Going For Leeks

Ellie S. Thomas   

© Copyright 2011 by  Ellie S. Thomas


Photo of a wild leek.

Smoky wanted a feed of partridge; he hadn't feasted on the succulent flesh of the bird in far too long so today he'd take Prince, hitch him to the farm wagon and they'd climb the old lumber trail to the high ground where the wild leeks grew. They wasn't nuthin' better'n partridges roasted over a bed of leeks, with lots of sage and crumbs to catch the drippins.

Springtime always marked the time for leeks and Smoky had spent a lifetime gathering them. He'd started out gathering them with his Maw and Paw and as their time passed, he continued on his own and now, perhaps he was the only one left in the community that knew what they looked like or where they could be found.

Oh, you could buy leeks in the supermarket, that's true, but they weren't the same as the wild ones. He could see the frosty little white globes in his mind, nestled just below the surface of the forest loam, marked by their lance-shaped green leaves. It wouldn't take him long to fill a burlap potato sack with them and then he'd go back home and wash them in the spring, bucketful by bucketful because they sure held onto the mud. He'd squash some cedar leaves and hold them on his bites at the same time because wherever you found leeks, the mosquitoes found you. There was a cost to everything in life, well he knew that; nothing is free.

Prince patiently drew the farm wagon up the sandy trail, occasionally tilting the box to a perilous angle when the back wheel passed over an outcropping of rock. Sparks flew when his iron shod hooves hit another stone up front but they travelled on. They'd made a good many trips together. Some up this same trail when the snow was deep and they would drag wood home to run through the old Round Oak heater, some for the kitchen stove. Probably Liza would be sitting there right now, using up her old tooth floss to darn holes in her socks, or to sew her buttons back on.

The kids scolded at her and said it was nasty to reuse tooth floss but Liza couldn't see that. 'What's the difference? Throw away my floss and then have to buy darning thread at the store? Better to reuse the floss to darn my socks, everythings going into the wash anyway when I'm done!'

They'd shake their head. Mom was the original recycler. Look at her aprons; Old feed sacks! Others still bearing the Purina logo, or saying GLF chickfeed covered the cushions in her rocker, some even made it into window curtains. You just never could tell- and their father was just as bad with his rolls of aluminum foil saved from gum, or tobacco, the strings from packages. It was awful! The windows in the barn were layered with chunk after chunk of broken glass carefully placed one over another to keep the weather out. Where did it all end?

Smoky clucked to the old horse. They were almost there; an overhanging bough snatched the battered hat from the top of his head. He uttered a muffled exclamation as he rescued it and squashed it back where it belonged. Drawing on the reins, he pulled off to the side where he put a feed bag on the horse's nose. There! That'd keep him quiet for awhile. He could see the small short plants looking for all the world like his wife's lily-of-the-valleys flowers. Let's go!

It didn't take Smoky long to pull a bagful of leeks and throw them into the wagon box; now the fun could begin. He took his trusted shotgun from beneath the wagon seat and eased off into the woods where he remembered a particular copse of trees where the acorns fell thick and there was lots of rich fodder; he bet he'd find his supper right there.

A short time later he hoisted three partridges into his pack basket and tucked them in with the smelly leeks. Their odor would effectively hide the scent of the game. Now, to get back home. Prince pulled them back down the way they'd come. Smoky wanted a smoke dreadfully bad but being a true woodsman, he refused to light a smoke until he was home. Home where Liza sat before the fire, wearing her mismatched socks, enjoying her cup of chickory coffee.

He could smell some cornbread baking in the oven and some beans bubbled on the back of the stove. The granite teapot sat to the rear of the stovetop where it kept warm throughout the day in case somebody wanted a cup of green tea. He wouldn't mind a hot cup at all.

'Wal, Lisa, how did yore day go?' he asked companionably as he sank into his old barrel chair. He'd made it from an old whiskey barrel and you couldn't get anything more comfortable. Now it cushioned his tired body as he faced his wife.

She gaped in surprise at the pleasantry. "It went right good, Smokey, and I'll sure enjoy those birdies. Do you suppose when you get locked up for breaking the law they'll give you your favorite foods or your old pipe?' she cackled a little but it was a subject often on her mind. It was a chance he took and probably shouldn't do it now that life had eased, the kids had gone. It was much easier to feed just the two of them now but gol-darn it, a man got in the habit of eating the wild creatures provided by God and wasn't that why He had made them?

It wasn't as if Smoky had ever been greedy he thought piously; killing and shooting just for fun, for trophies! Nope, he'd always done it because it was the only way he could feed his family and didn't the govermint tell them to eat fresh, unpolluted, unrefined food..the natural stuff? That's probably why they kept their health!

'Wal,' Smoky yawned and stretched, 'if the Master wanted a body to get caught, guess He'd attend to it.' Meantime, Smoky was going to bed and tomorrow would be another day.

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