My personal experience stories about hunting can be counted on one hand with a digit or two left over. Part of that is due to the fact that, as a boy growing up, I was never exposed to game hunting of any kind since my dad was not a hunter.
However, he did have several friends who hunted and fished. While Dad never hunted that I knew of and only fished by trotline with a group of friends whose “catches” consisted equally of giant catfish and some clear liquid in a Mason fruit jar, some of his pals did hunt and, on occasion, the Webb brothers and Mom got to share in the largesse of Dad’s outdoor cohorts. Mom might argue the “sharing credit” part since her contribution in any gathering to enjoy the hunting production involved cooking the meal.
Dad’s hunter friends were usually guys who in some way or another did jobs for him and had his permission to hunt and fish on land that he owned or leased for raising cattle, his principal livelihood all of his too-short 57 years.
Monk Edwards was one such friend. He was a bachelor and all-around handy man, mostly carpentry. He was a huge and raw-boned with hands that could palm a watermelon.
I was never at the shanty that Monk called home, and I suspect Mother would’ve condemned it on sight and suggested it and all its contents be burned. He’d never married and, as far as anyone knew, never had a relationship with a woman except for the “raisin’” he got from his mother. His social graces were almost non-existent, although he tried his best to be courtly and a gentleman around women, which was a rare occurrence. And, Monk (like the rest of us) thought Mom hung the moon. Mother accepted Dad’s friends and made some special consideration for the rough-hewn Monk, who just seemed like a big ol’ overgrown boy who appeared to have been raised by a hermit deep in the post oak woods of East Central Texas. However, Mother said Monk had a “good heart.”
Among the creatures that Monk hunted were quail. He hunted every day of the season and he was very good at it.
Monk wisely had one modern convenience in his house that was quite useful in storing and preserving some of his quarry — a large freezer. He had a season’s worth of quail frozen, at least a gross.
Since Monk and Dad hung out together (think “Mason fruit jar”), Dad asked Mom if she’d consider “cooking up” all of those quail and have Monk join us for that meal. Of course, Mom agreed.
She provided a batter for frying the birds, baked homemade biscuits plus some of her famous (all her cooking was tabbed that way by any who ate it) cream gravy. Of course, she knew her diners (even Monk) and their capacities and, if memory serves, there were about three pans of biscuits (three dozen). I feel sure Monk polished off a dozen himself as he managed to munch enough quail for an infantry squad, despite having something less than a mouthful of teeth.
Mother set him up with one end of the dining table all to himself (his reputation preceded him), so he’d have plenty of elbow room. Monk proceeded to plunk his elbows down, bend so his face was about 6-8 inches from his plate and dived right into the quail, biscuits, gravy and iced tea.
“Lawd-a-mercy, Miss Ruth,” Monk muttered between mouthfuls, “you ARE the best cook in Freestone County just like everbody sez.”
I managed to gobble up seven or eight of the quail myself, several biscuits and a pint or two of that gravy. It wasn’t a time to be bashful nor to have polite dinner table talk. It was every man for himself because you knew from the get-go that Monk would outdistance the pack.
WILLIS WEBB is a retired community newspaper publisher of more than 55 years experience. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.