Thursday, June 26, 2003

Sunday Carry In Dinner

Sunday afternoons are a right lazy time in the summer round 'bout Beloved, Kentucky. Most folks belong to the local churches and still believe that Sunday is a day of rest. This is more important in a mountain community because the farmers and miners usually work long hours six days a week. That there is the reason that Knuckles Dollar Store and the Henny Penny over in Manchester, the county seat is always closed on Sunday.

Booger Holler Holiness Church had a carry in dinner after Sunday services and folks sat an' talked for a long while. Sister Hazel Burns had brought some of her prize winnin' pies and made a beeline for Uncle Billy with a slice of pie.

Now, don't get confused here. Sister Hazel Burns is a spinster, ain't never been married. Folks around Booger Holler knowed she thought it was a sin that Uncle Billy was still unattached several years after Aunt Del passed on. Don't get her confused with Sister Hazel Budder who is the pastor's wife. Brother Woodrow and Sister Hazel Budder were close to Uncle Billy and did all they could to keep Sister Hazel from sinkin her teeth into that prize apple.

"Brother Bill, I want you'ns to try this here pie an' tell me what do you think of it." Sister Hazel always called him Bill. His name was Billy and there was nothin' that offended him like callin' him Bill. 'Course, bein' from the hills, Sister Hazel made it "Bee-ull".

"Name's Billy, Sister Burns."

"OK, OK, just try the pie." she said as she shoved a big piece of what appeared to be apple pie in front of him and laid a fork down by it.

Uncle Billy knew she weren't gonna shut up till he gave up so he picked up the fork and took a big bite off the point of that slice. Now this weren't no chore, for ever'one in the community knew Sister Hazel Burns made the finest pies a feller would want to dump into an empty mouth.

The pie crust was light and flaky. Sister Hazel used Crisco and swore by it. She also made sure she handled the crust as little as possible. Keepin' it cool was her secret to flaky crusts.

Uncle Billy smiled when he took a bite and said, "Sister Hazel, I don't reckon I had me enough to give y'all a good opinion. I better take another bite."

He bit several more times. A covey of church ladies gathered around Sister Hazel, some wipin' their hands on their aprons as they waited for Uncle Billy's judgement.

"Well, mam, I do believe that is one of the best apple pies I have ever had. Ye done good, sister. My tongue pret' near beat my face to death wantin' 'nother bite. Jes' don't let it go to yer head. It was mighty fine, but I don't want sinful pride raisin' it's head here in the church basement." Several of the menfolks and two of the ladies said "amen" in agreement.

Sister Hazel Burns laughed and fanned herself with her apron. "Bill, I swan, I don't rightly know what to say," she grinned slyly and giggled like a youngin', "I have done fooled ye."

"Ya have? How's that?"

"There ain't nary an apple in that there pie."

"There ain't?" Uncle Billy took another bite, "Sure tastes like apples to me. What is it? Quince? Pear?"

"No sir, it ain't even fruit. There ain't been an apple in a mile o' that pie. Hit is a mock apple pie."

"Mock Apple, well I do declare. It is good, though Sister Hazel. What is in it?"

At this point, Sister Hazel Budder came out with a tray and paper plates of little ol' slices so's ever'body could take a taste. Folks gathered 'round and took plates and commenced to taste the mock apple pie.

Sister Hazel was in her own pond a quackin' now. "Hit is Ritz crackers. That is all hit is."

Folks went on an' on about that there Ritz pie. Sister Hazel gave the recipe out agin an' agin.

Finally Uncle Billy spoke up, "Sister Hazel, y'all know that mock apple pie was named for the mock turtle, dont ya?"

"Well, I have heard of it...what do they use fer mock turtle, beef or pork?"

"Oh no mam, neither one. The mock turtle ain't beef or pork. It is a type of actual turtle, y'know."

Sister Hazel blinked an' looked at Uncle Billy, "It is? Well I sure didn't know that one."

Uncle Billy had drawn a crowd with this. Many knew where he was goin' with his statement and drew up chairs. Others smiled and grinned behind their hands.

"Yes, mam. The mock turtle ain't one that is easy to cook. They is right stringy. That is why it is so uncommon on the dinner table. They grow right big and folks say they nest up in the willer trees. They have legs longer than most turtles, y'see. The big 'uns have legs two, maybe three foot long...and them legs is double jointed ta boot. That is how they can crawl into the willer trees. An' they have right long necks too. They can sit on the bottom of the pond or river and snake that ol' neck up an' look at ya without comin' to the surface. That's why folks don't catch 'em much."

Sister Hazel Burns listened for a right smart while. "They don't come up? But why in the world do they call 'em 'mock' turtles?"

"Well, mam, they is called mock turtles for the same reason the mockin' bird has that name. They can make calls an' squeeks an' carryin's on like other critters."

He went on, "One day I was sittin' on the bank of the Red Bird River - up route 66 an' was fishin' for catfish. An ol' mock turtle saw me when he stuck that ol' snakey head up for a little bit o' air and ye know what that sorry thing did? It started meowin' like a cat. 'Meow, Meow' it said. I got m'self up an' looked and looked for a little ol' lost kitten. Mr. Mock Turtle went on down an' had the hunk o' chicken liver I was usin' as bait for his lunch. There's a right smart bunch of 'em in the Red Bird River."

"Later he started cheepin' like a little ol' bird what had fallen outta his nest. I commenced to lookin' an' he had another bite o' chicken liver. That ol' mock turtle did a squirrel, a couple of coons a fightin' an' a snipe before I caught on."

"Gee-oh, I do declare. The country is sure a different place from the city. It is amazin' what I don't know" sister Hazel sat down in a fold up chair. "I don't reckon I'll ever learn all 'bout the country."

"They is one other thing about mock turtles folks need to know if they is gonna hunt 'em."

"What is that Brother Bill?"

Uncle Billy looked at Sister Hazel and looked up to the side at Hap Collins and winked, "The mock turtle has them long legs and sharp claws. I tol' ye they can climb into willer trees. When times is hard and the crick is down they go a climbin' into trees to rob nests o' eggs. If they get real desperate they can jump down outta the trees and wrap them long legs 'round unsuspectin' critters, even folks!"

Sister Hazel said a little wobbly voiced, "They do? Even folks?"

"Yessum, they do! Other times they come up outta the muddy river after folks, grabbin' at they's feet an' ankles. You'uns know what they do iffn they get hold of ye?"

Sister Hazel, three of the womenfolks and eight youngin's that were listenin' shook their heads "no".

Uncle Billy looked right serious at Sister Hazel and said, "They pull yer leg...jus' like I'm a doin' right now."
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