Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Whole Hog and Kickapoo Juice

I grew up on a farm, but I've never been much of a farm girl. Exhibit A: Even my dad didn't let me drive a tractor. Exhibit B: Probably with good reason, because I once ran the riding lawn mower into the side of the house.

However, there was one farm tradition that I not only enjoyed, but adored! No, not sorting hogs. No, not walking beans. No to anything that required that I don rubber boots and/or grab a shovel.

I'm talking about shed parties! Hog roasts! Neighborhood parties that drew friends and family from surrounding towns and counties, becoming a day-long extravaganza of fun, food and alcoholic beverages (for the adults only, of course).

Once every year or so, some unlucky farmer and his family would begin cleaning out their machine shed, moving large equipment and tidying the tool bench and pushing tons of dirt out the shed doors with large brooms. Neighbors would start bringing picnic tables by and a jukebox might show up, loaded with hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s -- heavy on the 60s.

On the day of the big event - or was it the day before? - a select few would show up to 'prep'. A big ol' hog would go into the spit and spend an entire day being watched closely by men with beer (for the hog and for personal gratification). In the house, the women would be preparing the side dishes, aided by a mysterious beverage called 'Kickapoo Juice'.

I asked my mom for the recipe last night and she can remember Everclear and Vodka... any other ingredients seem to have been lost in some sort of alcoholic haze, although I have put her on a mission to find the recipe. I remember an enticing fruity concoction that gained almost mythic proportion since I was never, ever allowed to taste it.

The night of the shed party, cars would begin pulling onto the country lanes by the dozens. Kids from 2 to 16 would run wild in the dark, grabbing pop cans from giant cow tanks filled with ice. Adults would talk and eat and, on occasion, dance. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of bugs and I remember it as the best event of the year - every year that it happened.

But what I really remember is my parents, Richard & Kathy, Chad & Janelle and Uncle Dale, who always called me 'Ornery' even though he wasn't my uncle and I definitely wasn't ornery :) These friends and neighbors were usually the front guard, setting up the event and spending the entire day in preparation for the hordes that would descend when the light started to fall. I remember all of the teasing as Mom, Kathy and Nell drank that forbidden Kickapoo Juice.

I don't live close to home anymore and I haven't heard of a shed party in years, but I WILL find that recipe for Kickapoo Juice. My sister and I have a new tradition of attending a Husker football game together and I'm betting some vodka and Everclear would enhance the experience.

Although it might just enhance the headache.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I'm feeling rather mellow this evening. That might be the result of a glass or two of wine, but I would prefer to think it's a feeling that has its roots in my anticipation of tomorrow. Tomorrow! I finally understand what that red-haired chickadee has been hollering about. Tomorrow has so much promise! So much joy!

Tomorrow is the first day of school!

I love summer. I love the idea of lazy days at the pool and afternoons spent playing with my kids while we work on our tans and eat lots of ice cream. We did have several pool days and I ate more than my fair share of ice cream. Heck, my tan is even fairly impressive... for me.

But the reality is that summer rarely lives up to its promise. I have a job that actually requires me to put in a few hours before spitting out a paycheck. My kids have plenty of summer activities to keep us running hither and yon. And this summer, the sun conspired to cook us like an egg on a hot sidewalk anytime we stepped out the door. Add in three young ladies who have been fighting like dogs over a juicy steak and... well... I'll admit that I will be glad to hear the school bell ring tomorrow morning.

I'll also admit that I'll be bawling like a baby when I drop my girls off and watch them troop toward the red brick building.

Miss N will be a 6th grader this year. It's her last year in elementary school, and it makes me nervous just to think about junior high. She'll be in a classroom with a couple of her (and my) favorite friends and I'm sure those three girls will cause their teacher to seriously consider early retirement.

Miss A is a 1st grader and she'll have the same teacher that N had at that age. She is so darn excited - I don't think anything could ruin that child's love of school. She was tucked up in bed early tonight with a few books because she had to 'practice her reading'.

And tomorrow Miss P heads off to preschool. Because of her language issues, she qualified for our school district's early intervention program. She'll be in a classroom with 11 of her peers, four mornings a week, and she can't wait! Her little backpack is just as big as she is, and she keeps talking about how she'll see her friends and her speech pathologist (who is referred to in our household as 'my Lexi'). My baby is going to school and, while I'm not quite prepared to see her head off on her own, she most certainly is ready. My brave little girl is ready to tackle something new and this mama is not going to hold her back.

But I reserve the right to cry all day tomorrow, if necessary. Be warned.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Spiders the Size of Dinner Plates

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

It was dark.

And there were spiders.

But there were margaritas, which somewhat made up for the spiders.

Saturday night, I joined several dozen of my craziest friends, aquaintances, and total strangers for the Rock Creek Midnight Marathon, 1/2 Marathon, and 10k. This fabulous race takes place on rocky single-track trails up, down, and through a local state park. We didn't actually start at midnight... although some of the finishers were out there on the trails quite a while after the witching hour. Those of us who were lazy... umm, I mean smart... chose the 10k, which kicked off at a reasonable 8 p.m.

Well, it's more reasonable than midnight.

My friends and I had a simple strategy: We were going to run down the hill at the start of the race in order to look impressive to the race photographer, and then we were going to walk the rest of the event. I liked that strategy. It seemed like a happy little plan. But then we asked another friend to join us and she had more ambitious ideas.

In other words, we ran. And then we begged her to let us walk. And then, mere minutes later, she'd say something mean and horrible like, "Are you ready to run again?" And we'd all grumble and move into something that could have looked like running if you were far away and squinting. There was much wheezing and sweating. There was a lot of laughing and there may have been some cursing. We tripped over rocks and roots and ducked under low hanging branches. We ran through spider webs and shined our headlamps on spiders that could have eaten small animals. We tried not to scream like little girls.

After 6.2 miles of rocky trails that all seemed to go uphill, we came to the finish line. We were wet from head to toe, exhausted, and dehydrated. We were exhilarated and damn proud of what we had accomplished. We were hungry.

But mostly, we were proud.