My dad’s Aunt Elizabeth used to come to our house about once every summer for a few days. She was a high school English teacher who taught in Pennsylvania but would spend her summers at her home in Elgin. Summer was when she could relax and visit her Oklahoma relatives.
Aunt Elizabeth was a one of a kind lady, somewhat eccentric, somewhat imperious. In other words, a little odd in some ways, and definitely bossy.
But she had many endearing qualities. She had a funny laugh - a high cackle that was hard not to join in with. She told amusing stories, and she was a great cook - when she decided she wanted to do that.
One thing she always did when she arrived, was to take over the kitchen and make up a big batch of gingerbread men. These were a big hit with us kids. We could smell them baking and we hung around for samples. Finally, they would be served at the end of a big supper.
A Dinner Proposal
One time when she was visiting, she said to my brother Paul and me. “Boys, we need some squirrels for dinner tonight.”
This was welcome news, and Paul and I were only too eager to accommodate. We loved to hunt, and loved to eat squirrel. Mom would always fry them and make up a batch of squirrel gravy, which is delicious and a special treat any time you can get it.
There was a patch of woods about a mile out of town where the fox squirrels hung out.. The trees were mostly blackjack oaks, which are pretty short as trees go, making the squirrels easier to hit. Squirrels are fond of the acorns.
We biked out to this place, and we followed our plan. We had one single-shot .22 rifle, which we owned together. So we flipped a coin to see who got first shot at the squirrels. Paul won the toss, so I stayed put and he went off a ways to see what he could spot.
Within a half hour or so, I heard the crack of the rifle, and pretty soon Paul showed up with a nice fat squirrel. We only used .22 short ammo, because it was cheaper than long rifle ammo, and we tried for head shots, to make a quick clean kill and no damage to the meat.
Now it was my turn. After a bit, I found my game and got my squirrel. Anyway, we ended up with three squirrels, just enough for a meal.
When we got back home, we skinned and cleaned the squirrels and handed them over to our aunt - who I think was surprised that we delivered on her request. We went out to play and await supper.
The family is seated around the dinner table. I scan the food but don’t see any fried squirrel anywhere, nor a bowl of squirrel gravy. “Where’s the squirrel?” I asked.
Someone indicated a large covered dish in the middle of the table. I lifted the lid and there I saw a sea of red sauce with some meat chunks here and there. I was a little shocked.
“What is THAT?” I said. And Aunt Elizabeth said, “Why, that’s squirrel caccitori!” And I said, with great delicacy, “YUK”.
Dad said, “You will eat some. We’ll hear no more about it.”
So, we did eat some, and then we had seconds. It wasn’t fried squirrel, but the sauce was rich and we decided the "catch a tory" wasn’t so bad after all.
But, I still like fried squirrel and gravy.
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