. It reminded us too much of the fawn. The meatloaf is different, it doesn’t look like part of a deer.
“Listen, you save those ribs for me! I ain’t got no psychological problem!!”
You can surmount the obstacles in your path if you are determined, courageous and hard-working. Never be fainthearted. Be resolute, but never bitter…. Permit no one to dissuade you from pursuing the goals you set for yourselves. Do not fear to pioneer, to venture down new paths of endeavor.
|August 7, 1903
|December 9, 1971 (aged 68)
New York City
|Mediation in Palestine, Nobel Peace Prize recipient|
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” -Ambrose Redmoon