I first published this recipe last February. But since it’s definitely chili-eating weather, and since I just ate a big bowl of it, I thought I would share again.
It tastes even better than it looks.
By Johnny sain
On a cold snowy day nothing tastes better than a steaming bowl of spicy chili. We always use ground venison in our chili. After years of substituting venison for beef, everyone in my family agrees; the chili just doesn’t taste right unless it has deer meat in it.
Christine came across this recipe shortly after we were married over twenty years ago. We have sampled other recipes, but to our taste, this is the best one, bar none. It’s become tradition to proclaim the latest batch we’re eating to be the best she’s ever made.
What you need:
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions chopped
By Johnny Sain
It warms my heart to see kids take an interest in their heritage. If you can get them out of the house and exploring, they gravitate to stuff like this. And if adults are willing to share when asked – versus forcing a school-like lecture down their throats – the kids are often very receptive.
I point to these photos as proof.
We always spend Thanksgiving in Newton County, the heart of the Arkansas Ozarks, where Dad was born and raised. My uncle, Dennis, still lives on the property that he and Dad called home as they were growing up. Dennis runs the family store, Who-Da-Thought-It, formerly known as Sain’s Grocery. My grandparent’s old house sits behind the store. A water well, complete with pulley and long well bucket, is in the front yard. I think the kids thought it was a yard decoration until Uncle Dennis told the stories about cold mornings at the well, and then let them give the bucket a try.
The kids filled a five gallon pail and gained a new appreciation for indoor plumbing. There’s an old proverb that says: Only when you have carried your own water will you learn the value of every drop. It rings very true when your hands also carry a few blisters from the well rope.
This classic is from the 2009 season
I had managed to resist temptation and not hunt a particularly “bucky” looking funnel until mid-October. Past experience had shown that a flurry of chasing sometimes occurs at this time of year, a “pre-pre-rut,” if you will.
The activity that afternoon started early. A good two hours before sundown a couple of does were making a hasty descent from the ridge top, and while not following the trail I had placed my bets on, they would both pass within short range of my tree. Very short range; a mere five steps away.
The short range played into a lapse of concentration, and I managed to pull off an epic show of ineptitude and shoot the larger doe squarely in the gut. Disgusted, shamed and stunned by this turn of events, I slumped back into the stand and planned my exit strategy. I would return in the morning after giving the doe ample time to expire. I found her fairly quickly the following morning, but that’s not what this story is about. My actions, or lack thereof, between that pitiful shot and the recovery, hours later, are what make this a heart breaker.
As I sat pouting, with no arrow on the string (an important detail as you’ll soon learn), the brisk crunching gait of another deer had me sitting bolt upright in anticipation. I quickly stood up and readied for the shot as a gorgeous high racked buck stepped into view at about twelve yards. As I started to draw my bow, I had the nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Something was missing. But what?
Oh yeah, no arrow on the string. And while yelling “gotcha “may have qualified as counting a minor coup, coup don’t eat all that well and it ain’t much to show off to your buddies. I let the string down, and as quickly as he came into my life, he was gone.
This past summer I posted about a bird bath/water source that I made for the backyard. I chose to place the water feature at ground level versus an elevated position because I wanted other wildlife besides birds to use it.
During the driest parts of summer it was the only water source within a half-mile or more, and this little (probably five gallon) “pond” attracted deer, fox, possum, groundhog, squirrel, amphibians and of course all kinds of birds; even the neighbor’s guinea fowl. The little pond is playing an important role this winter, too.
Migrating birds, especially robins, have been using the water, but I found a few summer guests are still hanging around as well. During this year’s late autumn clean-out, after most of the leaves have fallen, I found five very lethargic frogs on the bottom of the water container. I believe this was the same quintet I found during the late summer clean-out; two leopard frogs and a three bull frogs. The group had settled down for a long winter’s nap. I was happy to put them back in the water after cleaning up the water container and pump.
This story that took third place in SEOPA’s 2013 Excellence in Craft awards for short magazine feature. It was originally published in The Arkansas Wildlife Federation publication “Arkansas-Out-of-Doors” last year, and ran in the November 2013 issue of About the River Valley Magazine.
My philosophy about hunting has been evolving over the years. The following story is true, and the event it chronicles was a major turning point in my feelings about hunting as well as the animals we hunt.
It starts in my left leg. The tremor gets so bad that I press against the seat of my treestand in an effort to control it. Sometimes this makes the situation worse. If the tree I’m strapped to isn’t big enough to absorb the vibrations, it acts as an amplifier. This is especially problematic if the chosen tree is full of dead leaves. It’s like sitting on a tambourine. Luckily, I had chosen a large pine for this evening’s hunt and the thick diameter of the trunk along with the pine needles acted as muffler. He never knew I was there.
The deer weren’t supposed to be moving according to the “experts.” That full moon peeking over the treetops opposite the setting sun meant the whitetails would be nocturnal. Apparently, the tight-racked little six-point in front of me didn’t get the memo. Or maybe the steady beat of acorns plopping into dry oak leaves was just too much to resist.
Whatever the reason, the little deer stood a scant 18 yards away, broadside, and completely engrossed in stuffing his face. Even after all these years, the decision to shoot sent a surge of adrenaline coursing through me.
This was the first buck I had laid eyes on in two weeks. It was a few days past mid-October. Action in the deer woods was supposed to be picking up, but that had not been the case. Not for
My friend wore a puzzled look on his face as I made a statement regarding environmental awareness. Then he asked what could be construed as a loaded question, “Have you turned into a treehugger ?”
I thought about it for a few moments,” Well, I really like trees,” I said. “If that makes me a treehugger, so be it.”
Obviously, I am not a quick-witted man. I need lots of time to process my thoughts; adding and editing until they’re somewhat coherent. This is exactly why I’m a writer, not a speaker. But were I a quick-witted man, this would have been my response.
By Johnny Sain
Let’s talk about trees. We take them for granted. Arkansans are blessed with about 190 different species of trees in our state. Even our larger cities are covered with trees. White oaks, red oaks, hickory, and pine dominate the highlands. Tupelo, water oak, willow, and cypress define our bottomlands.
We use trees to mark the seasons. The white blooms of the serviceberry in March tell us spring is almost here. As summer wanes, the flash of scarlet leaves on the black gum tell us autumn is right around the corner. The evergreens keep our spirits up during the dreary dormancy of winter. Mature trees of all kinds make the hot summer days a little more bearable by giving us shade.
We use trees for heat, for building our homes, for growing food and the list goes on. They increase the aesthetic value of anywhere they grow. They provide so many things we use on a regular basis, that civilization wouldn’t be possible without them. But can we see the bigger picture of what trees provide for us? Can we see the forest and the trees?
How many species of animals depend on trees? All of them. Every terrestrial animal in Arkansas depends on trees. Sometimes they depend on them directly as food, sometimes indirectly as food for prey, but they all depend on trees as habitat. Trees are the foundation for wildlife in Arkansas forests. The oak borer infestation of the Ozarks, back in the 1990’s, was nearly a biodiversity disaster. Luckily, favorable conditions allowed the trees to overcome the oak borers, but foresters agree we dodged a bullet. Losing the oaks would drastically drop animal density in our forests. Deer, bear, turkey, squirrel, bobcat, blue jay; all would suffer. Trees are that important for wildlife. If you want to
I was part of an Arkansas Tech Research project this past spring. The project focused on Ozark Food culture and my portion of the research centered on the historical aspect of food culture in the mountains. Of course, the importance of food for nutrition is obvious, but maybe you haven’t considered other aspects of life influenced by food.
Finding, securing, eating and digesting food is the key to body form and physiology. It’s why we have such diversity of life on planet Earth. Wolves have big canines, long legs and amazing stamina because they have evolved to run down and kill other animals. Deer have grinding molars and three-chambered stomachs because wringing nutrients out of a diet made up entirely of fibrous vegetation takes a lot of processing. We humans are no different, but the food we eat and how we get it shapes more than our physical bodies. It shapes our attitudes as well.
Those earliest Ozark inhabitants knew some things about procuring food that we have forgotten. They knew that it was better to work with the environment as opposed to conquering it. The Native Americans who first utilized the mountains were seasonal visitors. They came to the Ozarks to hunt, but they also utilized fruits and other plants, always aware that survival was dependent on knowledge of and interaction within the environment. Going with flow, taking what was available and working within the bounds of nature was the key. They were part of the wilderness and