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Ramblin’ Joe: What kind of tater are you?

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What kind of tater are YOU? Sweet? Russet? New? Me, I’m an ol’ Irish Potato …

I’ve always been a big potato fan! Too many taters are NOT the best diet for an old Sedentary Senior, but I love ’em. If it wouldn’t have been for potatoes and beans, us Baxter kids woulda starved to death. Mom fed ten Baxters on Not Much Money. She always managed to have meat, a starch and a veggie for supper. (And dime-a-gallon Kool-Aid!) Breakfast and lunch were catch-as-can. Thank God for school lunch programs and PBJ’s in recycled grease-spotted lunch sacks. But the family always ate supper together, around the table. We’d have roast on Sundays, sometimes, (and taters…) I was an expert mashed potato chef by the time I was 10. Mom could throw some noodles in a pot and make a chicken cluck right down to the bare bones. Dad would bring home sacks of oranges and grapefruits he bought from roadside vendors to keep us from getting scurvy.

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Did y’all ever drink powdered milk? Mom would mix two gallons of commissary milk with two gallons of Carnation powdered and have enough milk for the family for a week. As we got older, things got a little easier. There was cheese, peanut butter, bologna, even bacon! (This is all very tongue-in-cheek, but you get the picture.) I like to say that Hamburger Helper was the best thing that ever happened to Mom.  

The folks were Depression kids. They knew how to get by. Dad grew up in the coal mine towns of West Virginia and Mom grew up out on the red dirt wheat fields west of Okarche. Not many Americans these days know those kinds of hard times. When we were kids, we listened to their stories with one ear, bored and self-assured that our lives would never be that tough, and that things would always be better as America went along. I’m not so sure that’s the case these days, even after all these years.

A few years ago, seeing the handwriting on the wall, so to speak, Jean and I decided to begin stocking a contingency food supply. I wanted enough on hand for six months to a year. We do what we gotta do, right? For the first time in my life, I found myself doing a few rough calculations on survival-level nutritional requirements. Do you know how many calories a day it takes to sustain your life? Do you know the best-extended shelf life sources of the right vitamins and minerals and proteins and how to store them? Being hungry is almost an art. We can survive on a heck of a lot less daily food than we think we need. Over my adult years, I trained myself to try be a little bit hungry all the time in order to keep my weight down. When we were kids, we were always a little bit hungry but we thought that was completely normal. It was. Kids ARE always hungry, and weight was never much of a problem around the Baxter house, trust me.

In the 21st Century, Americans are fat, generally speaking, myself included. In my humble opinion, if all the fast food places simply shut down tomorrow, half the country would starve in a week. There’d be riots at Sam’s. “Supply Chain” problems??? Pfffft … We seem to be waiting on China to send us food. What’s the deal with that? This is our fault. Put in a garden, Clyde. Buy local. Buy American. Get out there and hunt and gather … Keep enough supplies around so that when idiot politicians and worldly catastrophes cause disruptions in the food chain, you’ll still have enough calories available to subsist. 

In today’s Land Of Plenty, many folks are too busy to cook; they never learned how; they’re not interested in going to the grocery store. We take our bounty for granted. We are spoiled by other peoples’ cooking and the quick gratification of packaged food, fried food, carbs, and sugar. 

Those of us who Have Money can pick and choose the best of cuisine. Those of us who are working two jobs and raising five kids stop at Micky D’s or Taco Bell for a sack of some kind of food units and hope for the best. I’m lucky as can be. I married a farm girl who cooks like she breathes. She shops AND she cooks. I happily wash dishes. Because of the way I grew up, I’ve never taken my diet for granted; ever.

Us old folks tell the youngsters these tales of hardship and woe, just as our folks told us, and their folks told them. The kids have no frame of reference, and they listen to us with one ear, but Americans need to begin to understand that things can change, and change in a hurry. 

It amazes me sometimes when I think about how much I STILL LOVE taters, and beans … and Hamburger Helper.

There’s an old Harlan Howard song; “I’m Busted.“ It’s always been a favorite of mine. It reminds me of my folks. Stop by the Round Barn some Saturday morning and I’ll play it for you.

“Well, I ain’t no thief, but a man can go wrong, when he’s busted

 The food that we canned last summer is gone, and I’m busted

 The fields are all bare and the cotton won’t grow

 Me and my family gotta pack up and go

 How I’ll make a living, Lord only knows, oh, I’m busted …”

“I’m Busted.” Harlan Howard

Y’all have a good year. Stay fed, and keep on ramblin’….. joe

RESIST – Complacency. Just when you think it’s all good enough, things will change.


EDITOR’S NOTE. Joe Baxter is one of my favorite people. He loves music, the Round Barn, his wife Jean, a club sandwich from Farmstead Cafe, Route 66 and America (not in that order). A songwriter and musician, he has a way with words and can turn a phrase such that you want to listen, or in this case, read for a while. If you are one of his “face friends” on social media, you know he can get you thinking with his posts and musings. He’s letting us post them here on The Luther Register! We’re trying something new. Find Joe at the Arcadia Round Barn where he is the head conversation aficionado catching stories from Route 66 travelers from all over the world, and getting the band together eight days a week! Thanks Ramblin’ Joe! ENJOY! – dawn

Kimberly K Miller

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