Living Off The Land

Sometimes it’s necessary for a kid to live off the land (for a few hours). For instance, a young person might want to go hiking or might want to go to the river or some other neat place to play. He certainly wouldn’t want to go home to get something to eat. “Home” is the place where plans get changed after a mother sniffs out the plan for the day. So, now is the time for this young person to use his wits and be resourceful enough to subsist for the day. It will be my pleasure to pass on some of the things my friends and I came up with to quiet a growling stomach.

What’s available depends on what time of year it is because so many things are seasonal. Of course, we should start with the things that can be found all year long. A person would probably be accompanied by one or two of his friends so the first thing to do is find out if they can come up with a snack without their Mom squashing the plan with a bunch of chores or something.

During the growing season there are a number of food choices available. We had a number of places we liked to go that were within about a 2 ½ mile radius of home. A couple of them took us past corn fields and if the corn was in season we could grab a couple of ears. Then, as we walked, we would keep our eyes open for a tin can large enough to boil some roasting ears and whatever else we would find.

If we were going out to Dry Creek there was a riffle there that was good for two things. First, the water ran over rocks and sand for about 20 feet and according to camping lore that was enough to purify it. We only half believed that but figured that boiling the water would finish off any germs that might be present. Secondly, the riffle made a wonderful hide-out for crawdads. I know the people in New Orleans call them crayfish but in Kansas they are crawdads. There were flat rocks laying in the riffle and just moving a couple of them would cause the crawdads to scatter in all directions. So, at this point, we’ve got a can, a couple of ears of corn, some crawdads, and some water. A prudent young person would have one of those waterproof Boy Scout match holders for wooden matches in his pocket and, son-of-a-gun, we’ve got lunch.

We also knew of some abandoned farm houses and sites within our hiking territory. One of my favorites was on the west side of town. There was nothing left of the house but a fireplace and chimney and some stone footings. However, behind the site of the home you could see the remains of a rail fence that was practically overgrown by an old blackberry bush. Every year that old bush produced berries and it made us a delicious snack.

One of the other old places had some old tomato vines that somehow produced a few tomatoes every summer. Another place had a gnarly-looking old peach tree that could give you a snack if you got there before the birds did.

A few times we tried fishing with a hand line but I don’t recall ever catching a fish let alone eating one. One time, when we were carrying our rifles we spotted a covey of quail. We got down in the prone position and after laying there forever the two of us got off shots about the same time and bagged two birds. We plucked them and roasted them on sticks. It was a lot of time and work with a very small reward.

I f we were near the railroad tracks west of town there was always the alfalfa mill. Alfalfa  was grown by some farmers and sold to the mill rather than being used to feed their own livestock.. It was hauled to the mill where it was pulverized and turned into powder. Later, the powder was pressed into pellets and was an efficient way to feed cattle and rabbits. I think some of that powder was put in gunney sacks but I believe that a lot of it was blown into railroad cars. Near the blower or conveyor, on the side of the building nearest the railroad tracks there was a gap in the galvanized siding and there was always a pile of alfalfa powder there. It was like having our own food dispenser. You could reach down and grab a handful of powder and start eating. It actually had a pretty good taste.

Schneider Brothers Granary was like a buffet. Besides the elevator and a silo they had a long building full of bins and each bin contained a different kind of grain. You could scoop up a handful and have something to chew on. My favorite was wheat. Once in a while we would go into their store where the smaller bins were kept and sample the rabbit pellets. The Schneider brothers were a couple of really nice guys and they never complained about us.

With these examples you can see that a young person (kid) can come up with a lot of ways to keep from going home for a snack or lunch. Chores and homework can be avoided all day long.

Dave Thomas

December 14, 2013


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