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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Fresh beef top concern for settlers

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
From 1840 to the late 1930s, an early Texas settlement operated on the Trinity River serving as a prosperous steamboat landing and ferry crossing. The settlement was named Swartout after a New York financier who helped finance the New Republic of Texas in its early days.

Progress and "New Deal" programs in the 1930s saw a dam built on the Trinity River creating Lake Livingston. Sadly, the once-prosperous town of Swartout became a watery ghost town lying on the bottom of the lake.

The term "hoedown" is believed to have originated in the South, where generations had to chop weeds from King Cotton with a garden hoe. Most communities presented Saturday night dances and choppers worked until late Saturday evening, then said, "Put your hoe down and let's go dancing." Later, this was shortened to, "Let's quit and go to the hoedown."

The word "Cajun" comes from Arcadian the name of the French Canadian exiles who settled in Louisiana after the British conquest of Canada in 1868.

Before refrigeration arrived in rural areas, a system called "meat clubs" allowed families to keep fresh meat all year. An example recorded in Temple tells how the system worked.

One community family became butchers for processing meat.

They killed and processed one beef or more a week all year, serving some 30 to 40 families organized in a meat club. Each Saturday, the families came to pick up a portion of the fresh meat.

Since each family fed and kept beeves all year, they were expected to furnish one beef per year to the meat club. Detailed accounting and scheduling was kept on beef taken and beef supplied. Fresh meat kept well for about a week before spoiling. The meat club system kept all in fresh beef the full year.

Dried meat called jerky, pemmican meat dried with other ingredients added, and different forms of barbecue were all devised to preserve meat from spoiling. Canned meat preserved in cans and jars by cooking in a steam pressure cooker was developed by Napoleon Bonaparte in France to preserve meat for his soldiers in warfare. This system is still widely used today commercially.

Few domestic or wild animals can compete with the wily coyote when it comes to brains and survival traits. Here is a true story observed by beach combers living on the Barrier Islands along the Texas coast.

At certain times of the year when a certain species of fish are running, the island people set baited trot lines across bayous and inlets to catch fish for the commercial markets. Strange happenings began occurring with the trot lines, so fishermen hid nearby to observe.

Once the fresh lines sat for a while and when the coast was clear, coyotes came from the dunes and took the trot lines in mouth, pulling them ashore. There they stripped the catch of fish along with the unused bait and carried it back to their litters in the dunes. This was a common occurrence, forcing the fishermen to guard and protect their lines from coyote theft.

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" July 3, 2008 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.
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