Friday, February 18, 2011

Drunk Hogs

Olmanriver asked:
"Hey Oregon and Ernie, how was it you could afford to give 8 gallons of beer and wine to swine? "

Back in the Good Old Days, everybody had a hog to feed the food scraps and stuff left-over from the garden. Most families back then lived fairly close together and they often shared resources. But after modern science took over, they made us stop raising hogs, because they were a vector for human disease. But, to answer your question, the beer and wine was left over from the Briceland Bar.

Oregon's folks, who were my aunt and uncle Tom and Vivian Newland, and my Mom and Dad were partners in many businesses. One being a soda fountain in Garberville, and another being a bar and restaurant in Briceland. The bar didn’t have a name, that I remember, it was just a bar and restaurant. Most people called it “The Briceland Bar” or "Everett and Elsie’s”. People in Briceland ate and drank there as opportunity permitted. Sometimes out-of-towners from Garberville, Redway, Thorn, or Whitmore would stop in. They called it “slumming”, which is polite verbal slap in the face just between friends. The bar was a lot like today’s English pubs as far as everybody stopping by for a beer on the way home. Most of the wives that lived close would meet “The Ol’ Man” there and join him for a few beers then head home. Sometimes the wife would bring the kids and everybody would eat dinner there.

The bar had two sides that were wide open to each other, a bar side, and a restaurant side. Children were allowed in the bar, because it was really a restaurant with a beer and wine license. They called it a “Bona Fide eating place”, but there was a helleva lot more drinkin’ than eatin’, if you get my drift. Eight gallons of left over beer and wine oughta’ tell ya sompthin’.

The bar and restaurant had a Juke-box with speakers wired all over hell by a kid named Dan Healy, who worked for his dad, Dan Healy the elder, who owned a Juke-box rental company. Young Dan Healy went on to be the sound man, and grow up with a band named the Grateful Dead. (Maybe you have heard of them) Dan and I have been life-long friends and we still get together on occasion. The last occasion that we got together was when he fell of his ladder and shattered his knee. He had surgery and pins and is now in rehabilitation to learn to walk again.

The bar also had a bowling machine along one wall and on friday nights I would hook up my Nine Transistor Radio to the Juke-box and we would listen to "The Friday Night Fights, brought to you by Thin Gillette", featuring fighters Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston, white guys weren't considered to be very good fighters, but there was one fighter the crowd jokingly called the "great white hope" his name was Ingamar Johansson or something like that, but he turned out to be a flash in the pan. Sometimes we would listen to wrestling, that's back when we thought it was real. I remember a wrestler by the name of Gorgeous George.

The Briceland pigs loved their slop. All of the restaurant scraps went in their slop barrel, along with the beer and wine left over from the bar. The slop barrel was a lot like making sour-dough biscuits. You took a few bucketfuls out to feed the pigs and you put a few bucketfuls in to ferment. Fermented food digests better, and the pigs stay happy as hell. My uncle was also a partner in the local dairy. So, all the spoiled milk, ice cream, cottage cheese, cheese and any other spoils would be fed to the pigs. We would make butter out of the out-dated cream. We got to churn a lot of butter. Then, the whey went to the pigs. When the pigs got big enough to butcher we would put them in a separate pen and feed them nothing but fresh grain and corn to sweeten the meat. Then we would butcher them.

My dad was a great cook and he was a good  ol’ country boy. He was raised on a ranch were they butchered and cured all their own meat off the ranch. He knew how to make the best sausage that you ever ate. The Briceland bar was a real joy for him. He could whip up some of his famous recipes and try them out on the bar crowd. He would make a breakfast sausage that he made with Half venison, and half pork. Then he seasoned it with garlic, sage, salt, and pepper. He would smoke cure it, then we would eat it for breakfast. He also would make patty sausage out of the same recipe, add some cayenne, but without smoking it. My mother still knows all the recipes and she helped develop most of them. Mom and dad had a side business going of curing and smoking turkeys. People liked them so much that they would come for miles around to get them. They would only smoke so many, so you had to have your order in before they would prepare them. Mom also served a killer smoked turkey sandwich at the restaurant. It was one of my favorite snacks.

Dad liked spicy food and he would make a tamale pie. He had every kind of Mexican food and seasoning that you can imagine in it. It was delicious. I don’t think that anybody has the recipe for dad’s tamale pie, it was just too complicated. I would bet that he didn’t even know the recipe. He just stared putting everything that he liked into it so it ended up tasting about the same every time. He also had what he called “Mulligan Stew”, which was kind of an Irish stew that also had everything that he liked in it. He used to like to cook everything in a frying pan. He would always get upset, because the frying pan was never big enough. After starting in one pan he would end up having to put things that he was making into two pans. One day he went to town and he came home with what he called his “Stud Horse frying pan”. He finally had a pan that would fit everything that he was cooking. He was so proud of that pan that he would fry and egg in it just to use it. We still have the pan, but I don’t think that I’ve seen it be used since my dad died.

Dad also used to help cook the chicken for the Old-Timers-Day Barbecue in Laytonville. His sauce had sauterne, oil, butter, lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper.

As you might guess, My mom and dad had many friends in their Briceland years. The bar crowd was just like “Cheers”, where everybody knew everybody else’s name. Only much larger, and not as sissy as cheers. Most men had names back then, and they were proud of them, and they were proud of their jobs. It was an insult to NOT ask a person where they worked.

Among Mom and Dad’s many friends were some folks called Clarence and Marie. They owned a little piece of land about one hundred yards from the bar. It made an ideal place for raising hogs. So, Clarence became a partner in the pig farm. Most of the people in Briceland would bring their food scraps to the pig farm and they shared freely in the sausage that was made out of them. I’m not sure how they worked out who had what coming, but it all seemed to work out pretty well on the honor system. I think that most people were glad to have a place to get rid of their slop, and were tickled to death to get to eat some of mom and dads sausage.

One day Dad and Clarence got to complaining, over a few beers, that you just couldn’t get good horseradish like they used to grow back on the ranch, so Clarence planted some horseradish. When the horseradish was ready, they picked it and took it down to the restaurant kitchen to “process it”. They cleaned and peeled and chopped and then ground it up. The restaurant got so smelly that you couldn't even catch your breath when you walked in. I don’t know how they did it, but they got all of their horseradish “processed”. Mom came up with a brand new rule after that… “Any Horseradish ‘Processing’ will be done outside!”  Dad and Clarence were justifiably proud of their horseradish, and they always had a ready supply of their famous sauce after that.

One life-long lesson that I learned from being raised in a bar is that all problems start after 10:00 pm, so the smart folks go home between 10:00 and 11:00. Word to the wise.

Anyway. That’s where the drunk hogs came from.


olmanriver said...

Thanks so much answering the question with another good post.

olmanriver said...

for answering... sorry.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Hey, go back and read it again. I added to it. I think that I published it before I edited it. Sorry

skippy said...

Ernie, I'm wondering. Was home and restaurant food far better back then? I'm guessing from your story and between the home-raised and cured meats, dairy, Mom and her baking, Dad and his spices, fresh horseradish, and all the elbow grease-- it must've been. For example, a real home-made pie is hard to find. Now everything conveniently comes off a truck-- packaged, pre-made, frozen, homogenized, canned, and using microwaves and all.

Another fine story, Ernie. You had a good life growing up and a great family.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Skippy, and the hotcakes made from scratch were the best. Still are:-)


Ben said...

Ernie.. What a terrific post. I surely enjoyed it. It was sort of the Briceland version of the Sawblade. I suspect the place was Mel Byrd's inspiration.