Thursday, February 14, 2008

As a jr teen I asked to take over the chuck wagon, camps and kitchens. I was about 12, not really old enough to drive the trucks that held the chuck wagons, but on a ranch on ranch roads, who cared. There was nobody gonna run me over out there in the back 50 of a 200 section high mountain ranch.

Girls being girls, I didn't want to ride one week. I asked my mother if I couldn't just stay in the kitchen and get lunch ready and she could go with the rest of the crew. She really hated being tied to the kitchen when there were horses, cattle, and no telephone!

She said yes. She gave me specific instructions on when each part of lunch was to be started, the recipes for things I hadn't made yet, and left. Mostly with several misgivings I'm sure.

Menu for that day and every one like it ever since, hasn't changed a bit, was: Roast beef/potatoes, gravy, green enchilada casserole, frijoles, tossed green salad, green beans, the can of peas!, corn, frosted cake, ice tea, coffee, bread and butter.

I found out in a big hurry that absolutely no one even my grandfather or father ever cussed the cook!!! No matter what happened, the cook never, ever got cussed, kicked like a dog, or even spoken to in a not so nice manner. That made me the only person on two ranches that absolutely could do no wrong as long as I was in the kitchen!! Everyone said Please and Thank You!

Neat, nice and I liked that treatment much better than being "one of the boys"! I kept the job for the next 10 years! I got hired to cook for the neighbors brandings. All the best cooks in the 6 county area gave me their hints and recipes!

The only time one of the cowboys gave me any grief was when I forgot the sharp axe when going to one of the camps. This camp was on the backside of our ranch, about 40 miles from the main house. Forgetting anything was a huge sin. I was out using the dull axe kept at this camp to cut wood (beat it to death?) when one of the neighbors rode in. He was just older than me. He sat there on his horse and laughed! Funniest sight in his world was his tagalong "little sister" beating up the wood to build a fire in the big wood stove to make coffee!

Another year at this same camp, the rats had knocked the coffee pot off the warming closet on the stove. They built a nest in it. The well was about a quarter mile down the canyon and all water used in the camp house had to be packed. I had carried several buckets of water to the house, then proceeded to boil some and scrubbed the coffee pot. I used Babo and a lot of elbow grease getting the thing cleaned up so I didn't think the men would be poisoned by the rats nest. I then scalded the thing with boiling water.
Got the coffee started, the cobbler in the oven, and other things well under way for the crew to come in for dessert and drinks.

My uncle who only drank ice tea came in first and raised his eyebrows and grinned. He said absolutely nothing about the shiney coffee pot sitting on that old black stove. My grandfather followed and shouted, "you scrubbed the coffee pot!" My dad followed him and in his usual quiet way stated, "you scrubbed the coffee pot!"

I replied, "Yes Sir! It had a rat nest in it. Coffee isn't quite ready yet!" I shoved a couple more sticks of wood in the fire box. Temperature outside was about 100 already at 9 am! In that little house with the cookstove going, it was around 150! And when I shoved more wood in the fire??? I burned the cobbler! I burned the biscuits! I boiled that coffee down to where they could float a horse shoe on it with the horse attached.

Dad and Granddad never said a word about the taste of that coffee. Mom, Aunt Ann and Grandmom all opted for ice tea. Coffee pot was back to coated with coffee oils!

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