Dearborn heaters, Jerky and the Red Dirt Road

Dearborn heaters, Jerky and the Red Dirt Road

When something starts out like a great idea, opportunity or friendship life is grand.  You start with a spark and with your nurturing work you will soon have a fire.  You have excitement, fun, and are eager to start each day working towards creating this dream, goal, relationship or life.

Planning is essential when working towards your goal.    How do you get to your goal? You must create the steps or small goals to get to the big goal.  This is your road map or instructions on how to accomplish your goal.  It is a little like cooking.  If you are learning to cook you must follow a recipe.  Each ingredients and steps of mixing, adding, and cooking lead to a delightful meal.

When one of my daughters was in elementary school she loved to cook.  She had helped me cook and use recipes, so she knew what to do, she just didn’t always follow the directions.  Let’s say she was just like her mom; a little dash here and a little more there. She would create some mater pieces and some, “Are you sure we can eat this?”   We tried every one of those treats.

The messiest meals to learn to cook was chicken fried steak or deer meat.  The flour would be everywhere. The flour would be on her hands, head, floor, counter, sink, and on the meat.  Sugar cookies at Christmas was another amazing memory for messy but beautiful work in my eyes.  I picked up this tradition from my mother-n-law.  She would make up a batch of homemade sugar cookies each year.  So, when the kids were old enough to get into the kitchen to make Christmas cookies, I let them in. What 3 year old can’t use a cookie cutter and icing?

Everyone reacts to messes in a different way.  One may see the sugar cookie mess as a loving, growing and delicious outcome.  While others see this task as time consuming, too big of a challenge or too large of a mess to even allow children this opportunity to help.  It comes down to your inner spirit I feel.

I did not learn to cook by watching.  Granny let us help her in many ways.  The messes we made, and the ones dad would make always left us in a room or outside full of laughter and learning.

With knowing the word of the bible and being doers of the word, you are able to sustain trials and messes with the faith you have from believing in Jesus.  The more you learn the word the more you mature in your faith.  (James 1:2-4) Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:19-20) My beloved brothers, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger,  for man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness that God desires.

Today started out with pure joy and soon turned to what have you done?

The wind was whipping through the trees, it was cold, but sunny here on the red dirt road.  We have been watching all the deer hunter’s bringing in their deer they shot.  Granny managed a hunting club, so she must make sure how many bucks and does are taken off the club’s land.  You can hear and see the excitement.  The air was crisp and carries the men’s laughter and tall tales into our living room, where cartoon day is not yet over.  Each time someone drove up we ran to the big green couch to look out the window, cartoon was not a priority on this day for us.   We, being my sister and brother.  I was the oldest.  My sister was the middle child and brother was the baby.  At this point of our life we were 5, 7, and 9 years old.  We moved in with Granny when I was entering the 4th grade. Granny’s house became home to us for the next 5 years.

Our three-bedroom, white wooden house- with red shutters, sat bout 50 yards off the red dirt road.  You could smell the iron ore in the air, from the dust that blew into the unsealed windows. This small house had wooden and laminate floors.  The wooden walls had peeling, cloth wall paper and paneling.   Our wooden home sat on cinder blocks and was surrounded by towering cedar and oak trees, with one beautiful mimosa tree with wisteria vine entwined in the tree.  The cedar trees were so large their limbs touched the ground.  Their limbs created a canopy of shade and wall of protection from the red dirt road.

The Dearborn heater was on and the living was warm and cozy.  The night before we had slept in stocking hats and had socks on our hands.  Granny never kept the heater lit during the night.  So, we had to keep three or four quilts on our bed during,winter months.  The sun was rising above the tall pines as the day was warming slowly up.  Granny had gotten up from her crossword puzzle and was standing with her backside to heater.  Lord knows that muu muu was going to catch on fire one day. Sister was enjoying the end of the Land of the Lost and I am working on my fashion designer art. This was a great present.  You could pick a face with a hair style, a shirt and then your britches.  You would lay the pieces into the tray, place your paper on top of the designs you chose and rub a black crayon over them Poof! You had a designer lady you could design her outfit.   We both jumped with the banging of the front door. We heard Brother yell, “Dad’s got one!”

We all scrambled out the door to the back yard by the wash shed and smoke house. The smoke house was used to smoke meat.  The smoke house was probably the size of a small bedroom.  It had a dirt floor, wooden shelves on the wall,  and no windows.  Papa Shortlegs used to hang the meat on hooks from the ceiling and light a fire in the center of the smoke house.

Dad and my uncle set out to process the deer.  Granny will be cooking venison, biscuits and gravy with field peas.  Mom always says there’s nothing like fresh back strap. Sister and I don’t stay to watch, we go back inside to watch cartoons and finish the designer artwork.  Brother soon comes inside asking for some string.  We head to mom’s room to plunder.

Mom’s room had boxes in the corner with sewing materials and patterns.  Sister got the first box opened and was sorting through all the cute dresses and shirt patterns.  She was making a list of pattern numbers she wanted mom to sew for us in the spring, when we can wear shorts and dresses again.  I finally found the string Brother needed.  We all three take the string to dad. Wondering what could he need with string?

Once outside dad has us threading little strips of deer meat on to the ends of the strings.  Dad was cutting the meat, Brother and I tie the meat to the string, while Sister was tying the string to a cane pole.  I kept thinking Dad was going to show us how to catch fish with these little pieces of meat.  We’ve used hot dogs before, why not. We could catch several fish at once.  He had Sister tie about twenty little pieces of meat on the string to the cane pole.

Brother finally asks, “Dad what are we going to do? Are we going fishing?”

“No, we are going to smoke the meat and make deer jerky.”  Dad replied.

We love this idea.  Beef jerky was one of the snacks we would get for the drive-in movies and the road trips to the city.  Now we would have our own Red Dirt Road Jerky.

Dad laid out the deer meat on wax paper and began to season it.  He smothered the meat with salt, black pepper and red pepper He had sent us off to find wood from the house he was building for us. We dragged and carried back several pieces of wood.  Dad began to show us how to build two stands to hold our cane pole across the fire.   This was going to be grand, we will get to see how the smoke house works.

Dad soon had the stands ready for the cane pole of deer meat.  Brother and I grab the stands, while sister and dad each carry the cane pole of meat.  I am dragging my stand to the smoke house when I hear dad say, “Sister where are you going?”

“To the smoke house!  We get to see it work.” Was my brilliant reply.

“No that thing will burn down if we put a fire in it.” Dad laughed.

Confusion set in.  I reluctantly turned and headed back to the house and followed dad, Brother and Sister inside. Dad took the stands to the living room.  He carefully placed each one on either side of the Dearborn heater.  Oh?

He then placed the cane pole with the meat on the stand.  The deer meat just hung out of the reach of the wire protective covering on the heater.  Dad then set a cookie sheet on top of the heater to catch the drippings.

We all plopped down on the couch and waited.  We watched and watched and watched.  Nothing was really happening for it seemed like eternity.  Then as soon as we found Fat Albert on the TV, we heard Granny hacking. It was a subtle cough.  Then it was a raspy cough.  I heard brother start coughing.  Sister was rubbing her eyes.  I realized my eyes were watering.  We soon were all coughing.

Then we saw it. The smoke!

Granny got up and hollered Dad’s full name.  We cringed. No one used our full names unless we were in trouble.  Dad came barreling inside with a few curse words.  He might have been cursing, but it was at himself and not us.  Granny was scooting us right out the house, into the yard.

By this time, we were all crying and coughing.  The crying was not a full-blown crying because we weren’t hurt, it was just an unspeakable number of tears.  The tears just kept pouring down our cheeks uncontrollably.  Dad turned off the heater and took his deer jerky with him as he came out to meet us at the picnic table.  He sat the deer meat on the picnic table.   He put a bandanna over his mouth and went back in to open all the windows.

We had been peppered sprayed by the smoke from the red pepper on the deer jerky.  This brilliant plan of Dad’s was not thought out thoroughly.  It was a mess and trouble getting to the finished product, but the pieces without the red pepper sure were good.  We laughed about dad trying to kill us all that evening, while we enjoyed homemade biscuits with the butter melting on the top and homemade fried venison.

A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression. Proverbs 19:11



1 thought on “Dearborn heaters, Jerky and the Red Dirt Road”

  1. That is the best story yet! It comes at after I just ask your brother why he built his new smoke house so far away from the house. And of course he was cooking jerky

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