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How To Cook Your Life 2

Updated on May 12, 2020
Ericdierker profile image

Holding degrees in philosophy and Law. Formal studies or certificates or degrees in business, theology, insurance and security. Ex-preacher.

Just Another Cliff

Somewhere in the Coconino National Forest a few miles in.
Somewhere in the Coconino National Forest a few miles in. | Source

On The Road Again

And there I was a star. And it did not come without a scar. Can you even imagine 4 dollars and 50 cents an hour in 1970 something? I became a cowboy. Oh I could ride a horse just fine. I could clean shoes but no way shoe a horse. So this place had 200 acres of land. And therefor in the high Chaparral a good 100 head of cattle. One of my jobs was prior to dawn, a damned good bit prior to dawn. One of us in the pickup and one on horseback and we would “ride” out to get the slaughter of the day. A big old wench in the back of a 1961 Ford 1 ton. Catching the cow was fun but getting it into the truck was a real chore I never woke up one morning and said to myself “be a cowboy”. But it was back to fixing the table and all that stuff for my mom. You could not be a steak chef and not know how to catch and butcher a cow. And then gather and split enough wood for a 4 by 10 foot grill. And you could not be a cowboy unless you could ride a bull.

I bet the boys $20 a piece that I could ride a bull for over 10 seconds. These weren’t the smartest cowboys that ever lived. I never once mentioned a “bucking bull”. My ability to get the boys to do as I pleased got around the ranch. So I became daytime ramrod steak cook. The Ramrod is the boss. The head ramrod does all the stuff other cooks do. That is because it is a constant learning deal. Every day we learned something new taught by a master. Before sunup and long past dark was our days and weeks. After about 6 months I got elevated to head night time steak, cowboy coffee, beans and salads and roasted garlic bread cook. Yes we had ½ pound burgers and made right there, sausage. But in a bit I just cooked steaks. And bossed everyone around in the kitchen. The grill you see was not in a kitchen but on a kind of stage front and center of the “dining hall”. It was back to mom again. Half the flavor was in the show. We would pick a good one out and have folks come tell us just how to cook it.

My Poor Wives

Born to Cook and Born To Ramble

I stayed one place for a decade -- at least that is what they told me.
I stayed one place for a decade -- at least that is what they told me. | Source

Living on The Edge of The Fire

Well this gig culminated in a large rodeo on Memorial day. The ranch handled over 200 RV’s and campsites. Plus the Hotshots were all at their camp about 10 miles away. They were our regulars. Those would be the guys that jump out of airplanes into forest fires. That night we cooked over 2,500 steaks on the main grill and a big outside one. There were some tense moments as cold beer and whiskey were running low. But we got some delivered from town 30 miles away. Danny could find and procure Manna from Heaven right there in hell.

And then the next night it happened; the old lodge caught on fire and burned all the way to the ground. Lucky the Hotshots were there or things could have spread into the forest. The fire came from an old water heater. So I was out of a job. I could have gone into construction working on rebuilding but the die was cast.

Yellowstone was burning like a fire from hell. The hotshots needed a cook. So I was drafted. Now picture a large semi-tractor trailer rig. Now make it a low belly meaning the bulk of the trailer sat only 12 inches from the ground. Now fit it out for two very large and efficient kitchens a piece, now get two of them and pack every inch with food. Then get a ten wheeler and overweight it with more food. Then get in those trucks in Arizona and get them to Yellowstone in 20 hours. Not doable but with grit anything is doable. We pulled in at 1am and by 5am were serving over 300 forest fire fighters breakfast or was it dinner to them. A check at 8am and were were busting 120 farhenhiet in the kitchens. But 10am it was a good 140. I made them give me two crews per meal. Break the crew set the new fans from town and pump out 500 field lunches. And get 150 to heroes who would not break the line. Little four wheelers and for fun getting into the blaze.

I had just won a game of stud at about 12 am and it hit me. We could do steaks and eggs made to order. Feisty as the fire fighters were we would give them a treat. At least they could feel like having some control over what they ate. Dangest thing it was easier done than said.

Do Not Take Anything For Granted

He tasted Like Chicken
He tasted Like Chicken | Source

Only Knew Him to Serve Him a Steak Down Luckenbach Way.

Keep 'em Home

Then trouble hit with a shift in wind and running out of eggs. I radioed my scrounger Danny Ledbetter and told him the need. He related that for two days there would be no more eggs. We loaded up the trailers as best we could and left 5 men a piece to hold up the kitchen. I had no time to break it all down and be serving a mile away in two hours. You oughta feel the power of a Peterbuilt 12 cylinder roar inches away. Like power beyond belief. Big honks with a speaker to clear the way. “Caravan Hi-HO” I laid it on thick with the loudspeaker. Fifty kitchen hands walked in file as we found a safer ground for our refugees from the fire’s intensify.

And then the smoke hit us like crying banchees to do us in. Nope, it was not happening to my caravan. We opened up those serving window and put each 50 inch fan blowing. We has a slow creep but made it to a meadow with a creek. No inversion and the smoke lifted, with just one dishwasher going out on chopper. I had screwed up and he wanted to be a hero. Damned smoke inhalation will get you.

So I was really just putting on a show, so our boys in yellow knew we were there. Danny the scrounger got us two school buses to get them folks close to food on the come. He also procured enough eggs. Yes sir he got Ostrich eggs from a farm 20 miles away that needed to sell them as the fire kilt their business.

Cooking is far and by far a better thing than I ever could muster. But how to cook your life always sounds good to me. The fire got put down and I lost another job. Stuck in Boise Idaho singing ZZ top songs for a scrap of food in a dive bar with great pickled eggs.

Somewhere life squeezed out some time and I hit the road in Europe. I never met a restaurant bar that would not pay in food for scrubbing. Hauling rice up a plank in Saigon might need to wait, but let us get to being a Chef in Paris next. No this saga does not end. Does Mezcal really pare with carnitas in Mazatlan? And does cheap vinegary wine really help you run with the bulls in Pomplona? (I mean for breakfast) Should we make a mean Spanish/Mexican/Vietnamese Paella for a Hanoi General? I swear skunk done right is tasty like the musky of a rattler snake.

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    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      7 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I am with your Dora on the skunk but I am afraid we might have some Foie gras coming up. Not my favorite either but up to about $100 and ounce. Makes Bulgarian fish eggs cheap (oops Caviar)

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      7 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Denise it sounds like your husband made it and is well. So we laugh; "Dierker I can stand the fire but not your cooking".

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      7 days ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I've heard before that snake taste like chicken. I'll take your for it. Never tried it, and I hope I never will. Very entertaining, my friend.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      7 days ago from The Caribbean

      Hey Cowboy, I bet those memories still push your adrenaline! As for your stint as cook, "with grit anything is doable" seems like you know a thing or two, but would you please leave out the skunk?

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      8 days ago from Fresno CA

      Wow, what an adventure. My husband was a fire fighter for a couple years and I didn't like it. It's dangerous work.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      9 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you Nithya you always bring good with you. We are off to a more easy Europe next.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      9 days ago from Dubai

      It must have been fun and hectic at the same time. Facing new challenges and having to cope with stressful situations must have had their highs and lows wonder how you dealt with all of that. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      10 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Donna a buddy wrote me up on "messenger" that he remembered my "bull ride". He said the old critter barely made it around the corral he was so old. I am glad no one beat me up over that one!

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      10 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Greg a girlfriend told me I left too much out. I guess I should work on it. Playing cards until dawn and riding under a full moon and beer drinking contests might be fun for some.

      I told her that that stuff and the fast draw competitions I was not sure of. Well she sighed deeply and asked if I was not sure of her and I being lovers.

      Well I told her men do not kiss and tell. And Jolene told me I was as bad as I was back then. Maybe I should write series on ladies.

    • Donna-Rayne profile image

      Donna Rayne 

      10 days ago from Greenwood, In

      I loved your article, Eric! I felt like you took me on an incredible journey!

      Have a blessed day,

      Donna Rayne

    • boxelderred profile image

      greg cain 

      10 days ago from Moscow, Idaho, USA

      Rattlers taste like chicken in my mind, too. More rubbery, less satisfying because it's harder to get a big enough bite. They have them in Texas aplenty, and also in South Dakota in the Badlands and thereabouts. Rapid City is my home...ok, it's actually Box Elder and Ellsworth AFB, but most people haven't heard of either of those places. I loved this recount of some wild and woolly days, Eric. Those cowhands and Hotshots were lucky to have an excited and innovative cookie leading the charge to fill their bellies. Great write, great read. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      10 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Off we go to Europe Devika. I was brushing up on my French and Italian for 3 and just said to myself to forget it, they are so rusty and bad. Oh well.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      10 days ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Great Eric and you told me of another adventure

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Ruby the thing about a Diamond Back Rattler is that you really can't live with 'em. So you can risk grabbing them and taking them over 3 miles away of you can kill em. And then it would be wrong not to eat them. Truth be told, in my mind they are more like good river trout.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Mary I think I was too young to see the serious side of it all. Like jumpin' rocks across a stream I was just looking for the next adventure. Made cooking for senators boring and sleeping in hostel kitchens seem common place.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Pamela it was great -- for a young one. Every hour had its own crisis. No matter the deal there was what we called the "one" rule, nobody hurt and every body fed.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Shifting 18 gears with double clutch action stuffed with 30 tons was a thrill.

      Clive it was crazy. Our kitchens could run ten people easy.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Mary the hard parts in remembering are the dates. But when we closed up shop there it was home to Flag and then as fast as we could get to Rapid City in the Dakota's. It is so cool we worked the same business for a bit. It was great and wild. I think I was back hiking folks into the Colorado when you were on the North Rim - Dick McCallum.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      11 days ago from Southern Illinois

      I can't imagine eating a snake, but my son said they taste good, like chicken. You have led an interesting life. You should write a book. The way you write it puts the reader right there. I could almost smell the smoke from the fire.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      11 days ago from Ontario, Canada

      Cooking your life. Interesting. Enjoyed reading your adventures. It must have been so much fun.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      11 days ago from Sunny Florida

      This is an interesting and entertaining article, Eric. The cooking advertures were great. I sounds like you were all iner the world. Nothing but fun here.

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 

      11 days ago from Jamaica

      Mobile Restaurants. Very Nice Pics

    • profile image

      Mary Goddard 

      11 days ago

      Oh my gosh what you just described is when I lived in 1977. My ex-husband and I worked for Nu Way catering feeding forest firefighters. Our first fire was on the north rim the summer of 77 then the Mount Elden fire. When fire season Was over we move north to Wyoming to feed firefighters on a grass fire. Same situation the winds changed we had to break down camp didn’t sleep for three days. Trying to keep them all fed and I believe that summer I made 10,000 ham sandwiches or else it felt like 10,000

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      You are right Linda. We actually got way over 100 eggs and the farmer's daughter. Claudette. about 6ft and was sent to make sure we did eggs right. From a Spanish omellete to french toast to pancakes. But she heard grumblings. So she sunnysided one up, sat front and center all 12 diameter of one. No more grumbling. They are delicious.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      11 days ago from Washington State, USA

      Ostrich eggs?! I'm guessing you weren't going with sunnyside up.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Bill love truly looks out for children, idiots and drunkards. I was bulletproof at the time. No I really was otherwise I would not be here to write.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      11 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Living on the edge and lovin' every minute of it. I was thinking back to 1970. I had a Teamster job making ten bucks an hour. I thought I was in hog heaven. Spent every last penny of it, too. Proud of that! lol

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you John it is fun to relive them through the pen.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      11 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thanks Clive. They are incredible pieces of equipment. Check them out just for a visual https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=porta...

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      12 days ago from Queensland Australia

      Some great cooking adventures Eric. A great read.

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 

      12 days ago from Jamaica

      Those food trucks sounded like something I would eat right now. But good comparisons friend.

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