What was Christmas like for a Pinon Mesa trapper in 1915?
MY XMAS DINNER(With Apologies to Wallace R. Waters)
BY M.E. MORELAND
Fur News, January, 1915
Say! Fellers, what do you know about that: Trappers Christmas Dinner: so ceremoniously thrust upon us like an excruciating clap of thunder from a clear mid-winter sky?
I don’t know exactly just which one of the many just-one-darn-things-after-another caused my mental equilibrium to slip its trolly, but by shunning the crowded thoroughfare of civilization and living a clean life communicating with nature, and myself, I was congratulating myself upon having attained a normal condition, when Brother Waters, in December FUR NEWS delivers a solar plexus – and again I sleep!
His “meanyou,” as near as I can remember, omitting pabulum, consisted of the following delicatessens which Brother Waters admonishes us are but a few of the extras:
Cream Tomato Soup.White Fish, Trout, Fried Fish Livers, Roast Duck, Boiled Rabbit, Roast Muscrat, Boiled Partridge, Roast Muskrat, Boiled Partridge, Roast Ptarmigan, Lynx Cutlets, Game Pie, Mashed Potatoes, Stewed Corn, Cabbage, Boiled Beans, Fried Onions, Peach, Pear and Cranberry PiesRice Pudding and JellyTea “Scotch” Cocoa
If the above dog-goned shooting match was only a few of the extras, what in Sam Hill would the dinner complete make a noise like?
Somewhat different appeared before me when with childish glee I put my feet under the sumptuously laden table – an inverted soap box. My menu was as follows:
Boiled Frijoles. Boiled Venison.Sourdough bread.Black coffee.(The kind that floats an iron wedge).Prune Pie
And take it from me, ‘Bo, John D Rockyfellow, had he shared that dinner with me would have gladly handed me a “tenner” and declared it the “most reliable meal he ever partook of during the whole course of his periodical existence.” (I’m sorry he wasn’t here, for I need the money).
What was there about it that caused such a spontaneous outburst of exuberance? I’ll tell you: On the morning of the 24th I put my beans to soak. About 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon I built a huge fire in the fireless cooker hole outside the tent, then put the beans, a few slices of sowbosom, the neck of venison, salt and pepper in an airtight cooking pot and set it on the stove. By the time the beans were boiling nicely the fire in the hole outside was reduced to a generous heap of coals. After shoveling out the coals I clamped the lid down, so as to prevent any steam escaping, and I set her gently down in the bottom of the hole. Then, getting a hustle on, I shoveled in the coals and piled dirt on top to a thickness of a foot, and the cooking process continues while you sleep.
The prune pie was built along the same lines. The prunes, first stewed and the seeds removed, were tumbled, as a “pay streak,” between two layers of sourdough pie crust, in the composition of which a generous supply of deer taller had been introduced as shortenin’; these indestructible crusts – rolled out on the bottom of the wash tub with a three-star Hennessey quart bottle – were then hermetically sealed and crimped around the edges with a pair of wire pliers – “safely first.” The pie thus artistically manipulated is next placed in a hot “Dutch oven” and the lid, hot also, is placed on top. By the time the soap box has been decked with a clean – comparatively – burro saddle blanket, the tin plate – a ten pound lard can lid, tin cup, knife and fork; the beans are exhumed and the pie is done to a brown turn.
Those who have been denied the ecstatic pleasure of having partaken of beans and meat cooked in this manner, where no particle of their pristine (that word listens O.K., but I dunno) flavor has evaporated during the simmering process, have lived in vain! And that pie! Well, to make a short story shorter, I will state that after I have finished my dinner I didn’t know it, but kept right on eating, not daring to touch my meerschaum for fear the visions would all end in a pipe dream.