Sunday, February 8, 2009

Muskrat love (or not)

I read the Daily Times every day, though it seems that I am getting more informative city and county news over at the Salisbury News blog. Both outlets have their agendas, so the mix kinda gives a balance. I have to say that the Times reporting of late has been so bland that I think they fear local government and their spell checking remains atrocious. However, I read Brice Stump's articles faithfully. Why?

When I first started treasure hunting inthe 1980's, it was the late Milford Webster that called my attention to two books written by Brice Stump. One was It Happened in Dorchester County and the other was A Visit With The Past. Both these books were full of vanished lore of lower Dorchester County, a place where houses and graveyards were slowly eroding into the Nanticoke, a wild, history filled area between the Blackwater and the Nanticoke, the name of another book of his. I devoured all three of them, and they inspired me to research the history of that part of Delmarva, along with Milford and friends.

Brice's writing about the Lewis Wharf area and its links to the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and even the Civil War made a compelling story, one that is still evolving, as new evidence comes to light. Brice was also the first person to publish a color photo of me in any newspaper, and his camera didn't break. Anyway, today's column had to do with the Expo at Golden Hill and the fact they will be serving up muskrats and rabbits. I'll be there on Feb. 28, along with fellow author Ann Foley.

Later today, at dinner, my daughter and a friend were eating dinner (roast beef with vegetables, including mushrooms. Her friend noticed the mushrooms and my daughter said: "I thought it tasted different" to which my stepson told her : that's because its muskrat, to which she turned several shades of green until he confessed it was beef. This is pretty much the modern reaction to muskrats, the rodential delicacy of the Eastern Shore.

I have to confess I can't blame her, but I did point out to her that she was the great-granddaughter of a muskrat trapper. It's true. My grandfather, Louis H. Horner, trapped muskrats on our marsh property in Mt. Vernon until he died and then the traps lay on the chicken coop roof and rusted. Why? Well, my dad was an urbanite and I only saw him fire a gun once and he missed. My grandather died when I was six, so there went my only chance at learning the trade. The marsh lay peaceful, though poachers did trap it. My mother and grandmother still occasionally bought muskrats and served them up stewed with potatoes, onions and carrots.

Naturally, they had to have the heads attached so they could be sure it wasn't some lesser rodent. So, at dinner time, out would come the big platter, smelling of pungent musk with the carcass of the muskrat swimming in his own gravy, curved incisors pointed right at me. I disliked the taste and never voluntarily ate any, though I don't begrudge anybody chowing down on them. They represent a time when many people came up hard, living off whatever the land could provide, including muskrats, squirrels, rabbits, racoons and deer, or turkeys, geese, ducks, quail or pigeons. Fishing, however, was something my dad liked, so I learned how to do that early and got to be decent at it.

Anyway, thanks to Brice for another fond memory (even if it wasn't tasty). If this economy gets any worse, we might all be reduced to eating such creatures. Not sure if Nutria are edible, or snakehead fish, but hey, if its them or me.....

Well, at any rate, visit Your Humble Scribe again.

No comments:

Post a Comment