Messy Fingers, Greasy Chins and Gravy Stains Vol. 2B

Jul 18


The summer is starting to gain momentum. Families and folks are out there in the sun…dressed skimpy so that Walgreen’s is stocking up heavily on tubes of SPF 114! Kids go to bed with a pink hue to their skin and Uncle Ralph, who refuses to take of his Ray-Ban’s , looks in the mirror and sees a  version of  a raccoon staring back at him.

It’s the summer of my ninth year. The families have planned a grand picnic and reunion…the reason? To celebrate my cousin’s birthday and mine…5 days apart in June. Uncle Jesse , our World War I vet cook has a 20 lb. kid marinating with onions, chiles and garlic (I think there was mention of some Lone Star beer too ). My aunt Margaret ( who was the spokesperson for ALL things  family) was concerned that the time that has been chosen for the affair is too late in the day. Why? It’s that lone Star beer issue again. It seems Uncle Jesse cooking skills diminish with more empty cans of that beer. My Dad says, “Dammit, Maggie…it will be fine ! ”

It was fine. In the San Antonio of my youth, we always had an outdoor function and enjoyed wonderful foods of all kinds. The Mexican influence was strong and that goat was unbelievable. Chiles not too hot; some char on the surface from the mesquite charcoal. Many think that goat meat is “gamey”…maybe if you eat an old tired “Billie”; but not a kid less than a few weeks old. Besides in the world of goat farming, male baby goats have no value..but to eat. One” Billie” can accompany several Nannies quite well. We had another regional favorite from immigrants, German potato salad. Lots of tamales, tortillas, deviled eggs, sweet and sour cabbage ..the tables were covered. There was lots to do . it was a big park in South San Antonio with a swimming pool and a small arcade with games. Norris Lee and I noticed that our consumption of soda pop was not being monitored by the adults as usually was the case. I believe that Lone Star beer was the culprit again. I personally had nine bottles. Hire’s Root Beer, Bireley’s orange soda, a couple of bottles of Virginia Dare Punch, and the rest probably was Nehi cream soda, and Dr. Pepper (invented right in Waco, Texas before Coca-Cola) . I don’t know how much soda Norris Lee had, but we were sure sick. We did eat birthday cake-chocolate…brought by three different ladies. I think the cake was good. After all, we were nine years old and cake is always good, no matter how you feel.


There was a point in the late afternoon where Uncle Jesse was observed asleep on a blanket behind a mesquite tree. He looked dead, but he wasn’t. I wanted to thank him for the great BBQ he made for Norris Lee and me; after all he had worked really hard.


My youth was partly spent in the Boy Scouts. I was living in the San Fernando Valley north of LA. There on many camp outs I discovered my first mountain rivers, lakes and streams. I recall on one of my first weekend camp outs, since I was the new kid,  was elected to gather the water from the creek. We didn’t even have to boil it! We were in the  Angeles Crest Forest.

I lay down on the bank and stuck my face in the cold shimmering icy water and drank. I will never forget that. A couple of years later , we went to Mt. Whitsett for summer camp. All the standard stuff…canoeing, archery, looking for arrow heads, ghost stories by the camp fire. I had not qualified for the 25 mile hike into the mountains to get the “Silver Knapsack” pin. Those of us left behind at the camp ( with about 200 more kids from all over Calif.) had to pick a camp cook in charge of meals. They picked me and I’m 11 years old! I didn’t really feel too bad about missing the hike…I had a job to do.

We had 15 kids and 3 adults left in our little camp of Troop 52. I remember the first night’s meal. it was pretty good…at least everyone said so. Do you think the fact that we were at 6000 feet, all were hungry and I didn’t burn it was a factor for my success?



Get a big pot. Put some oil in it and get it hot. Add 4 onions that you chopped. Stir it really good until it’s a little brown; add 4 pounds of hamburger in little chunks. Keep stirring until the hamburger is brown. Add 5 or 6 chopped carrots and some chopped potatoes that got peeled first. Open 3 big cans of tomatoes and dump into the pot. Mush it all around. Put in some salt and not too much pepper. Pour in some brown stuff from the bottle on the cooking shelf…not too much, because it’s a little salty too.Cover the pot and cook about 45 minutes. Look at it a lot so it doesn’t burn. Make some rice, if everyone wants, to eat with the stew. Sleep good because you are going to be real tired; also make sure you get some help to wash up the pots and stuff. Tell your mom when you get back home.

To Be Continued 2c….



  1. Dave Cota /

    I’m lucky enough to live down the street from this guy:

    Next time you’re in LA we can swing by.

    • This a famous place. I would be in retro soda pop heaven. FYI….if you like ginger ale; the best in the world is Blenheim from the south. S.C. I think. RECIPE: 1 12 oz. glass, some ice cubes, 1 1/2 oz. of Bulleit Rye Whiskey, fill with Blenheim. Add a twist , if desired. Enjoy!
      Would love to explore Galcos with you and load up the trunk.

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