2011 by Ellie S. Thomas
Smoky wanted a feed of partridge; he hadn't feasted on the succulent
flesh of the bird in far too long so today he'd take Prince, hitch him
to the farm wagon and they'd climb the old lumber trail to the high
ground where the wild leeks grew. They wasn't nuthin' better'n
partridges roasted over a bed of leeks, with lots of sage and crumbs to
catch the drippins.
Springtime always marked the time for leeks and Smoky had spent a
lifetime gathering them. He'd started out gathering them with his Maw
and Paw and as their time passed, he continued on his own and now,
perhaps he was the only one left in the community that knew what they
looked like or where they could be found.
Oh, you could buy leeks in the supermarket, that's true, but they
weren't the same as the wild ones. He could see the frosty little white
globes in his mind, nestled just below the surface of the forest loam,
marked by their lance-shaped green leaves. It wouldn't take him long to
fill a burlap potato sack with them and then he'd go back home and wash
them in the spring, bucketful by bucketful because they sure held onto
the mud. He'd squash some cedar leaves and hold them on his bites at
the same time because wherever you found leeks, the mosquitoes found
you. There was a cost to everything in life, well he knew that; nothing
Prince patiently drew the farm wagon up the sandy trail, occasionally
tilting the box to a perilous angle when the back wheel passed over an
outcropping of rock. Sparks flew when his iron shod hooves hit another
stone up front but they travelled on. They'd made a good many trips
together. Some up this same trail when the snow was deep and they would
drag wood home to run through the old Round Oak heater, some for the
kitchen stove. Probably Liza would be sitting there right now, using up
her old tooth floss to darn holes in her socks, or to sew her buttons
The kids scolded at her and said it was nasty to reuse tooth floss but
Liza couldn't see that. 'What's the difference? Throw away my floss and
then have to buy darning thread at the store? Better to reuse the floss
to darn my socks, everythings going into the wash anyway when I'm done!'
They'd shake their head. Mom was the original recycler. Look at her
aprons; Old feed sacks! Others still bearing the Purina logo, or saying
GLF chickfeed covered the cushions in her rocker, some even made it
into window curtains. You just never could tell- and their father was
just as bad with his rolls of aluminum foil saved from gum, or tobacco,
the strings from packages. It was awful! The windows in the barn were
layered with chunk after chunk of broken glass carefully placed one
over another to keep the weather out. Where did it all end?
Smoky clucked to the old horse. They were almost there; an overhanging
bough snatched the battered hat from the top of his head. He uttered a
muffled exclamation as he rescued it and squashed it back where it
belonged. Drawing on the reins, he pulled off to the side where he put
a feed bag on the horse's nose. There! That'd keep him quiet for
awhile. He could see the small short plants looking for all the world
like his wife's lily-of-the-valleys flowers. Let's go!
It didn't take Smoky long to pull a bagful of leeks and throw them into
the wagon box; now the fun could begin. He took his trusted shotgun
from beneath the wagon seat and eased off into the woods where he
remembered a particular copse of trees where the acorns fell thick and
there was lots of rich fodder; he bet he'd find his supper right there.
A short time later he hoisted three partridges into his pack basket and
tucked them in with the smelly leeks. Their odor would effectively hide
the scent of the game. Now, to get back home. Prince pulled them back
down the way they'd come. Smoky wanted a smoke dreadfully bad but being
a true woodsman, he refused to light a smoke until he was home. Home
where Liza sat before the fire, wearing her mismatched socks, enjoying
her cup of chickory coffee.
He could smell some cornbread baking in the oven and some beans bubbled
on the back of the stove. The granite teapot sat to the rear of the
stovetop where it kept warm throughout the day in case somebody wanted
a cup of green tea. He wouldn't mind a hot cup at all.
'Wal, Lisa, how did yore day go?' he asked companionably as he sank
into his old barrel chair. He'd made it from an old whiskey barrel and
you couldn't get anything more comfortable. Now it cushioned his tired
body as he faced his wife.
She gaped in surprise at the pleasantry. "It went right good, Smokey,
and I'll sure enjoy those birdies. Do you suppose when you get locked
up for breaking the law they'll give you your favorite foods or your
old pipe?' she cackled a little but it was a subject often on her mind.
It was a chance he took and probably shouldn't do it now that life had
eased, the kids had gone. It was much easier to feed just the two of
them now but gol-darn it, a man got in the habit of eating the wild
creatures provided by God and wasn't that why He had made them?
It wasn't as if Smoky had ever been greedy he thought piously; killing
and shooting just for fun, for trophies! Nope, he'd always done it
because it was the only way he could feed his family and didn't the
govermint tell them to eat fresh, unpolluted, unrefined food..the
natural stuff? That's probably why they kept their health!
'Wal,' Smoky yawned and stretched, 'if the Master wanted a body to get
caught, guess He'd attend to it.' Meantime, Smoky was going to bed and
tomorrow would be another day.
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Ellie's Story List and Biography
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