I enjoyed a wonderful phone conversation the other day with a woman who is an experienced livestock producer, has been active in 4-H for decades and volunteers with both the Texas County and Dent County fair boards.
I learned a lot from her in a relatively short time. She spoke of how county fairs like the ones in Texas and Dent counties are “terminal fairs” with regard to shown livestock. That basically means all livestock at such events can go nowhere other than to slaughter once they’re shown and sold. If they don’t make weight or fail to be sold for some other reason, their next stop must be a sale barn.
She said things were different in the past, and grand champions at country fairs could actually advance to a regional competition and winners there qualified for a big showdown at the state fair.
Man, I wish it was still that way. The competition must have been awesome, and as the woman said, livestock at the state fair were the best the state had to offer, rather than just animals brought by “any joe,” as is the case these days.
Not that my wife and I are going to make a habit of getting a table every Saturday at the Piney River Brewing Company’s BARn, but we did go there again last weekend to see “Deep Fried Squirrel,” a Springfield band.
Don’t let the name fool you. If you like bluegrass (or the current version, “newgrass”), these five guys are worth seeing, just as several people had told us.
Their music blends smoothly and flows naturally from five string instruments – banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitar and stand-up bass. Every player is truly talented, and they obviously love what they do, and the three guys who take turns singing can more than adequately deliver a good melody or contribute a nice harmony.
They have great original stuff and can do justice to many a classic from the bluegrass genre. And I’m here to tell you, Lionel Richie would be proud to hear the Squirrels’ bluegrassed-up rendition of his dance-pop classic “All Night Long,” as would the members of Duran Duran when they heard their take on “Hungry Like the Wolf” or Tom Petty if he listened to the way they make “American Girl” all their own.
I’m glad Deep Fried Squirrel had CDs available (for a mere five bucks). They sound about as good recorded as live.
Keeping up with the tomatoes in the garden hasn’t been easy this year at our remote Texas County high country outpost, and I figure the same is true for many area residents who tend gardens.
While we might be in the throws of a hot spell right about now, the weather has surely been relatively mild so far this summer and the ’maters seem to be enjoying that fact with gusto. As a result, we’ve gorged on some of the meatiest and tastiest beefsteak fruit I can remember ever seeing, let alone eating.
And I’m glad a vendor at the Houston Farmers Market introduced me a couple of months ago to black cherry tomatoes. I’ve always liked cherry tomatoes, and these little buggers (with their sort of black striping) have a bold and yummy flavor. They also pretty much grow by the millions, so our three plants have proven more than enough.
Our banana pepper plants keep producing big-time, too, but our squash has for some reason kind of taken the year off, and it has been known to go wild – even during the drought years of 2011 and 2012. I guess you never know.
I’ve been waging a war of wits with a trio of adolescent raccoons that have decided to invade the cat station in the shop building on our property for several nights in a row.
It’s hard to get mad at the little critters because they’re so dang cute (see photos accompanying this column on the blog page at the Houston Herald’s website). But I figured I had to take some sort of action because the cat food they’re after is supposed to be for Pete, LuLu and their mother Tree Cat, who for about seven years have been the three feline members of our outpost’s populous menagerie.
I tried a few things that didn’t work, so the other night I told the outbuilding’s rightful residents that until further notice I would on a nightly basis be forced to remove the ’coons’ temptation (a.k.a. the bowl of cat food that remains stocked at the station and the bag stored nearby inside a covered barrel). I also told them they could take matters into the own paws and chase the intruders away when they showed up again.
They looked at me as if to say, “that’s OK – we’re good.”
Last night I could tell the raccoons had returned because there were little footprints on the cement floor next the cats’ water bowl. But I believe they’ll give up and move on once they realize their meal ticket is no longer being punched.
My oldest daughter, Roxanne (she’s 23), said to me the other day, “I want to shoot something and eat it, like a rabbit or a squirrel, just so I know I can.”
The Ozarks is apparently made significant headway in her mind, heart and soul. That’s what I’m talking about.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.