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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Collard Greens up the Cattle Drive

Greens were nearly unheard of along the cattle drive. Although the southern states were developing a trend of food that one day would be known as soul food or southern food. For the Cowboy, the drive riding saddle from Texas north did not leave much more on his plate other than biscuits and beans.

August 12th, 1867 Cattle baron Jesse Driskill was sending a drive of cattle up north from outside Austin, Texas. Buck was hired on to cook for the ol' boys and things seem to be doing good moving them Longhorn Steers on up the trail. Though, two weeks into the drive, the young green horns began to act a tad bit reckless not watching the flank. By afternoon, a good 50 head must have wonder off in the line of the thicket near the town of Lorena, Texas just south of Waco. 

Mat who had been riding the east flank was sent out to look for the strays and round them back up. He was a hard working boy but had much to learn. Trail boss sent Zach along with him just to make sure things stayed in control. Zach had been riding drag about a quarter mile back. 

The two cowboys rode most of the day and didn't see the strays. They were just about to call it quits when the heard a gun shot maybe a half mile off to their east. They rode toward the sound to investigate an with in minutes came riding up on a sod busters settlement. 

There stood the strays in the plowed field and an old black woman was packing down the ram rod in the Kentucky rifle. She was a howling as she took aim an shot another round off near the strays. Bout' that time, she realize the two Cowboys were riding in and started filling the barrel again with some gun powder and wad packing. You boys hold it right there she demanded. "These here your cows," she exclaimed. "Yes 'mam. They got away from us and wondered off. We're moving a heard to Kansas," said Mat. 

"Well you dust busters need to get them cows out of my field. I got crops growing. Move them cows out now," yelled the old woman.

The two cowboys hustled rounding the steers up and moving them off the plowed field to the side of the woods. After wards, Zach rode back and apologized for the herds damage.

"What's your name boy" asked the woman. "My name is Zack. Zack is actually short for Zackariah, from the Bible, mam."  The woman said "That's a mighty fine name young man. I was making super when I saw your cows go into my field. I don't suppose they did to much damage but why don't you boys leave one cow behind to cover any of my loses." "I'd like to do that mam but them cows are actually steers and they ain't mind to give," replied Zack.  Matt interrupted, "You know, I believe that would be a fair enough trade, Mam." 

Zach gave Mat a hard look when the lady said, "You know, sun will be gone before you can get back to your herd. You boys stay here tonight and go put the horses in the barn." Zack first wanting to oppose the idea as he looked into the sky realizing the woman was right. Sun was just about to set and it would be several hours riding through the dark likely loosing more cattle when he said, "Thank you Mam. That is kind of you to offer." 

Zack and Mat dismounted their horses and walked them to the barn. The barn was in pretty bad shape and rustic. It showed age and the lack of any attention. There was a chicken coop on the side and a few mules stabled on the other side.  They removed their saddles and riding gear and put the horses away when a young boy spooked the boys as he walked into the barn and said "My momma said you can wash up and come join us in the house for super." Mat was about to draw his pistol from being startled, relaxed when he saw the young boy." "My name is Mat, what's your name." The young boy said "Abraham." "You're named comes from the Bible too," said Zack as he shared his name. "Nope, my momma said I am named for a great warrior of the Seminoles." "Seminoles, never heard of Seminoles from the bible," Mat said. Zack turned to look at Mat, "Don't you know nothing. Their Indians." Mat replied, "They like Comanche and Sioux."  Zack said, "I suppose they are." "Why are you named after an Indian," declared Zack. "Cause that's what my momma wanted to name me," said the young black boy. 

The boys all walked out of the barn over to the house. Zack and Mat both removing their hats as they walked into the door heard the older woman say "You boys wash up." There was a large bowl with some water in it where Abraham cleaned his hands. The visiting lads also followed washing their hands while the woman was moving a large pot away from the hearth. "You boys like collar greens," said the woman. 

"I never heard of collard greens," said Zack. "Me neither," replied Mat. The woman dipped into the large pot with her ladle serving the dish into bowls sitting on the large wood table where the boys were sitting. "This is Sauteed Greens" stated the woman as she served the boys. Mat started to grab a spoon and dig into the dish when Zack elbowed him. Mat looked at Zack and saw that Zack indicated a look to put his hands together and bow his head. The woman sat down and said, "Abraham, you say grace." 

Abraham said thanks to the Lord for the food and to take care of poppa as he finished grace. "Where's your poppa" Mat asked Abraham. Before the young boy could answered, the woman replied, "His pa is a tracker. He's in west Texas with the 10th Cavalry of the Army." The boys looked a little surprise being naive of American Negros. 

Everyone began eating in silence until Zack commented on the good food. The woman said, "Be better if I had some bacon to add to it but Bandits stole my sow." As the boys finishes eating, the woman offered them to stay in the barn tonight as she lite a lantern. Then handing them another, she grab her shawl and walked out to the porch after handing the boys some blankets. 

The boys thanked her for the meal and headed to the barn. They unfolded the blankets as they had their bedrolls left on the chuck wagon. "That's a kind woman," Mat said. "Yep," replied Zack. "You ever know a negro, Zack." "Nope." "Where are the Seminole Indians from Zack." "Oklahoma. They were moved there by Andrew Jackson," replied Zack as he was being questioned by Mat. Zack looked at Mat and asked " You never heard of Andrew Jackson and the great Seminole Indian Wars." "Maybe, I don't remember," replied Mat. 

As the night grew, it was not long before the boys fell asleep. Waking to the call of a rooster the boys quickly got up. The lantern still burning, Zack blew it out as the morning sun brighten the darken barn. The two got their boots on and shook the blankets before folding them. As they now had their horses saddled and ready to ride, the woman came into the barn. "I got Dewberry biscuits cooked. You boys come to the house before going, you hear me," kindly stated the woman. "Yes mam," replied the boys. 

The boys ate breakfast and shared their appreciation for the woman being kind. Before heading out, the woman gave a cloth with extra biscuits wrapped in it and told the boys to be safe. "Mam, I liked to thank you but I never caught your name," said Mat. "It's Minnie. Minnie Webster. You boys be safe, ya hear." 

Those boys rode off moving the lost herd back towards the cattle drive. "Zack, that was the nicest woman I ever met before." Zack replied, "Yes, she was at that." "Wish Buck used butter on his biscuits. You think he knows how to cook Collard Greens," Mat ask. Zack replied, "Don't know, but I sure wish Mrs Webster was coming along to cook."     

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