Our tradition started with trauma. You’d think less of me if I stated that fortunately this trauma wasn’t physically felt by my friend and I. It was felt by my dog. He had to have both ACL’s replaced (TPO in dog terms). It was the fault of a mutation.
The shelter said he was a Jack Russell. But over the next few months his Jack Russell legs kept growing and growing. While still in puppy state, I brought him over to a house full of Jack Russells, so he could get an idea of when to stop growing. He looked down on them through play. Not because he thought less of them, but because he literally had to look down from him as he towered over the adult Jack Russells.
Over the next few weeks, he outgrew his already long legs. His run was limp. He was diagnosed with a torn acl...and once that was partially corrected, the second followed. The surgeries happened during Covid, out of town. Ketchup the pup and I felt more comfortable staying at a cabin in a campground type setting than getting a hotel. My friend joined us.
Fast forward a few years later. The pup is doing great. Mika and I were jonesing for our now annual cabin stay. Most were booked for weddings and such. Through the hunt, I found a cabin. The picture sold it.
Cabin in the middle of a huge field with a pond in front. Immediately it gave me the feel of the movie “Second Hand Lions” with Robert Duvall. I wonder if i could rent a bi-plane and we could try to fly it through a neighboring barn?
Mika and I have some pretty busy schedules these days, we only awarded ourselves with one night in this cabin. Unknown to the other at the time, we both thought it was ridiculous we were only staying one night yet planned enough activities for a week.
As time got closer, the activities changed. I went from planning on picking up groceries on my way there to cooking everything beforehand. I then simplified it even more. I cooked eight quarts of chili. One dish was all that was needed for four meals max.
Chili. I’m in no way saying my chili is better than the person belonging to the eyes reading this. I have, however, judged my fair share of chili cook offs. One thing I’ve noticed through close observation and multiple tastings is that if you sauté your vegetables with cumin and chili powder, and then brown your meat with the vegetable mixture, it makes the chili superior to your neighbor’s that did the previously mentioned steps in backwards succession. One more thing: Just before you put the lid on your dutch oven, add a couple tablespoons chili powder and then about double that with cumin powder...enough cumin powder so it becomes the dominate taste. Now close the lid and thank me later.
I followed my own steps. I’ve dumbed down the recipe over the years. Cumin and chili powder added to the veggie oil. A few pounds of ground meat (whatever your pleasure), a small onion, diced, a can of black beans, can of kidney, two cans of fire roasted tomatoes, and one jar of roasted red peppers, diced. One large fresh jalapeño diced, or 1/2 jar of jalapeño slices, diced. One medium can of tomato paste. Fill the rest of the pot with water. Stir a bit, then add more chili powder and cumin until they are the dominant flavors. Simmer until ready to eat. Some say chili tastes better the next day while others think two hours of simmering is perfect. I say if you are hungry, eat!
So lunch, dinner, breakfast, and lunch were taken care of with one pot. My focus then switched to what were we going to do with our time there. Mika doesn’t have near the leather experience as I do, but I thought it would be awesome if we sewed a bit of hide into something useful. I bought us a couple moccasin kits. They had prepunched holes and came with braided lace. I made sure I had enough leather cordage and sinew so the unattractive braided lace could be left out. I brought my leather tool kit just in case we wanted to customize the mocs, or needed a curved needle for the toe work.
With the chili loaded, the mocs thrown in a bag with a change of clothes, good beer, a bit of ‘shine, and a toothbrush for looks, the trip up was made in short order. I stopped at a food lion when I was getting close because I drank entirely too much coffee on the way.
While making my way to the bathroom, a basket made its way into my hands and one of those mass made feed six cheese danishes made its way into the basket. There was an attractive blonde in the wine isle with her two children. She was telling the kids that she didn’t think food lion had good enough wine, but she’d look anyways. I went down the aisle and without hesitation grabbed a bottle with an eighteen dollar tag. I threw it in my hand basket and walked on like I owned the place. I saw her nod her head. I began to nod back until she said “I guess this twenty-five dollar bottle will do. As I walked off to the bathroom, a thought occurred to me. I was grateful she didn’t ask what I was doing with that wine, or else I might have been truthful and said “My buddy and I are getting a one bedroom cabin together” and then she would probably look down at my danish before making haste.
Without anymore interactions, I made my way to the vehicle and then to the cabin. Mika arrived only minutes behind me. After hugs and smiles, and how in the hell have you been, we got to work.
We started a fire and erected my swing grill. The cabin came with an awesome ceramic grill in the shape of an egg, but cooking over the open fire is even more awesome. We put the Dutch oven over the flames and continued unpacking. Mika pulled out his guitar and all came for the acoustic concert. First a hawk, then two. A heron, and a turtle. We ate, we drank, we were more than merry. Mika then suggested we better get on with the moccasins before time gets away from us. We started when there was still a bit of sunlight. We then brought out the lights to the campfire.
The only thing I can think of is that Mika’s tolerance is much better than mine on the ‘shine. He fielded three phone calls, washed the dishes, watched the night animals wake up and I was still lacing up the wrong hole backwards eight times in a row. He finished his moccasins. This picture sums mine up. The first one just fine, then as the night progressed, the second moccasin did not.
We consumed the entirety of the breakfast danish a bit after midnight. We then slept like a couple of babies.
Morning came and the thought of writing at the fire while watching the sun rose would remain just a thought as the sun rose about three hours prior to us opening our eyes.
We had a great morning sitting on the porch. The rain held off aside from a few drops. We agreed same spot next time, just maybe two or three days more. Poor Mika went home hungry. I went home next to a pot of chili. I pulled off the interstate and made some of the best cold nachos I’ve ever had. They put me in such a dreamy state, that I had to take a short nap before getting back on the road and heading home. Mika isn’t too bad at leather work. He may be hired to lace up the next chair I build as I will certainly lose profit if I do it..in front of a fire, next to a pond, on a warm fall night with a bit of ‘shine.
Even if its just for a night, you best travel and be with your friends.