Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sassafras tea, sheep sour wine, rabbit tobacco, and possum grapes


With the absence of such distractions as television, electronic games, and for the most part even telephones ( and certainly not cell phones) my friends and I who lived on the far SW corner of Heavener (as opposed to the other west siders such as KB-D and JI) seldom lacked for activities to keep our fertile minds occupied. Much of our free time was spent playing, exploring, and competing in all manner of athletic endeavors, but on occasion we deferred to more dignified interests such as developing our culinary skills. Everyone has heard of Sassafras tea, but who among you ever tried to make some. Well we did. On one of our trips exploring regions outside of our neighborhood territory we discovered that along the lane that extended north of where Mrs. Stewart (the school teacher) lived sassafras plants grew in abundance. After harvesting enough of the fragrant roots which we initially intended to just chew we decided to make up a batch of sassafras tea. Our favorite "hideout" back then was located in the woods just to the west of Homer’s house not far from the Hill cemetery. There we made us a small campfire and using a gallon coffee can we boiled some of the twigs for some time then after having strained out the scraps of wood we added a good quantity of sugar pilfered from mother’s cannister and all tried a sip. It wasn’t bad (thanks mostly to the ample amount of sugar) but not near as good as the regular tea our mothers could make so it was concluded that we could find better things to do with our time than manufacture more sassafras tea. Ever being the connoisseurs of the finer things of life and since our part of Oklahoma had not yet emerged from the great prohibition experiment we ventured into the unlawful spirits industry by fixing up a batch of what we had heard called "sheep sour wine" ( it was not until I was a college graduate that I learned that the term was really "sheep sorrel"). Our "still" consisted of the same aforementioned coffee can and sugar supply, but a major difference in the procedure was this time we would pour the completed product into a mason jar and bury it for a considerable time thereby allowing it to age which is what we did. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately when we returned to the " hide out "a couple of days later our stash was nowhere to be found. We never did find out what happened to it and the world will never know how our contribution to the "moonshiner" craft turned out. Also among our group of buddies were those of us who were aficionados of the "rabbit tobacco" weed. For the few of you out there that are not familiar of what this particular plant is, "rabbit tobacco" is quite common in the fields and meadows around Heavener. It is easily identified when you know what you are looking far. It is a pale green in color and produces clumps of small fairly thick leaves which when chewed produces a "juice" which when expelled from ones mouth resembles a tobacco stain on whatever it lands on. The other wild delicacy that we enjoyed was the wild grape commonly know as the possum grape a.k.a. muscadine. Our source for this delight was the vines that grew down past the creek that flowed across what we called "Roberts Pasture". It was about this time of the year that the grapes would start to be edible. I don’t suppose the vines are there anymore since "Roberts Pasture" was obliterated by the strip mining operations that destroyed where my friends and I spent much of our child hood back in the fifties. Oh sure we also enjoyed our share of the more common treats such as the ocaisional watermelon (Mr. Roberts wouldn’t miss just one) and then there was those delicious pears from the little orchard across the street from Melenda Meeh’s house - shucks there wasn’t even a fence around those trees so whoever the pears belonged to didn’t care if we enjoyed our fill of them. Well all the work it took to do all this writin has worked me up put a craving on me so I’ll sign off and fix me a PB&J sandwich.

13 Comments:

At August 23, 2009 at 1:55 PM , Blogger Kathy Bain Dunn said...

Colin, I wonder if your woods was the same one that I called my woods. My woods was behind Herman Sharp and my Grandparents (Tom and Bonnie Roop), and just south of Col. Homer Reese's house. Someone in the days before my youth had built the coolest treehouse back off in that woods. I spent many hours up there reading and dreaming. Then I also wondered if you knew my brother-in-law's (Jim Hall) big empty lot west of Garry Ritzkey's house. He told me that was the neighborhood football field/ baseball field until Pete and Modena Duncan built their house there.

 
At August 23, 2009 at 5:58 PM , Blogger John Inman said...

I actually spent some time at Col. Reese's barn. Russell Walker and I, for some reason, went there to play. Why, I don't know, but we did. I assume the 'JI' you were referring to was me, Colin.

 
At August 23, 2009 at 10:50 PM , Blogger colin said...

Yes Mr. Inman you are the JI.

No, KB-D, our woods were closer to Jim Hall's vacant lot; just a little further to the west; but we did have a nice tree house there. yes, that vacant lot was our favorite football field. Gary didn't play with us much but Jim "beanhole" Carl and the Jones brothers and sometimes the girl neighbors shirley carl and the norwood sisters joined in our scurmishes.

 
At August 24, 2009 at 2:14 PM , Blogger Glen Lazalier said...

Gosh, I feel so much older than all of you guys (graduated in 1959). But I do remember Clayton Roberts' pastures along with those of Holland Wright and Crook Duncan. They were across the old Independence Road (now Avenue I) from my folks' house.
We rode "wild" calves out there along with an occasional donkey or mule. We had our night time playground at the corner where B. Fox lived (now 4th and H, I think). One of our things was to put rags on the end of a pole and swipe at bats catching bugs under the streetlight. We walked down to the old borrow pits south of town and fished to our hearts' content.
With no TV, no telephones except for the single black one in the house that had a real person who connected you to the one you called ("Number, please." "Operator, get me 168-Red."), and only the Saturday afternoon matinee at the Liberty (other features were judged "bad" by my parents), we had to make our own fun.
But we did have fun!!!

 
At August 25, 2009 at 6:57 AM , Blogger colin said...

Did y'all notice Glen used the term "borrow pits". I know Glen is using the correct term but I was well in to adulthood before I learned that it wasn't right to say "barr ditch" and "barr pits". Since that is what everone called them, to me that had to be what they was. Wonder how many other terms I ain't lernt the wrat way to say yet??

 
At August 25, 2009 at 7:02 AM , Blogger colin said...

Kathy, I remember Col. Reese, but don't remember why. What was he? School Supt. or something? I do remember where he lived, but if you would have said "just south of Buck Olive's place" I would have known right off where you meant.

 
At August 25, 2009 at 7:42 AM , Blogger Glen Lazalier said...

Col. Reese was a noted veteran and School Superintendent for many years.

 
At August 25, 2009 at 10:24 AM , Blogger John Inman said...

"Borrow pits". Is that anything like the strip pits out by Indpendence Road? Wow, this may be a record for number of comments on one blog.

 
At August 25, 2009 at 10:42 AM , Blogger Glen Lazalier said...

Borrow pits are those places along a road where dirt has been "borrowed" to build up the roadbed. But, I'm sure you knew that already. I've lived long enough to see the strip pits dug and covered over (for the most part) out Independence Road.

I wonder if the strip pit between Poteau Mountain and Highway 128 towards Bates and Waldron will ever be filled in. I'll bet not. Just like the "pigeon hole" mines along Pine Mountain, it'll just slowly weather in. Lots of people scavenged coal during the Great Depression from those pigeon hole mines.

 
At August 25, 2009 at 10:58 AM , Blogger John Inman said...

Nine! That definitely a record for #of comments on one blog. Oh, make that 10 now. Any more?

 
At August 25, 2009 at 11:39 AM , Blogger colin said...

I figgered that I was the only one still living that knew about Glen's "pigeon hole mines".
Our "gang" used to go up there and dare one another to go in one but we were all to scared of them. Remember the pecan orchard that was down by the river beneath those mines? We called that bend in the river; what was it "race horse shoals"?.

 
At August 25, 2009 at 5:26 PM , Blogger Glen Lazalier said...

Colin, I don't remember for sure about the one near the orchard but the one around the end of Pine Mountain was called Granny's Neck.

 
At August 25, 2009 at 8:16 PM , Blogger Kathy Bain Dunn said...

I remember Granny's Neck. I learned to shift gears out by there somewhere. That was after I DIDN'T learn to shift gears on some curved hill out on Independence Road. Daddy got out of the truck and walked up the hill to the farm and left me at the bottom trying to shift well enough to get up the hill. He also walked back down and taught me to turn around instead. I think I was 12 or 13. I hadn't thought of Buck Olive in a number of years. I remember going out back of Olive Brothers to pick out the big fat hen - still alive and clucking.

 

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