Sunday, November 2, 2014

Chapter XLIV

      “I guess what I’m asking – trying to ask – is do you mind the way things are now, mind me being around or … or am I in the way?  Do you even want or need me around?”

      I finally turned to look at Jude and gave him an honest answer.  “You want the truth?  About half the time I know for a fact I’m just fooling myself thinking I can do it all alone.  I was almost to the point of giving up when you called my name out of the blue, you don’t know how close.  You were right where you needed to be right when you needed to be.  And you haven’t stopped since.  If I could go back and have Dad and Jack and Jay be around and take care of things, or have Mom whole and well, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  But that’s never going to happen, it’s just a fantasy that doesn’t do anything but waste time and cause heartache.  And since they aren’t ever coming back, I can’t think of any other way that I’d rather things be right now.  I don’t know what we’d do if you hadn’t volunteered to step up … Lord knows I love them ‘cause they’re family, but I would have killed Clewis by now and I’d be ready to run away again if it had been Butch.  And Uncle Roe … I don’t know, he keeps getting surprised that I have more sense than he expects me to have though he is a gentleman about it; he treated Mom the same way and she taught me to laugh about it rather than get upset, to appreciate who he is, blind spots and all but on occasion it does make me have to bite my tongue.”

      I was smiling but Jude was still serious.  “Do … do you think of me the same way you think of Butch and Clewis?”

      Confused by the question I asked, “What do you mean?”

      “I don’t know exactly.”

      “Well, don’t take this the wrong way but you’re you and they’re them.  You are each different in my head.  Turns out that you have more sense than Clewis, or at least it seems that way from what I’ve seen; he can’t seem to stop fooling long enough to see that he’s making matters worse rather than better or being funny.  Clewis … it used to be I saw him as older than me but since we’ve been here … it’s like a big part of him isn’t ready to grow up yet and doesn’t know it.  He’s great with Crystal and all that, and he is a grown man, but … I don’t know … he just seems like it irritates him to have to be responsible somehow … and then he gets irritated because he’s irritated by it.  Butch … he’s the opposite and all about responsibility, almost too much to be comfortable around.  From what I remember, I hardly ever saw him smile much when I was little; he was always so serious about everything.  River’s helped him take some of the stiffness out but … you know what Dad used to say about Butch?”

      “No.  What?”

      “He acted like an old man borrowing a young man’s body but without the sense to know to enjoy it while he had it.”

      A brief smile tried to come out on Jude’s face but didn’t quite get to see the sun.  “Sounds about right.  But what about me?”

      “I’m still figuring that out.  You’ve always been around for as long as I can remember but at the same time you weren’t because … you always seemed to have your outside interests.  You were fast and wild, a little scary as I recall though I don’t think you meant to be.  You were alright when you were away from your friends but that wasn’t often.  Then you went to work before you were even out of middle school driving tractors and working in the fields … you were either working hard or playing hard, there wasn’t much balance or in between.  Now you are very different … or at least different from the way I remember you being but not in a bad way, and all I really care about is how you are now.  I’m not sure what to call it … because as soon as I do someone is going to mess it up and confuse things.  All I know is that I’m glad it is you here and not those other two.  You make things better and easy … and I’m embarrassing myself because I sound like an idiot so I’m going to stop talking now so there.”  I rolled my eyes and went back over to the sink and started filling a pan of water to boil some eggs in. 

      I peeked around and his mood had changed again and he was smiling.  “Well.  Glad I’m not the only one feeling like an idiot.  Dad keeps saying things and …”

      “What things?”

      “I don’t know, nothing outright and kinda stupid.  I don’t know how to take him sometimes.  And now I’m done talking about this too because I’m starting to feel really weird for asking in the first place.”

      I laughed and said, “You are weird.  But since you’re here, can you tell me what you did with those squirrels?”

      He jumped up.  “Dang it, forgot all about them.  I’ll go dress ‘em and they can be supper unless you’ve got it all planned out.”

      “Three squirrels aren’t going far but I’ll fry them and the boys can be the great hunters for a change.”

      He laughed and went outside and I stayed because I had things to do and the first one was to get a bunch of eggs hardboiled so that I could pickle them.  The first recipe was for Golden Pickled Eggs.

Golden Pickled Eggs

1 tablespoon pickling or kosher salt
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1-inch cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon crushed white peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon whole celery seeds
2 shallots, thinly sliced
About 12 hard-cooked eggs, peeled

In a nonreactive saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the eggs. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and cover the pan; simmer for 15 minutes. Let the liquid cool.   Put eggs in a sterilized quart jar. Pour the spiced vinegar over the eggs. Cap the jar and refrigerate it for at least a week before serving. Refrigerated eggs will keep for several weeks.

       But I wasn’t finished.  I also made Sweet Pickled Eggs and Beets.  I had some beets that I had canned but the lid hadn’t sealed for some reason so this was a good way to use them up.

Sweet Pickled Eggs and Beets

1 dozen eggs
2 cups beet juice
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup cider vinegar

Boil eggs, cool and shell.  Place in bowl with drained beets and onions. Bring the 2 cups of beet juice to a boil.  Reduce heat and add vinegar and brown sugar.  Allow to simmer until brown sugar has dissolved.  Pour over eggs, beets, and onions; cover and let stand in refrigerator for at least 2 days.

      I had other recipes for pickling eggs – Dad really liked them anyway he could get them – such as Ginger Pickled Eggs, British Pub Pickled Eggs, and Hot Spicy Pickled Eggs but they all needed ingredients that either I didn’t have much of or didn’t have at all so I decided to be happy with what I could do.

      Once I started thinking about it I realized I could pickle a lot of things that I was overlooking.  I could pickle a few of the lemons, pickle some squash and pumpkin, make watermelon rind pickles, pickle some of the pears like I had the apples, and save some of the smallest green tomatoes that didn’t look like they would survive to ripen and pickle them as well.  Then I could get downright weird.  I like the pink pickled turnips Mom used to make for the holidays.  I could pickle some purslane.  I could pickle some sunchokes since they didn’t last long after digging.  I could even pickle walnuts for that matter.

      A lot of it would depend on how much time I had and whether my supply of vinegar and other things would hold up.  With the “mother” I found floating in the jars of vinegar in the pantry cabinet I could make more vinegar as long as the apple juice held out which reminded me that now that we’d had a frost the few remaining apples that we’d been trying to leave on the trees would need to come down and get squeeze in the cider press.  But there were spices and other things that I would need and I needed to get a list going just in case I ever got a chance to go to the Exchange again.  I’ve got to keep myself from counting on it; I felt the pinch when Mom had been counting so much on Dad’s benefits coming in and they never did until it was too late to do her any good.


Pickled Lemons to Preserve Them

Slice the washed and dried lemons lengthwise, almost in quarters. You want the lemon to still be in one piece, but almost cut through. If you are using Eurekas, which often have little nubs on the ends, cut them off before you almost-quarter the lemons.  Using Kosher, pickling or pure sea salt, stuff the lemon. Pack it in well, and use about a tablespoon per lemon. Mush the lemon into a clean Mason jar; use quart jars. Repeat until you have the jar mostly full. Toss a little more salt on top.  Now you have several decisions to make. You can jam in some spices — I suggest a cinnamon stick, some peppercorns, a couple cloves and a bay leaf. And you can choose to cover the lemons with vinegar or lemon juice, or not. Some people just keep mushing the lemons down until their own juice covers them. The early British and Americans covered the lemons with vinegar. I cover them with lemon juice.  Seal the jars in a hot water bath (water at a simmer) for 10 minutes. Wait at least 3 weeks before eating.



  1. I used to make "Hot Spicy Dill Green Tomatoes" a lot but not in the last couple of years...... ll I'll just have to put them on next years calendar.


  2. Kathy thanks for more of this great story. I am glad you are feeling better and can know laugh about your dip in the pond.