Thursday, June 2, 2011

August's Juicy Roast: Pioneer Tales of Arkansas' German Immigrants:

Pioneer Tales, Arkansas Echo
December 1, 1893

In the following, I want to tell a story that, I admit, did not happen to me, but did happen to a neighbor of mine who I will call "August." I say this because otherwise it could well appear as if I want to claim for myself all of the beautiful boners that a pulled by a greenhorn.

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O.K, our August was a right nice and educated man, came from a big city and had not been out in the country for long. Well, a person can easily imagine that things had not gone especially well for him during his first days here and that he was often homesick for fresh glasses of beer and juicy roasts.

Under such conditions, he soon had his fill of the eternal bacon and was always looking for the opportunity to procure for himself a small change for the table, even if it was only a small rabbit or squirrel.

One day he gets down his rifle in order to shoot something for himself. He wanders around in the woods for an hour and nothing ever comes into his path. At last, he is tired of walking around, and, in a bad temper, he turns homeward. Then, as he has almost reached his fence, he sees a big black bird crouching on an old thorny tree. The bird was approximately as big as a chicken, which is what August at first thought it was.

Aha! he yells happily, something at last. "Now wait you black fellow, I will bring you down fast." And rightly so, because in the next instant it tumbled down to the ground, since our August was a rather accurate shot.

As he holds it in his hand, he sees to his amazement that it is not a chicken, but an animal unknown to August.  And, in addition, it was very wretchedly thin and light. Everything would certainly be fine, he thinks, if only I could get another one of these rascals. Perhaps his neighbor is squatting somewhere around here and I could quickly take it along.

He looks carefully around him one time and hangs the previously bagged bird on the fence. Nevertheless, he is not able to spot anything despite going a little ways into the woods. Then at last he wanders toward home and thinks, better something than nothing.

He comes to his fence and wants to pick up his bird. Good God! The thing is no longer there and he had very definitely hung it on this cross-bar. It has likely flown away again, thinks August, and I hit it splendidly. Today, I am having absolutely terribly bad luck, and instead of the hoped-for crumbs of fresh meat (certainly there was not more than that), today there is again nothing.

The Devil takes the hindmost here in America! In a bad mood, he climbs over the fences and goes up to the house. Then, suddenly, he stops and sniffs around in the air with his nose. He believes that he has caught the trace of a special odor. And the further he goes, the stronger it becomes; he really cannot call it an odor, but a stink, and now he notices that this insolent stink is coming directly from his kitchen.

For heaven's sake, he thinks, what kind of roast does she have there over the fire. Honestly a stink like that will drive me outside again and will rid me of my small appetite for the piece of bacon. Then his wife comes straight out of the door. "Well, August," she says, "if you can't shoot anything better than an old skinny, stinking bird, then you and better stay at home and be satisfied with a piece of bacon."

"A skinny, stinking bird?" says August. "How did you get the bird?"

"Very easy," she says. "I heard you shooting behind the fence and was curious about what you had shot there. As I arrived, I didn't see anything of August, but there was a big black bird hanging on the fence. You should take that with you right now, I thought. You can have that roasted by the time he comes home. But it appeared to me to be piteously old and skinny; however, it is still better than nothing. I plucked it and put it in the oven."

"I have never baked such a stinking piece of meat and the devil take me if I can get down a bite of that thing."

"Yeah, yeah," August says. He didn't care for the odor which was not very pleasant and, in any case, was strange; may the taste be better than the smell! I want to try it anyway. He sits at the table: I am truly hungry. And his wife lays the roast on the table in front of him and wishes him a good appetite.

"Look, look," says August, "its appearance is really not so bad, and perhaps the taste also will not be." Then he cuts himself a piece and sticks it in his mouth. But jumping up, running out and ----, the only people who can imagine how roasted buzzard tastes are those who have already eaten part of one, like our August.

The whole day, he continued to feel sick and it was three, four days until that stink was finally out of the house. August, as a practical man, wanted now to know what kind of special bird that had been. He therefore went to a neighbor, took a couple of feathers of the thing with him and told the story.

His neighbor shook with laughter and told him that he had shot and eaten a buzzard, or in German, "Aasgeier". And he advised him not to tell the story to anyone else since otherwise it could cost him $25, because that was the penalty imposed upon anyone who shot or killed a buzzard.

The advice was superfluous for August because he would not shoot such an animal again for anything in the world, must less roast and eat one. It was always terrible for him when a buzzard came into sight because he always got a stomachache.

(Translated by Dan Durning, all rights reserved)

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