upon a time, here in the Panhandle,
groceries and other supplies were available only at Tascosa,
Mobeetie, New Clarendon and Dodge
City. This is a long way from our modern Quick Stops and Super Stores.
making out your grocery list for enough staples to last six months or more at
a time. Or, list the items needed on your chuck wagon to feed eight hungry, hard-working
men on a cattle drive lasting for several months. Of course the fare was simple,
mostly flour, salt, baking powder and dried pinto beans. Meat was butchered as
needed whether at home on the frontier or on the trail.
One of the most
important facilities for a frontier home was a dirt-walled root cellar where almost
anything could be stored in an effort to preserve food a little longer. When meat-packing
companies developed home meat cures, everyone built a large wooden meat box to
hold cured hams, shoulders, bacon sides and sausage after the fall hog killing.
Another fall practice that worked well was hanging sides of fresh beef, wrapped
in old bed sheets, in the windmill towers.
The faithful kitchen pantry
was the next step up for the "current" modern kitchen. Our pantry was about 6
feet square, shelves from bottom to top, had linoleum on the floor and newspaper
shelf linings that were changed once a year. The place always smelled of spices
and seasonings used in meat curing and cooking. Between our concrete cellar, meat
box and pantry I don't remember ever being hungry or even thinking we might go
hungry some day.
When the locker plants came along, with individual baskets
and lockers to hold the customer's meat and produce, we felt we had reached the
ultimate in food preservation. Shop each week in the grocery store and remember
before leaving town, go by the locker plant and select the amounts of frozen food
needed for the next week. What could be easier or handier?
that, if you had electricity and if you could afford one, the home deep freeze
was invented. As long as the electricity stayed on, fresh-frozen food was always
available. Just remember to lay it out to thaw in plenty of time before meals.
Sadly today, when the hey-day of many smaller towns has past, history seems to
be repeating itself. Suddenly, in many small towns like McLean
the one grocery store operating for more than 85 years, shut down and no one seems
to be interested in starting another. If you are out and traveling around, buying
groceries is no problem. If you are elderly and maybe confined to your town the
loss of the grocery store can be a tragedy.
I find it ironic that here
in our world of technology, travel at the speed of sound, huge trucks passing
by on the busiest interstate highway in 500 miles, journeys to the moon, satellites
whizzing overhead and cell phones in every pocket, we are having to travel 30,
40 or 80 miles to buy groceries just like the old days. Is this really progress?
Thank goodness we can still drive and have a vehicle and highway to use instead
of a wagon and team going down a dusty trail.
"It's All Trew" November
2 , 2010 column
Delbert Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He
can be reached at 806-779-3164, by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by e-mail
at email@example.com. For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears