Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Savory to the Taste (07/26/12)
- TITLE: Savory Sam
By Myrna Noyes
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Sam seemed quite elderly to us when we were young, but he was most likely around middle age. A bachelor with no family around, he worked in our area from farm to farm as he was needed. He received room and board plus enough spending money to keep him in pipe tobacco and clothing--which made him quite content. Lean and lanky of frame, bewhiskered and bright-eyed, his greatest assets were a generous smile and kindly heart.
Sam usually stayed with us anywhere from a couple weeks to two months during spring planting and fall harvest. (It was said in the winter he went back East to visit a brother.) Pa welcomed his help, as he was a hard-worker and a trustworthy man.
He just loved Mama's cooking and could "put away" three platefuls at a sitting, which always left us in awe. After he put his fork down for the last time, he invariably sighed with satisfaction or rubbed his stomach before nodding to Mama and saying, "Mighty tasty, Ma'am. Mighty tasty indeed!"
Desserts didn't interest him in the least, however, and he always "passed" when Mama brought out the cake, pie, or doughnuts at the end of Sunday's "after-meetin'" meal. He'd explained once. "When I was growing up, my folks was too poor to afford sugar. Besides, there weren't a store within a hundert miles of our lonely cabin anyway, so my tongue never had a chance to get used to sweet stuffs. My Ma told me once when I was a lad that my sweetness would have to come from within!" He'd laughed then before continuing, and the crowsfeet around his eyes crinkled closer together. "My Pa, Nimrod was his name, was truly a "mighty hunter before the Lord," so we never went hungry." He smacked his lips as he fondly recalled the robust rabbit, deer, squirrel, and even bear stews of his boyhood. "Ma would make a fine gravy from fat and flour with a pinch of salt that would coat them tender chunks of meat jest right. Sometimes, in the growing season, she'd add potatoes or root vegetables. It weren't nothin' fancy, but it filled all the holler spots in our bellies." My own mouth was watering by the end of his reminiscence.
On occasion he regaled our family with hunting stories like this: "I recall one time when Pa and I come upon a small herd of buffalo. We was trying to sneak up on them quiet-like to pick one off for winter meat when the wind must have carried our scent to them, and then the brutes turned and began to charge us. Pa and I leaped into the air like we was shot ourselves and lit out for a nearby ditch, barely making it in time, where we hunkered down 'til they passed." Our jaws hung open and our childish eyes would grow huge as he talked, but Mama and Papa later said they suspected some of his tales were a tad "tall."
Sometimes when Mama had made a particularly special dessert, she'd try to tempt Sam to have a small serving, but he always declined. Once in a while he'd respond, "I'm thankin' ya, Ma'am, but I think I'd ruther have some more of yer delicious chicken pie instead, if thet's all right." Mama would smile and set another generous, flaky portion of the pot pie on his plate.
After supper he rarely failed to spend a bit of time with us kids before heading to the barn to bed down for the night. Sometimes he'd take out his knife and whittle us a simple toy. One night it would be the figure of a dog or horse or locomotive engine for me, and the next it would be a little doll or kitten for my younger sister. He also enjoyed playing checkers or some other game with us, teaching us a new song, or amusing us with a difficult riddle.
Sam moved on further west about the time I hit my teens, and we were all sorry to see him go. He may have preferred the heartier savory foods, but he surely did have a sweet soul within.
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