Bernie Revering column: An October Sunday at Grandma Kraemer's
The bright blue haze on an October prompted my dad to suggest we make the sixty-mile trip to Grandma Kraemer's, located at the village of Urbank in southeastern Ottertail County. It seemed like quite a trip for a ten year old.
Breakfast had been memorable, with dad staging the entire affair. It consisted of the German egg bake, named "egiepon." This consisted of cracking fifteen eggs in a deep cast iron frying pan. Then went in baking soda, whole milk, butter, onions, and more than a pound of cubed bacon that had already been fried. The egg mixture rose up five inches above the edge of the skillet and was served with potatoes, and fresh home made bread. Buoyed by this, we boarded the Ford Model A, with my six-year-old sister standing up in the back seat.
The Northern Pacific Railroad had by-passed Urbank, but it still was a sprightly place. Many of the relatives worked or lived there. Uncle Pete had the Ford dealership. Uncle George and Aunt Mary had the local mercantile, which sold shoes, overalls, socks, paint and hardware along with staple and fancy groceries. Uncle Hubert had the bar and cafe, and the root beer floats were just great.
The Kraemer farm was a half-mile north of town. The house was huge with a great dining room. The barn was big too, a machinery shed, and a stable for the horses that pulled the machinery. There were no John Deere tractors here.
We arrived in time for dinner. There were more than 60 people in the great house. Mother pitched in with the cooking and managing of food preparation and getting it to the big table. I saw half a dozen pork and beef roasts in various ovens of the several stoves. The meats were from homegrown animals raised right here on the farm. Dinner was a noisy hubbub, with cherry pie and homemade ice cream to top things off.
In the afternoon, we went on adventurous exploration trips about the place, pestering some beehives, chasing the cats in the barn, watching the little pigs at the sty and the calves in the barn.
A sharptail grouse flew across the garden and alighted near the woods. Someone suggested that one of the older boys get the shotgun and bag this intruder. That he did, appearing in a canvas hunting coat and stuffing a few red shells into the pockets. The shotgun was an American made side-by-side 12 gauge, probably an Ansley H. Fox or an LC Smith or Ithaca. I was too young to be trusted with a hunting shotgun, but firearms fascinated me. The hunter coaxed the farm dog, probably a collie cross and departed. He returned half an hour later with the grouse, and several tree squirrels.
The summer kitchen
In the late afternoon, Grandma Kraemer sought me out and we went across the broad lawn to a log building that stood under a great, stately elm. It was cool inside the big room after the slab door had been swung aside. I hopped up onto a sturdy, long table and was handed a long bladed knife. I was to cut the twine loop that held twelve pound smoked hams. I did so and was expected to catch the ham as it fell. It was in this room that the butchering had been done; smoking the meats from animals raised right here. Several hams were split and great slices were spread onto many platters. Potatoes were being fried, tomatoes sliced, and ears of corn were being boiled in great cauldrons.
The second great meals of the day were served to another fifty people, some new to the affair, some remaining from dinnertime. Nearly all of them were my aunts, uncles, cousins and some strangers. German and Polish was as common as English, and I could understand some of the German words and phrases. The young women cousins eagerly pitched in with the serving and preparation of the meals, but the men did nothing but drink beer or lemonade from pitchers placed on the outdoor tables. The evening was taken over by a decidedly chilly air and the visitors began their goodbyes. Mother and dad were in the middle of almost all of them. Our departure was one of the last and it was beginning the fall of darkness. The return trip back home was uneventful until several deer were alongside, and I was awakened from a nap in the back seat to see the deer on the shore of Rush Lake. My sister was not interested.
The next day I remembered my close up look that I'd had of the shotgun and the wild game it had taken. The empty blue Peters shotgun shells had been left there by the hunter. I had taken one of them, triumphantly, and I looked it over closely.
Years later, I would hunt with my uncles and cousins near the town of Urbank for ruffed grouse, squirrels and cottontail rabbits. Occasionally, we took sharptail grouse, and later in the autumn we went deer hunting there.
The visits to Grandma Kraemer's farm were always a treat, and I did enjoy the meals and the visiting with aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was always a great way to spend a summer Sunday. And it was really the way that I was introduced to hunting and fishing, outdoor sports that stayed with me for a lifetime.
Lead in YOUR venison
Not the venison that you donated to the food bank, but rather the venison that you have in your home freezer, the result of having your deer processed commercially at Hoffman's, Audubon Meats, Ketter's or some other local butcher. A meeting was held on June 4th in St. Paul to discuss this and the food bank issue. Twenty-four deer hunting states were invited, along with the Safari Club, the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. We'll get a report on how the issues were addressed and what actions will be taken. One of the goals of the meeting was to decide what changes need to be made in the processing at a commercial butchery, if any. We've all been eating our deer meat all winter with no ill effects to the family or ourselves. How come it is now, suddenly, an issue? The motives of the whistle blower, a North Dakota Doctor with an axe to grind, are suspect in the thoughts of many. Pheasant and duck dinners on our home tables often will have a #6 lead pellet in there so we remove it. The particles of lead in venison -- particularly the burger -- would be in much smaller quantity than in a shotgun pellet, wouldn't it?
Minnesota, and other states, may be in the process of preparing booklets relating to venison recessing for next fall's deer season.