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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Chili, pie and flying gravel

Brad Nelson for Progressive Forage Grower Published on 29 March 2016

I taught my 14-year-old grandson how to open a can of chili with a pocketknife the other day. We were at a campground, and it was a “Grandpa and boy only” outing celebrating his birthday. The always-ready camp cooking box wasn’t, which we didn’t notice until we couldn’t produce a can opener.

He suggested shooting the top off of the can. I reminded him that the contents were our supper.

I was a couple of years into my Boy Scout experience before I ended up on a camping outing with my dad. I remember being mildly surprised that Dad knew just what to do to set up a camp. I remembered as Dad went about starting a fire that he had spent time as a young man following sheep over more than a couple of summers.

Dad told of one outfit that had the camp rule that whoever complained about the food was the new cook. The old boy with the “duty” was sick and tired of the job, so one day when the others went off to keep the sheep from becoming wolf and coyote lunch, he made a pie.

He gathered up moose droppings and made it up into a very nice looking pie.

When the crew returned for supper, they ate fast, in anticipation of pie for dessert. The first one to get a piece of pie on his plate immediately noticed what it was, and wailed, “Hey! This is moose dropping pie!”

He then realized that he may have just become the new cook. The tone of his voice changed, and he then said, “But it’s good moose dropping pie.”

Dad didn’t serve us any moose pie of any kind, and we all survived the event. The only near tragedy was when one of my brothers came running down a hill and got going faster than his legs. He lost a right-of-way dispute with a tree. Good thing the kid was hard-headed.

Dad had recently added the family’s first “second” car, which we drove to the fathers and sons outing. It was a 1951 Chevy four-door sedan. It had the Chevy stove-bolt six-cylinder engine with the two-speed powerglide automatic transmission.

One winter Dad went to work in the good car (I think it was the Edsel) and due to the snow, he had put tire chains on the Chevy in case Mom needed anything from town. I had a relatively new driver’s license but was sent with my sister downtown to the Safeway store anyway.

There was a good inch or better of hard-packed snow on all the roads, but with the chains the Chevy got along fine. I approached a stop sign and stepped on the brakes. The car kept moving forward. I could hear the tire chains dragging on the surface of the packed snow.

The intersection we were fast approaching was not clear of other traffic. I moved my left foot onto the brake pedal and held it down, shifted the automatic transmission into reverse, and stepped down on the gas pedal with my right foot.

When I felt the engine pull against things, I released the brakes and gave it full throttle. The rear wheels turned backward, and with the rumbling vibration of chained tires spinning, the car stopped, and then moved backward. I remember my sister closing her eyes and trying to suck all of the air out of the car.

Once stopped, I shifted back into a forward gear, and proceeded after traffic was clear. I did my best to act like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. To this day I have no idea why I had the presence of mind to use reverse to stop the sliding Chevy.

Back to our February camp-out – I still have the 5-gallon propane tank and hose with the weed-burner tip I had purchased in the middle of one winter when I was still running my hay truck. It served me well to warm up vital parts of the truck in cold weather.

When we were ready for a campfire, now in the dark and with rain threatening, the boy asked if I had enough paper to get a fire started. I told him I had a secret weapon, and carried the weed burner to the fire site. We dutifully burned up our firewood but were able to modulate the propane flame to successfully cook.

The other missing item was salt. Breakfast eggs and potatoes were cooked in an excess of bacon grease, which added enough salt so the food was edible.

Thinking about opening the chili with the pocketknife, I asked the boy what I had taught him that others would be surprised he knew. He pondered. I wondered if knowing how to weld, how to shoot, how to sharpen a knife, how to make a safe holster for his hatchet out of leather or knowing how to cook would come up.

He said, “How to drift a car. I don’t think people would expect me to know that.”

Now I have to teach him how to pull a car out of a drift (skid). That may be more tedious.  FG