Mama, Sitting Bull, and Cathead Biscuits
the holiday is over. It went in like a crazed tsunami and went out like a glutton that sought to find a quiet place to sleep off his massive meal. But all Thanksgiving events are not to be equated with the one that I just shared. No. Across the world there are numerous people with numerous customs and traditions that are associated with Thanksgiving all thanks to the Pilgrims and of course, the American Indians who need to be remembered often for helping these freedom-starved people not to starve to death.
For the Pilgrims to starve causes me to say: “you were smart enough to navigate the stormy seas from England and then land on Plymouth Rock and then fall on your face—exhausted from not having enough food, and you call yourself smart?” Really embarrassing if you are asking for me to tell the truth, but since you and I were not there, I can easily withhold this statement and personal judgment against the Second Group of Americans because (as stories say) these Pilgrims went all in by working with what tools they had and I have to give them credit for trying, but let’s be really honest. Without the help of the American Indian, they would have become England’s worst disaster. Think about it.
Let’s Turn From
the Pilgrims to present day America and visit with yours truly in the years of 1970 through 1972. Three of the most-formative years that could have happened to any guy. I was 16 and had just got my driver’s license and had the world by the tail. Or so it would seem. Things, as the bard, Bill Shakespeare, many times take on such a luster of deception that (guys like me) are taken by most con specialists coming down the pike—and I am not being ugly, just honest.
Take the most-interesting teen event, Eating, and when you read my account with this culinary gathering where teenagers ranging from six to eight people or more, converge on their favorite “Greasy Pan” with an intercom and then order something that resembles a hamburger adorned with more fakes: onions, mustard, and maybe if one looks closer, they see some catsup. Oh, let’s not forget the French Fries and now that I feel an urge to stand on my soapbox, I won’t elaborate on the term “French” Fries.
In my years that I have already mentioned, we would find a cool sounding name such as the “Lazy Daze Restaurant,” and the place would literally be crawling. Even jumping. (no implication about insects here). The truth is this: we did not just eat at places like the “Lazy Daze.” We met there to keep the act intact. We were just looking for someone to date and with each bite of our food orders, we would check out our waitresses from top to bottom and then what pretty girls that might be present with or without their male dates and yes, we would check them out unmercifully. But they didn’t mind. Fact is, they encouraged being gazed and ogled at—it was as popular as an Olympic event.
In my three-year “Single and Cool Days,” (years: 1970 – 1972), the Federal Minimum Wage was: $1.60 per hour. This today is the equivalent of $10.46 U.S. dollars. Some percentage point, I’d say. But bear with me one more memory of “this” time in my life. Thanks. If you were me you would not be that concerned about such things as Inflation, Vietnam, The Bomb, and Inflation. The only things us single males had on our minds was getting to graduate high school, date a few gorgeous girls, find a really nice paying job and getting a cool car to take her for a ride after work. Life was no box of worms for us. Simplicity at its finest.
Dating, Dollars and Diners
is a fitting text capsule headline is why I used it. Us single, cool guys knew going in that from Friday night through Sunday evening, making a good social grade was important. We had grew from just parking on one of the corners in our hometown, sit and yakk with other guys. Some smoked cigarettes and other things which I won’t mention and one or two managed to smuggle a bottle or two of whiskey and they would pop their favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd Eight-track tape in their tape player and sip their whiskey and try to sing “Free Bird” and when you are hitting the bottle pretty heavy, you, including the late Ronnie Van Zant, lead singer of Skynyrd, could ever get every lyric just right. I guess it didn’t matter.
What became apparent was as time went by (I hate that phrase by the way) was the few of us who stayed at our corner and did what we pleased and more of us whose yearning became the drawing of some gorgeous girl in our out of our social sector and taking her to dinner—some where out of our home town where the term “Fine Dining” was defined as a fried chicken dinner which consisted of a breast, one thigh, an order of fries, a roll, and a half cob of corn which was boiled to the perfect taste . . .all of this for only $2.66, per person. Now I ask you: could you, if you were me or any of single, cool guys, get a gorgeous girl and take her to our local chicken joint and fork out $5.32 plus tax?
And to save you and I a lot of time, why would you?
This is Where My Mother
the American Indian (tongue in cheek) steps into this story. Before I finish, I need to stretch my fingers and drink some black coffee. I will be right back.
I’m back. Or shall I say, I have returned. I have never claimed to be General Douglas MacArthur, but it sure felt good (for once) to sound like him. You can write that off as the delicious black coffee that I love.
My mama’s name was Mary Dean (Lee) Avery, born June 2, 1922. Passed August 19, 2010. As God as my witness, for a woman of small statute, she could (and did) take a lot from those around her, but when she had reached her limit, I swear that she took on the visage of Chief Sitting Bull—she spoke with few words, and even with her short height of four foot, five inches, she could (and did) back up those few words who were about to cause her and her family the least amount of harm.
Other than those few scrapes with my mama, she was the most-gentlile southern lady I had ever known. She was not only an accomplished speaker, self-taught and proud of it, but her gift of listening from others who were speaking to and around her always kept me in awe. Let me put it another way: she was able to hear past the sentences and phrases and uncoil their meanings and let her easily make the wisest decision in order to help her family without costing herself a penny.
This is just a loving assumption: I have to believe that mama was part Sioux Indian, Chief Sitting Bull’s tribe, but she was not a bully. She minded her own affairs and prayed that those living near her did the same. Mama for the most part, was a happy-go-lucky lady, but life dealt her a painful blow at age three when her mother passed away and her dad married another woman who already had two daughters, and although the family number was bigger, she never backed away from hard work or from hard threats from the loud mouths of her time on earth.
Why did I bring my blessed mama into this piece? Simple. I wanted to prove to you that thanks to her, this so-called cool and single male never starved to death at any time of my life. Sure, my dad gave me small allowance once a month, but five bucks does not go far when you are in school, buying your own gasoline for use of the family car on weekends and well, the five bucks does not allow for any dating gorgeous girls that I would see from time to time, but on a strictly “look, but don’t touch” basis.
Mama, I would think that right now, you are looking down from Heaven reading my last few thoughts about her and knowing you, you are turning red and screaming for Jesus to stop my keyboard dead. That would only make me want you to know this, mama: when I would go out on a weekend night and just meet with my pals and talk and when it came time to dine with a girl, I could not afford it, so when I returned home I knew that you and dad would be fast asleep and that was okay. You earned a night of rest from the hard work of making a living for yourselves and me.
But each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night that I would come back from town, I would first look at our kitchen table and there in the middle of our table was a bowl that had the morning biscuits left from breakfast. Now mind you. My dad was one hefty eater. He was half Northwest Grizzly, but I never told him. And mama, she ate like a bird.
Mama, thank you for every left-over biscuit that you knew ahead of time that when I got back home, I would surely finish them off and she was never wrong. She prided herself on being a gifted cook and she had a name for her biscuits: “Cathead Biscuits,” big enough for two sausage patties and enough room to soak in just the right amount of Sawmill Gravy on top of it.
To make mama’s biscuits taste even better, she would leave a peeled, Vidalia onion placed near the bowl of left-over biscuits for she also knew that I loved white onions to eat with her biscuits. And I know, being a realist, that elves did not show up when she and dad turned out the lights in order for them to touch the biscuits to give them “that” special taste, but I would swear in any court that her biscuits tasted that way.
Mama was 88 when she passed on to Heaven after living a full and rich life. And what a reward she got at the end of her life when Jesus Himself shared that it pleased Him for her knowing that I would need something to eat when I got home from a date.
I am proud to say that I am proud to be borne of Mary Dean (Lee) Avery. True I can say without reserve that when I first met her, I knew that there was something magical and yet, so pure about her. Of all the people that I’ve read about—Jesse Ventura, Dr. Hunter Thompson, and Chief Sitting Bull, I never got to meet Thompson and Sitting Bull. As for Ventura, I think that I may spend a moment in some moment of future time and invite him for a sit-down as so I can meet him and write about his life.
But even at that meeting Ventura and even getting to write about his colorful life, not Ventura, Thompson, or Sitting Bull can ever take the place of honor that I hold for my mother and her delicious “Cathead Biscuits.”
P.S. and a gesture of respect for another hero of mine, Stan Lee, the creative force behind MARVEL Comics, I say Nuff said.
November 24, 2018_______________________________________
© 2018 Kenneth Avery