Baked Possum and Blackbird Pie
When I was in high school during the late 1960's, I spent my junior year with my mom's parents. Grandpa and Grandma Gordon lived in the Mountain Page community. They were self sufficient living off the land. My grandpa was well known for his skills at horse trading and doctoring livestock. He never had any formal training to do so but had learned most of what he knew from others and through his many years experience with farm animals. He didn't own a car and when his skills were needed by area farmers who had cows, horses and other animals needing medical attention, he was the first to be sought out to help the distressed animals.
Grandpa was a unique man in many ways. He was short in stature, had a propensity to imbibe and had a fiery disposition, a personality characteristic I later learned was attributed to his mother. Although I never saw a cock fight, he always had roosters in cages on his small farm kept just for that purpose. As far as I knew he was just caring for the birds belonging to others who would take them to rooster fights on Saturday nights in some undisclosed location. Cock fighting is illegal in North Carolina. For a short period of time in 1965, I kept two roosters for a man who fought roosters as a hobby. I was in high school and kept the roosters at my dad's farm on the property he had purchased from my grandpa some years earlier and this parcel of land was my grandmothers portion of inheritance from her dad. The small farm, containing just over 19 acres, was just out the gravel and dirt road from my grandpa and grandma's house. I was paid to feed and water them and the extra money though not much came in handy.
I always liked watching the Beverly Hillbillies and Granny as she talked about eating possums. I wondered how Jed, Jethro and Ellie Mae would have ever survived without those fancy fixings. My grandpa told me when he was little they always ate a possum for Thanksgiving dinner along with sweet taters. The possum would be caught and put in a cage for a month or so before Thanksgiving. Possums are known to eat carrion and it was thought that by feeding them corn bread and butter milk,the animal would be fattened and a clean animal to eat. When properly fed it would be just like any other meat suited for a Blue Ridge mountain's family dinner table.
The winter I stayed with my grandparents we had a lot of snow and blackbirds were plentiful around the farm. I don't know where grandpa got the idea of a blackbird pie but I am assuming from an old nursery rhyme he could have possibly heard when he was a youngster. He took his 22 rifle and bird shot ammo and killed several blackbirds which cleaned and dressed. Grandma cooked the birds as she would normally cook a hen or an old rooster for Sunday dinner and dumplings. Her blackbird pie looked and smelled very appetizing but I just couldn't bring myself to eat any of her blackbird pie. Grandpa avowed he loved it and it wasn't too long before I heard that old 22 booming again.
Today is Thanksgiving and I have so much for which to be thankful. Upstairs there is a turkey baking in our oven and my wife is busy preparing our Thanksgiving feast. As I sit here and ponder the blessedness of today, I am reminded not everyone will enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal today and many families will have chairs around the table that are vacant. Some have passed from this life to the eternal one, some have loved ones serving in the military defending our country and these men and women will certainly be missed but not forgotten as we pray for them before we begin eating our meal, then there are those whose lives have been touched by the hurricane of a few weeks ago whose lives have been impacted in so many ways, we will pray for these also and for those who are ministering to them from all across this great land in food kitchens and making available provisions to help during the recovery process. I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.
For the brave of heart and those who might just like to try some baked possum.
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