New Beginning

The first thing I put into my Pie Hole on my first day of involuntary unemployment was a double espresso, made at 5:07 a.m. using some Double-French Roast coffee that my friend Waynette brought me from San Barbara Roasting company. It certainly worked, even at that unholy hour–at which I’d risen to go squirrel hunting. Shooting at rodents somehow seemed like an apt beginning to this first day of, as they say, the rest of my life.

Beginning a new blog also seemed apropos, especially one in which you get me instead of one of my old barbecue personas,“> Professor BBQ:


I was impressed with our forward motion. My friend Joe Montgomery and I had spent the previous night tasting no less than five wines from Grove Vineyards for my column and eating some marvelous Ossa Bucco that Anne had made from beef shanks and three huge beef ribs (hey, ossa means bones, bucco means damn good, right? Who needs veal?) As my daddy used to say to my sister Betty and I after we’d finished another marvelous meal that my momma had fixed, “Aren’t you glad we married her.”
Those words still hold. I am. Both of them.
Sitting in the woods with my trusty .22 with Lyman peep sights before light even thought about shining on the tops of the trees was nothing short of exhilarating. Anne had said to bring back no more than six squirrels and had promised to chicken-fry them — with gravy, of course. As the sun just began to touch the highest treetops, roosters and jay birds competed to see who could make the rudest sounds (Jays won, of course). A chatty hawk decided to demonstrate its most blood-curdling noises, assuring that every squirrel in the county either stayed in its nest or plastered itself to the trunk of the nearest tree for the next hour. There was plenty of action without the squirrels. Dried, wrinkled beech leaves quivered everywhere and nut hatches and woodpeckers worked non-stop to demolish a tree trunk right smack in front of me. After a while I saw what I’m almost sure were four sandhill cranes flying overhead. Who needs blood sports with entertainment like that?
Coming up six squirrels short of our quota, Joe and I settled for smoked sausage, gravy and eggs at Bob’s in Madison , although the brains and eggs were tempting.
You gotta love a place where it only costs 35 cents to add gravy to your biscuit, though I ordered a whole bowl so I could dip to my heart’s content.
The rest of the day I spent, as my cousin Reid predicted I would, filling up my time with this and that — and eating a whole lot better tthan if I’d been at work — feeling as if I’d accomplished as much as any other day, which I’m coming to realize is what self-validation is all about.


37 Responses to “New Beginning”

  1. Buck Says:

    A fine start! And well descibed I might add. Tho’ a coupla tree rats would have most certainly added to the bouquet.

  2. david mildenberg Says:

    We’ve got lots of deaf squirrels down here in the southern Piedmont when you want to fill that quota, David. Bring Anne to cook, please. Nice report.

  3. Sophie Says:

    Wow, I have a friend who eats chicken fried squirrel? I’m more Southern than I thought.

  4. anabailey Says:

    it sounds like unemployment’s a hell of a lot tastier than this college bullshit; which leads me to wonder why I’m wasting my time here getting a non-delicious degree when I could be bumming around following the auspicious rumblings of my stomach..

  5. sarah Says:

    Sounds pretty productive to me. Mmmmmm…. biscuits n’ gravy…..

  6. Richard Gilbert Says:

    Wonderful! What a great idea for your first day involuntarily off, instead of sleeping late and watching TV.

  7. Beth W. Says:

    Your old employer’s loss is the blogosphere’s gain (and as you discovered today, probably yours, too). Enjoyed this first story; looking forward to more.

  8. Scott Sapp Says:

    My dad’s favorite line when momma had made an particularly pleasing meal was…wonder what the po folks are doing? Keep up the good works

  9. Al Comanchero Says:

    Now ain’t that a lot more fun than hanging out with ppl. who don’t know what gravy is? And if you learn how to make squirrel-skin caps, you could corner a new market.

    Also, come on down to my place and pop a few of those roof rats that keep chasing the cardinals and woodpeckers away from my bird feeder.

  10. John Masters Says:

    A fine beginning David!
    Loved the recap. Keep them coming.
    But eventually, if you are still involuntarily laid off, you’ll have to start bringing home some game for the table!
    If need be, you and Joe can probably pick off six from my deck!
    Does your gun have silencer??
    Have a great one or second one that is!

  11. Rob Lamme Says:

    dude – squirrels! sweet. never had em. got a lot of em. bring 22 to durham and harvest a few for me. no one will mind the shooting – hell, folks around here can distinguish between a pop gun like yours and the real killing machines that regularly go off in the Good Durham Night.

    cheers –


    ps, your blog needs a email subscription so folks like me get a notice when you post. just a thought.

    • dclaud Says:

      You’re right about not having a subscription feature, which is not the first time I’ve needed I.T. since I left Pace, eh?
      I’m asking my friend Richard, who has a really neat blog about narrative nonfiction how to set one up.

    • dclaud Says:

      Here’s what my friend, Richard Gilbert, whose entry about cursed teachers you definitely want to read, says about email subscriptions:
      I spent a lot of time adding a subscribe by email feature to my blog and have learned the better way, and yours already has it: the RSS feed (real simple syndication) and that button (with the lines on it) is in the url bar at the top.

      Now I get feeds of your blog and others to my Google home page and see at a glance who’s got a new post and its title. I have maybe a dozen feeds coming in and am spared email clutter.

  12. Odaithi Says:

    Crouching in the woods with a firearm certainly seems a skill worthy of honing in this economic climate, though chowing down on a bowl of floury grease might not be the wisest way to survive early retirement to Social Security age. But your tale made me a bit envious. Not to mention hungry.

  13. Marsha Says:

    How about this for when you DO manage to bag youself one of those clever tree rats….BBQ! Dan saw some regular rats being grilled on the side of the road. Just skin them and stick a skewer in them. So tasty over a side of papaya salad. Watch out for the little teeth though. They’re sharp. Of course the down side is the lack of gravy.

    • dclaud Says:

      Dan is the former Cocoa TODAY editor who tried to talk Art Latham and I into going to the pound, “adopting” a dog, dispatching it, cleaning it and then in exchange for the minor part we would take in the endeavor, he would cook it for us. I told him that my mom was not going to read in her newspaper about me eating a dog.

  14. Richard Gilbert Says:

    I spent a lot of time adding a subscribe by email feature to my blog and have learned the better way, and yours already has it: the RSS feed (real simple syndication) and that button (with the lines on it) is in the url bar at the top.

    Now I get feeds of your blog and others to my Google home page and see at a glance who’s got a new post and its title. I have maybe a dozen feeds coming in and am spared email clutter.

  15. Mickey McLean Says:

    Look forward to having lunch with you soon. But let’s stick to pig. No squirrels please! 😉

    And Rob, I second Richard’s suggestion: Subscribe to the RSS feed.

  16. Lynn Coulter Says:

    no way i’m eating squirrel, although i am descended from good southern folks who ate the occasional opossum (here i’m speaking of my grandparents generation….i was raised under the Golden Arches, not to name names….but that probably wasn’t much better, now that i think about it).

    but while i’m not sold on squirrel, i love the blog.
    rock on, david!

    • dclaud Says:

      Have you had it chicken-fried. My momma said daddy would eat sawdust fried — with gravy. If you’ve ever had my momma’s gravy, you’d understand.

  17. Alicia Says:

    So you missed out on the brains and eggs? That’s one of my uncle’s favorite dishes. The Miller diet also includes occasional servings of squirrel. And, if you ever happen to encounter the South Rowan Y Cookbook, note the last entry, contributed (with at least 98% seriousness) by my dad–possum stew, just like Grandma used to make. Which all at least partly explains why I went vegetarian, I guess.
    Regardless, this sounds far more entertaining than work. Though a few mice have been spotted downstairs so I guess we could try to shoot them.

    • dclaud Says:

      My daddy used to go on and on about how good possum was, although it sounded as if he liked the sweet taters that were cooked in the body cavity more than the possum itself, which he described as like pork only a lot richer. Then he went on to say how the taters absorbed all the grease. The story went on about how he’d once eaten too many of them and I’ll leave the continuation of the story to your imagination.

  18. Scott Sapp Says:

    Liver mush and eggs….mmmmmmmmmmm, good

  19. Sophie Says:

    Wow. I’m outta my league here. All I can reminisce about is gefilte fish and creamed herring.

  20. Paul Corbettu' Says:

    Dear Mr. Bailey,
    Not to be all cocky and shee-at, but you’ve never experienced Eastern NC BBQ till you hit White Swan in my ol’ hometown of Smithfield, NC. Tis’ the cream of the crop and cheaper than local ‘bacco by the ounce. Mmm-mmm. Unemployment makes the vinegar seasoning all the more sweet(er).

  21. Elizabeth Westmark Says:

    I forgot to invite you over to my blog for a virtual cup of chicory coffee and maybe some cheese grits. Excuse my rudeness. . .

  22. BeamishBuoy Says:

    With a father from Philly and a momma from Greenbrier, Tennessee, we used to enjoy scrapple with grits. That was just one benefit of being a child of a mixed marriage. Many years ago while visiting my brother in Auburn I spotted small cans of pork brains in milk gravy stocked up there with the vienna sausages at the Piggly Wiggly. They had those pull top lids just in case you get extra hungry and had to get to it quick. I bought a can and gift-wrapped it for my brother in law one Christmas. He was pleased! Nice blog David.

    • dclaud Says:

      Canned, eh? Which might explain how a small cafe keeps brains and eggs on the menu. My dad used to get them when pigs were slaughtered and people would bring them into his Belk’s store and exchange them and tenderloin for merchandise. Where did Bob’s get its brains, I wondered. Now I think we know.

  23. Marsha Says:

    How’s the forced retirement going? You can get addicted to having time for yourself. It’s not all bad. When you start deep frying insects ( a Lao tradition) I’ll worry.

    • dclaud Says:

      I frankly think leisure is vastly overrated. Granted, if you’re in Florida or Hawaii — or Laotia — it might be quite another thing. But it’s been in the 20s here and everything live and green has fallen off the trees and onto the ground and it’s pretty gray. But I guess I’m made for this sort of thing, as I told my daughers. We come from strong stock.

  24. Marsha Says:

    I think I prefer winter cold over quietly sitting in the shade w/o movement and sweating. Of course, an icy gin and tonic helps. Are you experimenting with winter drinks?

    • dclaud Says:

      My experimentation so far has been limited to seeing whether I can find a cheap Bourbon. When you’re the spirits editor of Sky, you get used to lots and lots of very good whiskey/whisky. When you have to buy it, well, that’s an entirely different affair. Anne experiments with toddies of every sort and I take a sip from each and then go back to my whisky neat

  25. Marsha Says:

    Mekong Whiskey is in your future.

  26. odalark Says:

    Damned fine stuff, but nothing compared to Phillip’s Scotch, which the customers in Carey’s Bar in Vermillion, SD, thought was Chivas Regal the entire three years I poured it from the same time-worn bottle of Chivas.

  27. odalark Says:

    Has BeamishBoy chased any middle-aged men around golf courses while madly driving a Volkswagen in South Florida lately?

  28. beamishbuoy Says:

    It was chasin’ Welsh leprechauns we were, O’Dalark, as if you don’t remember. Whisky and Coke slushies were the culprits as I recall. The story had a sad end for the wee bug, as it rolled for what seemed like centuries across a dusty field with us inside thrown about like red-headed rag dolls. Upon the termination of the lumpy ride, we laughed upside down into each other’s dirty faces in our surprise to be alive. And still surprised we are to have remained alive to laugh some more and hoist a brew this St. Paddy’s day these 30 years later. Sláinte

  29. Marsha Says:

    Hey David,
    How about an update? Has spring arrived?

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