Saturday, October 6, 2012

Foothill Fare

image borrowed from bing

Foothill Fare

When I was a teenager
I loved to go hiking into the mountains
with my grandfather, who was
a seasoned woodsman, hunter, fisherman,
and philosopher,

lugging 60 pound wooden packs
with several heavy hunks of fresh bacon
and canned goods in them, in a time
before lightweight packs, waterproof fabrics
and dehydrated foods.

We would always try to make camp near a creek
in those fondly remembered days when drinking
from its chilled ripples would not make you ill,
before the pellets and filters were mandatory--
just dipped our face into the rushing water
and gulped its rock-washed elixir. 

We would stake out a place between two trees,
scoop out a shallow nest for our tired bodies, 
fill it with a sprinkling of soil over the rocks 
and a bed of soft pine boughs to sleep on, 
tie a clothesline rope between the trees, 
and stretch a plastic tarp over it for our tent, 
holding down the edges with colorful boulders 
from the nearby stream bed.

We would stay up half the night, listening
to the brush snapping from the predators
and foragers in the dark, staring into 
a crackling campfire, its fire sparks dancing
into a night sky that was smattered with serious stars,
talking about politics, poetry, art, literature, history,
family and the future.

Wonderfully exhausted, I would stay tucked deep
into one of our Army surplus mummy bags,
dreaming of a utopian tomorrow, the very one
my Pop promised would one day dawn,
where true brotherhood resided
and actual functional equality reigned.

My grandfather would rise before the sun,
stoke up the fire, smile at my sleepy lump,
roll up and smoke a handmade cigarette,
and squat ready to witness the brilliant birth
of another promise of personal adventure,
then would grab a fishing pole and go out
to catch our breakfast. 

My nose always awakened first, smelling
bacon frying, and the twin blackened
Maxwell House cans of coffee
and navy beans bubbling.

“Get your ass up, Butch, daylight’s a-burning”

I would squirm out of the sleeping bag,
immediately shivering as I pulled on my 
unlaced boots, took a few cramped steps
toward the edge of our campsite and stood there
watering the clover and daisies, spicing up
the dandy dew bubbles with last night’s coffee.

He would cook on the open campfire, pushing
the hot coals under a cast iron blackened
frying pan sizzling with beautiful bacon;
when it was done he would pile it up on
a metal pie plate, then pour in his sour dough
and cook up several bannock hot cakes;

My first course of wilderness breakfast 
was a steaming cup of coffee, 
a thick bannock with bacon,
slathered in butter 
on the first day while it lasted,
and honey from a sticky jar.

As any great cook would do, 
he would just nibble at his breakfast 
as he flopped four brook trout
into the hot pan and fried them up 
in the bacon grease, and the second course 
was constituted of pan-fried trout and navy beans. 

This was more than enough grub to fortify us
for the next five miles of vertical trail, continuing
our climb up to a glacier lake at the foot
of several majestic mountains, where we would
camp in a huge meadow below the glacier, 
in order to reinforce our worship of the earth
and revisit our palaver about the many parasites
who inhabited and poisoned it. 

Glenn Buttkus

October 2012

Posted over on dVerse Poets

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Brian Miller said...

oh man...i love it...great memories for me here...grew up camping...even spent a year living out of a tent right after college and cooking all my meals over flame....and in one of those army mummy bags as well...i am worshipping as well...smiles.

festivalking said...

beautiful... the picture i drew of your childhood camping experience is just beautiful.

Mary said...

Wonderful! Nothing like eating out in the wild. Food tastes better there than anywhere else. Lucky you to have had those experiences you wrote about.

Soraya said...

Sweet nostalgia! I do love the outdoors; it always feels like you go back to something real when you spend time in that environment. I loved it!

Claudia said...

oh wow glenn...this is way magical..sounds like you had a great time together..and great food...fresh caught fish for cool is it

Lane Savant said...

Whenever I think of steak, I think of the ones I had once in the woods near Lake Kachess with your family food has never tasted better.

aprille said...

Thank you for allowing us to relive this experience with you. Beautifully told with the smells and sounds so vivid that they reach us in time and space.

seasideauthor said...

Well I did my fresh fish in the toaster oven, but I have one in
the cabin too. I am into the conveniences, but fresh is really good. I really enjoyed the picture and the short story read. Thanks.

J Cosmo Newbery said...

You paint an entrancing picture!

Laurie Kolp said...

Mom... I can smell that bacon now! Nothing like campfire food and wonderful memories shared. Great detail, so vivid.

Laurie Kolp said...

*mmm* not mom

Quotes,Photos and a little Poetry said...

Your such a rough neck. Love how you shared this moment with us.

Rene Foran said...

I miss camping and the smell of bacon frying outdoors. There's something about that smell mixing with the fresh air that is ambrosia to me.
Truly enjoyed this.

Rinkly Rimes said...

I've never liked camping, but your poem made me feel I'd missed-out on something. I enjoyed listening to you too. I must try recording sometime.

manicddaily said...

Beautiful memories. I do like camping and you bring out the wonderful flavor of food eaten when hungry and a bit cold and sleepy outdoors. Very pretty poem! Thanks much. k.

Dave King said...

The nearest I ever got to this was canoe camping - pigeons' eggs in strawberry jam I remember. The jam was all we had left on the last night. Great tale well told.