Sep
30

About Sacred Meals and Hunting/Fishing Openers

Such a strange year, 2020, on so many fronts. Silly me, I have been anticipating and talking up the meals we might still have at the beginning of our general deer and elk seasons – those sacred breakfasts which set us properly on a path to make the precious meat with which we will sustain our families and our communities. Alas, the Swauk-Teanaway Grange Hunter’s Breakfast (deer opener) and the PSE/Kittitas County (Washington) Field & Stream Club Free Hunters’ Breakfast (elk opener) have both fallen victim to Covid-19. We don’t always see the community effects of the funds raised at these sacred events – funds less available in this strange 2020.

This sense of the “sacredness” of meals which open the season of making meat (or fish in many situations) first dawned on me when I was fourteen. I was, at last, a part of the deer hunt on Uncle Ed’s place, up the Little Chumstick out of Leavenworth, Washington. I remember the restless night, and the dreams of a buck giving itself to me so that I could help feed my struggling 1950s family. More than anything, I remember the breakfast Aunt Evy fixed before we headed out that morning, and every opening morning after that – ham, eggs and pancakes. I remember savoring them until The Old Man got cranky about “burning daylight.”

I was twenty-one when I was given (by my mom and step-dad Ray) the sourdough starter which is still used to make foods that go with me on every hunt. It’s sacred stuff.

I was barely grown up when I found that sacred food is found most anywhere, and blesses us at the start of outdoor adventures well beyond opening day. I wasn’t much older when I felt the emptiness of its loss.

“Uh, oh…” Buddy Rick Doel muttered. “This is not good… This is a bad omen.” We were halfway down Crow Hill on U.S. 285, southwest of Denver, Colorado, headed for trout fishing in South Park. Dark-thirty breakfast time on a Saturday; summer of 1969.

There was a note on the door of the darkened diner.

Rick and I had discovered the diner in 1964, a year after we met at Lowry Air Force Base, following our overseas duty. We had quickly found a kindred outdoor spirit, and partnered up for all our hunting and fishing. At the time of discovery, we were on a pre-dawn drive to opening-day deer hunting in the hills around South Park. We were full of youthful talk of big bucks and well-fed families of successful hunters, when we saw the lights of the diner.

The old wood-slab diner sat alone on the outside of a carved-out turn on the west side of the road. It had a clean, well-worn linoleum counter smoothed by the sliding of a million plates of eggs and sausage and flapjacks. The tall, lean, old-timer behind the counter had probably cooked every plateful. We were struck by his ease and the hand-rolled smoke that somehow stayed lit while clinging to the farthest possible corner of his mouth. “Well, what’ll it be boys?”

Over the years, the Old-Timer’s breakfasts started most of our outdoor play. We passed up every food joint out of Denver, because we knew that the old boy would have the coffee and the grill and good humor ready when we got there. Plenty of others knew the place, too, but it was OUR place. “Huntin’ and fishin’ keep you young,” he often said. Some days, we had a better time over breakfast than the rest of the day – but we counted every day that started with his food a success.

Then came that 1969 morning, and the hand-scrawled note. The old-timer had gone to his well-earned reward. We wiped tears we were too manly to have, and wished the old man a happy hunting and fishing ground.

Over the decades, other breakfasts have been deemed sacred. We need them, spiritually and physically. Our devotion to these breakfasts often serves others, in other ways.

For the last few decades, hundreds and hundreds of us have found our way to the Annual Hunters Breakfast at the Swauk-Teanaway Grange on Ballard Hill Road. There were many reasons for that gathering, but we hunters went for the ham, eggs and hotcakes (with homemade apple butter, coffee and orange juice) which set our bodies and souls right for the season of making meat.

This year, its 33rd year, the breakfast is cancelled (thank you, Covid-19). While we will find other ways to set our bodies and souls straight for the season, the funds raised at the Hunters Breakfast will not be available to support the Community Christmas Basket for Upper County families, and this is a year of particular need. Your donation to the “Swauk-Teanaway Grange” (PO Box 401, Cle Elum, WA  98922), will help. Or call Liz Doyle (425-941-3313) or Claire Lucke (509-857-2580). Find out more at contact@swaukteanawaygrange.com, and check out the web site at www.swaukteanawaygrange.com for more details about helping.

Sacred food sustains our spirits – our souls – as well as our bodies. These hunting season “opener” traditions are sacred meals. Here’s to you finding your appropriate sacred fall meal!

This is my final weekly contribution for a time. (This was number 1,126 of my weekly “Inside the Outdoors” columns for the Ellensburg Daily Record.) Such a blessing to share so much time with so many over these 20-plus years.

I shall continue to periodically post stories and thoughts here on website (www.insidetheoutdoors.com.) Please continue to visit and say hello.

 

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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